Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Western Canada Poetry Tour, Part 2: Winnipeg

Western Canada Poetry Tour part 2: Winnipeg

So I apologize for not updating more regularly. This is the Winnipeg chapter, though I am writing it at St. Peter's College just outside, Muenster, Saskatchewan - (I'll explain later). I took the infamous bus last week, through Portage, Manitoba - infamous because that's where the beheading took place last summer - pretty much the only thing that happened in Canada to make international news in recent memory, other than the near-democratic coup, as I call it, of the conservatives. I have a friend in Istanbul, who emailed me about it. Once in awhile someone blows themselves up in Taksim square, but no one ever cut another guy's head off on a Dolmus (kind of like a bus, and kind of like a taxi, but not really either). Anyway, I could go on, but instead I will re-post a poem I wrote about my experience taking the bus, at the end of this entry. 

I was only in Winnipeg for a couple of days, so could only get into so much trouble. I read at the McNally Robinson bookstore, a Canadian bookstore chain store with three (if I'm not mistaken) massive stores in Western Canada. About a dozen middle aged woman pretty much made up the audience. And I feared that they might not be the biggest fans of my poetry. But they were actually a great audience - laughed at all the parts that are supposed to be funny, listenened attentively and bought books - nearly all of them came up the book signing table, book in hand afterwards - so I would say it was a pretty successful reading. I also was received with wonderful hospitality by my Winnipeg friends - Andrew, Melanie, and Heidi - who took me to lunch at Aqua books, where I was given a tour - which made me feel special. it's a pretty cool store. its converted from a Chinese restaurant.- I recommend checking it out if you're ever in Winnipeg.  

I also caught up with an ex-girlfriend who was originally from Winnipeg and moved back there. I have various thoughts, of course, on such revisits with the past, but since this isn't a personal journal or a public poem... (somehow writing about the most personal matters in a poem seems less invasive, I guess because there I have my persona - though I often wonder if my voice outside the voice of the poem is not actually the persona... never mind), I won't go into all that, other than to say, it was nice to see a familiar face.  

Here's the poem:

The Bus Ride that Became a Horror Movie


It’s 98 km to where, more or less, the incident occurred. You

probably read about it for weeks. Remember that first day

when it was a tragedy, before it unraveled into punch line?:

a man walks onto a bus and saws another man’s head off

for (drum roll) no reason. My American friends sent me emails like:

“I hear they’re beheading people in Canada now.” You get it? –

we’re one of those countries. Ad it to the list

of what Americans know about us: everyone

plays hockey, they have socialized medicine, and

once and while slice each other’s heads off, because

it’s really fucking cold there, I guess.  And here I am

taking that route and thinking about the Saturday

Globe last summer where the reporter rode from Edmonton

to Winnipeg as though the landscape could reveal

or explain anything, as though this highway was haunted

now (as though it wasn’t before). Thinking

this is how we approach trauma in this country – with headlines

like The Bus Ride that became a Horror Movie 

or A Quiet Ride then Carnage. And I watch 

the passengers. Mostly young guys, sitting alone, 

like me. The man across is the one

whose head I might just chop off, then eat his face.

Isn’t that what happened.? The murderer spitting his victim’s

teeth out like watermelon seeds. Who remembers


the details now, as we depart, driving through the prairie-scape,

driving into Spring, ice patches melting all around,

barren shrubs half submerged in water, the tall grass still

a dull yellow, its colour sucked out like blood. A deer

half flattened by the side of the road, bloodied ass

mooning us. Quickly approaching Portage, passengers

hooked into ipods and dreams, anywhere but here

and a sign reading “Various Positions Available” and everything

on sale. Right here, approximately, just hacking and hacking,

how many times till a head pops off? Watching

the parking lot fill, the line up growing inside the Tim Hortons

like they were selling indulgences in there, translates,

into an argument for various acts of violence. But doesn’t

mean anything, really. That’s what causes us,

maybe, to play so much goddam hockey and forget

every route in this endless country

is a passage through death,


as we arrive in Winnipeg. Sunlight a golden sludge, thick 

as blood, oozing off the warehouse facades, glorious and utterly unnewsworthy.


So, next entry will be about Saskatchewan, where I did a couple of readings in Saskatoon, stayed with Mari-Lou Rowley, the world's best poet handler and spent a couple of nights in a hermitage.  I would write now about some of that, but the monks are serving lunch now - yes, monks. That's my cliffhanger.

I probably won't write again till I get to Edmonton (I leave tomorrow). I am hoping to eventually catch up in my blogging so I am not writing about places after I leave them. This is probably a metaphor for something.


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