With the end of the Thursdays Writing Collective coming soon in April 2018, I’ve decided to re-post my earlier blog from 2016 about this unique collective.
During each session, we spend half the time writing in response to prompts and the other half, especially before group performances, workshopping pieces and instructing fellow writers about time, place, format, and so on. However, I quickly found out that the collective is so much more than a writing group. It’s a true creative hub. Published authors visit frequently. Kate Braid, the poet, and her friend, Clyde Reed, a jazz musician, came to read us their poetry and improvised with a double bass on the spot. Clyde allowed us to read our own pieces while he played his mesmerising bass to accompany our words.
At most meetings, we share books and poems by authors we revere and it always serves to be an enlightening experience. For example, we discussed the Devil in Deerskins, by Katherine Swarthile, whose work is among the earliest published mementos on the first nations’ themes. Katherine Swarthile, the daughter of Anahareao, actually visited us. Her environmental message to the group gave further impetus and context to her book, which we all read in anticipation of her visit.
We also receive regular invitations to read poetry at spoken word events around town, including the Verses Festival and the Vancouver Poetry Slam. The Vancouver Co-op radio offered us spots on their poetry show Wax Poetix. Pamela Post, a journalist from the CBC national radio show, The Current, visited several times. She recorded hours of readings, including a story by one of our own, Henry Doyle, that documented our premiere concerts at University of British Columbia School of Music and the first encounter of Henry with composer Lucas Oickle.
Over time, I began to understand what it was that I couldn’t find anywhere else when I was searching for a writing group. The Collective acts as a single soul. My previous writing groups were wonderful places of exploration and were right for me at the time, but we rarely got together outside of class. This made it feel more like a language course where people mind their own business and go about their lives. However, Thursday’s Collective is a community. We chat during breaks, nibbling at fruit and veggies. The volunteers work hard in the background and keep us informed on new developments. Thanks to fees from the paid classes, they are able to do unpaid classes for people in shelters, prisons, or treatment centres. The members of the Collective have input into the decisions about the performances that we take part in, cash for readers, and choice of projects. Democratic votes about these decisions follow after group discussions. If someone read at a recent event, another writer is encouraged to read next. It reminds me of one of those artist collectives one might read about from the past, where creatives managed their own promotions and shared the same building, using it for studios and shows.
The Collective is a unified community of creative minds.
We are like a band with a leader who sets the tone, direction, and vision. Elee Kralji Gardiner—writer and editor—was this leader until 2016. Elee was our facilitator, manager, and director. Elee unified the Collective at the meetings and did a tremendous amount of work in the background, outside the meetings, to help us grow our work and allow the collective to thrive. With Elee at the helm, every year, the Collective also publishes an anthology. Last year’s (2014) theme was Music and Art Song.
In the history of music, Art Song played an important role. Loosely defined as a musicalized poem, typically performed by a singer and a piano, this form of music combines the work of a poet, composer, singer, and pianist into a stand-alone artistic statement. UBC graduate composers have set eleven of our poems to music, and their fellow student singers and pianists performed them at two April premieres in the UBC Roy Barnett Hall and St James Anglican Church at Cordova Street. The poets introduced their work and read the text before each performance.
We launched the “Voice to Voice” – our art song anthology – at the end of June 2015 in the Lost & Found Café. The book contained not only art songs, but also poems, stories, songs, and memoirs by our writers. An Indiegogo campaign funded the book and others supported it in many ways, including the Canada Council for the Arts, UBC School of Music, Peter Wall Centre, Instruments of Change, Carnegie Community Centre and SFU’s Writer’s Studio. Dwayne Woloshyn painted the book cover praised in the Keremeos Review magazine.
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Thank you all Thursday-ers.