The Official Saskatchewan Festival of Words Diary



I took part in the Karen Solie master class. Those present explored the notion of absence through an interactive exchange. It was personable, immediate, and more than anything, interesting to be in a room with 6—7 including Solie— writers of poetry. Solie’s partner David Seymour took part as well, and it was great to meet them both.


Supper at an Italian joint. Missed the movie because we (Brenda and I) needed to go shopping to the Giant Tiger store. Bought 2 cowboy shirts—an irony considering country music doesn’t like me.

Readception: Wonderful readings took place at the Moose Jaw Mineral Spa. We parked at the front with many a notorious writer. The opening read is a terrific way to prepare for the upcoming 2 days of readings.


9 something:

The first reading session I took part in was Karen Solie/David Seymour. Solie read from her latest and a couple of pieces from newer material published in a literary magazine. Seymour read poems from Inter Alia. Good readings by both.

10 something:

Jeanette Lynes read her enjoyably amusing poetry, engaging the audience from her 3 books while Wendy Morton wooed the crowd with her t-shirt which she’d attached pictures of herself. Morton also read material from a variety of different books. Both Lynes and Morton were witty and entertaining.

11 something:

Talking Books with Ian Brown. This was a panel discussion which was recorded for Ian Brown’s series on CBC radio. They began by discussing a photography book, but ended up just talking about other unrelated items. I wanted to hear more about the book quite frankly—which if I remember correctly, although I may remember wrong, was Geoff Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment. I may be wrong though because they really didn’t talk much about the book.


At the luncheon hosted by the MJ Mineral Spa was the launch of the newly reprinted Wood Mountain Poems by Andrew Suknaski. Halfway through the luncheon, readers who had been involved one way or the other with Suknaski, read poems from the book. It was an incredibly poignant event.

2 something:

Graeme Gibson packed the small theatre and gave an interactive account of some of the birds that enhance our lives. The tale of his own parrot was among several that captured our thoughts.

Plenary Session:

John Ralston Saul gave an inspiring talk on the demise of globalization and the return to mercantilism. I joked after that he’d lost me at the word global, but in reality, I was enthralled with his aspects of theory and economics, and was filled with questions (maybe I’m an economist at heart, this might explain why I so easily part with my money). How did he propose to sustain his theories in the real physical realm? Also, I was curious about the perceived return to mercantilism, if this meant a return to conservatism for culture. Alas, I never had the chance to ask him my questions.

SWG Meet and Greet:

The cocktail hour exploded as thirsty people jammed the room on the 5th floor of the—yes, Mineral Spa—and parched writers and listeners alike assembled for a few moments gathering each other’s impressions of the days activities.

I spent a few minutes with Elizabeth Brewster, quizzing her about her years as a poet. She’s still extremely sharp, and had much to say about publishing in the old days. Both Elizabeth and I were randomly poemed by Wendy Morton.

Supper and beyond:

Amuze was the gig of choice.
Red beer.
Missed the Arrogant Worms, but had fun while missing them.
A good time was had by all. Money was spent—mostly by Gerry Hill—(thanks to Gerry and to Harvey for the cake).


10 something:

I had a leisurely morning, hitting the coffee shop for some quiet caffeine, and didn’t attend the early session. I headed to Richard B. Wright’s session as I’d found Clara Callan an interesting book. Wright read for the last time from his book Adultery.

Hot was the word of the day. All air conditioning was down. The small fans in the room were not quite enough to move the air for the unyielding crowds filling the reading rooms.

11 something:

What great reads by Anthony Bidulka and by MJ Malcolm—both mystery writers. Both had such fantastic voices.

Hot again. I started to yawn, not out of boredom, but for lack of air. I bent over double trying regain any air—the woman manning the door had decided to close the door, which was not a good idea when there is no air flow. I managed somehow to last throughout the reading and to listen to what they were saying, I suppose with baited breath.


Downtown with Brenda, Harvey and Gerry. A filling of stomachs and gaps from the previous night. I deserted (although with Brenda around me all weekend, the term desserted is more apropo) the table early in order to refresh my mind with my introduction speeches for the next reading of Solie and Schmidt.

1 something:

Solie and Schmidt. The strength of each of these writers is their poetry, and both writers were organized and at ease reading from their own work. Delightfully sharp, both readers gripped the heat and the crowd with their poetry.


Ian Brown hosted Margaret Atwood, David Gilmour, and Stevie Cameron. In the midst of mic trouble Atwood displayed a marvelous sense of humour despite the crushing heat and sweat of a crammed to capacity crowd. This event could’ve used a venue twice the size as the panel discussed media interviews, radio versus tv, and other media versus writers aspects. Although I felt nothing of consequence was really discussed, I really didn’t care. I was just happy to be hot and alive.

4 something:

Margaret Atwood

The renovated Mae West Theatre overflowed with people to hear Ian Brown’s interview and Atwood read from a variety of work. Although only an hour, it was one of the best readings I’ve ever heard Margaret do, not that I’ve heard many live, although I’ve heard many, and I think the relaxed atmosphere was good for the words.

5 something:

Book launch by Daniel Scott Tysdal

Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method.

A well attended event. Superbly done, and a great reading.

A quote from Dan’s mom: “He has my hair and eyes.”
A quote from Dan’s friend: “What’s happening in Moose Jaw this weekend?”
A quote from Dan’s brother: “I hope he stays away from my Captain Crunch.”
A quote from the person beside me: “He’s cute and not a bad writer.”


I missed that too. I opted for a more leisurely paced supper with a few people at the corner pub. Plenty to eat and plenty to talk about. After, we synchronized our watches for 10 at the lounge.


Lounge, then later wine with a friend, and a warm walk back to a motel room that I couldn’t enter. The swipe card was no longer working. Nothing much goes according to plan in my life; I can honestly plan for that most days.


10 something:

Pamela Porter and Dan Tysdal. A relaxed reading by Dan, capturing an already captured audience, and a heartfelt read by Porter. It took Porter 27 years or so to publish her first book of poetry—a tidbit shared by Wendy Morton.

11 something:

Karen Connelly and Nelofer Pazira read and discussed their works. Both gave stirring reads.


Vulgar Wheat Salad was had by all (or many). Actually, it should be Bulger, but for some reason it always sounds better to pronounce at the table that I love the vulgar wheat salad—which I do, and it’s a salad that I’ve never had anywhere else but at the MJ Festival of Words.

Oh, and then I won a basket of books. Or did I mention that?