Building a Poem through Calgary

From the northwest neighborhood of Mount Pleasant, I walk to Kensington. Dust recently freed from ice and snow gets into my eyes and teeth as I study the sharp needles of the conifers. I write a poem en route to my first venue, the Beehive. (venue#13)  I read it to the older proprietor who isn’t quite sure what’s going on. His business partner (wife?) is behind a curtain. He asks her questions about twitter, which she answers knowingly.

I cross the street to the Coffee Sanctuary (venue#14) where I write some lines about the Beehive reading:

 

He listened hard – his expression

a balancing act between politeness

and indignation. What else could

 

he do? But if his mouth opened to

a swarm of bees that droned towards

my mouth to sting it swollen shut,

 

I wouldn’t blame him. My aspirations

in buzzing through a stranger’s brain is a hope

at best, at worst an imposition.

 

Once again, I read this “wandering” poem that grows from reading to reading. This time, there’s a little more enthusiasm from the audience. “That’s cool,” says the bearded Barista whose lips stick out half an inch from his beard.

 

At Pages Books (venue#15), I write a little more on my iPhone upstairs in the shadow of the poetry shelf. When I go back down to read it to the owner, her employee and a customer, I get some nonplussed faces. Based on their comfortable banter I suppose the customer is a die-hard regular, but he makes a sour face at the mention of poetry. Afterwards he says, “That was pretty good.”

 

I cross the street to read some Rilke and write some more at Higher Ground Café (venue#16). I sit in the middle of the large area at the back. At 1:30, I stand up and introduce myself to about twenty people (many of whom are studying). My goal is not to piss people off, so I tell them that I’ll read a snippet of my walking poem “Incantatory Calgary” and if they want to hear it in its entirety, I’ll read the rest at their table. One blond woman is beaming. “I’m waiting for a friend and this is just amazing. I live in Airdrie and we’re trying to bring in more of the arts. There’s nothing but the Rec. We need to give our kids more options.”

 

From Kensington, I cross an artfully constructed walkway over the river. I turn east on Seventh and walk down a dystopian corridor of grey. It’s the major east-west route for transit across the city. I suspect it’s barrenness is so that the snow can be easily scraped away through the long, harsh winters, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing I had a bucket of red paint to run a line of colour along some building. All this percolates in the unfinished part of my poem.

 

My last reading of the day is at Shelf Life books (venue#17) where there is at least one local poet in attendance. Between readings from my chapbook “Surrey Sonnets”, I improvise sound poetry in the spirit of Steve McCaffery. Afterwards, I get a tour of the bookstore. The highlight: the zine machine.

 

 

I leave the city with my poem still under construction, but that’s the nature of creation: some things can go up quickly and others take time to grow. I’m going to sleep on my Calgary poem for a while.

 

Onwards to Saskatoon.

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