July 28: Humour in loss and rock ‘n roll in poetry

Duncan Armstrong

Duncan Armstrong was the first reader of the evening, bringing his kinetic energy and satirical humour to the stage. He has published several chapbooks including Lament for Anna Nicole & Shooting off Sparks. Duncan describes his own style as “urban as opposed to traditional CanLit” and his technique “a welter of narcissism, superstition & habit.”

He had the audience laughing and totally engaged in his reading, even bringing out beatboxer SoulFistikato to back one of his poems.


Spoken-word artist and human beatbox SoulFistikato


Catherine Graham

Bubbles at the end of red stems.
The illusion of looking out is looking in.
~”Doll’s EyesThe Red Element (Insomniac Press, 2008)

Catherine Graham, the author of three acclaimed poetry collections, took the stage second. Of her most recent book, The Red Element, writer Angela Hibbs says, “Sticking to the poetic doctrine less is more, this collection is a tour de force in minimalism.” Graham’s work captivated the audience, packing an emotional punch into these short poems, deftly conveying both melancholy and humour. Graham turned to poetry as a result of “loss and grief” as she describes it, and “as a way of capturing the people and places [she’s] loved.” Her poems have a quiet and unmistakable power. She still manages to find humour within the sadness, describing her parents’ idiosyncrasies and fragments of memories from childhood, like her mother’s “piano face.”


Chris Doda

Chris Doda, the evening’s dapper closer—wearing all black save a white blazer—read from his most recent collection, Aesthetics Lesson (Mansfield Press). D.C Reid writes of this book “Christopher Doda’s glosas are… my search for superlatives comes up short.” Doda is also the author of Among Ruins (Mansfield Press), an award-winning critic, and an editor for Exile: The Literary Quarterly and Exile Editions. And he is the book reviewer for Studio, an online poetry journal. Doda read a substantial sampling of new work, full of his characteristic acerbic wit, wordplay, and a dense layering of both political and social commentary. The audience was so absorbed in Doda’s poems, that even the intrusion of someone’s cell-phone couldn’t pull us out of the reverie.

In Doda’s own words his goals are: “to practice poetry as both an art and a craft, wanting to take on the attendant uses and misuses of language in our contemporary society and distill them down into poetry, all the time with an eye to the past, to foundational myths and stories, that can be fed into and reinvigorated in the present. With every poem I want to feel like I’ve bitten off a piece of the world.”


– Myna Wallin


One Response to “July 28: Humour in loss and rock ‘n roll in poetry”

  1. […] lyrical about the emerald isle, but not to the point of breaking into song, Catherine Graham read selections from Irish poet Patrick […]

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