Sunday, May 21, 2023

Reading for the DTUC Reunion, Nelson, BC, May 20, 2023

I was nervous, clutching a big manila envelope
My “portfolio”, an important-sounding word
For my carefully clipped travel articles &
a 12 page rice paper fable self-published in Kathmandu
for this interview to a writing school
where a famous poet and film-maker sat
& the poet asked after looking at my course list
‘Are you going to take a poetry class?’
& I blurted out, “Oh no!”
“I like a beginning, a middle & an end to things!”
There was a swift exchange of glances.
I exchanged feet.
“I mean I hear voices…”
The whites of the film-maker’s eyes showed
More quick glances, I believe ‘nervous glances’
Would be an accurate adverb & verb combo here
I was to learn excessive use of spritely adverbs
& gluey adjectives were bad things
& that in itself was a good thing to learn

So we all got through the interview
Fred & Colin eventually forgave me my gaucherie
& I now read poetry as a mental palate cleanser
A spiritual guide to streamline the language clumps
In my brain, in my tired mental muscles
I now love writing poetry too, yes! it’s true!
Poetry is the best broom to use after well-trodden dusty prose footprints
Making those feet hop to an Alexandrine couplet or two
A minuet for the cliche-ridden fiction writer
Or a Sicilian septet, a Japanese mondo or a Bengali payar
Keeps us paragraph writers on our toes, nimble, you might say

& I would know nothing of these poetic forms
Would never have met so many talented ALIVE people
Until this narrow, green valley in a city with beautiful old buildings
Had it not been for this multi-disciplinary-
This inter-disciplinary arts academy of sorts
This appendage to big universities based elsewhere
& we blossomed with minimal interference
From elsewhere until the boom was lowered January 5, 1984
But let that go.

This is the place where Clark Blaise sighed
& smiled and said, “Well, you’re a writer.”
Which was the first time anyone had ever said that.
He may as well have said, “You have my deepest sympathies.”
But here I wrote like the wind
I wrote a song and young Stephen Fearing sang it with me
I wrote plays and young Nicola Harwood acted in them
I wrote stories and still swap them for first readings
With Jeff George & Paulette Jiles, the best beta-readers ever.
We learned from working writers, our teachers
Where to send these stories & lo, many were published
Stories which became radio broadcasts and another on Bravo TV
Stories which found homes in textbooks & anthologies
Stories which became books, my books

When the very word Winnipeg in a story thrilled me
In Grade 11 in Fort St John BC because until then
I had not knowingly encountered a Canadian story except
For David by Earle Birney
In my entire impoverished high school English education  
Never mind that I am not paid for the use of my own words now
In English final exams or Canadian classrooms
Let that go, too, just for now.
I would not know much about any of this, most likely
Had I not come here to unlearn after a social sciences B.A.
& teacher’s certificate from a big university elsewhere
Here was the place & here were the people &
Here we’ve returned to flourish, our poems & plays & paintings & stories
& music & sculptures to nourish
Our creative genes all a-bubble like our hot-springs

So I went back North to address a graduating class
& I said, channelling Clark Blaise perhaps:

If we choose to work at what we love, we will love our work for the rest of our lives with no regrets, learning from our mistakes, accepting them, working smarter, moving forward. That’s my strategy and I’m sticking to it. This is not to say that I don’t wish all of you a steady and substantial income for your talents rather than the minor feast and famine situation I’ve gotten myself into, don’t get me wrong! But if you have to leave your heart at home to earn cold, hard cash in a workplace where you feel unsafe and devalued, where you are paid to do work you find ethically reprehensible, find a way to work with others to organize change for the better, not just for yourself but for everyone else too, especially those more vulnerable than you are. Be open to the possibilities and the choices you have in every situation, always.

 This pinko political stuff made the College principal
Wiggle in his hard chair but that’s okay.
It is not our job to make people comfy & cozy
Except for our bedtime stories.
I blame DTUC for all of this. Thank you all, very, very much!

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Eastend: Farewell Old House

The wind is up today
 northwest again I think
The cable which brings the phone
 or the power, something vital
 clatters against an eavestrough
 sets up an eerie low screech.

When the wind really ramps up
 this old house has its creaks
 and moans and the sound
 of socked feet thumping lightly
 down stairs which aren’t there
 the boy with the quick steps
 I mean, the stairs are here.

It is a friendly house
 there is love here
 good people who take care of it
 & welcome those who dwell here.

So I will miss these prairie sunsets & the Cypress Hills.

Not so the knocking on the upstairs windows
 when Scotty the T-Rex pokes his big nose
 through my bedroom blinds
 just wants to know, the big showboat
 if I wrote about him yet today.



Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Eastend: On Seeing Whooping Cranes For The First Time





                                                    overhead six whooping cranes



                                                 fly so high 



                                                  tough beauties


Monday, April 24, 2023

Eastend: The Ghosts in our Lives

The pick-up trucks go up or down
a gravel road heading into the Cypress Hills
Ranchers, I assume, all that space 

or to the ghost town of Ravenscrag
which Google tells me has 29 souls

When I leave here I want to drive there
on that winding gravel road to see that place

like the Walhachin Valley in B.C.
where upper-class English immigrants built wooden flumes
to water their orchards in the semi-desert
and played polo and enjoyed elaborate teas
before the men marched off to the Great War
and some, not all, were slaughtered in France

 A myth abides but most returned to the Walhachin
but abandoned it by 1922 

It now has a population of 31
some wooden flumes remain
high up on the hillsides if you look
and know what you are looking at 



Saturday, April 22, 2023

Eastend: Some Are More Temporary Than Others

Some of us leave this earth 

   better than we found it 

Some of us go far afield 

   from the place where we were born 

Some of us leave monuments 

   charging into war on bronze horses 

Some of us leave this world 

   and the world is better for our loss

Some of us leave books and songs 

   which chime in hearts and minds forever 

Some of us leave grateful children 

   to sing our praises until they go too

Some of us spend our days quietly

  shielding our young just surviving



Thursday, April 20, 2023

Eastend: New Moon

Woke at 4:55 a.m.
Starting reading a mystery on my phone
Until 6 a.m.
Decided life is too short
For gruesome occult thrillers
Even well-written ones and sent it back
To the library from whence it came
Partly-read but as with coffee, tea and wine
True love, bread, cheese and books
Loyal friends, kind strangers and ice-cream
Life is too short for pale artificial imitations
Of the real deal
Accept no substitutions
Forge on for quality, inside and out

Up high the New Moon means
It’s dark, yes, but also the time to start
New projects, indoor tomatoes, a poem

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Eastend: These Trees That Dance

My neighbour’s beautiful many-branched birch
-a European weeping birch I do believe-
A most graceful, tall and swaying tree
A contrast to the massive spruce near by
festooned with cones, a bumper crop
beloved by Bohemian waxwings and robins too
who perch at the very top

These two tall trees stand in two backyards
Companions, coniferous, deciduous
Friends despite needles, or not
the birch holds its leaves in a tight grasp
against today’s relentless snow
Black spots, there are a few, broken branches too
They matter not, the trees stand and sway
Buffer and shade and offer shelter

Some of us humans could take lessons
observing these trees