May 7, 2007
At the Gordon Best Theatre, 216 Hunter Street, W., 8:00pm
George Elliot Clarke
George Elliott Clarke’s newest dramatic poem, Trudeau, makes an irreverent, jubilant portrait of the life and politics of one of Canada’s most controversial political heroes, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Clarke’s poem provides a whimsical and informative look at the balance of world powers in the 1960s and 70s, infused with the spirit of the many revolutions taking place throughout the world during these years. The poem opens on a hillside in Nanjing, China, April 1949, in the midst of the country’s civil war. Our hero exchanges political stances with Mao and falls for a beautiful young flautist. From China the drama moves to Fredericton, NB, where Trudeau chats with Massachusetts Senator and future American president John F. Kennedy, who has just received an honorary doctorate from the university. The two men cavalierly discuss the perks of political power, each on the cusp of leading their countries. Then, in Havana, on the eve of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro treats Trudeau to rum and cigars and offers his take on revolutions, Cuban and otherwise. When the focus moves to the Quiet Revolution and Trudeau’s response to this crisis in his leadership, Clarke presents a leader at once loved and loathed at home, who perseveres through both political and personal upheaval.
Originally composed as the libretto for a new opera by D.D. Jackson to be presented at Toronto’s Harbourfront Festival in April 2007, Trudeau is a political caper, an extravagant portrait and a dramatic study of influence, power, revolution and liberation. Clarke injects the life of one of this country’s most intriguing personalities with the exuberance and grimy frankness his readers have come to love and expect.
According to the author: "As a teenage poet in the 1970s, seven artist-intellectuals - or poet-politicos - helped me to conceive my voice. They were jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, troubadour-bard Bob Dylan, libertine lyricist Irving Layton, guerilla leader and poet Mao Zedong, reactionary modernist Ezra Pound, Black Power orator Malcolm X and the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau. These ‘idols’ inspired me to sculpt an individualist poetic scored with implicit social commentary. Yes, this ‘Gang of Seven’ is flawed. But, taken as a whole, I find their blunt talk, suave styles, acerbic independence, raunchy macho, feisty lyricism, singing heroics and scarf-and-beret chivalry quite, well, liberating.
"For me, no Canadian stood more for liberation than Trudeau, that aloof populist, rights-trampling democrat and tax-and-spend millionaire. An operatic figure in life (1919-2000), he now merits dramatic treatment. My dramatic poem imagines the politician as ‘player’: Plato meets Chaplin."
George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Clarke won the Governor General Literary Award for poetry in 2001 for Execution Poems, published by Gaspereau Press. In 1998, Clarke won the prestigious Portia White Prize. He is presently lecturing at the University of Toronto.
Whatever Happens is a collection of stories for people who feel that reality is not the best deal going. Tim Conley explores the fragility of our perceptions as well as the illusions that we so badly need. Sometimes spare, these nineteen stories move between the obsessive and the disinterested, the extraordinary and the humdrum.
In "Means to an End," a man who has not quite come to the end of his rope meets a woman who wants to borrow it; in "Constellation," an unforeseen meteorite destroys an astrologists' convention; a taciturn botanist confronts his unfaithful wife in "The Greenhouse Effect"; and in "Last One In," an argument about which man has the better sense of hearing ends in disaster.
Influenced by - but expanding upon - the work of Jorge Luis Borges, Raymond Queneau, and the European avant-garde, Conley's work combines realism with metaphysical concerns to create a comedic, yet always striking, first collection of fictions.
Advance praise for Whatever Happens:
"A clever, inventive, immensely appealing collection." - Barbara Gowdy, author of The Romantic and We So Seldom Look on Love
"Tim Conley's characters question the boundaries of what can be known - and challenge the reader with the implications of living in an unknowable world. His stories tell us again that the silences are often the loudest notes in the aria. A welcome new voice with a unique vision." - Michael Bryson, The Danforth Review
Tim Conley's fiction, essays, poetry, and translations have appeared in numerous magazines in five countries. He runs In Case of Emergency Press, a fine press chapbook series, and lives in St. Catharines, where he teaches at Brock University.
Katerina Fretwell's fourth poetry collection, published by Pendas Productions in 2004, is called "Shaking Hands with the Night" and includes her art and recorded voice as well. Forthcoming from Pendas are two more multi-media poetry books: "Samsara: Canadian in Asia" and "Traveling to my Muse."
Her poetry and art have reached international audiences in Canada, Denmark, Japan and the United States. Her poem sequence, "Quartzite Dialogues," was set to music by Michael Horwood and performed thrice at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, 1999 and 2004, and once, translated into Japanese, at the Takefu Music Centre in Japan, 1999.
Fretwell also paints in various media, studies piano, and sings choral tenor, recently in Opera Gala at the Charles W Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, Parry Sound, May 6, 2007. She lives with her husband and calico cat bordering a forest, south of Parry Sound. Born in wartime NYC and Canadian citizen since 1969, during 'Nam, she has a BA in Sociology and
a Masters of Social Work but happily switched to her passion, the arts, after her being fired from her second social work job.
Hal Niedzviecki is the founder and fiction editor of Broken Pencil, the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts (www.brokenpencil.com). He is the author of several works of fiction and cultural commentary including the novels Ditch and The Program, and Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity. For more information about his work, please visit his website www.smellit.com.