We Were There: The Windsor Launch of André Narbonne’s “You Were Here”

Biblioasis, Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Windsor book launch of You Were Here was well-attended and featured a stellar set of poets: Melanie Janisse-Barlow, Eva H.D., and André Narbonne. Joe LaBine, managing editor at Flat Singles Press, MC’d the event. Publishers, professors and poets came out of the light snow to join the event, mingling and enjoying desserts, hot beverages and wine that were provided for the evening. Seats were filled, and people stood between book shelves in order to get a better view of the podium.

Opening the formal part of the evening, Melanie Janisse-Barlow shared from her poetry collection, Thicket, and her memoir in process. She also shared stories from her experiences as an artist and poet in Windsor and Toronto, living on a boat and commuting between cities to spend time with her husband. Her paintings of living poets, part of her ongoing project The Poet Series, were also featured at Biblioasis during the event.

Toronto poet Eva H.D. was the wild card of the night, presenting her poems “choose-your-own-adventure” style. Guests were offered tantalizing options, such the choice between “a poem about butter or the door on the left.” She read from her collection Shiner, which she took from the Biblioasis display, joking that she didn’t yet own a copy herself. She finished off her set with her award-winning poem, “38 Michigans,” a profound elegy that shifted the tone from her earlier poems and prepared the audience for You Were Here.

During his reading, André Narbonne compared parenting to time travel: things his kids do now vividly bring him back to when he was that age. Narbonne’s poems explore the lived experience of childhood, where the adult world is “scary and weird… and right and wrong all at the same time” and the revelations children have about this world are often uncomfortably impactful:

“[…] Nothing could keep out everything I learned

The day the neighbour bought a pellet gun

And shot our cat for practice.” (“Fenced in Odours”).

Revelations in You Were Here, sometimes humourous, sometimes weighty, reminded us of a time in our own childhood, perhaps, where we first experienced death or loss or wondered why we needed to do things “the adult way” when our method of solving problems was working just fine. Introducing “My Brother,” Narbonne explained the use of dots and dashes in the poem – he tapped three long, three short, three long again on the podium – to convey an S.O.S twice throughout. Narbonne also read “By Love,” a poem discussing his adult experience with depression. He finished off his set with “The World is Forever”:

“[…] A five-year-old walks

her grandfather.

I think the world is forever

as I hear her explaining

everything …”

The poem bookended Narbonne’s reading, re-illustrating the idea of parenting as time travel; only this time, the grandfather is the one remembering back to his own kids’ as well as his own childhood through the experiences of his granddaughter.

After the readings, the featured poets were available for book signings. Many audience members stayed long afterwards, talking and meeting with the poets. All in all, a delightful evening and a wonderful Windsor literary event. Congratulations again to André Narbonne on the release of You Were Here!

by Brittni Brinn


You Were Here is available at Biblioasis  or through Flat Singles Press

Flat Singles Press is a resurrected small press originally founded by Phil Hall. You can follow them on Twitter @Flat_Singles or on Facebook: Flat Singles Press!

A marine engineer by first trade, André Narbonne was living out of his duffel bag when he arrived in Halifax on a damaged tanker in the mid-eighties. He completed two degrees in English at Dalhousie University – where he was a Killam Scholar – and his Ph.D. in Canadian literature at the University of Western Ontario. He is a former chair of the Halifax chapter of the Canadian Poetry Association. His short stories have won the Atlantic Writing Competition, the FreeFall Prose Contest, and the David Adams Richards Prize and were anthologized in Best Canadian Stories. He teaches English & Creative Writing at the University of Windsor and is the fiction editor of the Windsor Review. His first novel, Twelve Miles to Midnight, was published by Black Moss Press in 2016.

Eva H.D., author of Rotten Perfect Mouth, Shiner, and winner of the 2015 Montreal International Poetry Prize. You can follow her on Twitter @EvaHD_

Melanie Janisse-Barlow can be found on Facebook  @melaniejanissepaint. The Poet Series paintings are viewable online at www.poet-series-project.com 

Brittni Brinn is a writer and loves everything to do with theatre. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from UWindsor and is a co-host on Hardcover, a podcast about words. You can find her on Facebook, @brittni_in_ink on Twitter, or at hardcoverradio.com.

Excerpts from You Were Here printed with the permission of the publisher


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