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November 08, 2010

I'll take a gracious actor over a grumpy poet any day

 Water under the bridge at Duck Creek
On Friday night I went to Mahon Hall to see the play, Tuesdays with Morrie, acted by the 90-year-old Antony Holland as Morrie Swartz.

Holland, founded Langara's Studio 58 Theatre program many years ago and a lifetime of experience and natural talent means he can hold a room's wrapt attention, grab a corner of every heart and twist at the tender places you're protecting too much until the tears will roll. And, they did.

He lives on Gabriola Island where he founded the Gabriola Island Theatre Centre. The Mitch Albom character was acted by Antonio Gradanti, also of Gabriola. The warmth and the wisdom eminating from the stage as the relationship between these two unfolded gave the audience an all-encompassing bear hug and held on tight. For me, it was one of those performances that I'll keep in memory and pull out when I need to remind myself that I'm not the only one who's making their way in a world that's being less than kind at any given moment.

Sunday at ArtSpring, George Sipos, ArtSpring's ever enthusiastic director, managed to get two writers to make a detour from Victoria. He hosted a literary event as he is known to do from time to time. Yesterday we got to hear from Don Domanski and Alissa York. Domanski is a Governor General  award winning poet (2007) and York is the young author who had the misfortune of being paired with him on a short tour of the West Coast. She didn't say that. I'm saying it for her.

No doubt about it, the guy is a fantastic poet. I mean, hey, he did win the Governor General Award for Poetry in 2007. The award he hasn't a hope in hell of winning is Mr. Congeniality even though his white beard and his ample girth makes him look a little like Santa.

Maybe it's just me but if you're on tour to share your work, you might want to feign some minor interest. I looked at him and after observing his behaviour in response to questions, I thought to myself: "Santa Claus gone wrong."  And, of course, the much younger Ms. York did her best to compensate for his curmudgeonly way of being. Why do women do that?

As I was sitting there listening to him I couldn't help but think to myself, if I ever become a Governor General award winning writer or poet (when a miracle akin to the virgin birth happens), I will remember that when I go to read, I am there to entertain and I will interact with my audience reminding myself of what the word - audience - actually means. That without an audience, there's no point so smarten up Domanski.

I almost felt like laughing out loud because although his poetry was beautiful, the tone of his voice and the way he read was just so cliche. Is it not possible to be excited about one's poetry or do we have to pretend that we're at a funeral? I can't stand it. It reminded me why I often can't stomach poetry readings. They're so pompously over the top self-important and maudlin. GOOD GRIEF Charlie Brown!

I want to hear and immerse myself in your poems but I want more. I want some background. I want to  know why. I want to know what was happening and how it came to be. I want to be entertained. I want some context to the words that you have made beautiful.  Maybe that's wrong. Maybe it's like asking Leonardo DaVinci to explain himself or Gaugin. I don't care. I want some understanding by a wordsmith that I'm there, as an audience member, to feel and to know more when I leave then when I arrived and to have you acknowledge me, with some semblence of respect, as an audience member that matters.  Otherwise, stay home in your dirty bathrobe in front of your laptop with your cold coffee and your couch growing furry with dog hair.

The lovely Ms. York read some interesting passages from her book, Fauna, and someone from the audience asked if there were more animal stories being written lately or was it just her impression. Ms. York, politely tried to answer as best she could. Mr. Domanski just looked with almost disdain and said in a very agitated  and dismissive manner, " I don't know". He left off the "and I don't give a shit". That must have taken considerable restraint on his part. 

I managed to wash it all down with some good Malbec at dinner made by my personal chef and dear friend Linda James.  Tom and I devoured strawberry shortcake for dessert to sweeten the bad taste in my mouth left by Mr. Domanski. 

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