Odd Sundays at Molly’s: a Fredericton institution

Written by Sophie M. Lavoie on March 8, 2014

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M. Travis Lane and Triny Finlay enjoying Odd Sundays at Molly’s. Photo by Sophie Lavoie.

Odd Sundays at Molly’s are a staple event for the local literary community in Fredericton.

Odd Sundays at Molly’s has become entrenched in Fredericton’s arts activities for almost 10 years, according to Allison Calvern, the main organizer: “the series began in October 2004, with Joe Blades as the first featured reader.  We now have two featured readers at each event.” Attendance at the series remains strong.

A 2013 finalist for the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick’s David Adams Richards Prize for Fiction for her novel, Edmundston, etc.,  Calvern is a local writer who is well-known in the capital region and active throughout the province. A local poet, social activist, and publisher, Blades is a regular attendee to the series and has been contributing to poetry events since his arrival in the city in the early nineties.

Structured readings

At each Odd Sundays happening, two featured readers present a more lengthy selection. There have been many in the last ten years, some more established and some lesser known. For Calvern, all readers are important since “they agree to give their time and talent, so generously.”

Each event also includes an open mic set where new or established poets can present their materials. For many this can be an important first step to a literary career. “The courage of the first-time reader, in revealing their fragile poetic selves, can be very moving,” according to Calvern.

For local poet and English professor, Triny Finlay all the writers and poets come  “from a wide range of publishing experiences. The series also helps to bring the university community downtown, so that students, artists, mathematicians, reviewers, homemakers, and literary scholars all converge—they get to know each other, and they get to know each other’s work.” Many writers discover the local writing community through these events and, in turn, are discovered by the local writers.

Often acting as moderator in Calvern’s absence, local poet Roger Moore has been one of the pillars of the group: “I have been attending for so long that I can no longer remember how, why, or when I got involved: but I keep coming back.” Moore, an award-winning professor, now retired from Saint Thomas University, is an international expert on one of Spain’s most celebrated poets, Francisco de Quevedo.

Moore has learned to discover and savour the delightful talents of each writer. For example, for him, NB literary legend, poet M. Travis Lane, “is a committed reader and a marvelous poet who plans each exemplary reading meticulously, even the three minute open mike session. To listen as each reading unfolds its own planned magic is a privilege.” Author of over a dozen books of poetry and former professor of English at the University of New Brunswick, Lane is a local legend in Fredericton who has been in Canada since 1960.

A place to gather

For Moore, Odd Sundays is also about creating community: “between them, Coffee House owners Molly and Darrell, Allison Calvern, and all the regulars have created an informal community of the literary arts that is quite unique.”

Calvern says that the choice of Molly’s as a locale was not anodyne: “Molly’s has both eccentricity and history; an earlier River Readings Series happened there.” As far back as 1997, Molly’s Coffee House was hosting literary readings at its former location, though still on Queen St.  Blades remembers the establishment of the first series: “I believe I was encouraged by Molly to start a reading series so River Readings began.”

Odd Sundays is an important part of Fredericton and Triny Finlay’s personal history as a writer is tied to this Fredericton landmark. She compares the location to a “public living room” and goes on: “the venue is odd, like a time capsule, with its nostalgic décor, knick-knacks, and nooks. I used to go there as a grad student, when the upstairs was open to the public; we would pile in after a writing workshop and talk for hours.”

Finlay’s colleague, Ross Leckie, poet and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of New Brunswick, concurs: “There are many people who prefer the informal environment at Molly’s and for whom Sunday afternoon is a good time to get together.”

Upcoming sessions

Calvern tells us to keep an eye on the local community events for upcoming readings: “Look for Sharon McCartney, Ross Leckie, Douglas Glover, and many more, on all the Odd Sundays (first, third & fifth of the month) until May.” The general public is invited to attend and enjoy the unique atmosphere of Molly’s as well as hear a new or familiar poetic voice.

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