Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Touching the Hem of His/Her Garment

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Snowy park

The Hem of His Garment.

Or Her garment.

It’s important for young writers to get a sniff of a real live writer, not just from the page but up close. I had my share when I was young –or ‘emerging’ as the saying goes.

When I was 14 years old I went to my girlfriend’s parents' party and met Austin Clarke. He danced with me. He may not remember this.

At the University of British Columbia, I took a course on modern poetry and poetics with the legendary Warren Tallman. Warren was winding down his teaching career, and our class dropped from a hefty 30 students down to about 5 stalwarts very quickly. Warren didn’t act like most profs. Our class came right after lunch and Warren would dance in, always late, and, well, more than a little looped. One time he raced up to my desk and grabbed me in a bearhug – I’m not sure why. He had long friendships with U.S. and Canadian poets and he invited them to visit our tiny class. We met and listened to the craggy faced Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan in his black cape, Daphne Marlatt fresh from writing Steveston, Glady Hindmarch and her poems about working on ‘the boats’, and the elegant Robin Blaser.

Preceding most of these hem-touchings, there was novelist Graeme Gibson. Before he lived with Margaret Atwood, he lived near my family’s house in Rosedale ( a very nice area of Toronto). It was during an afternoon snowstorm that, feeling broody, I decided to go for a solo walk. Writers, I’d decided, needed to enter storms, when no one else ventured forth. I was starting to dream of myself as being a writer. Say, wasn’t that the author, Graeme Gibson in his army surplus jacket hiking through calf-deep snow just ahead of me? I felt a tinge of excitement. Where did real writers walk and ruminate? I had to find out, so I followed Graeme as he passed through the iron gates of Craigleith Gardens, a park where I’d eaten many a picnic in childhood. Graeme had been in the news for being part of the new House of Anansi crowd and for publishing a novel called Communion that involved repeated paragraphs and scenes. It was just us two slogging through the snow of the park and I don’t remember where he went or how far I followed him. What I remember was the feeling of kinship, a sort of first step into the world of being a writer.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Ann Ireland

Ann Ireland is the author of A Certain Mr. Takahashi, The Instructor and Exile. Her most recent novel is The Blue Guitar. She lives in Toronto.

Go to Ann Ireland’s Author Page