November 14, 2017
I know many, many, many, MANY people in North America, and around the world, have never gone to an author reading at a public library. Some of you reading this, may not even realize that this occurs.
Why is this?
For some reason, even though these public readings are free, the public usually steers clear of them as they would with the plague.
Think of it: it takes four years, on the average, for an author to produce a book manuscript. Much longer than a film or television director to create a movie or television series or for a play to be launched or for a music concert to be set up and performed but it seems that author are often shunned when they go public and do a reading from his or her work.
Add to this the fact, that writers usually write alone. To break their hermit lifestyle and venture out into the public is often a scary thing for them to do. When no one shows up, then, in some ways, it might be a relief but even more so, it is a humiliation.
Trust me on this: I am an author.
Here is an article I produced when a poet came to a public library to do a public reading in the 1980’s in southern Saskatchewan, who actually had a large audience: for a writer:
Wedsnesday, March 2, 1983
Poet reflects four stages of life
by Tanya Lester
Moose Jaw Poet Gary Hyland took his 30 member audience through the four stages of life in his reading at the Coronach Library last Thursday night. He began by saying his poetry is “reality with humour.”
Mr. Hyland, who was invited to read his poetry as part of the new library facilities public opening celebrations, started the evening with selections for children which included poems from his first published book called “Home Street.”
“Apple peels, apple peels, I get lots of apple peels when Mom makes pie,” Mr. Hyland read. The nonsensical poem went on to describe what he did with the apple peels. For instance, he “stuck one in a car exhaust.”
“Back then you didn’t have a lot of toys,” Mr. Hyland joked before reading his next poem called “Sma;; Fry” which was about a little boy who hated bullies but did everything to tempt them into tormenting him.
Another poem called “Mrs. R. waits for the Bus” almost landed Mr. Hyland with a lawsuit because, as he explained it was inspired by an actual woman that he had known in his boyhood. After the poem was published, Mr. Hyland got a phone call. “Is that supposed to be me?” the caller asked without even identifying herself.
It turned out to be Mrs. R and Mr. Hyland ended up having tea with her for a couple of hours until he finally persuaded her out of taking him to court.
It was the picture which ran with the poem that bothered Mrs. R. although the poem, too, was far from flattering. “Her face is like a war zone,” was how Mr. Hyland described the woman who scared him so much when he had to wait beside her for the bus as a boy. “The bus is late. There may be bloodshed,” is the way the poem ends in reflecting the young Mr. Hyland’s terror of Mrs. R.
For the adolescent stage of life section, Mr. Hyland read exerts from the latest of his three published poetry boos. One poem in the book, called “Just Off Main”, which is a series of poems about teenage boys growing up in Moose Jaw during the 1950’s, outlines the nicknames the boys have given each other.
They are names like “Scrawny”, “Zit, and “Bumper” which are “taboo to teachers” and are “sure to repel parents” but sound much better than their real names which are “Lawrence” and “Russell”, etc.
Another poem described the Elvis Presley hairstyle look. Mr. Hyland made sure not to exclude the several children in the audience by telling them that this hairstyle is similar to Fonzie’s on Happy Days. In the poem, one line which emphasizes Mr. Hyland’s sense of humour and talent for description says “even in a blizzard, your hair freezes like a helmet” with the grease stuck on it.
Yet another poem was about a teenager who hangs a brassiere on his car aerial and tells his friends it is the remnant of his first conquest. His friends are impressed until the boy’s mother comes along and claims the brassiere as her own.
For the poems about adolescence, Mr. Hyland had to add the occasional “bleep” in order to not offend the younger audience members. But his quick wit did not mellow a bit for the adult and senior citizen stages in his reading.
For the adult section, one poem described two kissing lovers as “knawing at respective crooked dentures.” Even the poem about an old person contemplating death, in his last life stage, is funny.
It starts out sober enough talking about the old person who will “remove my shoes and feel the cool crush of death.” But then: “Someone will bring me a dark rum and coke and I’ll say rum and coke? Who was rum and coke?” brings the poem back to humour.
Mr. Hyland is also a teacher at Riverview Collegiate in Moose Jaw and worked as a radio announcer in the past. He told the audience that there is no poet in Canada who can financially survive from his writing alone.
Mr. Hyland explained that a Canadian poet has a best selling book if it sells 2,000 copies but, even then, the poet only gets 10 per cent of the book sales profits.
For example, the winner of the $1,000 poetry book contest presently running in Saskatchewan will have probably had to work so many hours that the prize money would amount to about a $2.00 an hour rate of pay for the book, Mr. Hyland said.
The poet has been writing for about 20 years and started writing in grade 7 or 8 when he used to write poems for his fellow students to hand in to the teacher. His first poem was published in a university newspaper, but he still gets rejections from publishers.
Mr. Hyland has worked extensively with the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and is also involved with Thunder Creek Co-op and Coteau Books, which is a publishing company. He suggested that people might like reading Lois Symie who authored “They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That” and Edna Alford’s “A Sleep Full of Dreams” about her experiences working in a northern Saskatchewan senior citizens’ home. A new book of Mr. Hyland’s poetry will be published in the fall and another is also being made ready for publication.
Mr. Hyland closed in saying Saskatchewan writers are better known in Eastern Canada than any other authors in the Western Canadian provinces. -END-
Tanya Lester’s book are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew (both available for purchase from the author or from amazon.ca as well as Women Rights/Writes and Dreams & Tricksters. Her books are also available in some library systems.
Read more posts on this eclectic blog of newspaper articles, poems and stories by Tanya Lester when you go to writingsmall.wordpress.com and tealeaf56.wordpress.com
Tanya Lester is a psychic who specializes in tea leaf reading, tarot and also mediumship and gypsy card reading all instilled with reiki energy as she is a reiki master. She has done 1000s of readings in Canada, the United States and Europe.She also housesits fulltime. To contact Tanya, phone or text her at 250-538-0086, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to her website at teareading.wordpress.com