Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Readings Can Be Fun (But Actually)

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It’s already come to this! Only the second post in my tenure as Open Book: Toronto’s Writer in Residence and I’m already writing about things I’m doing. So, to get it out of the way: I’m reading at Pivot at the Press Club tomorrow evening.

This is notable in that it is the first reading I will give in which I’m determined to have Fun.*

*I generally have a sweaty-palmed approach to reading. The first time I read a poem out loud I was pulled aside by a few audience members afterwards and they kindly (and correctly) suggested that I needed to get better because I was, basically, the worst ever. I like to think that I’ve gotten better since then.

I was reminded that one can, in fact, have Fun while reading their own work when I saw Andrew Kaufman read from the new edition of All My Friends Are Superheroes a few weeks ago in Waterloo.

Kaufman opted to read one of his favourite sections of the book. And then, during the reading, he laughed at how funny it was.

He was right to laugh – Superhero’s bit on the vacuum cleaner salesman is really funny.

But what struck me was how much Kaufman’s enjoyment of his own work furthered my own enjoyment of his reading. Perhaps it’s simply refreshing to see an author who isn’t trying to sell books or get off stage as quickly as possible. But his laugh, I think, helped affirm that it was a chuckle-worthy portion of the book, and meant the audience wasn’t laughing because of something Kaufman said, but was laughing with him as he said it.

And it is largely this performative aspect that we go to readings for. I could listen to Dionne Brand read the phone book and enjoy it, in part because when she reads she embraces the fact that she’s not just reading from a book but is also reading to an audience. There is an equal emphasis on page and performance.

I loved how central the act of eating was to the booklength readings put on annually by The Scream (RIP). And I’m sad that I never had an opportunity to see some of Jim Smith’s completely bananas performances, like the one where he tied himself to a chair and interrogated himself as part of his reading. These are the sorts of things we can’t get from reading a book at home.

Me, I’ll just be reading some poems. I don’t think I quite have that level of performance in me as some of the folks I mentioned above. But what I do have are some poems I had Fun writing.

As a partial set-list giveaway, I’ll be reading “Notes on a theme” which is a poem that essentially rips off the same lyric from the Hold Steady for three full pages. But it's a poem I had a blast while writing (we're allowed to cop to having Fun while writing, right?), and is the only poem anyone's ever actually told me they want to hear aloud.

In re-reading the poem, I realize that it’s kind of like telling the same joke over and over and over again, which at first is funny, and then is really unfunny, and then if all goes well is kinda funny again.

Between the audience and I hopefully at least one of us has Fun.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Andrew Faulkner

Andrew Faulkner co-curates The Emergency Response Unit, a chapbook press. His first book, Need Machine, was published by Coach House Books in April 2013. He lives in Toronto.

Go to Andrew Faulkner’s Author Page