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Alden Nowlan Event in Woodstock

A special event in Woodstock on April 24th will offer a chance to get familiar with Alden Nowlan’s poetry.


Alden Nowlan: Woodstock Remembers a Great Poet, will be held at 7 P.M. The list of readers includes Jenn Carson, Lynn Davies, current UNB Writer in Residence Phil Hall and Brian Bartlett.


Bartlett is the editor of Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan, the first ever gathering of all of his poetry books and chapbooks between two covers. Nowlan’s work is among the first Canadian poetry Bartlett read, and as a writer and a friend, inspired his own writing.


“Reading and hearing Nowlan’s poetry at celebrations of his Collected — at events from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island — has been deeply satisfying, a reminder of his many voices and styles, and of the poems' warmth, wit and acute eye for detail.”


Since Nowlan’s death almost 4 decades ago, Bartlett’s admiration for the art and distinctiveness as a poet has only deepened.


“Little poetry being written today grapples as openly as Alden’s does with human fundamentals like fear, love, guilt, gratitude, death and hope, or offers as rich a mix of humour and pain, emotion and wit,” Bartlett said.


“Ideally, Alden’s example will encourage some poets to lower their guard and write more about the “bread, wine and salt” of our lives.”


Attendees will be listening to six minutes of Alden recorded in 1971 by CBC, talking and reading a few of his poems.


Amongst the 14 readers for the event is the Poet Laureate of Fredericton, Jenna Lyn Albert.

“Events such as these bring a community together and expose folks to poetry who may have been uninterested or merely bereft of poetry otherwise,” said Albert.


“Hearing poetry read aloud and sharing it with others is like fertilizer. The seeds of poetry are always there, sometimes they just need a little encouragement to flourish.”


Albert said each reader brings something new to the poem they present and part of what makes the experience special is hearing which poems mean something to each poet reading them.


“It feels almost like a possession, like Nowlan is speaking through each of us as we read his poems. Nowlan is so present in his poems, his voice permeates their reading regardless of who vocalizes them.”


Bartlett said poetry readings such as these remind us how much a reader’s tone, intonation, pacing, and other oral factors can bring to a poem, revealing nuances we might’ve missed reading on our own.


“In the case of Nowlan, hearing skillful readings by various voices also helps us appreciate that for all its so-called speech-like and direct qualities his poetry is also musical and built with great careful crafting.”


The event is presented by the Carleton County Historical Society and icehouse poetry, an imprint of Goose Lane Edition.

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