A weekend Workshop with Mark Tredinnick
This workshop took place north of Val des Monts, Quebec, on the weekend of February 21st to 23rd. Lise Rochefort and her husband Adrian Jones were our hosts, and Lise’s cousin Christine was the cook. For 18 people! We filled three houses by the frozen lake, neighbours to a circle of ice fisher people out on the snow-covered ice. Two of the houses are owned by Lise and Adrian, and the third, a neighbor’s who was away for the winter, was rented for the weekend. Mark Tredinnick and his partner Jodie are here from Australia which led to many a discussion of the devastation there. The food was incredible. I may have to mention the food again.
For example, on Saturday evening, there were tortieres in honour of Quebec, and Pavlova afterwards to honour the world down under. The setup was awesome. What a word to use. We were all comfortably housed, and getting from one house to another was made easy by Adrian’s having plowed so many pathways.
Mark had copies of his newest book, A Gathered Distance, and he orchestrated the weekend sessions around it. We had been asked to write a poem before the weekend, a response to one of his poems. We shared and discussed those poems on Friday afternoon for three hours. We were assigned homework: a choice of three prompts, and some reading to do, three poems each night. Of course, by the time we finished talking and eating the glorious food, the delicious desserts, it was already late, but we had to do the reading and write a poem to share the next day, and same thing on Saturday night.
By the time we got to our rooms to do our homework, we were fried before we started. A few hours later, some few hours of sleep, and back to sharing our poems and learning about poetry. Each session began with two participants reading from our fave published poets, and discussing those poems. Mark has a way of doing general critiques that suggests things, but makes the poet feel they have accomplished much already in their attempt. The poems got better as we went on. He had hours of things to say about what makes a good poem…
We learned to write sijo, a Korean form, for one session, and were asked to write a sijo over lunch, so we spent as long as we could in the sun, not wanting to waste a minute of it, and sat back in the ‘classroom’ counting syllables on our fingers. ‘Classroom’ with fireplace, brand new kitchen, wall-to-wall windows, view of the lake. The silence while we were counting.
Tredinnick’s breadth of knowledge, his familiarity with poetry from all over the world, is daunting, but broadening for us. He knows lines and poems, and has met many poets, as he has travelled read, and workshopped from China to Peru. So much learning for us in two and a half days. In between the sessions we could walk to the lake, only a hundred metres away, or wander the plowed paths. Saturday night at 11 o’clock Mark, Jodie, Lise, Adrian and I were standing in a foot of snow at the edge of the dock, looking at stars. During the day, birds, otters and fishers explored the property too.
I am replete. But I must not forget: we had goodie bags! And and a super pair of long fleece-lined socks from Christine whose sewing group had had little labels made, and sewn onto each pair, that said ICE & FIRE 2020. The socks had little rubber pads on the soles so everyone was wearing them like slippers all weekend.
I didn’t want it to end. For such an incredible event, we were so intensely occupied with conversation, writing, listening and sharing that no one took photographs, not even of the Pavlova! Or the lemon meringue pie! The carrot cake! The African peanut soup! The chili! We are fortunate that someone woke out of our intensity at the end to take a couple of group photos. That’s why we all look a bit stunned. Stunned by poetry. Stunned by what Lise and Adtan put together. Stunned by Mark Tredinnick.