John Asfour, Kogawa House writer-in-residence gives reading at Vancouver Public Library with Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong of Neworld Theatre

John Asfour, Kogawa House writer-in-residence gives reading at Vancouver Public Library with Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong of Neworld Theatre
2009_May_KogawaHouse 003 by you.

John Asfour strums his oud (arabic lute), while Neworld Theatre's Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong read his poems – photo Todd Wong

John Asfour @ VPL
Tuesday May 19th
7:30 pm – 9pm FREE

Vancouver Public Library, Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms, Lower Level

Central Library,  350 West Georgia Street

Tuesday
night was wonderful.  Marcus and Adrienne dimmed the lights to create
an intimate setting.  Kirsty set up the book table.  I put out copies
of Ricepaper beside them…  I made the official VPL announcements
because VPL Community Librarian Sophie Middleton called me at 4pm,
asking  me, because she had an allergy issue.

Richard Hopkins
corrected me on my announcement of the June 9th event for VPL when the
George Woodcock Award will be presented to W.P. Kinsella (I had said
Patrick Kinsella)… and I did say that last year the award went to Joy
Kogawa.

I gave brief intros and welcomes to John, Adrienne and
Marcus and Sahaib.  Acknowledging their upcoming events…  such as May
30th at Kogawa House, Mixie & the Halfbreeds, as well as to Ariadne
Sawyer of World Poetry, with her Gala anniversary at the Roundhouse
next Monday,

2009_May_KogawaHouse 002 Joh Asfour makes a brief introduction and acknowledges Neworld Theatre, Historic Joy Kogawa House Society, Vancouver Public Library and Sahaib – photo Todd Wong

John
gave a short introduction, and explained how the evening would work. 
First the translations read in English by Marcus and Adrienne, then in
Arabic by Sahaib.  Then followed by John's works.

We actually started at 7:40, and continued non-stop to 8:40.

It was a special magical evening.

The audience paid rapt attention.

The
“performance” flowed…. without the usual interruptions, explanations,
flippings of pages… etc that are at most poetry readings.

2009_May_KogawaHouse 011 Sahaib reads the original poems in Arabic language, while translator John Asfour plays his oud – photo Todd Wong

The
readings were all well done.  Marcus and Adrienne brought life and
drama to the words, as did Sahaib.  I didn't understand Arabic words,
but the rhythm, the rhyme, the meaning, and the presence were all
projected strongly.  The audience listened.  The audience paid
attention listening to words they didn't understand… listening to
sounds they understood… like music.

2009_May_KogawaHouse 009 John Asfour plays oud, while Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong read his poetry works – photo Todd Wong

The
duo voices of Marcus and Adrienne were matched in perfect timing, with
a warm chemistry.  Marcus' reading during “Beirut” emphasized the
“drunkeness” of the character, while Adrienne grounded the poem with
her narration.  “Gaza” was incredibly timely and insightful.  With
recent happenings in Gaza, I wished that we could have sent it out to
the media, or asked Adrienne how if felt having played “My Name is
Rachel Corrie.” 

2009_May_KogawaHouse 006 John Asfour plays oud – photo Todd Wong

John's
playing of the oud, was soft or loud, slow or fast… accompanying the
poems like a musical soundtrack.  Afterwards, he told me he had played
12 songs, as well as improvisation.

2009_May_KogawaHouse 016 Marcus Youssef lead Q&A with John Asfour – photo Todd Wong

After the reading… Marcus led a Q&A for the final 20
minutes.  But I had to interrupt him briefly just to remind the
audience of the May 30th Kogawa House event, and the Mixies event…
and to share that Marcus had just been nominated that day for a Jessies
Awards… for artistic achievement.  Lots of audience applause.

This successful event reminder me of when we paired actors up to
read poetry” similar to our April 25th 2006 “Joy of Canadian Words” event that had featured:

  • Joy Coghill reading “Klee Wyck”, 
  • Bill Dow, Maiko Bae Yamamoto, Manami Hara and Hiro Kanagawa reading Dorothy Livesay's “Call My People Home”
  • Sheryl Mackay reading “Ann of Green Gables”,
  • Doris Chilcott reading Alden Nowlan,
  • Chief Rhonda Larrabee reading Thomas King's “Coyote and the Enemy Aliens”
  • jazz singer Leora Cashe singing Leonard Cohen's “Dance Me to the End of Love.”

Wow… definitely a wonderful collaboration of Neworld Theatre and Historic Joy Kogawa House Society…

2009_May_KogawaHouse 020Kirsty, Marcus, John and Adrienne – photo Todd Wong

Afterwards we went for snacks at Subeez restaurant down the street,
where we all joked and told stories, and complimented each other, and
deepened our friendships.

It was one of the best
poetry performances I have
witnessed in years.

Next reading at Kogawa House with Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson:
By reservation and donation only.

Telephone:  604-263-6586
Email:  
kogawahouse@yahoo.ca

 

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