As some of you might know, I was just hired as Circulation and Marketing Manager for Arc Poetry Magazine. I'm pretty chuffed about it - I love Arc, and the idea that I can actually work for a poetry magazine makes me do happy dances. This weekend I wound up at two separate fairs for Arc: ArtsPark in Hintonburg, and the Ravenswing Craft and Zine Fair.
I was fascinated by who stopped off at the table. The magnetic boards, perhaps predictably, pulled the kids over. Children, usually, are drawn to any chance to make marks. They see a board full of magnetic words as an invitation to come and move stuff around. Adults, on the other hand, struggle with this worry that they might 'do it wrong' or be judged. That someone might be watching. So, the first ones over were the kids, bringing their parents with them. Usually.
There was also a contingent, usually of older folks, who sidled over to the table and asked, after a moment of blinking, "Is that a typewriter?" and a healthy crop of people, my age and older, who said, with a sort of happy recognition, "Oh, my god, I learned to type on one of those!" I recalled, a couple of times, the old electric typewriter I wrote many of my first stories on (until my long-suffering parents, whose bedroom was next to mine, finally got me a computer to silence the 2:00-AM clatter.)
And then there was the interesting pattern of who would ask for poems, and what they asked for poems about. There were a lot of parents, often of infants, who asked for poems for their children. One boy, maybe 10, pouted and insisted that he didn't want a poem, so his father asked for a poem about fathers and sons. "No!" the boy said insistently. So, Claudia, who was on the typewriter at the time, wrote a poem called "This Is Not A Poem."
Meanwhile, the fair around us was pretty amazing. I used to live in Hintonburg, back when it was less of an artist's haven and more, well, sketchy. The community that has developed and its sheer vitality is inspiring. The crowds were out in force, even if it was kind of a rainy day, and the whole things felt, well, good. I was completely disarmed, in the afternoon, by a unicyclist pedalling around the whole fair, with a flock of small kids running after him and cheering. Like something out of a movie.
The next day was Ravenswing. Admittedly, I didn't think of signing up for Ravenswing until it was too late, which was silly of me. I've known the organizers for years, and I've been involved with Ravenswing since the get-go, when it was a monthly craft and zine fair in Jack Purcell Community Centre. But, I showed up anyway, with a backpack full of back issues and art cards to give out. The first few hours of the fair were pretty dismal - it poured rain and everyone, stoically, even heroically, set up their tables anyway. I hovered under a friend's tent. Next to us, Adam Thomlison of 40wattspotlight stood, with a strange half smile on his face, at a table with three or four zines under a clear tarp covered in rainwater, slowly getting wetter. Undaunted, though. Bless.
But by noon, though, the rain stopped, and the sun actually came out, and even in the rain, the crowds were pretty surprisingly good, and I really got down to wandering around handing out poetry cards, talking to people about Arc, and generally being a part of the fair. Only three times did I walk up to someone and say, "Hey! would you like a poem?" and have them shuffle, look uncomfortable, and mutter, "No, thanks." (Still trying to figure that one out. What, if you take the poem you'll have to, what, read it? Talk to me?)
Most people, though, looked pleased to get the card. More than a few said "Oh, Arc! I love you guys!" Which is a great thing to hear.
Next year, we'll bring the Poetry Factory to Ravenswing. It would go over *really* well.