Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET, BABY. LESS IS MORE.

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The Abkhazy Garden, my first stop in the day of endless readings, is beautiful, a natural alternative to the vulgar plantings in our most famous public garden. Its partner in tea, The Silk Road Tea company near The Gate of Harmonious Interest, (locals say "compound interest") is a spice box of history and pleasant flavours. Danielle, their tea expert, spoke at the Tea reading, and she was great. So far, so good.

Danielle knows how to hold her audience and when to stop; and that is a rare talent.

When it was my turn to do tea lit, I put my hat on and took my shoes off. The hat fit but the shoes had grown since I last wore them (to Pelleas et Melisande the night my dress got rucked up in my undies and I walked with 'ho skirt right across the lobby of the new Opera House in Toronto).

I've heard of swelled head, but shrinking feet? Is this all because of Harper's assaults on our collective artistic psyche? Could be.

Because he has a cold, my husband was unable to accompany my reading and sing a few tea bits from songs by The Beatles, Cole Porter, Willie Dixon and anonymous, who wrote from prison, "She bring me coffee/ she bring me tea/ She bring me everything but the jailhouse key."

Boy, was I ever wishing I had that key by the end of the day.

The evening reading was from a critical biography of an artist friend, one of the most delightful people I have ever met. This is a woman who writes herself. She just bubbles, having delighted all the continents with her effervescent work and personality.

After an hour and a quarter of linear information, my inner psychotic worked its way out like a festering sliver, and, in order to release the tension, I poked the woman in front of me, just to see if she was awake. She wasn't.

"Are you OK," bored playwright Peter Such, who was sitting beside me, asked.

"No!" I responded, just a little too fortissimo. Now everyone was awake.

Why is it that people go on and on. Don't they know the average adult attention span is equivalent to that of a Kindergartner?

"Leave 'em hungry," those is in the know advise neophyte readers.

If a reader completely undresses, I have no inclination to buy the book, not even if my best friend wrote it. That is a bottom line issue. Writers take notice.

Everone has bad reading stories. When I was President of the League of Poets and subjected by diplomacy to scores of events, I used to say, "I hate poetry." Now that isn't true. I love poetry and what it can do to heal the human spirit. I just hate to be subjected to the narcissism of someone who doesn't know when to shut up.

Even a poet as wonderful as the late X had to be given the hook once in a while. She delighted herself with her readings. Well, if you were reading AFTER her, it was a long wait and most of the audience would have left by the time your turn came round.

Usually, writers will turn to one another and say, "Sooooo unprofessional," when a time hog gets up. By that we mean, hogs keep reading because they hope it is going to get better. We already know it isn't. One boring poem usually leads to another boring poem. However, the good news is that In small doses even boring poems beat boring prose.

The good thing about a bad poem is that it will soon be over. The same cannot be said of prose. Launch into a bad story and you and your audience are stuck, A VERY BAD SCENARIO.

When I organised a festival a number of years ago, I was gobsmacked when a respected older poet, one of four in the evening's event, read for an hour. Perhaps he knew he was soon to die and wanted to get his entire canon out in one go. I have no idea what his reasons were, but they gave me a panic attack and inspired the reader who followed to venal behaviour. The next lady, also a star, and, as it turned out, a prima donna,, determined she would assert her supremacy by reading even longer. Both of them behaved like babies.

I like babies. Don't get me wrong. Babies and poetry are short for a reason.

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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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page