17 March 2013

on fear of confrontation

On Thursday night, I had my first official reading from Glossolalia. I read in Vernon with Hannah Calder (who didn't have any books to sell as her publisher didn't get them to her on time. I was so disappointed as her reading was fantastic and I'm very intrigued by More House) and the always excellent Laisha Rosnau was our host.

I've read from the collection before, but as I mentioned previously this was the first time I'd read from the actual book. At first I wasn't nervous. I'd had a glass of wine and we decided that Hannah should go first as she had a friend in the audience who had to take off early in the night. I'd chosen five poems to read and I had read them all before and knew I could do them well. I felt confident and happy.

Then I stepped behind the podium and began to read.

There were a few friendly faces in the audience--Laisha, her husband Aaron, Hannah, and Lainna (a friend from my Edmonton days who has now relocated to Kelowna)--and most of the people I didn't know were attentive and generous.

But there were two men in the audience who stood out to me. The first man was an older gentleman who, I was later told, came right into the space, asked for my book, bought it, and then sat in the corner waiting for the reading to begin. He was attentive, even closed his eyes as I read. He disappeared as soon as the reading was done and I wish I had the gumption to approach him before he left. He seemed connected to the poetry and I had assumed he was a regular attendee at this reading series, but no one had seen him before.

The second man who stood out was younger, possibly early thirties. He seemed, well, intense. I also wish I had been brave enough to approach him afterwards, but he made me nervous. While I was reading, I kept looking at him as he stared at me, and it split my focus, made me wonder if this man was Mormon or polygamous, or perhaps even both. The latter two are unlikely, but the LDS have a large population in both BC and Alberta.

I know eventually it's going to happen, most likely at a reading. My fear is that I will offend people of this faith despite taking much care not to in the writing of the book. Although I've taken the lives of the polygamous wives of Joseph Smith as inspiration for this book, it's not meant to be read as biography or history. It's fiction. It's poetry. It's much more about my own experiences/insecurities/fears about motherhood and marriage than it is about Mormonism.

After the reading, there was a Q&A and I was certain that the man was going to stand up and accuse me of appropriation or blasphemy or...something. I'm not completely sure. And then there was a very tiny part of me that worried he was some sort of fundamental fringe Mormon who believed in and was planning on practising blood atonement. But the man was silent and he also left soon after the reading ended.

When I arrived home from our trip into the interior, there was a large envelope in our mailbox. The return address was from Utah. Kevin handed it to me and said, "And so it begins." My heart leaped to my throat before I remembered that I had ordered this from the brilliant Trent Nelson.

I'm dreading the first confrontation, but part of me hopes it happens sooner rather than later, just so that I can deal with it, learn from it, and move on. Am I being pessimistic? Or even egotistical? It's poetry for goodness sake, does it even show up on the radar? Ultimately, I hope that Glossolalia will find readers, and in that crowd (oh, please let it be a crowd and not just a handful), there will be people who are connected to the Mormon faith. Will I ever even know? I hope so, but time will tell.

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