Thursday, 21 April 2016

A Reading

For my second and final spot at this year's Edmonton Poetry Festival, I found myself featured as a "well-aged" poet in a "vintage poetry" event at a seniors centre.

The long-time host had died. His successor read a poem in his memory.

While I enjoy cukes as much as the next person, I felt ambivalent about being selected for the seniors context.

The hospitality was first-rate, of course.

And a heart-warming collection of former team-mates and high school mates showed up, along with my publisher, Douglas Barbour of NeWest Press.

Everyone felt comfortable enough.

I did sell a book or two.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Standing For It

They might call this table 1, at Tangerine, a coffee shop at Lorne and 14th, this table that comes hip-high to me (I'm six-three+). I can prop myself as I chat with the woman just leaving, with whom I'd shared a silence for the previous twenty minutes. 
If I was extolling the virtues of standing at my desk, as the Tan table has become, I'd be hard-pressed to say something new. It diversifies my entire approach, I will say. All that fussing over what next to say gives the core a workout.
What got me on to this topic was all the sitting I do. And those stand-up bars in Lisbon the espresso drinkers hit five or six times a day for a total of about six minutes. 

Right about now, 5:10pm, in Lisbon.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Right Now

I came here to work on some poems and catch some Canada-Sweden Women's Worlds in an hour. Here = Vic's Tavern in downtown Regina. Leafs-Flames in front of me right now, but I'm not paying attention.
So far, not much of an entry! I promise it will get better.
I've committed to a "my brain on poetry" talk for the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild, (dang that apostrophe). My default on that topic would be either or both of (a) Jean Piaget's notions about the building (assimilation) and revising (accommodation) of cognitive structures in the brain, and (b) Glen Gould's "the function of art is to increase our capacity for wonder" (in which wonder is not just curiosity, useful as that is, but something like awe, in the older sense of the word). My story from the Gould quote is that if we're not careful in our lives we restrict ourselves to a narrow band of experiences, perceptions, and other less-than-scintillating Latinish words. Cutting across a basic horizontal timeline, in this scenario, are the slashes of the wonder axes, as I call them, or "art" for short. These axes take us, if we let them, to the wilds in every sense--to the extremes of terror and beauty, sanity, consciousness, darkness and light, and so on. Not a great idea to stay out there, probably. But we need to visit once in a while.
Where was I. So, what (a) and (b) have in common, I suppose I need hardly point out, is that we have to stay new somehow. We have to challenge ourselves not to settle for the already known. 
The already intended. 
After that I might show a study of some text over time, what I've done with it.

Later: That all seems a tad pompous worded that way. I'm doing the un-stated option (c) anyway. Why not tune in on April 4!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Half Way

I'd been planning to catch Mustang at the library film theatre tonight but on the way there I've got myself stuck into the Brier final at Vic's Tavern, Newfoundland vs. Alberta, Koe one up with last rock in the 4th. At the 5th-end break I'll order a bite to eat.
My, what a scintillating entry so far!
I've hauled along to Vic's my manuscript called Occasional Cities, which I'm on the verge of sending to a publisher. The reason I point this out right now is that about a third of the manuscript, as of a week ago, is entries from this blog two years ago. At first I just pasted them in with few revisions. The more I read them now, the less I leave them. Stop me before they lose all sense of their moment at some cafe, bench, depot, bar or beach.
I noticed a lot of references, in those entries from two years ago, to the Olympics, especially men's hockey, the final of which I watched with some Swedes in Lisbon. (In case you don't remember the result, I'll tell you that it wasn't me who filed miserably into the Lisbon afternoon that day.)
A few more days with my OC and I'll hand it in.
4-2 Koe after 5.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

After Talking Fresh

After I won my tenure-track job at Luther College in 2001, I decided that from my privileged position as a university professor I would try to share the wealth, so to speak. I wanted to create an event for writers that would treat them the way I wanted to be treated at literary events. This desire dovetailed with a request from the Academic Dean of Luther, Bryan Hillis (now President), that Luther faculty find ways to work with the other federated colleges, Campion and Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now FNUC). Chris Riegel from Campion and Francie Greenslade from SIFC joined me in planning that first event, which I called Talking Fresh. The budget was about $3,000.00, as I recall, with which we brought in Tom Wayman, Warren Cariou and Louise Halfe, put them up at the Hotel Sask, and put them to work at a Friday panel, a Friday night reading, and a seminar each on Saturday. I tried to emphasize hospitality throughout--making sure the writers were comfortable and taken care of all weekend.
The Saskatchewan Writers Guild came on board as a partner after that first year. SIFC dropped away. Chris and I and Amy Nelson-Mile from the SWG ran the show for several years. In the last few years, Luther and Campion dropped away while Tracy Hamon and the SWG have run things.
I was delighted to have been invited to be part of Talking Fresh this year. The weekend is just over. As always after what was for me a big event, I feel a letdown which registers emotionally and physically. Maybe the latter drives the former, but anyway it's my "peak experience" theory, by which the high times are worth it, even with the inevitable slide afterwords. After words. 
I drove the other three writers up the hill to view the late afternoon city. We all felt the release of no further obligations! Mieko Ouchi, Robert Sawyer, Aislinn Hunter.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

My Grandfather Shared Almost Twenty Years on This Planet with Louis Riel

His birth beat Confederation by a year. I don't know why I tell you this except that I like to.
I don't know much about the man, but I'm guessing he had principles which didn't always serve him well. He brought the family west from Quebec in about the second or third wave of Euro immigration in these parts, building a flat-roofed house on his farm just outside Eyebrow, Sask. I'm guessing he was sociable enough, not that warm with his kids. When he and his wife died, around 1930, their eldest daughter came back home from her teaching job to take care of the younger kids. My dad left home for his own teaching job around that time. 
I know that he died of appendicitis in his early 60s and that dad had appendicitis at the same age but lived another twenty years, and that my appendix is long gone.
I'm guessing he knew about Louis Riel. Mr. Hill (Edward) was protestant, if anything, but may have been sympathetic, even as an Anglo in Quebec, to the Metis cause. 
I never heard my own dad speak of Louis Riel. When I was a kid in Regina I, like hundreds of other schoolkids, viewed a fragment of the rope (that's what they told us) that hung him.
I believe the man was one of the heroes of the western world. Riel, I'm speaking of now. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


That's the theme of Talking Fresh, for which I'll be one of the writers. It's not that interesting a word, but plenty generative enough in terms of thematic fibre (whereas "roadkill", the theme of last weekend's Writing North in Saskatoon, was lively as an idea but not that useful as a theme).

When my time comes to address this theme, I think I'll start by goofing around.

Dualities are everywhere, I will point out, often on either side of a slash--stroke, I will call it (after the English), as in clothing-stroke-objects.

We're either in or we're out. We can do it or we can't.

In one official language or the other.

This self-explantory plaque across from the Hotel Sask in Regina raises dualities of race, religion, power, centre-stroke-margin, life-stroke death.

In literary-theoretical circles over the last few decades, simple dualities, aka binaries, have been pooh-poohed because they deny difference or pluralities of voice, identity, etc. Here we see some ambiguity--the plus of one theoretical stream, the one of the other.