Blue Metropolis loves their writers. It is a special festival if only for the fact that the series of events celebrates and acknowledges a group of people poorly appreciated and often very under-funded: Writers. The voice of our experiences and the only trace left of our culture and achievements, the written word remains indelible; it is the translation of our past.
Blue Metropolis Festival gathered all of the wallflowers and shut-ins, the ponderers and question-askers, the dreamers, doodlers, and second-guessers together in one big party thrown in the name of the spoken word, celebrating the ones rarely seen because we’re too busy hiding, observing, and counting our quarters to try and afford a tin of soup and a subway fare (well, some more than others…).
Blue Metropolis Festival kicked itself off beautifully on April 13th, with an event called The Walrus Talks (in collaboration with, you guessed it, The Walrus Magazine). The event featured the theme of Resilience (a character trait any writer must encompass, if they are to stay afloat, financially or otherwise). The Walrus Talks incorporated voices as diverse as a breast cancer blogger (Nalie Agustin), a spoken word homage to heroic, non-English-speaking immigrant parents (Rupi Kaur), warrior-survivors of Auschwitz death camp (Max Eisen), and the terrible childhoods of timeless authors (Heather O’Neill), to name a few.
Another extraordinary Blue Met happening was listening to Daniel Tammet speak in a voice full of eloquence, authority, and deep humility. His hands flowed like graceful water to punctuate sentences that were at once simple and profound. Tammet is an autistic savant whose world is as brilliant and 4-dimensional as an all-seeing flower. An experiencer of a sort of synesthesia, Tammet says that these capabilities are not exclusive, and can certainly be re-learned (as these seemingly super-human abilities are merely extra neurological connections that all brains have, and are usually “trimmed” as we grow older). Tammet, who says that numbers is his first language, sees colours with his letters, and shapes with sounds. Able to recite thousands of numbers in the infinite Pi equation, Tammet says that Pi is essentially a never-ending poem, of which we are all a part. (Quick to explain that he does not “perform tricks,” Daniel’s recitation of Pi, which took him five hours, was done to raise money for epilepsy, of which both himself and his grandfather suffered.) Daniel Tammet is the author of a memoir, Born on a Blue Day, and Thinking in Numbers, among others.
To close off my festival experience (sadly, I am not omnipotent, and could not attend the two hundred plus events that Blue Metropolis boasts), I attended an event held at Concordia University, featuring Ann-Marie MacDonald. This year’s Mordecai Richler writer-in-residence, MacDonald had her MA students reading brilliant work, and afterwards, spoke to us about her experience as writer-in-residence, and her interactions with, and influence by, Richler himself. In a mini-museum display, typewriters, books, papers, and even old passports were all laid out, most things taken from the Mordecai Richler reading room in Concordia University, and even Florence herself sat proudly in the front row.
Blue Metropolis is both a platform for literary legacy and blooming new voices to gather, to be appreciated, to showcase their work, and remind everyone else that writers are the backbone of everything we do. They tell our stories, give voices to the voiceless, and are the beating metronome to the music of our experience. Appreciate them. They are the narrators of life.
A very special thank you to Shelley Pomerance of The Walrus Magazine, Linda Renaud, and Blue Metropolis