1) I was in Toronto last weekend and did an afternoon reading at the Toronto Zine Library. Hallowzine featured a bunch of great zine writers, like Alex Wrekk (Brainscan), Jeff Miller (Ghost Pine), Chris Landry (Kiss Off) and Suzanne Sutherland (My Bad). I felt a little sheepish reading at a zine reading considering that “Cement, Flour, Saints” is now 2 years old and is not going to be reprinted, but I seized the opportunity to read “We Should Make Things”, the essay about zines that I wrote for the Shameless anthology. It was great reading it to a group of people steeped in zine culture. They knew what I meant when I talked about long-armed staplers and glueing stamps. I’ve only done a handful of readings, but this was my favourite, I think. The vibe in the library was warm and cozy, the audience was engaged and it was a wonderful way to spend a few hours on Halloween afternoon. Super big thanks to Amy for being an adorable MC and for inviting me to read.
Setting up for the reading – Chris is stringing up pumpkin lights, Amy is in kitty-cat ears and Suzanne has a beard on. Just your typical Halloween day reading.
Here I am reading. I didn’t wear a costume, but I did wear all black for the occasion.
2) Soon after working my way through those Cavafy poems, I happened across a flyer for “Cavafy: Passions and Ancient Days“, a one-man reading/play by Yannis Simonides that was going to be performed at Montreal’s Hellenic Community Center. I reserved the night for myself and went this past Friday. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a Greek community event. When I was growing up, my father was heavily involved in the community and I spent many childhood evenings in auditoriums like the one I was in on Friday. It felt the same: the old ladies with their haispray-stiffened hairdo’s, that blend of Greek and English, the vague smell of coffee from the coffee makers in the back of the room.
Simonides’ performance was an homage to Cavafy, and jumped from biographical facts about the poet, Simonides’ own reflections on his work and influence, and then to Cavafy himself, reciting poems. It was surprisingly seamless: Simonides was wondeful at switching between the two roles of himself, the playright, and Cavafy, that famous Alexandrian poet. Cavafy was such an interesting, complex person and Simonides touched on everything that made him who he was: his eccentricness, his homosexuality, his sense of Hellenism (Cavafy always insisted that he was a Hellene more than a Greek, and that if he was a Greek, he was an Asian Greek), his love of Alexandria, his work life (30 years as a government clerk in the irrigation department!). The show was billed as a bilingual reading, but other than the poems which were first read in Greek before being translated, it was in English, to the dismay of some people in the audience. The woman next to me poked me once after I’d laughed at a joke and asked me if I understood what was going on. I said yes, and then she sniffed, “This is like a university course.” I guess not everyone was as impressed as I was.