someone who wears a lot of scarves or something

I took part in a couple noteworthy activities last week, starting with Word on the Street last Sunday.

As happens at what seems like every second Vancouver WOTS, we were rained out. This time, though, the wind got in on the action as well, blowing over half of the outdoor tents, including the poetry tent. So we all piled into the Poetry in Transit bus (which, to add to the occasion, had died and needed to be jump-started) for the reading, which was a real pleasure. The events of the day, including my reading, have been summarized elsewhere by Raoul Fernandes and Todd Wong (who snapped this photo of me post-reading. Thanks Todd!).

As Raoul notes in his post, Garry Thomas Morse really impressed with his reading - check out his new book, Discovery Passages, if you get the chance. In the darkness/excitement of the powerless bus reading, I forgot to snap any pictures of my Poetry in Transit placards. I have proof that they exist and are out there on buses, though, in the form of this tweet by a stranger - it was a fantastic way to find out that the placards have started going up! Thanks to WOTS and the ABPBC for making Sunday's events possible.

A couple days later I was off to Heritage Woods Secondary in Port Moody for my first attempt at reading my book (and some other poems) in a high school. I read all day, to classes of students ranging from grades 9 - 12. It was challenging at times, and deeply rewarding at others. A couple highlights included having fun with Ron Padgett's "Nothing in That Drawer" and chatting about living in Ghana (one of the student's in one of the classes was from the Volta region, and was able to provide all the context needed for my reading of the two "Ghana poems" in The Other Side of Ourselves). One of the best parts of the visit didn't come until the following day, when the teacher sent me a ream of comments the students had written after the visit. Some of the funniest:

“I think it was pretty cool that an actual poet talked to us. I liked his poems.”

“I think it was very interesting to see a poet come to our school. It made me realize that writers aren’t that special. They’re just ordinary people with extraordinary talents... which means that they’re extraordinary... confusing. It was interesting.”

"Yesterday was different than I expected because my idea of a poet is someone a bit older and more either artsy or depressedish, someone who wears a lot of scarves or something.”

“I finally learned what 'Pumped Up Kicks' was about.”

Yes, I talked with a class of high school students about a song about school shootings. I wonder if that will hurt my chances of getting invited back? But hey, I got confirmation that I was an actual poet, and I didn't have to wear a lot of scarves or anything. So that's cool.

Thanks to Ms. Van Gaalen and her students for giving me the opportunity!

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