Hailfax Literary Events

I’m sitting the Backpacker’s Halifax Hostel typing this. I’ve been in Halifax since last Monday, and I am slowly preparing myself for the long voyage out to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Getting to the rocky western shores of the island will be easy enough, but it’s the 500 mile trip across the island that’s going to be a problem. Here’s a little tip for anyone who’s thinking about buying Greyhound’s Canada Pass: the title is misleading in that the “Canada” Greyhound is talking about doesn’t include Newfoundland. Damn Yanks. Since I can’t afford the $100 bus trip there, I’m gonna hafta hitch a ride.

Hitching is not such a big deal. The standing-on-the-side-of-the-road-for-hours-looking-glum-thing is do-able, as long as I have a book. It’s the getting-stuck-in-a-car-with-(a)-psychopath(s)-thing that worries me. It’s those stories, those urban legends that always come up in a converstion about hitch-hiking, usually just before I hitchhike, that always instill me with a touch of dread and foreboding. The feeling lingers until I get to my destination. It’s impossible to not think or talk about the dreadful possibilities of hitchhiking as much as it impossible to not think or talk about a social taboo. Worst is when the topic of ill-fated hitchhiking comes up when your in a car with someone who just picked you up:

“Yeah, you don’t see to many people hitchhiking any more since that young feller got killed here last year.”

Note to drivers: saying something like that will make a hitchhiker very nervous.

Note to hitchhikers: the best way to avoid dwelling on the subject of dismembered hitchers is to subtly change the topic:

“Nice weather today, eh?” is a good topic changer that any timid hitcher can use.

All in all though, a little sense of dread or foreboding can really help you feel more alive. Mortal fear has been known to shake off the tired sense of safety and routine that clings to us in our daily lives.

Enough senseless dead hitchhiker babble. Here are the goods on Halifax:

It’s an awesome city. It has all the amenities of a metropolis: a harbourfront, a historic/cosmopolitan centre, a beautiful oceanside park, and an artists’ ghetto. It also has lakes you can swim in which are only a 45-minute walk from downtown.

And of course, it has a Word scene that is on the upswing. Apparently, a few months ago the Word scene was pretty dismal: one venue, with one reader and an audience size ranging between 3 and 10 people. This is not to say that there weren’t other venues around, but if they were, there were too far below the radar to be accesible to newcomers and passers-by. But with the advent a powerful poet from New York, Clive Wray, establishing himself in Halifax last June, and a sudden surge in audience interest, things are looking good:

A Poet’s Word, is a new venue taking place at The Dearby Lounge at 2215 Gottingen Street (902) 422-9608. It’s more a less a well-lit pool hall in the artists’ ghetto. Sign-up time is 8:00 pm, and the warning signs at the entrance to the lounge – “No Fighting,” “No Loitering” and “No Selling Drugs of Any Kind” – would encourage poets to be on time: not too early and definitely not too late.

The Shoestring Reading Series happens at the Economy Shoe Shop on Argyle Street in the historical centre of the city. Any one who’s frequented The Tales of Ordinary Madness reading series in Vancouver will feel quite at home here. It’s hosted by David Rimmington, and the sign-up time is 8:30 pm.

Dave Rimmington also hosts The Poetry Show on CKDU, 97.5 FM, from 10:00 – 10:30 pm Wednesday night. You can contact Dave for more info at 902-488-9643. You can also tune in via internet at ckdu.dal.ca (no “www”) if you want to give a listen.

Word Iz BOND Spoken Word Artists’ Collective iz what it says it is in the title. They meet and set up spoken word events throughout the city. For more info email: wordizbon@mail.com

Maxwell hosts The Drive-BY Suicide Transmission Drop from 2:00 – 6:00 am every second Friday on CKDU, 97.5 FM. Via internet: ckdu.dal.ca (no “www”). For more info, contact Maxwell: haligonia@hotmail.com. Maxwell takes submissions, so send anything that might sound good on audio.

That’s all for now folks. Next stop, St. John’s.

Montreal and the Latchkey National Word Calender

Patios. The one thing I have to say about Montreal is the cafe and bar patios. There’s a lot of them, and they are given a lot of space, not like the little fenced-in drinking pens there are in TO and a lot of other puritan, Canadian cities more concerned with drinking by-laws then with culture and aesthetics. All it takes is one too many uptight busy-bodies to prevent a good thing from happening, like what they’ve got in Montreal. You can sit at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Prince Arthur for hours, reclined and stretched out, just watching the people strolling past laughing and smoking and socializing and shaking hands and flirting, just like there was nothing else in the world to do but just that. I may be a bit naive about the place, but the patio thing really lends to the European feel of the city. Patios, and the notion that every person living in the city has the right to a balcony, no matter if they are living in a run down apartment or a single floor of a townhouse. Everyone gets to have one. And everyone gets to sit on their balcony, put their feet up on the railings, smoke an cigarette and drink a glass of wine.

Man, have I ever missed out.

I think this commentary also comes from a lot of guilt. I’ve been to Montreal before, but this is the first time I’ve been in the city sober. All the other times I’ve been here I really can’t remember much, except for a few things like the peepshows and the inside of Churchhill’s. There’s also me stumbling into a Burger King at three in the morning yelling: FIRE! FIRE! Oh yeah, and me getting trapped in a building at McGill and urinating on the floor of one the classrooms.

Yes, I was the stereotypical, binge drinking, no-tipping Ontarian and I owe it to the city to say something nice.

As for spoken word, first off, I gotta say that although the spoken word scene is on the small side in the city, the audience is way better than in TO or Vancouver. They’re attentive, they’re quiet and they’re earnest. This might have something to do with the fact that unlike in Toronto and Van, less than 80 percent of the people listening aren’t poets simply waiting to get on stage.

I visited two venues during my stay, both of which will be appearing online in The Latchkey National Word Calendar coming out next month. There’s the Chameleon Cove Open Stage, which is a mix of music and poetry happening every Tuesday night at McKibbin’s Pub, at 1426 Bishop (514-288-1580). You should be there at around 9:15 pm to sign up. There is also a venue right across the street from McKibbin’s on Wednesdays. It has been listed as Wednesday’s Child, but the new name is soon to be Fantastic Fred’s Fabulous Funtime Variety Show. It’s a great show, don’t worry. FFFFVS is both music and poetry and it happens at a place called Kafein, at 1429 Bishop, every Wednesday (514-904-6969). Be there around 9:00 pm to sign up.

That about wraps it up, folks. Next stop, Fredericton.