We counted 38! All good Canadian winter drivers. With no accidents.
Inside, it was as warm as a summer beach in Greece. Bluesman Tim Woodcock and his bass player Rick “Catfish” Bardawill were plugging wires into speakers and tuning up their instruments.
At 6:30, Woody strapped on his big dobro guitar, fitted his harmonica into its neck rack, and he and Catfish began playing. Beautiful blues. Right off the bat, some people started dancing. Their bodies made them do it. Good blues is like that.
I was sitting talking to Carl Lapp when that dobro tossed out some very familiar notes, and then Tim was singing those words that go so deep in me. One of my favourite songs, by my favourite singer: “We were born before the wind, also younger than the sun, every bonnie boat was one as we sailed into the mystic...” It sounded quite a bit different than Van Morrison’s version, which, when I was 20, I would play every night before I went to bed. Still, Tim nearly put me into a dream with his.
The feature of the night was unlike anyone we’ve had yet. Not a senior poet, as usual, but four young people, all still going to UWO. I had asked Scott Beckett, the current Student Writer-in-Residence, to round up some good young poets and put together a presentation for us. Whatever he thought might work. These are poets who are still immersed in the study of English literature, in all it’s forms, but who prefer poetry, and so are putting a lot of their energy and excitement into reading and creating it. Scott is in his 4th year, along with Erikk Zadrozny, and Koral Scott. Jilian Baker is in her 3rd.
Scott’s plan was to come up with three lines, which everybody had to include in their first poem, with one of the lines as the title. The three lines were: "When it was over", "____is like a tree and ___is like a shadow" (this is based on a quote by Abraham Lincoln), and "it is foolish to turn off the heat". What perfect lines to spark creativity. Reading them takes you places instantly. When each of the four read their poem, its difference from the others was astonishing. Which is something we’ve been noticing at our events all along: Each poet is very different from any of the others. It’s as if they must have to struggle just to keep themselves inside the category.
I’ll probably reproduce those four poems here later. The students each went on to read several more of their creations, again a huge variety, from love to anarchy to a desire to see life through Mother’s eyes. There were straight readings and a bit of performance as well.
Host Dawna Perry ushered in the open mic section, thirteen brave poets who each took a deep breath, and opened their mouths and their souls. Some went trippingly and some skitteringly, but all won applause. And in the middle of it, we took a musical intermission, complete with “Moondance" and dancing.
I found myself talking to Catfish’s wife Liz, who is a wonder on Twitter, tweeting for the London Writer’s Society. In a flurry of words and concentration she taught me the basics. From now on, you can find us on Twitter, along with all the other London events, if you use #LdnOnt. I knew nothing about hashtags before, except that they existed. Thanks, Liz.
Dawna picked the raffle prizes from the tickets of those who donated. (Much thanks: Your Loonies, Toonies and Fives are our only income to offset expenses). The prizes consisted of about a dozen poetry books supplied by Brick Books and the Association of Ontario Poets, plus a new hardcover of Leonard Cohen’s “Stranger Music”, donated by Ron Stewart.
I closed the evening with a tribute to Dawna Perry, who has hosted tirelessly since near the beginning -- a year and a half ago. I admire her tremendously for her calm, her confidence, her ability to think on her feet in the midst of chaos, her humour, and her grace at the microphone. Also, she and I work together as a team extremely well. Between the two of us, we can easily solve the most complicated organizing problems. Like all of us, Dawna gets nothing for doing all this except the pleasure of contributing something to her community.