Monday, October 4, 2010

I Love October

Went to Marché Godefroy in Bécancour Saturday to check out the pumpkins.

People usually buy them to carve out and place candles inside for Halloween, or to make pumpkin pie.  But you can also just cook and eat them, same as butternut squash (minus the skins, of course), and with just a bit of butter they are superb.

At the goat cheese kiosk inside the market tent I sampled the most delicious, tiny (the size of a marble) soft  cheeseballs marinated in grapeseed oil and spices (called les boules de neige--"snowballs"). The seller called them "bites of  heaven", and indeed they were.

What I like about this area (Mauricie region of Québec) is the availability, year round, of the wonderful products of the small farms, fromageries, flour mills and craft artisans: goat milk cheese/yogurt/soap; wonderfully weaved woolly socks and mitts for our long, frigid winter; organic, stone-ground flour to make bread. 

We took a little walk in the woods nearby, past the sugar shack where they make maple syrup in the spring.  Most of the leaves were yellow or brown except this brilliant little red one peeping out from behind a tree.

first to turn
or last --
you always get noticed

This and next week is our 26th annual Festival of Poetry here in Trois-Rivières.  One hundred poets from five continents come to town for ten days to read their poems in over 375 events, many occurring simultaneously, in coffee shops, restaurants, schools, libraries, art houses, cinemas and outside in the park. Booklets listing all the readings and venues help you navigate the where and when if there's a particular poet you want to follow.  The readings are almost all in French.   This is a familiar sight every October (below):

Those things hanging on the lines strung across Champlain Park are sheets of poems held up by clothespins.  The poems are both from known poets and from school children.  It may be, in some cases, the first introduction to poetry a passerby has ever had. 

Most of the children's poems this year had to do with sports, their pet, the seasons, or friendship, and many were illustrated.  One particularly caught my attention, not for its odd drawing but for its one-line poem penciled directly beneath it. The drawing was of a person's head with floaty, twirly tendrils emanating out from it, followed by the words  "Poesie ... quand tu nous tiens" (literally: "Poetry ... when you hold us").  What the kid was really saying, it seemed to me, was:  "Poetry ... you got me hooked."

Readers are encouraged to submit their own poems and a special section has been set apart for just that purpose.

"Insert your poem here!"

Only one person, apparently, had accepted the invitation--at least the morning I passed by them--a visitor from France, with a handwritten poem gushing with exclamation points about "Les mots!" ("Words!"), how beautiful they were, how profound, how true, etc., echoing the sentiments, perhaps, of the unknown child poet above.  Whether you love it or hate it, or are merely indifferent to it, poetry spreads itself, regardless.  It finds certain people, or certain readers find IT.

The park is next to the city library and Museum of Culture.    I stopped by the Museum before heading off to one of the poetry readings to look at the current exhibit.

 This piece is by Steven Renald, a mail artist and it's called "à la recherche du temps perdu 2009-2010"  (In Search of Lost Time, 2009-2010").  It's constructed entirely of paper.  A bodiless jacket, dragging behind (or trying to escape from) a long skirt made of stamped envelopes and posted letters. Am not sure what this means.  I had no time to read the lengthy explanation posted nearby in French at the side of the exhibit. (Man in a hurry, leaving himself behind; communication not enough to halt his journey?)  I had never heard the term "mail artist" before.

When I came out, there was a discussion ongoing in the foyer with panelists from France, Morocco, Martinique, Peru, Ontario and the U.S. about the situation of poetry in different countries.  Unfortunately, the reading I'd planned to attend at Café Zenob at noon a few blocks away was happening at exactly the same time.  That's the problem with having several events all taking place simultaneously in different places; you just can't get to all the ones you'd like to.  I did get a chance, however, to speak with Monique LaForce (a poet from Québec City) who put me in touch with her translator, a fellow American.

Off to rue des Ursulines, one of my favorite parts of town for another reading event, at an art gallery. The slim little booklet giving the schedules, venues, maps and information about each event is 103 pages long.  There were 36 different events scheduled just for today, from 10 A.M. to 11 P.M.   I will be coming back again on Tuesday and Friday to hear certain other poets.

Brought a peanut butter sandwich, a thermos of tea, and an apple for lunch and walked down near the port, which is about a three-minute walk to the right of the church, down a little hill.  My first introduction to this charming area was in the dead of winter, and I got stuck in a snowbank up to my knees.

Later in the afternoon, standing at this railing overlooking the waterfront watching two big ships gliding down the St. Lawrence, I heard someone on the bench behind me plucking on a guitar.

 The guy on the left was trying to coordinate a song in Spanish with the girl in the middle.  They both took turns singing; while their friend on the right accompanied them.

All in all, a wonderful October afternoon.

Just before returning home, at the bus stop, I spied a most curious thing on the sidewalk.

Two shadows

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