Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Kyle Buckley, Rocco de Giacomo and Jessica Westhead at the Pivot Reading Series

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Kyle Buckley, Rocco de Giacomo and Jessica Westhead at the Pivot Reading Series

By Monique Mathew, a budding writer, curator and OCAD graduate. She lives in Toronto.

Pivot is a new reading series that launched in October of 2008. Organized and hosted by poet Carey Toane, Pivot began when the long-running IV Lounge Series ended last fall. Pivot offered the readers that were scheduled at the IV Lounge a venue for their readings and continues on in the IV format of presenting three readers a night, both established and emerging, reading a mix of poetry and fiction.

The series is held twice a month at the Press Club, a warm and well-loved bar on Dundas Street, a few blocks west of Bathurst. The Press Club has always supported the local arts community with a busy schedule of live music shows and rotating art exhibitions. The addition of Pivot to its roster is a natural one, and both the crowd and readers at last Wednesday’s event seemed at home in the intimate space.

The three readers scheduled were Kyle Buckley, Rocco de Giacomo and Jessica Westhead. De Giacomo (Catching Dawn’s Breath, LyricalMyrical Press, 2007) read a selection of poems that focused on his experiences traveling. A self-proclaimed travel junkie, he confessed that his wife has refused to plan any more trips with him for the time being to save money. The focus on foreign locales and highly descriptive language give his poetry a Polaroid-like quality, capturing brief and vividly colourful memories, complete with smell and sound.

Jessica Westhead, author of Pulpy and Midge (Coach House, 2007), read from two bitingly funny short stories. The first work featured a character named Curtis, who recently starred in a television commercial for a local discount store, Value Bin. He also has an obsession with store-bought condiments, which his wife strongly disapproves of. Westhead is astute in describing the banality of suburban life, such as a scene where Curtis and his wife enjoy their regular “taco night” at home with all the taco fixings for the meal laid out on a Lazy Susan on the table. Curtis longs to buy some salsa to make the tacos “more fun,” but his wife snaps that Taco Night is fun enough. Westhead’s satirization of mainstream culture and domesticity continued in the second work she read from, a letter to a fictional Martha Stewart or Oprah figure, Janet, the star of something called Planet Janet. The letter thanks Janet for her ham and white sauce casserole recipe, but also confesses her sorrow at not being able to put Janet’s motto of “Add a dash of joy to your daily routine” into practice. Westhead’s reading drew many laughs from the audience, but also succeeded in inspiring a sense of pathos for her repressed and unfulfilled characters.

Kyle Buckley was the last reader of the evening, reading from his recently published book of poetry, The Laundromat Essay (Coach House, 2008) The poems are centred around trying to get clothes back from a Laundromat, but quickly veer into very abstract terrain, where words and even the structure of his own poems are analyzed and critiqued. Buckley's delivery enhanced the word play and self-reflexivity of his poems. Here is a small excerpt from Buckley’s “The Disappointment of Poetry”:

The conversation with the laundromat owner starts the same way that my last conversation with you did. A conversation starts with what Ashbury calls ‘Brittle, useless architecture’ that affords a high, but teetering scaffolding-like vantage point of the action. What happens during the course of the conversation with you draws an irreproachable map of the city. It’s the conversation that I’m always trying to get back to, and I’m always trying to find you in.

The event was short and lively, and it ended with a happily chatting audience basking in the cosy warmth of the Press Club.

For more information on Pivot and upcoming readings, visit the Pivot blog.
Read Open Book’s interview with Pivot organizer and host, Carey Toane.

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