Although normally not a fan of what I term “cultural affairs” when I heard about a local and introductory event called Wordstock it immediately twigged my interest. Of course, when you don’t know something, the best thing to do is Google it. When I did it brought me to an informative and creative site. Wordstock was shown to be a literary festival celebrating words in written and artistic forms of expression.
Friday evening was to be a Gala Event – unexpected, mesmerizing and extraordinary. Wordstock would kick off with a live show where performers would stretch their usual boundaries to interpret WORDS through music, art, songwriting, theater, mime, poetry and storytelling. Saturday there would be poetry readings, author readings, workshops and discussion sessions for children, teens and adults all through the downtown area and these would be free.
For two reasons I followed the links on this site, ordered two tickets for the Gala and registered for one of the workshops. First reason was seemingly obvious – my interest in writing and thus words. The second reason was that from the information I’d read it appeared a whole bunch of people, volunteers to be precise, had worked over a year to put this together and an impressive number of well-known creative people were participating in the show. It seemed like common courtesy to recognize that effort and support it by attending.
The Gala proved to be a memorable experience. The program handouts at the door were clever, clear and professionally done … a tribute to the organizers. The co-emcees were local personalities who have for many years contributed big time to the cultural and practical development of our town. We listened to our Mayor and our own WWII Flying Ace who has written a number of books. Both men, not known for their brevity, kept it short. While the “show” was going on there was a local artist situated in front of the stage working on a painting. It was large, consisting of 3 panels each approximately 2 ½ ft. wide and 4 ft. high. During the first half of the show he pasted random words over all three panels. During the second half he used a brush and blended the ink from the words into his final creation. It was an inoffensive abstract that attracted a lot of attention. The local theater group did a presentation examining the process of taking a play to the stage from the written word and ended with a demonstration of a passage from their current play. Unfortunately they chose not to use microphones explaining they were trained to project their voices naturally.
The pure entertainment was varied. We had a comedy team including a Mime who intermittently spoke to complete his message. That was a first. Two author/playwrights shared some of their humor. Both have achieved international recognition and one had come all the way from California to participate and support the event. One was very funny telling his personal story of leaving the city, his job and his 1 car existence to move to the country and pursue his dream of living an ecologically responsible life. He then listed his current vehicles needed for family and farming chores and finished with his premise if you took all those like himself, gentlemen farmers, and sent them back to the city, enough power would be saved to meet our Kyoto commitments. The other was a little traditional and cryptic for my taste. There were three guitar playing Singers who combined their talents to do a bit of country/bluegrass music. The first, a gal was described as a powerful and dynamic performer, a second his music compared to Neil Young, and the third his voice present and unmistakable, generating emotion from every listener. What I got from that performance was they were all three obsessed with pain and suffering. Have you ever noticed how so many singers today slur their words. The whole thing was not exactly inspirational – if you could make out the lyrics. And then we had a jazz duo including a renowned multi talented musician and an award winning jazz vocalist. My senses were keen as my memories of Ella Fitzgerald and her ilk came to mind. A stagehand appeared and placed a small carpet and pillow by the microphone. The musician took his place at the keyboard on stage. And then this woman appeared. She was dressed all in black with a veil over her head. She sat cross-legged on the carpet and as the music started began to moan. My husband said she was emulating the sound of various instruments but I was too dumbfounded to catch that. After completing this part of her performance she rose, let the veil drop and began to sing about more pain. Go figure.
The climax to this most enlightening evening was a surprise guest. It was a gentleman by the name of Chris Hatfield. He is the Canadian Astronaut who has been in space several times already and will be assuming the responsibility of Commander of the International Space Station in 2013. Much has been written about this very accomplished man – and about his guitar which will travel with him. When introduced to the audience he immediately got a standing ovation for he is a true Canadian Hero. However, when he played his guitar and sang a most delightful and original song about how to describe a Canadian, the standing ovation was unquestionably for his ability to entertain and leave the audience wanting more.
When we left the theater I felt we’d been part of a happening. You know those special times that will never be repeated and stay in your memory bank forever. Even with all its warts the event had been an unqualified success.
The Saturday events were well attended and resulted in a spirit of creativity moving through the downtown core. The workshop I attended was interesting and again you couldn’t help but be impressed by all the volunteer time going into the whole program.
I met a young author who was giving away copies of a book he wrote based on his life. Two well-read academic friends of mine said it was an unbelievably deep and rewarding read and encouraged me to take a copy. They were going to make sure it got to some of the big city publishers that were in town for the weekend. That seemed like pretty high praise so I took 2 copies, one for a friend of mine.
On the cover of the book there are a number of tributes reading as follows:
“You do not find writing like this anymore…impeccable!”
“An epic endeavor”
“The author has written a love song that may play for a long time”
“Perhaps this book should be required reading in teachers’ colleges and colleges of Education”
“I trust there will be a wide audience for your carefully collected thoughts.”
Again, all sounded like I was in for a treat. When reading the intro some doubts arose.
“The first-time author distils the essence and paralysis of his generation’s cohesive diffusion into a single and compelling message of hope, contemporary integrity, respect for the past and a globally framed forward-looking inquiry into the very nature and divisive product of thought itself.”
“The author does not question or challenge the necessary and strategic mechanism behind the social/political expedient of the ‘individual’s inalienable rights’, only the ‘neurological ambiguity of it’.”
I read on but it was definitely a struggle.
My feedback: Sounds like this high-school dropout is one very angry puppy, frustrated by the education system that failed him, and intolerant of those who share the world he lives in. Over the course of fifteen years he and the dictionary created this very convoluted piece to bring his perceptions to the public forum, supported strongly by some very learned people.
One of his perceptions is that seniors will find this book an unexpected joy and revelation to read.
What has become quite clear is – I do not understand my friends, or their penchant for pain.