Print Edition: November 13, 2013
It seemed like an average evening in the student lounge until about 6:30 p.m. on November 7, when some students began to move tables and sofas around, clearing space for a small stage, and set up a microphone. Over the next half hour, some 50 students and faculty filled the new seating configuration, and at 7 p.m., CIVL radio station manager Aaron Levy claimed the mic to welcome them to the Louden Singletree’s first ever Lit & Liquor event.
UFV’s literary magazine, the Louden Singletree, is well into its sixth year under the direction of seven new editors: Dessa Bayrock, Keira Houseman-Geary, Leah Jacobsen, Ashley Mussbacher, Thomas Nyte, Shane Potter, and Leah Tench. The goal of Lit & Liquor parallels the magazine’s aim to showcase talented writers and artists in the UFV community, including students, faculty, and alumni.
The drone of microphone feedback heralded the first reader, Paul Esau, who read the prologue of a friend’s 70-page dystopian poem, “Making Way for the Laughing Man.” Technical quirks also briefly interrupted the next reader, Joshua McKinnon, who admirably carried on reading his two poems using his powers of projection. Aside from the unavoidable adjustments to accommodate taller and shorter, quieter and louder speakers, the mic’s part in the event from then on was only to amplify the voices of nearly 20 different readers.
Anthony Biondi amazed the audience by reciting an old Anglo-Saxon poem, “The Wanderer” in its original tongue, Old English. He followed this by rapping the first part of “the General Prologue” to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which had some students joining in.
Five raffles were held over the course of the evening; prizes included gift certificates to The Bookman and Hemingway’s, tickets to the UFV theatre department’s performances of The Little Mermaid and The Age of Arousal, a free plate of nachos from AfterMath, and two sets of the Louden Singletree’s first five issues. All attendees received one ticket each, and readers were given additional tickets – some of the above prizes were part of a readers-only draw.
The readings continued around the raffles, with some students reading work published in previous issues of the magazine. Jennifer Colbourne read her poems, “The Prayer,” and “If Only Romance Were Dead.”
After another break, instructor Trevor Carolan read two of his own poems as well as Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” in honour of Remembrance Day, followed by Blake’s “The Tyger.” Between readings he noted that it was great to see the event so well-attended. Assistant manager Reace Buchner later noted it was one of AfterMath’s most successful pub nights this semester.
Julie Shields was next to intrigue attendees, passionately reciting a friend’s poem from memory.
“This is primarily on a dare … I memorized [the poem] in the last half hour,” she said. As she spoke, goosebumps rose on my arms and the rain seemed to intensify through the window behind her, the amber light outside casting an almost eerie light over her as she told a rapt audience, “you know they found landmines in women’s souls.”
Instructor John Carroll read his poem, “As Music,” and his colleague Rajnish Dhawan followed.
“When I found out there were prizes for people who read, I thought, ‘What the hell, I’ll read the menu!’” Dhawan exclaimed. The menu, which had been compiled specifically for the event, included a number of specials such as Lord of the Onion Rings and Ode to a Grecian Urn (of Beer). “Love in the time of Coolera,” he read, then poked fun at political correctness by adding, “What’s more Indian than cholera?”
Dhawan used this as a segue to his popular culture shock skit, which he has performed before alongside Carroll at similar events.
The event went on until 10 p.m., words mingling in the air with the smells of beer and ketchup, of onion rings and the faint scent of rain. of onion rings and the faint scent of rain. Some students moved closer to the stage to occupy the cluster of black leather sofas there – first class seating, university-style. The best part of any open mic has to be when the night is near its end, when some of the crowd has trickled away, and you can hear a soft humming somewhere – maybe it’s the lights, or the refrigerator running in the kitchen. Whatever it is, the words seem to take on a new warmth, a kind of comfort, as they settle in with the die-hards, those who linger until the very end.
[Editor’s Note: Dessa Bayrock, Ashley Mussbacher, Paul Esau, and Anthony Biondi are members of The Cascade’s staff.]