Jessica Hiemstra and Concetta Principe Launch at Another Story Bookshop

Joan made plans for us to meet at the Wallace Bridge, the walking bridge that goes from the end of Wallace over the train tracks to Dundas. She got there first and was waiting for me at the bottom of the west stairs. I felt bad for her that she hadn’t climbed up to get above everything and take a look around. But she looked content enough taking photographs in the vicinity of a small building at the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t look at what it was she was taking pictures of with her big old camera. I thought maybe it was graffiti. Big as in not really big just bigger than regular sized. Big as in definitely not a cell phone camera. Old as in, not actually old. Old as in a camera a person could feel affection for and attached to.

We headed down to Concetta’s Pedlar Press launch of her book of prose poems called Hiroshima: A Love War Story which was being held at Another Story Bookshop on Roncesvalles. Since it was so nice out we hung outside for a bit the highlight of which was Joan explicating a Freudian interpretation of president-elect Donald Trump running his campaign from the position of the primal father. It left us despairing but our timing was excellent. We entered the book store just as the poet Jessica Hiemstra with her new book The Holy Nothing was being introduced and were waved to the front where there were still some seats.

Jessica was an amazing reader. So comfortable in her skin. Personable with us her audience. I talked to her about it afterward and she explained she likes to look around at the audience as individuals. That that connection served the reading. That was the trick. I looked her up on Facebook when I got home planning to send a friend request but couldn’t find her. Maybe not being on Facebook is another way she stays so chill. She mentioned something about pretending something to herself too, to keep her in the right state of mind I think, which got me telling her about this thought I had recently about how living in the city you have to constantly be pretending things to yourself because there’s so little psychological space because there’s so little physical space. She didn’t disagree.

Concetta read well too. Concetta Principe. She gave a super comprehensive introduction which she explained to me afterward was in part a response to her inaugural reading at York University at which a lot of the audience, younger students, were not familiar with the movie the book is based on. (Hiroshima mon amour) Her reading was more somber than Jessica’s. Her use of language felt denser. It seems fitting to use a word I saw describing Leonard Cohen here, seeing as when we all got home and opened our Facebook pages (except Jessica) we discovered he had passed on. Concetta’s reading had gravitas.

That being said I noticed a lot of crossover in subject matter. To name a few, both readings referenced Jesus, love and math and scientific terminology. A poem Jessica read called “Pasta” intermingles entropy and parabola arcs with basil, thrown cooking pots and a lovers’ quarrel. The poem’s speaker is begged by its you to be objective, implored to be logical. In the same poem Hiemstra pulls Jesus into the personal in a manner so sweet and direct, “I slew my self because Jesus was/my first love story.” The first poem Concetta read entitled “Aug 6, 1958” shapes with phrases such as “the sum of shocks,” “the radius of some emotional logic” and “parameters of Event”. Principe makes personal Jesus too, calling the religious holiday Christmas “Jesus’ birthday” while also utilizing its power as the penultimate memory referent to the event Hiroshima.

Ronna Bloom was there. She had recently spent sixteen days in Venice. Her description of how powerful the place is for her I think excited all of us. It was relatable for me that for Ronna a great time in Venice, like the need for extra personal space in the personalities of certain cats, meant lots of time for writing. By all I’m thinking of Maureen Hynes and Maureen Scott Harris. Bending down together to peruse the poetry section located on a lower shelf, I tried to explain to Maureen Hynes what a great book The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is. Close to the end of the evening, after the chairs were folded away, I noticed the two Maureens putting a bookshelf back in place in a manner that made it look like Another Story Bookshop was a second home. It seemed to be a shelf that rolled but was difficult to make roll. I suppose they would have been helping out on behalf of Pedlar Press as well. I pointed it out to Joan who said she better take a photograph which she went and did. I hope she got a good one.


~ photo by Joan Guenther

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