By Megan Butchart (BA, English Hons & History)
Earlier this term, I invited celebrated poet Daphne Marlatt to Kelowna and organized a series of events around her visit. With support from Tuum Est Student Initiative Fund and SpokenWeb, I hosted an Epic Reading; co-hosted a Curated Close Listening with Dr. Karis Shearer; hosted a “Performing the Archive” poetry reading in collaboration with the Inspired Word Café; and co-interviewed Marlatt for the podcast “SoundBox Signals: A Curated Close Listening.”
During the Epic Reading, which was held the week prior to Marlatt’s visit, participants read chronologically through nineteen of Marlatt’s published poetry collections from Frames of a story (1968) to Reading Sveva (2016) over several hours. At the Curated Close Listening, Karis and I played short selections of literary archival recordings held in the SoundBox Collection and facilitated a conversation in which participants offered their reflections. The inaugural “Performing the Archive” poetry reading, which was organized in partnership with the Inspired Word Café, consisted of an open mic featuring three local poets, readings by UBCO Creative Writing student Šari Dale, and by Daphne Marlatt, plus a final Q&A period hosted by Cole Mash and myself. Marlatt’s opening sequence was a collaboration with her archival voice in which she alternated reading from her 1969 collection leaf leaf/s alongside a recording of herself reading fifty years earlier at age twenty-six. Marlatt also read selections from more recent collections including Intertidal, Reading Sveva, and new poems intended for a forthcoming collection. On the second day of Marlatt’s visit Karis and I recorded an interview for the forthcoming SpokenWeb at UBCO podcast “SoundBox Signals: A Curated Close Listening,’ in which Marlatt reflected on the “Performing the Archive” reading of the previous evening.
Throughout the initiative I received support and mentorship from Erin Scott and Cole Mash, who offered advice on how to prepare for and conduct Q&A interviews for public events, from Karis, who shared her expertise in curating events and assisted at all stages of the planning process, Craig Carpenter who arranged the audio, and Dr. Mathieu Aubin, who offered support and encouragement throughout.
As one who has read and admired Marlatt’s writing, and catalogued, digitized, and transcribed archival recordings of her work for SpokenWeb, I found it a privilege to meet her in person and be present to hear her read her poetry and discuss her poetics. As my intent in organizing this event was to create an opportunity in which students in the literary community could meet a renowned poet, it was rewarding to see how attentive and engaged my peers were during these events with Marlatt. Moreover, Marlatt’s thoughtful engagement with students and insightful contributions to the various events was similarly inspiring.
One of the most unexpected but exciting outcomes for me was the diverse range of students who attended and participated in the various events. As the events were conceived primarily with English and Creative Writing students in mind, I had not anticipated the level of interest exhibited by students from disciplines outside of the FCCS. This speaks to a love of poetry, art, and performance that exceeds disciplinary boundaries and serves as a reminder of the importance of making such events and opportunities available. I am thrilled that these events were able to build stronger relationships within the literary community and connect students across disciplines.
Megan Butchart is completing her BA in English (Hons) and History at UBC Okanagan. To read the interview she did with the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies’ Shauna Oddleifson leading up to these events, click here: https://fccs.ok.ubc.ca/2019/09/11/performing-the-archive-daphne-marlatt/