Thursday, 22 September 2016

Update Re Class

A friend told me the worst thing about being alone is that you start to think your own ideas are good. That's why in class this morning I proposed otter as "exotic creature I'd like to domesticate as a pet."
A grim topic, to be sure. I'd seen the question in NY Times magazine and repeated it as a journal prompt. This resulted in two dolphins, a clouded leopard, a white tiger, jellyfish, a wolf ("not wild dog, wolf"), a pig ("I don't know, I've just always wanted one"), and two lions (which I mention last only because if I didn't, the last word would be my otter). 
I love sitting down ten minutes before class with most of the students already there. 
Today I flashed my file of anthologies produced by past versions of this class--my fav, as I said this morning, being a collection of short essays on favourite songs. On final exam day that year, one guy burned a class set of cds with all the songs, which we included in a pocket fixed inside the back cover of each anthology. 
What I'd like to talk about with the present group is the notion that the language study we are undertaking--in the (open) form of expository essay writing--goes well with conversation. We can talk with our audience across the table. We can trust who they are.  
What always comes up in this class is frustration about "what I want in this essay". My theory, picked up decades ago as a B.Ed. student, is that when it comes to frustration, anything this side of paralysis is good. It signals the new.
And on it goes. After much pausing, three students agreed to offer a page of writing to class for workshop next Tuesday--a big step on the trust front.
By the way, I picked otter because I saw one eyeing me down below the bluffs in Scarborough a year ago (somewhere in this photograph). I tell you, in that gaze you behave.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

First Class

I found out where "bae" comes from and claimed that alone was why I'm glad to be in class today. They laughed. This happened a few times. A question or answer would pop up, and we heard chuckles, the sound of doorways approached.

I had no idea, specifically, where this all was going but I'd ask "Why the chuckle?"  (I'd ask with a smile, by the way. Not my usual semi-scowl (my bad luck with the downturns in my face).) If they couldn't answer, good enough. Every bit of reflection on language helps us use it, I've always claimed. 

Maybe that's just hope minus doubt.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Meeting My Students Tomorrow

Can't wait but have to. I just gave Birkerts' "The Walk," last essay in his book (our text) The Other Walk, another read.

[I'll insert here later a photo of the cover]

It's loaded with ways in to talk writing. And I've tacked a few provocations into my remarks to the class chat room and my course outline. What I'm going for, of course, is that we examine how we use language and how else we might use it. Birkerts' writing is full of useful choices.

I've got a few surprises in store for when we first meet, tomorrow morning at 10:00, these 15 students and me. They can write without fear--being pre-Journalism, English major, or Secondary English teacher types--or they wouldn't be taking the class. But, as they'll soon find out, that doesn't mean they can cruise on what they can already do in writing. 

I see frustration on the horizon--as long as it's not paralyzing, it can be managed--that leads to learning. A few laughs too, I expect. As I'll say tomorrow, if we're not laughing, we're not going far enough. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Short Entry Wishing I Was On My Way to Scarborough Again

I asked geese from Regina if they knew any geese from Toronto.

Scarborough, specifically.

I imagined some gooseline after hours by which they shared ideas.

Comparing notes re light.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

One Afternoon Around Lake Wascana

I'm on the trail (one of them) of Don Quixote, for whom every skew of reality comes through language. Coded language hundreds of years old. 

I should name my bike, my bag and gear. I should select my own names from whatever the breeze provides. This would be no ordinary bench,

no obvious view.

Here flowers abound.

In scene after scene, like the Don I find it difficult to speak as if not authored in some story.

Like him, I take enchantment from distant isle.

 Of course the path narrows . . .

a warning.

When I spot the white stallions emerging from the sea, I take off.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

How I Spent Three Weeks West of Here

First came the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, and my Rembrandt rendering of Crozier, Currie, and Carpenter.

I drove west, stopping to visit my old friend and teacher Tom Wayman, pictured here on the former rail line past the former Lemon Creek internment camp above Winlaw, B.C.

On to Kelowna the next day, I shared the lawn with various children, siblings, nieces and nephews . . .

On the way back east, I stopped with my sister Susan for a couple of walks in Grasslands National Park.

Two days later, she spotted the sign at Herbert, my home town.

I gave two readings in this former Roman Catholic church owned now by Pat Donnelly.

And rode in the Herbert Rodeo Parade.

After that, I was exhausted from all the attention. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Introduction to a Reading from 14 Tractors in my Home Town of Herbert Sask.Tonight

I've found that a useful thing for a poet to do is pay attention. (To, as we all know, whatever your senses provide and what's inside in the way of memory, story, fear, ache, cry.) Pay attention and let your mind wander. Everything flows from that.

And for me, that flows from the first ten years of my life, which were spent right here, in Herbert, Sask. 

Cut to the scene next to a cornfield at St. Peter's Abbey, me paying attention. To tractors.

That's where this book comes from.