Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Fish Quill Poetry Boat Interview Series, with Abigail Lapell

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Abigail Lapell

After a fabulous launch in Toronto, the Fish Quill Poetry Boat Tour is now underway. This unique literary series features six Canadian poets embarking on a reading tour via canoe as well as one brave musician and songwriter, Abigail Lapell, who is lending her talents to the tour.

Abigail Lapell talks to Open Book about her position as the tour's musician-in-floating-residence.

The tour runs until August 13 with various stops through southwestern Ontario.

You can also visit Open Book's event listing for the Fish Quill Poetry Boat tour to see if they will be passing through your city or town in the coming days.

Open Book:

Tell us why you decided to become involved with the Fish Quill Poetry Boat tour.

Abigail Lapell:

I was really excited about the inaugural tour last year, and the poets involved — and, as a touring musician, the concept really appealed to me. When I was approached about joining this year's trip as the token musical performer, I was very enthusiastic.

I love canoe trips and being in the bush, and though my writing is not explicitly "nature"-themed, I think there's something so special and organic about artists traveling this way, coming together outside of an urban setting, getting to visit smaller towns that might not otherwise make the itinerary. As a songwriter it's also a different group than I would normally travel and perform with, which is inspiring. Being around all these poets should help me become a stronger writer, by osmosis.


What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to this unique approach to the public reading?


Well it's notoriously difficult/expensive to tour in a country the size of Canada, so in general I've become quite interested in alternatives to driving. In the last year I've gone on tour via trains and Greyhound buses, and met lots of other musicians doing similar things. I've not yet heard of any singer-songwriters traveling via canoe, though, which somehow seems very Canadian. Maybe by next summer everyone will be doing it, if gas prices continue to rise. I imagine our carbon footprint for this tour will be pretty minimal.

I'm still not sure how the logistics are going to work, as far as keeping my guitar and records dry en route. I've been inquiring half-jokingly about a guitar-shaped dry bag, and so far no one's come through with one. There will probably be a lot of mosquitoes, too.


What are some of your favourite memories from past readings, in this tour or others?


For many years I organized a multi-disciplinary performance showcase in Montreal, called Catcall, which often featured poetry readings alongside bands and singer-songwriters and filmmakers and anything else that we could fit into a night. It was my first exposure to a lot of spoken word and performance poetry, and there were so many memorable characters, lots of surprises and provocations and often a real intimacy with the audience. I think what sticks with me most is how such eclectic groups of writers and performers could somehow come together to form a cohesive "show". There is a real alchemy to that I think, which is one of the things I'm excited about for this trip.


What?s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?


Breathe. And make eye contact.


Tell us one or two of the best outdoors/exploration/wildlife-themed books you?ve read (we?re getting in the mood for the tour!).


Wow... I don't know if I can think of any! I'll make a point of getting a reading list together in time for the tour. Or, as the tour's official musician, maybe I should put together a good outdoors-y playlist.


What are you most looking forward to about this year?s FQPB tour?


To me the end of the day is one of the nicest parts of any canoe trip, when everyone is tired and happy, and a beer and hot dog tastes infinitely better than any other time. I haven't talked to anyone about this, but if our schedule permits, I'm really hoping there will be lots of group singing around the campfire. I'd love to pass around my guitar, or just practice howling at the moon.

For more information about Abigail Lapell and her music, please visit her website.

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