After a summer full of great reads, we're now firmly into the fall book prize and festival season. But it just doesn't feel like fall until our favourite outdoor festival kicks things off with bbq'd corn, tiny donuts, and of course, dozens and dozens of our favourite authors! That's right — it's The Word on the Street! This Sunday, September 25, readers across the GTA will gather at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto to listen to and talk with authors, participate in exciting programming for guests of all ages, shop directly from book and magazine publishers, and more.
We had the opportunity to speak with several authors from the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent, and today we wrap up our series with Michael Fraser, author of To Greet Yourself Arriving (Tightrope Books). The final author in our series, Michael's powerful poetic portraits celebrate inspiring black artists, politicians, activists, and athletes from a variety of time periods. From Oprah to Obama, Basquiat to Subban, Michael's poems are moving, clear-eyed tributes to genuinely heroic figures who are presented as human and complex as well as inspiring.
He tells us about getting racy at past festivals, gives us a great list of favourite authors for inspired Ontario reading, and stays mysterious on the subject of his next book.
You can see Michael in person on Sunday at the Vibrant Voices tent at The Word on the Street!
Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent.
I’ll be reading from my new book of poems, To Greet Yourself Arriving, which was published in March by Tightrope Books. It’s a collection of poems highlighting various African diasporic historical figures and their enduring historical legacies both in the Americas and Africa.
Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?
I’ve attended The Word on the Street consistently for the past seven or eight years. The Word on the Street is one of the main highlights in the literary calendar. My favourite memory stems from 2010 when I had the privilege of reading my first published short story, "Around the Way", at the Diaspora Dialogues tent. It’s a racy story and I was surprised by audience members’ enjoyment and responses to the story. It was a completely positive and uplifting experience!
The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book you've read.
I’ve contemplated this request, and I must confess, I find it impossible to select one book or one author. When one considers the myriad talented Ontario authors encompassing all genres, it truly becomes a Herculean task to select one brilliant star from a night sky of worthy shining examples. My favourite Ontario fiction writers are: Austin Clarke, Lawrence Hill, Terri Favro, Mary W. Walters, Norah McClintock, and Martha Baillie. My favourite Ontario poets are: George Eliot Clarke, Michael Prior, Andrea Thompson, Shane Book, Dionne Brand, and Robin Richardson.
What's the best advice you've ever received or the best advice you would offer about public readings?
I’m assuming you’re referring to the writer’s perspective. The best advice I’ve ever received is to be yourself and enjoy the moment. It’s cliché, but completely valid. Being mindful and fully present in your performance is an issue I think neophyte writers often grapple with. Of course, those of us with anxiety always have to tackle the mindfulness issue. With regards to reading, I’d advise a novice reader to slow down. We often read at a heightened pace due to nerves or anxiety creeping into our bones when perched before an audience.
Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario?
Honestly, I wish I did. I deplore camping, cottages, and wading into those frozen lakes up north. I definitely enjoy northern scenery, especially Algonquin Park and its copious birch trees. Downtown Ottawa is charming around the market area. There are many towns with alluring centres like Niagara-On-The-Lake, Collingwood, and Creemore. Toronto has its spots, especially Roncie, Queen St., Bloor, etc. However, I tend to enjoy these wonderful locations during warm months. Once winter arrives, I hibernate.
What can you tell us about your next project?
The subject of my next book is top secret.
Michael Fraser is a Toronto high school teacher, poet, and writer. He has been published in various national and international journals and anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2013. His manuscript, The Serenity of Stone, won the 2007 Canadian Aid Literary Award Contest and was published in 2008 by Bookland Press. He won FreeFall‘s 2014 and 2015 poetry contests and is the creator and former director of the Plasticine Poetry Series.
Grace O'Connell is the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Toronto and the author of Magnified World (Random House Canada). She also writes a book column for This Magazine.
For more information about Magnified World please visit the Random House Canada website.