Congress 2014 was held at Brock University in St. Catharines, and as I did when Congress 2012 was at WLU, I helped to organize a literary reading, pulling together fourteen poets who were also scholars giving papers at Congress. My colleague at Brock, poet-professor Gregory Betts, found the venue — the fabulous Niagara Artists Centre on St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharines — and booksellers Noelle Allen of Wolsak and Wynn and Kitty Lewis of Brick Books stepped in to manage book sales. Gregory and I each invited some poets, wrote an ad, got a few organizations on board to advertise, and when the people began to pour in at 7:55 on May 25, it was clear that this event was going to be standing room only.
Gregory and I hosted, working out a classic buddy-comedy style that owed absolutely nothing to Nichols and May. English and Film Studies doctoral student Shannon Maguire kicked off the reading that featured poets as diverse as Nathan Dueck, Eric Schmaltz, Phoebe Wang, Charmaine Cadeau, Natalee Caple, Colin Martin, and Andy Weaver, who ended the night with a fantastic love poem. Gregory was a showstopper reading from his book, This is Importance, a poetry book made up entirely of creative errors about Canadian literature and it pretty much brought the house down. (Note to self: in future readings, read BEFORE Gregory.) Noelle and Kitty reported robust book sales
The fairly new tradition of literary readings at Congress was begun in 2011 in Fredericton, at the University of New Brunswick, when Prof. Ross Leckie called on poets from graduate students to modernist icon Travis Lane (and everyone in between) to do two minutes at the microphone. Walking away from that event, Eleanor Ty said to me, “We should do this at WLU next year.” We did, and Jamie Dopp organized another at the University of Victoria for Congress 2013, and now the only question is, who will champion the Congress poetry reading at University of Ottawa next year?