One of the events I was anticipating the most at WordFest this year was today’s Alberta (Un)Bound held at the Art Gallery of Calgary. The event was a chance for Calgary, Edmonton and Banff to duke it out, to decide once and for all, which is the best place to be a writer. A provincial smackdown, a literary Battle of Alberta. Step aside Stamps and Eskimos, move over Flames and Oilers, today was derek beaulieu, Time Bowling, Lynn Coady, and Steven Ross Smith. I’ve now returned to Hotel Le Germain, and can report on the event. This is more or less how it happened.
After each read a passage from their latest works, out came the gloves and hockey sticks for a no-holds-barred cage match. Of course with typical Albertan modesty, each artist almost went out of their way to compliment the other cities, almost as if no real rivalry existed. That was of course until derek bealieu took a shot at Bowling, saying ‘never admit you’re from Edmonton.’
Suddenly, every emotion bubbled to the surface. First it was Bowling delivering five hay makers to beaulieu, proclaiming each one represented an Oilers’ Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, on the other side of the dias, Lynn Coady was swinging a hockey stick Steven Ross Smith after he had called CapitalEx days, ‘CapitalSux’ days. As the brawl played out on stage, referee Zsuzsui Gartner could only watch as the fighting intensified, unable to pry any of the gladiators apart.
It wasn’t long before the emotion on stage spilled out into the audience, where normally timid Albertans fought like cats and dogs. Calgarians fought Edmontonians. Medicine Hatters fought Lethbridgians. Even a Black Dimonder and a Turner Vallian fought. It was all out chaos, with raw human emotion and animal instinct on display. Watching the battle was like a visiting an uncontacted tribe, deep in the Amazon jungles as the savagery in the eyes of each combatant glowed like the tip of a red-hot poker.
But suddenly, perhaps realizing the whole battle was futile, everything stopped, as if a switch and been flipped. A sense of calm came over the entire gallery. People straightened their ties and skirts, brushed their hair, and calmly sat down. Everybody in attendance began to wonder, why do we fight? Said Lynn Coady, ‘it’s like two identical twin sisters arguing which is prettier.’ Gone was the animal savagery, and no longer were chairs being used as weapons. Law and order had been returned; civilization was back. It was then that a member of the audience, sporting fresh wounds from the earlier battle, asked aloud to the others like an Native elder, “why do we fight each other, when we should be fighting our real enemy; Vancouver.”
Next up for me is ‘Persuasion’ at the Central Library tonight at 6PM, where Arlene Dickinson will discuss her new book.
Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011