The café buzzed with relaxed conversations; it was playing host to an informal symposium centered on the theme of creative writing. As the night progressed, listeners continued to trickle in, the cramped quarters causing an inevitably high degree of body-bumping, eliminating the need for awkward introductions and instead allowing participants to launch into animated conversation. Last Saturday was the 8th session of the monthly Résonance Reading Series, sessions that continue to attract the creative coteries who wish to spend an evening either sharing their own literary pieces or supporting those brave enough to do so.
The café itself is quite tucked-away for such a grandiose event. Located on the Mile End stretch of Parc, Résonance Café is easily missed by the average passerby who might casually dismiss the steep steps that lead down to the entrance of the eclectic brasserie. For those who do take notice, descending the staircase gives the impression of entering an exclusive gathering place, in many ways not too far from the truth.
The readers participating in the 8th session were a motley crew, their pieces ranging from excerpts of upcoming novels to works of poetry that will soon be featured in opera collaborations. To participate, readers submit a part of their piece to Klara Du Plessis, a part-time employee of Résonance who has been curating the monthly Reading Series since its debut in January 2013. The series itself is specifically designed to expose listeners to a variety of artistic mediums, and the curatorial process behind the event attempts to ensure a balance between prose and poetry.
The effort seems to be attracting a fair bit of attention – Du Plessis explained that while she initially had to invite writers to read, people are now volunteering to participate in this increasingly popular event. Most of the readers last Saturday were all part of the same writing club, which welcomes anyone who wishes to join. Du Plessis aims for writers with a variety of backgrounds and encourages first-time readers to apply. Although some of the readers have been published, most haven’t.
Du Plessis even read some of her own poetry at the event, including an evocative feminist piece about a woman with two mouths. As a writer of poetry and prose, she stated that she initially began the reading series in order to “insert [her] real identity into the workplace” and “maximize the potential of the cultural space already available.” She went on to describe the series as a “forum for original creative writing and other text-based projects,” allowing both readers and listeners alike to engage in inspired conversations while completely eradicating the stereotypical notion of the reclusive writer in the process.
“Apart from readings of poetry, prose, and even theatre, there have also been a number of musical collaborations and verbo-visual interactions. Participants range from first-time readers to published authors. I like to think that it’s an approachable event, informal, fun, but always with the adrenaline rush of performance,” said Du Plessis.
One such participant, Leigh Gillam, explained that she “learn[s] a lot from interacting with other people.” The visual artist was a first-time reader at the Résonance Series but has shared her work – consisting of both poetry and prose – in a variety of other forums. Gillam introduced her piece by mentioning the preconceived notion that visual artists generally have a more difficult time writing – a surprising idea given the quality of her written work. The session once again veered away from the stifling stereotype of a pretentious reading, as the highly receptive audience listened to Gillam’s excerpt from her upcoming novel about the journey of a monster and scientist. “Sometimes it feels good just to get out and about and just to sort of put your stuff out there and then risk something […] it’s not about who knows or who’s specialized in a particular craft but it’s more to do with interacting. I really think that’s more important than whether or not something has been well crafted,” Gillam said.
The Résonance Reading Series has certainly been a hit so far, what with the stylistic variety of writing the sessions promote. With only one month between each session, there are always new poems, prose, or visual pieces to look forward to. And who knows? Perhaps the congregation of creative minds in the café will inspire you to write something of your own someday.