by carl wilson

Now I Long For:
Yesterduh, and Hydromel

Aki Onda sings Yesterduh.

Last night's Yesterduh closing party at Mercer Union was a real hootenanny, preceded by a Test reading (organized by Mark Truscott) featuring Stephen Cain and Lisa Robertson. Since music is our business around here, we'll take Yesterduh first for 100. As I've mentioned, this is the latest audio-art outing by Zoilus stock character Brian Joseph Davis. The conceit was to bring random gallerygoers into a recording booth and have them sing Yesterday, the most-recorded pop song ever, from memory to a backing track. The results are now available for your online listening pleasure (?), including a few solos (one of them by Aki Onda, another by Darren O'Donnell) and a big edited-together choral version; more audio will be added in future, I hear. I don't need to tell you how enjoyable it all is - just go enjoy it. And then there was beer, and dancing, and everyone feeling they should be going home and getting some work done but nobody going, and more beer and great standing-out-on-the-sidewalk conversation, and Jonny Dovercourt's Jesus-year birthday, and Vigilante Justice the a capella techno band doing Dee-Lite and C+C Music Factory, and more beer.

Now backing up to the reading: Steve Cain's stuff was yer quality gaz, auto-club map shreds out of the gas bar en route to the collapse of the oil economy - i've enjoyed his sneaky way with northern politics for a while - but what we were all perty near aflutter about was that this was Vancouver poet Lisa Robertson's first reading in Toronto in something like five years, and also the launch of her new book The Men, which smelt like a Memorable Occasion, like this is a book we will be reading for a long time, and while all Robertson's books deserve such designation (Debbie: An Epic, XEcologue, The Weather and, most of all for me till last night, Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, which by the way may be reissued in the not-too-distant future), listening to The Men felt somewhere in the neighbourhood if not right up in the driveway of one of those storied readings of Old where something lasting first trotted forward to take a bow. (I'm not sure it's possible to open the door of that building anymore so the driveway will have to do.) The secret is someplace in the collision-and-merge Robertson alludes to in her ministatement between "all the ambivalence, doubt, and tenderness of the human," and "I remain angered." It's quite something to take on the brief "to defamiliarize both who, and what men are" but something else actually to have done it. People are going to be jealous. No wonder she kept it in cool storage for five years before publishing. Me, I felt a funny-sickly hesitation at the end to clap too loudly lest I give myself away. The Q&A; afterwards was anticlimax although I admire Mark's will to do it; it began promisingly thanks to his first question, with both poets talking about where the categories of "Language poet" and "Canadian poet" might scrape, crack, massage or miss each other (and Robertson further about how the old Objectivist -> Tish -> Kootenay story of west-coast Canadian lines might be its own kind of crock), but then devolved into typical "do you write with a pen or a computer" reading questions with which the poets coped nobly. And what nobody asked was the thing we all wanted to know - what is hydromel? The word appears several times in The Men, serves as some kind of sacrament or corrosive, and it was promised that there would be some served (so it is something you serve?) at the full-book reading Robertson is apparently doing at the Scream lit fest in July. But nobody yers truly included had the gumption to ask.

Answer: Just as the name suggests, hydromel is "a mixture of water and honey"; when it ferments, it becomes mead aka honey wine. Now you knows. The Men is published by BookThug and there is a sample here.

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, May 25 at 3:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)



I understated how much the poets made of the questions they got - and I'm actually perfectly happy to find out what people write with. It's tactile. Lisa's semi-erotic-semi-joke about dirt took advantage of that tactility. And the disagreement between Steve and Lisa about the place of subjectivity - a gendered disagreement right after a very gendered reading - made something out of the standard-issue question about the place of the "I" too. But compared to the readings it was still kinda all water thrown on the fire, you know? I can imagine people leaping into debate at such moments but if they're not prepared to (out of shyness for instance), it seems like a very good idea to have a Plan B to avoid falling, as we did the other night, into classroom or book-tour mode. Classrooms and book tours aren't so horrible but I feel like you're after something else at Test. I am of course short on concrete suggestions but I will keep thinking about it. Here's one: You could have a couple of ringers in the audience, designated question-askers who would be at the ready to start up a more provocative discussion - so that you wouldn't have to always do it yourself. (This could be covert or open.) There are probably better ideas though.

Posted by zoilus on May 26, 2006 12:45 PM



Hey Carl,

Thanks for the generous response. Stephen and Lisa really did tear it up, didn’t they? It was great to see you there.

You've caught me in mid mull over the pen or pencil questions, so apologies if I focus on them. Yeah, I can see why they were a bit annoying (I admit they affected me that way), and I think they contributed to (and/or reflected) a discomfort I didn't see at any of the previous installments' Q & A's. On the other hand though, I was caught up in some joking about that old standby "where do you get your ideas?" recently, and I ended up thinking that I would actually enjoy answering such a question. I mean, the question itself is pretty interesting. So too maybe with, for instance, questions relating to an artist's materials. I've read Lyn Hejinian praising certain brands of notebook, and I think Robert Creeley was big on getting students to reflect on the most mundane circumstances of their practice (size of paper, etc.). And indeed, Wednesday’s pedestrian questions elicited some pretty interesting responses, including Robertson's saying she writes with dirt.

I guess what's annoying though is that these questions are often asked out of lazy ignorance, or so we tend to think. I think though that these particular questions were asked due to a degree of anxiety, both personal and felt on the rest of the audience's behalf. I think a good part of the crowd was pretty freaked out to have an opportunity to exchange ideas with a relative stranger with the brainpower, wit, talent and clout Lisa clearly has and with Stephen, who's in possession of a substantial mass of greymatter himself, whose work is often a little dark, and whose demeanor is friendly but slightly shy, which can seem a little intimidating at first. It could be that I could have opened some kind of door (through a brief formal interview perhaps). Such a device clearly wasn’t necessary for the previous sessions (Darren O’Donnell clearly just held himself back from interrupting me before he started querying Margaret and Brian himself in April, which was very much appreciated).

In any case, selfishly (that is, I guess, beyond my role as organizer), I’m pretty interested in the awkwardness I witnessed and what it might mean. Really though, I don’t think it was that bad. Others seem to have got a fair bit out of it.

Anyway, this is all good to reflect on. I’m toying with ideas for changes to the format for upcoming installments, and this is helping. And thanks again for your post.

And again, my focus on one part of your post has more to do with its rhyming with some concerns I already had than anything else.

Posted by Mark Truscott on May 26, 2006 12:18 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson