The Small Machine Talks Episode 59 Writing and Reading During Covid-19 etc
with a.m. kozak and Amanda Earl
recorded via Zoom on Sunday, May 24, 2020
Profile by Jamie MacPherson: https://apt613.ca/tour-de-blogosphere-the-small-machine-talks-an-ottawa-poetry-podcast/
1. INTRODUCTION – HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED US, OUR WRITING ETC?
how has COVID changed your reading/writing habits?
Amanda: I’ve been trying to save $ so I’m reading up my pile of to be read books and my e-books, including some I’ve set aside. I’m discovering a lot of great reads that I was impatient with, for example – Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, 21st Century American Women Poets, Love in the New Millennium (The Margellos World Republic of Letters) by Can Xue – books I started last fall or earlier.
Aaron: stopped reading during first few weeks but got back into it with more patience and time, returning to work on his to be read list. working on a manuscript. not as productive as he expected.
Amanda points out that we shouldn’t put too much pressure on ourselves to be productive at this time. Aaron feels guilty about his lack of productivity due to his privilege of being able to work from home and have more time and space alone.
We discuss being able to impose structure when working at home.
Aaron wonders how others feel about their writing and reading habits at this time.
what about how you interact with the literary community?
Amanda: i haven’t embraced the concept of the virtual reading alas. I know it’s lovely for many writers to engage this way. instead I’ve been corresponding with fellow writers via e-mail and letter a lot more, which I love.
Aaron wonders how this time is influencing the type and quality of interactions with others, such as reaching out to those we haven’t been in touch with.
Aaron asks how Amanda feels about the change in interaction. Amanda mentions she’s less into going out to readings and hasn’t felt the loss of not having in person readings, enjoying solitude, being more tired in the evenings. She misses one-on-one coffee/lunch dates with friends.
Aaron misses festivals and events in general, and more intimate connections with people. His work is constant e-mail and conversations, so doesn’t crave that in the evenings.
what are some things you’ll take away from these isolated months when movement isn’t so restricted?
Amanda enjoys solitude much more than she realized. Enjoying coffee more. Notices the class hierarchy is still very much in place. She points out the narrative of American dream from 50s still a belief of how things are. Aaron mentions there’s a greater separation between those in blue collar and white collar positions., those who must work outside the home, and those who can stay home. We discuss those with mental health issues and disabled people whose needs have been neglected for years. They muse that the reasons why there have been improvements are due to the fact that we’re all susceptible to Covid-19
Amanda talks about the role of a writer as being to act as a witness. Aaron’s take away is the realization that he probably wouldn’t be more productive as a writer or reader, and is accepting that. Amanda mentions her inability to do research for her writing due to the libraries being closed.
have you made any new discoveries in the past couple of months?
Amanda mentions Letterboxd.com – a site for films and reviews, and mumblecore, a type of film.
Aaron’s new discoveries are areas in his neighbourhood he hasn’t been to before. He’s going through old boxes of his writing. We talk about how our writing has changed over the years.
how many COVID or isolation inspired poems do you think have been written this year? 😉
Aaron wonders if fast turnaround Covid-19 poems would be something a publisher would be interested in now, but he’d rather it just happen naturally as part of his writing.
I wasn’t writing anything but factual pieces on my blog and then Arc came along with a poetry contest, Arc’s Award of Awesomeness and it inspired me. I’ll never win any of their contests but it was fun to be inspired. I have about 20 pages of poetry.
Aaron asks if it’s the duty of a writer or artist to document. Amanda doesn’t like the words “duty” or “should.” Aaron compares poetry of this sort to journalism. Amanda wonders how to articulate the palpable anxiety in the streets.
2. CURRENT/RECENT READS
Aaron – reorganized his shelf into have and have not read books. He’s reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s collected works and Albert Camus’ the Plague. For poetry, most of his day-to-day interaction is thru direct text on social media or being shared to him.
Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
this book is a coming of age story with achingly beautiful sentences. it is a book of grief, pain, love, lust, violence, family, and awakening. We talk about prose written by poets as being meticulous and slow reads.
Isabelle Allende – In the Midst of Winter, The Japanese Lover, Ripper and A Long Petal of the Sea, the latter having a lot that is relevant today.
3. RECENT/FORTHCOMING VIRTUAL EVENTS
Attended the Iridescent Robot Storytellling Club hosted by Danielle K.L. Gregoire.
It is a place for your gentle and hopeful stories and takes place on Zoom every week on Thursday nights, 8pm EST. It’s a virtual extension of Danielle’s performance venue, Curious and Kind. Danielle invites several people to tell stories and also includes a musician who will write a theme song for the show. You have to sign up ahead of time.
The one I went to was the first. The theme song by Benoit Christie was great fun. There were five guest storytellers and a feature, The Mighty Mike McGee. It was an inspiring evening. Mike told a fascinating story about a couple who’d lost each other during the Holocaust but then refound each other very recently at a wedding. All stories are true.
I also attended a Zoom listening party for episode 8 of the SpokenWebcast in May. Spokenwebcast is a really well-made and professional sounding podcast about Canadian literature with funding from academic organizations and participation by a variety of academics and writers. Episode 8 was a fascinating episode which talked about how we are listening during Covid-19 and what has changed, especially in regard to literary events. Jason Camlot and Katherine MacLeod produced the episode and interviewed various guests.
We listened as a group and people wrote comments about the episode via Zoom’s chat feature. Afterward they had a discussion on the episode, which I had to miss unfortunately.
I also had the chance to listen to another episode, The Voice Is Intact: Finding Gwendolyn MacEwen in the Archive from April 6 and produced by Hannah MacGregor who hosts Room Magazine’s wonderful Fainting Couch Feminists podcast.
I was fascinated by the conversation between Hannah, Jen Sookfong Lee and Katherine. They talked about MacEwen’s work, her voice and her relationship with Milton Acorn.
The podcast makes use of archived recordings from literary events in the past.
I was also invited to record three video readings for rob mclennan’s Periodicities virtual reading series, The Dead Poets Reading Series in Vancouver by Isabella Wang and Orchid Tierney’s Distāntia Remote Reading Series, which she set up in March.
There have been several events by Ottawa’s literary community: Riverbed Reading Series had its first online reading on May 21, In Our Tongues celebrated Asian Heritage Month, Tree had a reading and workshop, and has another one coming this Tuesday. Storyteller Jacqui DuToit held regular storytelling events, and Urban Legends also had an open mic and slam as well. Youthspeak Poetry slams are happening via Discord. Susan Johnston has returned to CKCU FM to host a Tuesday afternoon radio show called Asking For A Friend at 3pm weekly. It focuses on performance of music and stories. There’s also NAC Canada Performs.
Aaron wonders whether the virtual readings will take place after the lockdown.
Amanda talks about her awkwardness at readings and virtual readings.
He offers tips to extend Zoom’s free service. Amanda muses about ways in which writers can make money and if these events help with that, it’s a good thing, plus a great way of engaging.
Aaron hasn’t attended any literary virtual events but would prefer not to have to sign up ahead of time. Is curious as to how they go.
Aaron read as part of Prism Magazine’s launch: vimeo.com/422233197
and it’s great he could perform at a launch out of town he wouldn’t normally have had the chance to be part of.
4. ANYTHING ELSE?
2 more episodes from Experiment-O contributors coming up. End of 4th season is coming up. More Zoom episodes coming up.
Aaron notes that 5 seasons might be long for poetry podcasts. Amanda mentions CantLit and Nigel Beale’s podcast.
Danielle K.L. Gregoire and her partner have a podcast on grocery stores. The Kind Nudibranch and the Garbage Witch Explore the World https://anchor.fm/nudibranchandgarbagewitch?fbclid=IwAR2JjjPtiIK5dARMVf-DuowjLEhPk_3ndcPGFSVnGyr4YHmURu3eq8kld7s
Stay tuned for upcoming episodes. Thanks to Charles for processing, Jennifer Pederson for intros and outros and to you for listening and sharing the episode.