An assembly of the arts
“I would have all the arts draw together,
recover their ancient association,
the painter painting what the poet
has written, the musicians setting the
poet’s words to simple airs, that the
horse-man and engine-driver may
sing at their work.”
– WB Yeats
Inspired by the poetry of William Butler Yeats, Fort Langley’s David James is preparing to offer his hometown “a weekend brush with the arts,” this summer, drawing together artists in a range of mediums, all within a few square blocks.
From children’s entertainment to story telling, jazz, gospel and blues, from poetry readings to artists painting en plein air, the weekend of July 28 and 29 will have something to offer art lovers of all descriptions, said James.
As chair of a committee comprised of a number of high profile Langley artists — including painters, musicians and playwrights — James is getting set to present the first annual Fort Langley Celebration of the Arts later this month at a trio of Fort Langley venues.
There will be children’s entertainment and crafts at the Chief Sepass Theatre, music at the historic hall and a poetry reading at the museum by Susan McCaslin (see interview below).
The public can spend each day strolling the historic town and take in a range of acts and activities.
After organizing a similar event — the Fort Langley Festival of the Performing Arts — back in the 1980s, James had been toying with the idea of starting another, similar festival.
“The experience years ago gave me a positive image of what could be done,” he said.
Then he opened a volume of poetry, and everything seemed to fall into place as he read the lines composed by the Irish poet and playwright.
“I’m a fan of Yeats.
“When I read those lines in a book, I thought ‘this is a signal.’
Growing up in Wales, music was a big part of James’ early life.
After coming to Canada, he kept that affinity for the arts alive, by regularly attending the theatre and concerts.
The upcoming festival is an opportunity to share his passion for art and music with a wider audience.
“The 28-29 weekend of July 2012 will see our village transformed into a toe-tapping tapestry of tunes, as well as of other creative performances and varieties of artistic expression,” wrote James, describing the committee’s vision for the festival.
Supported in their inaugural year by the Fort Langley Community Improvement Society with $1,000 in seed money and use of the historic Community Hall at no charge, festival organizers will become eligible for a government grant next year, explained James.
In the meantime, he said, the response from the community has exceeded his expectations.
“There is an incredible amount of support and generosity within the community. People are coming out of the woodwork.”
Among those who will be performing at the festival will be pianists Marcel and Elizabeth Bergmann — known collectively as the Bergmann Piano Duo — the John Lee Sanders Band, performing gospel and blues, the Willie McCalder Band, presenting an evening of jazz and blues, children’s entertainer Norman Foote, and a reading by Susan McCaslin, a Canadian poet who recently released her 11th volume titled Demeter Goes Skydiving.
McCaslin, whose reading will take place on Saturday, from 2:30 to 4 p.m., will be joined by jazz pianist Amanda Tosoff for “An Afternoon of Poetry and Music.”
Tickets are required for entry to some performances, while others are by donation. Individual ticket prices range from $5 to $10, while a $30 passport offers admission to the three musical performances and the Langley Luminosity Storytelling — a series of presentations by eight story tellers, hosted by local sculptor and entertainer Elaine Brewer-White.
They are available for purchase at Bob’s Growcery (formerly the Yellowhead Trading Co.) 9044 Glover Rd.;Wendel’s Bookstore and Café 9233 Glover Rd. and at the Tourist Information Booth near the Fort Langley Community Hall at 9167 Glover Rd.
Go Skydiving with Susan McCaslin
Susan McCaslin is a Canadian poet and Faculty Emeritus of Douglas College in New Westminster, where she taught for 23 years.
She is the author of 11 volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Demeter Goes Skydiving. She recently published a volume of essays, Arousing the Spirit: Provocative Writings. When not at her computer, McCaslin can be found being walked by her mini-Australian shepherd while composing odes on the dikes around Fort Langley.
A retired English and creative writing professor, McCaslin finally gets to be a full-time poet and author.
She divides her time between Victoria and Fort Langley. www.susanmccaslin.ca.
Langley Times: How/why did you decide to become a poet?
Susan McCaslin: From childhood I had a fascination with the rhythms, sounds, and meanings of words, discovering when I was about seven my school teacher aunt’s amazing book collection stored in the recesses of my parents’ basement.
She had left a musty anthology series called Journeys Through Bookland filled with nursery rhymes and poetry by the greats, everything from Homer through to Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, and the moderns. I became an avid reader and wanted to emulate these poets in my own small way.
In Grade 7 I showed some of my embryonic efforts to an encouraging English teacher who told me to keep on writing, and kindly assigned me the position of “literary editor” of the student newspaper.
Then I lucked out and encountered a series of inspiring poetry mentors in university, including poet Robin Blaser at SFU. In my early 20s I started to feel I had a “vocation,” a calling to be a poet.
LT: Normally, when we think of poets, the ones who come to mind lived in an earlier century. What are some of the challenges/rewards of being a 21st century poet?
SM: It never bothered me that poetry isn’t the most popular form of literature at this time. Its heightened energy, musicality, imagery, and meaning is the language of the soul.
I think people are unnecessarily afraid of poetry because it was presented to them at some point as esoteric and difficult. But actually, it’s the language of children, song lyricists, and rap artists.
Poetry is alive and well among us if you look and listen. I’m most alive, most happy, even ecstatic, when in the process of writing, which is a process of discovery.
LT: What subjects/objects/ideas are most likely to inspire you to write?
SM: I’m inspired by herons, the Fraser River, and giant Douglas firs. I’m inspired by the intersection of the natural world and the interior worlds of mind and feeling.
For a long time, I’ve been fascinated with how the major spiritual and religious traditions of the world (at their deepest levels) intersect, pointing to a common unity.
Each tradition is a unique path to the divine. They are all different but can gain from mutual respect. Right now I’m writing a new series of “peace poems.” I’m an inveterate peace poet because I’m so drawn by how everything is interconnected. Poems often begin for me with an image or a sound pattern and then I work and work to find the rest of the words that belong with that initial inspiration.
LT: What can the audience expect from your upcoming reading?
SM: What is truly special about the upcoming Fort Langley celebration of the arts is that it brings together the various art forms and makes them accessible to the community, not just to other artists. I’m tremendously excited about working with the superb jazz pianist, Amanda Tosoff.
We will be improvising together, twinning the two kinds of music, voice and instrumentation.
Art isn’t for a small coterie of specialists but a universal form of play that speaks to our common humanity in the here and now.
Bringing the arts together is “where it’s at.”