Brockton Writers 17
Marcus McCann Delivers on Considerable Promise
Patrick Connors – Toronto: On Wednesday, April 6, Marcus McCann was one of featured readers at Brockton Writers, a monthly literary series that welcomes established and emerging writers and the people who love to read their work. This takes place in St Anne’s Church, located at 270 Gladstone Avenue.
A discussion of McCann’s poetry in conjunction with poetics was in order. “Soft Where is an uneasy mix of conventional-ish lyrics and poems that focus more on associative word play. In general, I don’t care for the “experimental” poetry versus “lyric” poetry divide, and I struggle to make work that fits in both categories, or neither, in some way simultaneously.
“The chapbooks I did in 2010, right after Soft Where — The Glass Jaw (Bywords) and Town in a Long Day of Leaving (above/ground) – are mirrors of each other in a way. The Glass Jaw uses straightforward lyric material (if tongue in cheek and ironic). Town in a Long Day of Leaving, on the other hand, was plunder, anagram, flarf and found text.
“I would prefer to read a poetry book that’s somewhere in between, or, ideally, a book that can be read as both “lyric” or “experimental.” But I thought I’d try separating out the strands with those chapbooks.”
By way of a more particular comparison, I asked him to compare “Hanlan’s Point”, a longtime mainstay at his readings, with “Mudroom”, which appears in The Glass Jaw. “Mudroom” is a kind of unadorned, bleak little sonnet, and “Hanlan’s Point” is a double villanelle or something, a variation of a classic form that I cribbed from Paul Muldoon. Formally, both are relatively conservative, but they both contain little traps for the reader, for instance in the varied punctuation/homonyms in “Hanlan’s Point”, or in its final, delayed parenthetical.
“I want my poems to happen here, now, in the time and place in which we live. I get tired of the nature – and rural – nostalgia in so much Canadian poetry. The only anecdote is to write – as vividly as possible – about our world as most of us experience it most of the time. Most Canadians, including most Canadian poets, live in cities, so I want to work through that.
“There’s probably no better promoter of poetry possibly anywhere in the country than rob mclennan. I mean, he has a blog that gets something like 250,000 hits a year; he writes essays; he publishes reviews. And once you’re part of that family… Soft Where is two years old, and he’s still sending me links to magazines he thinks I should be submitting to. Seriously.
“Speaking of community, Ottawa’s got a great one — for its size, it’s probably unparalleled for its openness and genuine excitement about verse — and rob’s a big part of how it got that way. Nearly every poet working in Ottawa has been touched by him in some way.”
Putting the shoe on the other foot, I asked mclennan what it was like to work with McCann. “Marcus was a delight to work with, and my work with him included two chapbooks as well as his trade collection, from his Heteroskeptical (above/ground press, August 2007) to Soft Where (Chaudiere Books, 2009) to the reprint of his Town in a long day of leaving (above/ground press, March 2010),” he told me. “For the chapbooks, the editing was minimal to the point of non-existent, and for the trade collection, remarkably easy. I already knew he knew very well what he was doing, so the edits for his Soft Where was very light. I thought it best to let him be what he already was.”
mclennan has done a wonderful job promoting McCann, despite not being in Toronto, as well as many other writers. Come back to this space in about a month for a story on his own poetry.
McCann has some other upcoming readings. “After Brockton, I’m reading at Grannyboots at the Gladstone Hotel April 27 with Michael V Smith and Zoe Whittall. It’s another tribe altogether (the gay community), and when Smith invited me, I was really chuffed about it. The same way that Farzana Doctor is building community based on geography, Grannyboots – and people like Whittall and Smith – are building a community too, along a different affinity line.
“Doctor, the woman at the centre of the Brockton Writers Series, is doing something really interesting. She’s gone hyper-local with her reading series, bringing tons of writers who live close to the location together in ways that cross boundaries – established writers with newer ones, gay, straight, bi, men, women, genderqueer, people of different cultural and class backgrounds, it’s really exciting, and built entirely on the idea that neighbourhoods matter, that location matters. How cool is that?”
Indeed, there was a real diversity of voices this evening at Brockton Writers, with excellent performances also by Ava Homa (expect a story on her in the near future), Jorge Antonio Vallejos, and Sarah Greene. To get more information on Brockton Writers Reading series, please follow the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=176001662856), as well as Farzana Doctor’s blog (http://farzanadoctor.wordpress.com/?s=Brockton+Writers).
“We try to get lots of different people, with different styles and genres of writing, at Brockton Writers,” Doctor said. “We are so grateful for the use of this wonderful facility here at St. Anne’s Church. Writers spaces and reading venues cane feel not easy to enter. This is friendly, open, with a lot of people chatting at the break.
“This was the first time I heard Marcus McCann read. He has gotten so much writing done while having a day job, and I really admire his productivity, and quality of writing, as well.”
Next month, there will be a special edition of Brockon Writers, featuring writing about Toronto. Along with Doctor, the evening will feature Amy Lavender Harris, Alissa York, and Paul Vermeersch.
The evening always starts off with a networking session (open to all writers – emerging and established), which begins at 6:30pm.
As the year goes by, expect an array of exciting and gifted writers to perform here!