Concordia Writing Workshops Highlight Canadian Authors

Participating in the Language of Literature

  • Jeramy Dodds spoke at the workshop on Oct. 7. Photo Kate Lindner.

A room of eager audience members packed close together, hanging onto every word Jeramy Dodds, a Montreal-based poet, spoke last Friday.

In the middle of an energetic, prosaic piece, a cell phone goes off in the front row. Don McKay, the other poet reading at the presentation, hurriedly turns his ringer off, slapping his hand against his forehead in exasperation.

“I can’t wait to see what sort of revenge Jeramy will repay me with over the next decade—when I’m least expecting it,” McKay said afterwards, chuckling.

Like this event last Friday, Concordia University will host over ten authors from a wide range of disciplines to give readings, panel discussions, and master-classes over the next month. These events will culminate into a four-day literary festival run by the university from Nov. 3 to 6, open to all students.

In fact, you are encouraged to attend the “Off the Page” festival even more if you study outside of the English Department.

“You don’t have to be in a class to be a writer. If you are a writer, you’re writing. And if you are a writer, presumably you want to see other writers and talk to them,” said Kate Sterns, a creative writing professor at Concordia who has been involved with Writers Read, the organization responsible for these events, from the very beginning.

“We wanted to bring writers that we thought students would be excited to meet—with a broad range of interests, and to give the master classes so that there would be an intimate interaction,” she explained.

This series of presentations replaced the Writer in Residency Program, and has expanded to bring in both emerging and established authors from around the world. While the series always starts off with an Irish author in conjunction with Concordia’s School of Canadian Irish studies, this year will also include several Concordia alumni. Laura Broadbent, one such alumna, will be reading with Canadian poet Lisa Robertson, on Oct. 21.

“There are a lot of these two for one deals,” Tess Liem, the current assistant to the program said. These curated pairings inspire a guided conversation about modern communication, rather than just a dry read.

Last semester, they hosted Jordan Abel, a writer from the Nisga’a First Nation, who performs his poetry with sound recordings and sometimes a neon-lit mask, Liem added as another example, stressing the excitement of the talks and the open notion about creative writing in general.

Whether you updated your Facebook status this morning, shared a tweet, or commented on a hilarious cat video, you participated in the language and literature of the modern day. A novel or book of poetry may seem like a large leap from there, but it’s actually the perfect starting point.

Dodds, who had his performance interrupted by the cell phone call, gave a hint to his beginnings as a writer. “I thought I was going to be like a rock star,” he said. “I started reading the lyrics of other writers, really. And then I felt like, I really want to do that, the way they made me feel—I want to make someone feel that way. It was as simple as that.”

“I thought I was going to be like a rock star.”— Jeramy Dodds, writer

His presentation partner, McKay, is a well-established Canadian poet who once mentored Dodds.

“He has been quite a big influence on me, so it’s quite an honour to be reading with him,” he added.

Attending an author’s reading not only immerses the audience in a new way to experience written word, but can also help bridge two disconnects and expand one’s worldview.

“How does one place themselves in what’s happening at that time, and what’s happening currently?” writer Phinder Dulai asked when talking about his third book, dream/arteries, which he will be presenting on Oct. 11.

His latest book of poetry follows a community’s relationship with an immigration ship—the Komagata Maru—and how Canada refused entry to the refugees.

“I wanted to bring that community trauma into a place of hope and beauty,” Dulai added. “It’s about taking that story, and reframing it in a way that brings humanity back into it.”

All of the Writers Read and Off the Page events are free and open to Concordia students, with some inviting the surrounding community to join as well.

“You kind of have to vote with your time and your attention,” Sterns said. Learning inside the classroom is one thing, but being able to see everything you’ve learned being put to use by someone outside of the faculty is important as well.

Upcoming Events:

Lisa Robertson & Laura Broadbent // Oct. 21 // 7 p.m. // York Amphitheatre, EV 1.605 // 1515 Ste. Catherine St. W. // FREE

Evie Shockley & Trish Salah // Nov. 4 // 7 p.m. // York Amphitheatre, EV 1.605 // 1515 Ste. Catherine St. W. // FREE

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