Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Ordinary People, Unordinary Lines: Plan 99 Poetry Cabaret

It seemed like just the right setting: a down-below, warmly lit pub, tucked away from the din of the upstairs patio-lined street, where poetry enthusiasts gathered around tall tables, frothy pints in hand. It was the sort of place where one might encounter characters from the lines of Alexandra Oliver and Nick Thran: ordinary people that unwittingly manifest the “unordinary.”

After the readings, Alexandra and Nick disappeared among the listeners and became ordinary observers. The scene was mirthful, conversations developed gently and thoughtfully, and one could not help but think “something was surely going on under the soil, among roots that only the agilest bugs could see.” (Thran)
There were nods to Homer, political ruminations, pastoral sketches, and familial stories, evoking contemplation, humour, and wonder. Themes of hope and redemption popped up as would “a crocus [giving] the rain the finger.” (Oliver) Listeners were privy to the conversation of trees, to the dampened dreams of a salon worker, and were shown both the beauty and brokenness of human spirits. Some lines that lingered independently into the evening, included: “uncoil your own thoughts (Thran),”“the dangerous idea that he needs no one else (Thran),” “we pop a beaker over our own flame (Oliver),” and “keep at it when the rules go missing (Oliver).” Alexandra, in a magnificent black cocktail dress, reading with dramatic changes in tone and voice, and keeping meter with her free hand, was a vibrant contrast to the understated Nick Thran, who read steadily with a soothing, bedtime story voice.  Both prefaced their readings with tales from personal diaries as sources of inspiration, enhancing the intimacy.