WALID BITAR, BASMA KAVANAGH and MISSY MARSTON
at the Robson Reading Series
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 7pm
UBC Bookstore at Robson Square
Robson Reading Series events are free and open to the public but registration is recommended. To register for this event, please click here.
They have no maps. Ours, I’ll redraw.
Isn’t itself, their neck of the woods;
needs a rest – something more than a nap,
and less than death, though death wouldn’t hurt.
In Divide and Rule, Walid Bitar delivers a sequence of dramatic monologues, variations on the theme of power, each in rhymed quatrains. Though the pieces grow out of Bitar’s personal experiences over the last decade, both in North America and the Middle East, he is not primarily a confessional writer. His work might be called cubist, the perspectives constantly shifting, point followed by counterpoint, subtle phrase by savage outburst. Bitar’s enigmatic speakers are partially rational creatures, have some need to explain, and may succeed in partially explaining, but, in the end, communication and subterfuge are inseparable – must, so to speak, co-exist.
Walid Bitar was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1961. He immigrated to Canada in 1969. His previous poetry collections are Maps with Moving Parts (Brick Books, 1988), 2 Guys on Holy Land (Wesleyan University Press, 1993), Bastardi Puri (Porcupine’s Quill, 2005) and The Empire’s Missing Links (Véhicule Press, 2008). From 1990 to 1991, he held a Teaching-Writing Fellowship at the University of Iowa. His newest work, Divide and Rule (Coach House Books, June 2012), is a collection of dramatic monologues. He lives in Toronto.
Basma Kavanagh’s debut collection, Distillō, engages the natural world and seeks to explore our relationship to it. Hers is a poetics of description which subverts scientific observation and the authoritative language of nomenclature for mythopoetic ends. In the opening section (“Moisture”), precipitation is dissected and categorized, but ultimately the deluge of “rain making rain, /making rain” overwhelms controlled interrogation and undulating imagery saturates everything. Nomenclature reappears elsewhere in the book, attempting to anchor object poems about west-coast flora and fauna–salmon, elk, bear, bigleaf maple, bog myrtle–which otherwise drift toward the mythworld and gesture in the direction of the ethereal and the totemic. Understanding that language can be most precise when it harbours ambiguity and surprise, Kavanagh experiments with pattern poems and the layering of multiple voices in her attempt to express “a fullness /an absence /of self.” This is a book which turns over rocks and looks under them in search of truth in its soft, damp hiding places, poems which instruct us to “[d]escend. Blend /your knowing with the breath of earth”.
Basma Kavanagh is a painter, poet and letterpress printer living in Kentville, Nova Scotia. She produces artist’s books under the imprint Rabbit Square Books. Her poems have appeared in the chapbook A Rattle of Leaves, published by Red Dragonfly Press, and included in anthologies in the United States.
The Love Monster is the tall tale of one woman’s struggle with mid-life issues. The main character, Margaret H. Atwood, has psoriasis, a boring job and a bad attitude. Her cheating husband has left her. And none of her pants fit any more. Missy Marston takes the reader on a hilarious journey of recovery. Hope comes in the form of a dope-smoking senior citizen, a religious fanatic, a good lawyer and a talking turtle (not to mention Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Warren Zevon, Neil Armstrong and a yogi buried deep underground). And, of course, hope comes in the form of a love-sick alien speaking in the voice of Donald Sutherland. More than an irreverent joyride, The Love Monster is also a sweet and tender look at the pain and indignity of being an adult human and a sincere exploration of the very few available remedies: art, love, religion, relentless optimism, and alien intervention.
Missy Marston‘s writing has appeared in various publications, including Grain and Arc Poetry Magazine. She was the winner of the Lillian I. Found Award for her poem, “Jesus Christ came from my home town.” As explained in her National Post Afterword columns, Missy Marston loves Margaret Atwood, aliens and Donald Sutherland. Her first novel, The Love Monster, is an ode to all three. She has been called “an irreverent Canadian” by Commentary Magazine and “weird, funny and moving” by The Globe and Mail. She is fine with that. The Love Monster is her first novel. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario.