Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Despite Eyjafjallajoekull’s spewing ash, we went ahead with an event today without its star, Peter Lanyon, who couldn’t fly out of Italy. The Festival’s relationship with Peter goes back to April 2005 when this world-renowned Creative Director attended the Frye Festival. He attended workshops, dialogues, round tables and lectures and was completely changed by his experience. He agreed to re-brand the Festival, helping us to get to the essence of the Festival. We went from “The Northrop Frye International Literary Festival” to “Frye Festival” – promising to feed the imagination, or “plein la tête” of everyone who participates.
But the Frye Festival also acted as a catalyst for Peter in his own creative work. He put the finishing touches on a book of poetry he had been working on, commissioned Acadian visual artist Raymond Martin to paint images for each line of poetry and the book Life in the Lawn: A PoemGarden was born.
The poems were adapted into French by local businessman and philanthropist Mario Thériault and novelist France Daigle (La vie est inscrite dans la pelouse: un jardin en poèmes), and all 21 pieces of art and poems were on display at the Moncton Public Library today (and all month).
About 30 people attended the opening, including artists, poets, business people, and library regulars. The paintings are simply breathtaking, but the poems and their carefully crafted French adaptations garnered much praise.
All of this got me thinking about the many wonderful synchronicities that happen continuously during the Festival…authors meeting authors, authors meeting booklovers, booklovers meeting artists, academics meeting booklovers…the authenticity of our community and the proximity that our community allows, just permits the magic to happen.
I’m looking forward to all of tonight’s events, but particularly the book launches at Navigator’s Pub, the conversation with Guy Gavriel Kay and of course the Evening of Storytellers.
The festival is officially launched, and the cold, rainy weather seems to be letting up, promising some sun and warmth. We had an impressive roster of sponsors and politicians at the launch, including the Premier of the province, a Liberal, and Conservative Senator Rose-May Poirier, speaking for the federal government. All praised our efforts, our success, and promised continued support. “You are certainly doing all the right things,” Poirier said, in French. Sweet words, in whatever language. Several speakers made a point of quoting Frye’s words on the importance of imagination, and on the importance of basic literacy.
The big news, in the eyes of the media, is that we did actually lose 2 authors to the volcano, contrary to what I said yesterday. “Volcanic ash cloud casts shadow on Metro” is the headline on the front page of the local newspaper. We’re always glad for any publicity we can get. The two authors are somewhat peripheral to the festival, so we’re not really hurting. The big worry was Craig Stephenson, but he’s here. I look forward to meeting Craig this afternoon and driving him to a local high school, where he will meet a psychology class.
At 6pm this evening, Guy Gavriel Kay, acclaimed writer of historical fantasy, will talk about his new novel, “Under Heaven.” He’s on a countrywide book tour, with a two-day stop in Moncton. Tomorrow, Wednesday, he’s the invited speaker at the YMCA Literacy Luncheon, which celebrates the many high-school age volunteers who give their time to help others come, in Glenna Sloan’s words, to “a love of reading.”
At 7pm this evening we have gathered 6 storytellers, English and French, who will entertain us and give us examples of the magic of telling a story, of the sort that comes out of the oral tradition. Ronald Labelle, good friend and Professor at University of Moncton, specialist in folklore and the oral tradition, has organized the evening for us, and will host the event. The best-known of the storytellers are André Lemelin from Quebec, and Kay Stone from Winnipeg. Gilbert Sewell, from Papineau First Nation in New Brunswick, will also be here. Gilbert was at our first festival in 2000.
Local French-language publisher, Éditions Perce-Neige, will host an event at 10pm, featuring 4 of their newly published authors. Though my wife, Elaine, is francophone, from Quebec originally, my own French is bit shaky, and I may skip this all-French event. It’s going to be a busy-enough day, and we’ll be tired.
The Festival has set up Headquarters in a room at the Delta Beausejour Hotel, where all the authors stay. People are there almost around the clock, working to make sure everything goes smoothly. Our two paid staff are Rachelle Dugas, executive director, and Roxanne Richard, assistant. Everyone else is a volunteer, including Dawn Arnold, President of the Frye Board, who works tirelessly at every level, fundraising, mixing with politicians, and details of programming. We have hundreds of volunteers, helping with such things as driving authors to schools, selling tickets at the door, introducing authors, etc. It is, as Nella Cotrupi noted with such warm words when she was here in 2002, an extraordinary community effort.
The synopsis provided by Cormorant Books reads:
Approaching a scholar and critic as legendary as Northrop Frye is a daunting task — but not for Mel Montrose. Armed with a prestigious academic award and a nothing-to-lose attitude, she convinces Frye to supervise her ambitious thesis exploring E.J. Pratt’s epic poem about Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf. To embark on her study, Mel takes a job at the newly reconstructed historical site at Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons, where de Brébeuf and seven other missionaries met their tragic ends. But Mel soon learns that delving into Ontario history is no escape from her own when an obsessed admirer threatens to destroy her academic career.