The Stone Lantern

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poetry Reading (v.a.)

The last few days (from about August 20-26) have been really crazy. On the 24th, I had my book launch in Quebec City (my Canadian premiere!) and two days later, after several months of preparation and anticipation, we held a “renku/haiku day” in Quebec City, lead by the well-known poetry couple William J. (“Bill”) Higginson and Penny Harter. Events on the 26th began with Bill Higginson’s talk on the various contexts of Japanese haiku, tanka and linked poetry. We ended in the evening with a bilingual (French/English) renku session, lead by Bill and Penny. Between these two events, many of us (over 40 people showed up on the 26th) celebrated the launch of L' Érotique poème court/haïku, a collective work coedited by Micheline Beaudry & Janick Belleau and illustrated by Line Michaud, at Le Petit Coin Latin, a great little restaurant in the old city.

You are probably expecting me to give you a summary of the events on the 26th, or maybe a description of my book launch. But in life as in haiku, often it is the little things that go almost unnoticed that grab our souls and become fixed in our memory. So here is what I would like to tell you:

Bill and Penny came to visit us in Quebec City a few days before the “renku/haiku day.” Like the finest guests, they came with tasteful gifts for me and my family. But there is another gift they gave us, a few days after their arrival, that really left a deep impression.

One evening, Penny and Bill said they wanted to offer us an evening poetry reading, just for me and my family, in our living room. I accepted with a mixture of emotions – the appeal of the new mixed with a bit of anxiety (what if I didn’t like the reading? What would I say?) The next day, as agreed, Bill and Penny organized themselves for the reading, choosing poems from the many works they have authored, while I prepared tea. My husband and I installed ourselves on the couch reclining like Romans awaiting a sumptuous meal, and the reading began.

First Penny, her voice lucid and unadorned, lulled us with excerpts from her book Stages and Views. That book contains poems inspired by the woodblock prints of Hiroshige et Hokusai. I closed my eyes and imagined myself standing before the Japanese prints in the round room of the Guimet museum in Paris. Penny followed this reading with some of her nature poems from Lizard Light, which evoke Sante Fe, New Mexico. After Penny’s reading (very early on in the evening I completely lost track of time) it was Bill’s turn. Bill read several quite personal poems which helped me get to know him better – excerpts, for example, from Paterson Pieces: Poems, 1969-1979 (which covers the period in his life when he lived in Paterson, New Jersey) and from Death Is & Approaches to the Edge, a moving book that unfortunately is out of print.

I have no idea how much time went by before this intimate evening of reading poetry came to a close. I only know that I enjoyed a delicious evening, listening to the sound of words, imagining myself in other places, at other times, sharing in the emotions expressed by these two talented poets. The evening over, I felt as calm as if I had spent an afternoon lying in the grass, gazing at the clouds.

Would I have had the courage to propose such a lecture of my own works to a friend? I doubt it, but one of these days, I am determined to do it.

* For those of you who really would like to know more about how our renku/haiku day went on August 26, you will soon be able to read about it in issue number 13 of Gong, the journal of the Association of French-language Haiku.


  • Hi Abigail
    Hi..just a wee note from Scotland
    to say how much I ejoyed your poem
    on Tiny Words today. I do hope your book sells well! Issa underwater intrigued. I may have to come this way again


    By Anonymous Eoin Mackay Ross, at 12:47 PM  

  • I'll look forward to issue 13 of Gong! ;-)

    By Blogger Alan Summers, at 5:23 AM  

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