Wednesday, October 29th we welcomed the folks from carte blanche, the online magazine published by the Quebec Writers' Federation. They were launching their 22nd issue, as well as celebrating their ten year anniversary!
They also (and more importantly) had prosecco and red velvet cupcakes on offer. So everyone was guaranteed to have a good time (though, let's be real, the wonderful readings had already ensured that).
The evening was MCed by carte blanche editor Maria Schamis Turner, who spoke about the great accomplishment of turning ten ("literary magazine years are more like dog years than human years"), and took the liberty of (by her own admission) misquoting A. A. Milne: "But now I am ten, I'm as clever as clever / So I think I'll be ten now for ever and ever."
Larissa Andrusian stepped up as "sacrificial poet," and read first, introducing us to her beautiful poem inspired by a dung beetle (and available in issue 22 of carte blanche). Andrusian hold a Masters in creative writing from Concordia University, and has written several poems inspired by insects. "I identify with all of them," she told the crowd, "especially the dung beetle!"
Up next was Elaine Kennedy, who was reading for both her and Cheryl Curtis. They have many years of translation and teaching experience at Concordia, and Kennedy read “It’s Late Dr. Schweitzer,” the first chapter of the translation of Ce pays qui est le mien by Didier Leclaire, a Montreal-born writer (now of Toronto) whose parents hailed from Rwanda.
Sarah Mangle began her reading by thanking Maria for being a great editor (there were so many good vibes all night!) and told the story of the last years of her grandmother's life. The three year annivesary of her death had been just a few days prior, and the tale of intergenerational ghosts and familial relationships was all the more poignant for it, though still very funny: near the end, grandma got "a little loose and little psychic and it was awesome."
Martin Bryan has Masters degrees in both physics and creative writing, and is writing his first novel. Grandmothers ended up being a bit of a theme for the evening, and his reading was from the point of view of several grandchildren who live in a large family. The piece is about the years they all spend taking care of the grandmother and playing very competitive card games.
Elaine Kalman Naves works as a broadcaster and writer, and read from her book Portrait of a Scandal. The story, a true one, chronicles an 1868 court case in Montreal. Part procedural, part dark love story, Naves does shy away from humour, and the first title is called "A sudden death."
Gillian Sze, for her part, read a poem from her collection Peeling Rambutan. "Eating fruit" and the other poems in the book document her first experience visiting Asia in 2008, and her reading in particular recalls her time in Malaysia exploring new flavours.
Ohara Hale rounded out the readings with a few of her poetry and comics crossovers. She first showed (using the projector to great effect) a Pablo Neruda poem, followed by "27 moons," one of her own. Hale, who draws, sings, writes, and loves to make jokes, finished the night up by introducing her new book, Lol Bananas.
Many people came out to celebrate such a wonderful achievement, and there was much merriment and enjoying of the refreshments (I'm never getting over those cupcakes) afterward.