I'll Be Right Back

Patty Osborne

Writing on the Rock, which takes place on Denman Island, B.C., in early August, is now my favourite writers’ festival. No parking problems, no lineups, no sold-out venues, and workshops where you sit down and write. On the first night it was the Poetry Coffee House, which advertised an ‘open mike,’ a phrase that usually scares me away, but a friend of mine was reading and so was the poet Tom Wayman, so I took a chance. The event was held in the elementary school library, and readers wrote their names on a portable chalkboard at the door. Everyone sat together in rows of grade 6 chairs and one by one the readers got up and read, which they did very well. There were only a few dull moments, the intermission snacks were homemade, and Wayman, who read next to last, was worth waiting for. He’s a lively, even frenetic reader, whose poems tell stories about working people and everyday life. In many of them he takes a whimsical turn, such as the poem that describes his drive from Alberta west through B.C. in a car that sprouts all kinds of lush greenery along the way until finally its wheels turn to wood and it comes to a halt, never to go again. After the reading I bought one of his books, I’ll Be Right Back (Ontario Review Press), because I like reading poetry while the poet’s voice is still echoing in my head. A few weeks later I came across another of Tom’s books, The Astonishing Weight of the Dead (Polestar), on my own bookshelf at home, and inside I found one of my favourite poems, “Did I Miss Anything,” which talks of angels descending from heaven to deliver divine wisdom in reply to a student who has missed a class.

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Anson Ching


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