Monthly Archives: April 2010

Dawn Arnold: Frye Festival Diary

Bully Interview

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day three of the Festival was simply a blur for me, so I didn’t manage to get to my computer. However, it was one of the best days I’ve ever spent at the Festival!

The day started early with an author pick-up at 7:45 am. I took Nancy Wilcox Richards to Frank L. Bowser School where I had arranged for two students to interview Nancy (with a reporter from CBC’s Information Morning) on her new book on bullying. The kids were so excited! They were both convinced that they will be famous as a result of the interview. (The cult of celebrity starts early!) She then met with three Grade 3 classes and chatted with them about the writing process (she even made them edit a page!).

From there I was fortunate to spend some time speaking with Guy Gavriel Kay, who is a new discovery for me. What a brilliant mind! Guy was to be the keynote speaker at a YMCA Literacy Luncheon so when I picked him up, I reminded him that he would be speaking (he didn’t have anything with him). He said, “Oh, I don’t believe in making notes before I speak, I like to wing it, it keeps me sharp”. Well, was he ever sharp! He had a brilliant talk for the high school students (who have committed to tutoring younger students two days a week after school for the entire school year). He spoke about the one room schoolhouse tradition of the older students teaching the younger ones and how something has been lost in our current system. The students loved him. (The reports back from his high school visit at Moncton High have been stellar: once again he walked into the room, asked the teacher what she was teaching (Victorian poetry) and proceeded to incorporate that into his chat with the students. One of the students in the class had read everything he had written and almost fainted when she heard that he was coming to her class!).

From there I briefly attended Beth Powning and Robert Moore’s great chat and then raced to Dieppe where we had a beautiful event at the restaurant L’Idyll, a gorgeous old house (the oldest standing building in Dieppe) where French novelist Martin Winkler spoke to a full house (we had to turn away many people…always a heartbreak for me!).

And then, I raced back to Moncton for my absolute favourite event: Café Underground. Every year this event just gets better and better. French and English high school students come together at The Empress Theatre to present their own poetry, prose and songs. This year, for the first time ever, one of the students presented a reading of a play she wrote. It was excellent! The calibre of the students’ writing is fabulous. In the afternoon, the students all met with a journalist (Jesse Robichaud, our Poet flyé), a musician, a music industry insider and a theatre professional for workshops. On occasion I do wonder why I do what I do, since this is my 11th year of volunteering full time, but hearing the comments from the students last night about how important this event is to them, how much they look forward to the Frye Festival and how much it inspires them, I think I have enough fuel to go on for another 11 years! One of the students came up to me afterwards and asked me to sign her program. She had tears in her eyes as she told me it was her last year at the Festival – she had presented work for the last five years, but is in Grade 12 and going off to University next year. She told me that presenting every year at the Frye Festival was the highlight of her high school life. Wow. I told her that I couldn’t wait to invite her back as a published author!

I’m not sure why, but this year I’m kind of overwhelmed with the realization of the profound impact that this Festival is having on so many lives. I’m still not entirely certain how to articulate it (but I hope I can by Soirée Frye tonight!).

Better go find a replacement author to give a workshop on Saturday morning at KidsFest and pick-up Fred Stenson at the bus station!

Frye Fest Day 4!


Yesterday at 4pm I introduced Beth Powning, novelist, and Robert Moore, poet, and then, with about 40 others, enjoyed a lively and intimate conversation.  What sticks with me is their discussion of the false starts that each of them took in their writing career.  Beth, when she first moved to Canada from the U.S., tried writing short stories and, as she said, almost killed herself in the process.  Slowly she found her way, with a book of photographs accompanied by text, and several other kinds of writing, including a memoir Shadow Child, until she came into her own as a novelist.  Robert spent ten years writing plays until he realized he didn’t have the talent to create plots and his plays were all intended to set his characters up to speak poetically.  After the conversation 8 of us, including Beth and Robert and their spouses, went out to dinner.  Most pleasant.

At noon yesterday Guy Gavriel Kay was guest speaker at the YMCA literacy luncheon; I wasn’t there, but I heard he was brilliant.  He gave an extemporaneous speech that connected directly to the many literacy volunteers present.  I had heard him Tuesday evening, in conversation, and found him to be brilliant and witty, especially on the subject of science fiction and fantasy being genres separate and stigmatized.  There are two generations now, he said, of readers and writers for whom the stigma and the separation no longer apply.  He was heard to say that he would’ve liked to stay longer at the festival.

At noon I was at the ‘Frye Symposium’ roundtable on “Voyaging into the Unknown in Folk Tales and in Dreams.”  The four panelist (3 storytellers and folklorists, and 1 Jungian scholar and analyst) all focused on the forest as the image of the unknown where magical, unusual, transformative things happen.  Craig Stephenson talked about this in terms of Frye’s idea that “the fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.”  This vision, this transformation, this reaching for the golden dawn, only comes through the experience of loss, descent, ashes.  For all four panelists the key moment is the moment when the individual finds herself lost in the forest.  The storytellers all love this moment, because it gives them freedom to take the story off the beaten path.  In this context, then, it was instructive for a member of the audience to rise and quote Frye, to the effect that the one great story, enclosing all others, is the story of loss of identity and recovery of identity, in the form of resurrection, golden age, etc.

Continue reading

Henry Fielding


Today is Henry Fielding‘s birthday (1707 – 1754).

