Poet Sells Out (of books) in Montreal
Creative Saskatchewan invited Cassidy McFadzean to share her first-person account of her recent trip to the Resonance and Pivot Reading Series' in Montreal and Toronto, made possible with a Market Travel Grant. Treat yourself to this delightful read. (photo credit: Brian Campbell)
“I try to make it Toronto every six months,” I tell a table of poet friends at the Pivot Reading Series in Toronto. It’s a joke, because I’ve only been in town to read two other times, but I feel myself wanting to make a habit of it, especially when my publisher and many of my friends are based in what my favourite poet Drake calls The Six.
This time, I’ve acquired a Creative Sask Market Travel Grant to read at the Resonance Reading Series in Montreal and the Pivot Series in Toronto. There’s not a lot of money in poetry, and these are events where many of my favourite writers have performed, so they hold a certain cultural currency in the community.
My head flashes with the highlight reel of my Montreal reading: the poet who let me stay at his Mile End apartment takes me out for pre-drinks, a friend from Regina surprises me at the venue, Twitter friends introduce themselves in person, some of my favourite writers are in attendance, and the friend who took me to Montreal’s dog café where I saw the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my life (a Leonberger!) finds us seats right beside the stage. The audience is filled with writers and artists of all ages, with a noticeable emphasis on university students. It’s a younger crowd than I’m used to, and as I listen to the other poets—most of which are based in Montreal—I run to the bathroom three times to pee, nervous that, though it’s never happened before, when I get on stage my bladder will distract me from doing my best.
I am excited and giddy; the day before, the League of Canadian Poets announced that my book Hacker Packer had been shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award—a national award for first books—and I want to do a good reading, to sell all the books I’d brought with me, and make the audience laugh with my stage banter. When I finally take the stage, I feel myself channel all my excitement and nervousness into my performance. I think back to a teacher at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop telling us that to give a good reading, you have to be a little turned on, and on stage in Montreal, I think I finally know what she meant. Writing is such a solitary, lonely task that I feel my usual introverted self vanish away as my more raucous double appears to channel the Dionysian energy of my poems. My persona emerges, giving my pieces the voice I only imagined when I wrote them in the garret of my grandmother’s old brick house back in Regina.
The highlight reel ends with me selling out of books and going for drinks with the other readers. After such a great night I’m not sure I can top it the next day in Toronto. But I have a fresh stack of books, new faces around me, and a feeling of nervousness mixed with excitement. As the host calls me up to the microphone, I feel grateful to be welcomed into this new community, and confident I can carry some of this energy with me back home.