Two Island poets, Steve McOrmond and Chris Bailey, will launch their new books on Monday, September 17, at 7:00 p.m. in the Carriage House at Beaconsfield in Charlottetown. McOrmond’s poetry has captivated readers across Canada since his first book, Lean Days, in 2004, while Bailey, from a North Lake fishing family, is a newcomer to the literary scene.
Bailey, a recent UPEI Psychology graduate, has been living in Toronto and Hamilton, earning a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. He comes home during the summers, working on the family boat. Many of the poems in What Your Hands Have Done (Nightwood Editions) focus on the lives, work, and relationships of fishing families. This is the first major poetry book by an Islander to honour, at length, the realities and lore of PEI’s fishing community.
Bailey’s interests also range beyond the traditional land/seascape and livelihoods of PEI. His influences vary from Elmore Leonard, Warren Zevon, and Charles Bukowski – the “laureate of American lowlife” wrote Time – to Neil Gaiman and Lorna Crozier. Just as the wider culture’s zeitgeist pervades the Island, Bailey’s poems take readers on lively trips beyond the decks, wharves, and fishers’ homes.
McOrmond’s imaginative takes on experience, and his satirical wit, are evident in his other book titles: Primer for the Hereafter and The Goods News About Armageddon. With ironic perceptions in “Come Play on the Island,” he contrasts touristic summers with our winters, and in “The Lobster” he reveals the sardonic “second thoughts” of a PEI restaurant cook. In a bittersweet voice, he evokes Maritime outmigration in “So This Is Goodbye”: “The story of the Island is the story of paradise: / we have always had to leave.”
A 1995 UPEI graduate, Steve has lived in Toronto for two decades, returning yearly to the Island. His metropolitan experiences and computer software business career ingeniously permeate his new book, Reckon (Brick Book): “And we felt fortunate to live in the afterglow of Steve Jobs” and though “the air smells like burning tires…I love it here, I really do”;
His new poems reflect and critique the growing domination of our lives and consciousness by digital platforms and realms: “Deep in an offshore data centre, my vagaries / are tracked, time-stamped, mined / for meaningful adjacencies.”
A special guest poet, Annick MacAskill from Halifax, will give a short reading, followed by McOrmond’s and Bailey’s featured readings, a book signing, and a reception. The evening is sponsored by the UPEI Dean of Arts and Department of English, with generous support from The Canada Council for the Arts.