Here’s Frye on Jonathan Wild in Notebook 36:

Jonathan Wild has suggested three main ideas.  First, Wild is an ironic pharmakos, treated explicitly as a counterpart to “greatness.”  What happens to him ought to happen to all “great” men: Wild is obviously criminal only because society is still too strong for him: he’s a hero, a Caesar or Alexander, in an ironic context.  Second, the book is satire & comic rather than tragic irony, because Fielding’s norms are unmistakable: passages that would represent a complete breakdown  of the ironic pretense (e.g. the description of Bagshot) if they appeared in, say, Flaubert, are in decorum here, where the tone is the militant counterpart of irony, the satiric descent of fantasy on a moral canto fermo.  Third, the Mrs. Heartfree episode, which is typical of romance when the central figure is female & instead of killing dragons she fends off fucks.  Cf. Spenser’s Florimell & Morris’s Birdalone.  One might call it a quest of the perilous cunt.  Very sharp counterpoint between the realism of JW [Jonathan Wild] & his whorish bride & this corny romanticism in which Mrs. H. gets through a dozen assaults unplumbed & returns “unsullied” to her husband.  A good deal is said about Providence: Providence & Fortune are the existential projections of comic & tragic forms respectively.  (CW, 23, 249)

Frye Fest Day 3!


The editorial cartoon in this morning’s paper shows Frye in profile, very short legs,mostly all head, with a big double chin and the top half of the head covered in dark volcanic ash, and in the thought bubble the words “The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book … not the passenger jet.”  Frye’s just walking past a newspaper vending machine, and the headline on the newspaper is “Authors Cancel Because of Volcanic Ash.”  The volcano’s still working for us, even as it’s causing tremendous hardship to so many.  It’s definitely not a trade-off that we desire.

We lost two authors to the volcano, as I mentioned yesterday, and last evening we lost a storyteller to the snow crab fishery.  Apparently the crab fishery is in disarray this year, and Gilbert Sewell, Mi’kmag storyteller from the north of the province, who is also deeply involved in the fishery, was called to an emergency meeting at the exact moment he was to arrive in Moncton.  Host Ronald Labelle, an experienced storyteller himself, filled in, and made some other adjustments, and the evening was great – everything we’d hoped.  People are telling us we should have a storytelling event every year.

One thing I noticed is that the English storytellers (Kay Stone and Ronald) stood front and centre on the stage and relied on their words and facial expressions to tell their stories, whereas the French storytellers preferred to sit on the stool that was provided and made great use of hand and arm gestures, and bodily movements, to tell their stories.  They shaped their words and made us see what was happening.  I wonder if this might be true more generally of English and French professional storytellers.  But whether English or French, they kept us enthralled, for 3 hours!

Today at noon the focus on storytelling will continue, at a roundtable on “Voyaging into the Unknown in Folk Tales and in Dreams.”  The panelists include 3 experienced, professional storytellers, and one Jungian analyst, Craig Stephenson.  Key Frye concepts, such as katabasis, descent, and labyrinth, will be shadowing the discussion, and perhaps there will be a way to bring them out more explicitly.

At 4pm this afternoon two New Brunswick authors, Beth Powning and Robert Moore, will engage each other in conversation.  Beth recently published the novel “The Sea Captain’s Wife,” to wide acclaim.  Robert is one of the finest poets in this part of the world.  They will begin the discussion by talking about the ‘place’ they go to when they are creating a work of art, whether a poem or a novel or a memoir.  And how that (interior) place they go to is related to the place where they live.

There’s lots more going on today – the YMCA Literacy Luncheon featuring guest speaker Guy Gavriel Kay, Dialogue in French with Gracia Couturier and Christiane Duchesne, Book Club in French with Martin Winckler, Café Underground featuring performances by high school students of their own written works, and many school visits.  The authors almost always enjoy these school visits, even when things get a little confused sometimes.  Apparently Guy Gavriel Kay’s school thought he was coming on Thursday instead of Tuesday, but some quick thinking made it all come out all right.  With 30 authors, and probably close to 100 total classroom visits, it all goes amazingly smoothly, thanks to organizers Nancy Pipes (English) and Roxanne Richard (French).

Today’s highlight, for me, will be 8pm this evening when Craig Stephenson presents a talk entitled “Reading Frye Reading Jung.”  It looks like we may have a very good turn-out for this talk.  In the audience will be Alberto Manguel, who has accompanied Craig on his trip.  We – and they! – are hoping the ash cloud won’t prevent them from returning to France, sometime later this week.

Charlotte Bronte


Today is Charlotte Bronte‘s birthday (1816 – 1855).

Frye in Notebook 44 on Shirley:

[182]  [Charlotte Brontë’s] Shirley: full of characters spouting ideologies, including naturally the author’s own.  Toryism, radicalism, rationalized laissez faire, the sexist ideology Charlotte Bronte knew so much about; economic miseries of Orders in Council; the understandable but mistaken tactics of the Luddites, all dated back to 1812 from the 1840’s to provide the hindsight of the Chartist parallels.  Other books studying these topics directly might have more & better organized information, but if written in ideological language, however detached or partisan, would have to treat all individuals as case histories.  What makes Shirley & other works of fiction irreplaceable is the assimilation of all this to the primary concerns of food (i.e. jobs), sexual love, work & play.

Continue reading

Dawn Arnold: Frye Festival Diary


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.

Frye Festival Day 2!


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.

Sylvia Maultash Warsh: “The Queen of Unforgetting”


Sylvia Maultash Warsh has published a novel featuring Northrop Frye, The Queen of Unforgetting. An extended excerpt can be read here.

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.