Monday, 31 May 2010

Tomorrow, then. Straight to Jubilee.

I've been wondering for several minutes how to get back to work.  Deleting now about from between minutes and how is as far as I've gone.  And turning up the volume on my random five cds.

Last week I attended my son's convocation in Vancouver.  In breaking our joint two-week abstention from liquor of any kind--this was the night before--we wondered if arbitrary goals meant anything.  Depends on the context in which the goals were set, is the sensible answer, isn't it?  (The process of composing pieces of poetry might be one context for usefully arbitrary goals.  If not, I'm screwed.)

On the way out to Vancouver on the plane, anticipating that conversation (which we'd begun on the phone), I read the June The Walrus cover to cover.  About three quarters of the way through I came across commentary about Micah Lexier that began by quoting Igor Stravinsky.  I didn't write it down--something about the generative and liberating powers of arbitrary goals--but I did clip it and pin it to his bulletin board when he wasn't looking.  (Poor guy--he gave up his bedroom for me and slept on the couch.  Then after work he was heading across the line to the Sasquatch music festival until today.  He won't spot the clipping until tomorrow, I'm guessing.)

So, I know my Hillsdale work is not done until, among other things, I've written on location on every one of its streets.  I'm working backwards alphabetically; a version of K, for Knowles, is my May 20 blog entry.  What I particularly like about that idea is that it ends with Anderson, my boyhood home, where we moved in '61.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Crude Audio

Four times I walked the path through the woods between the Emma Lake Art Camp and Fern's Grocery at Murray Point last June.  For fun, I had my Sony mp3 recorder running.  The result is four tracks averaging 11-12 minutes each--mainly footsteps and birdcalls.

In case you listen to these tracks, using the link to the right, you may want to know that the "Brando" talk refers to the last in a series of poems set in Stan Still's cabin at Emma Lake.  Everyone at the party--one of my grandfathers, Virginia Woolf, Robert Kroetsch, Jack Kerouac, a monk from St. Peter's Abbey, Ella Fitzgerald and Marlon Brando--was alive at least between 1927 and 1930.  On the day of the four walks I'm musing about how to make the Brando piece (which I'll record and add to the site later).

If you're a writer friend who likes birds, you'll hear your name mentioned during the third and fourth walks.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Fire Two

The day the fire ban is announced, the traveller lights a fire--tricky enough to do in wind, mid-May--and places a cage over his pit.  He burns scraps of cedar lattice and a Corn Flakes box.  New leaves are about to touch from trees on either side of Knowles.

Some citizens, he reads, don't want fires.  Enforcement will be funded, tickets issued, hours restricted.
For this, says the traveller, laying on three more foot-long strands of lattice.  And this (looking around).

He adds elm bark, maple twigs--Hillsdale's finest.  A robin leaps to the garage roof, hops along and heep heep heep disappears.  This is "fire cage brass wind fence treeblow page sun behind a cloud" stuff, the traveller argues.  Why would you want to legislate against the joys of May?  Why not go straight to December?

But he's not going to push it.  He does add one log.  He'll orchestrate its demise and that'll be that.  With no more fires he'll have to remember this one, a flame about the size of a flowerpot.  In this sharp west wind, you'd have to be straight east to smell it.  Or right beside it, your skin smokey and your fingers charred.
Result one: The Traveller speaks out against over-regulation in municipal government.
Result two: He's still sitting there, red bench beside the fire.
Result three: He stirs and pokes with a stick.  His eyes-sting count is about six.
Result four:  For two ants approaching the char, this is Mount or Moment Doom.

Fire One

The Leader-Post reports Community and Protective Services Committee Chairman Mike O'Donnell observing that "now we can all go out and enjoy the summer, I hope."  They're clamping down on firepits in the City of Regina.

Whose summer is that--his? 

I'm going to a firepit I know and lighting a fire right now.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Coming Out of the Royal Bank

I met Gord this morning, father of an old marching band mate.  Gord and his son, who sold their farm just southeast of Regina three years ago, were two of my technical advisors for 14 Tractors.  (It was Gord who told me he'd combined a skunk one harvest, among other tales.)

I've noticed that every time I read from that book, as I did the other night in Rosthern, people come up and tell me more tractor stories.  If I ever write another tractor book, I say to them (not that I have any intention of doing so), that's the kind of stuff I'll use

For sure I'd use some version of my conversation this morning with Gord.  He showed the the cane he was using.  I had a knee replaced, he said.  Hurts like hell.  You know what a sign on the wall of the doctor's office said?  "EXPECT PAIN"!  We talked a while about arthritis.  Remembering that Gord was the one who'd told me that farmers tend to suffer more hearing loss in one ear than the other, I suggested that his knee deterioration might likewise be related to that certain repetitive twisting motion (see 14 Tractors, page 59).  I think it's from 60 years of pushing in the clutch, Gord said.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

At the Broadway Cafe

It feels like travel, this wee trip to Rosthern and Saskatoon. Last night, opting for the country motel experience, I bought a room at the Parkland in Rosthern after the Sask. Book Awards roadshow group reading at the beautiful Station Arts Centre. At the end of a gorgeous day, the night was lovely—open, fresh, a slip of new moon.

The motel room, though, would have been a downer after a travel day in Portugal. The hot water worked, and the wireless connection. As for bed, pillows, thin walls, all-round smell—well, I was up and out of there by 6 this morning. Next stop, Saskatoon, where I’ll be leading a writing group workshop starting in an hour. That has given me plenty of time to drink tea in cafes and overhear conversations (of a bunch of Asian folks—the one word I understood was “Blackberry”) and watch pelicans.

And watch pelicans. Shiny white below the weir on the South Sask. this morning, diving in pairs but not catching much, as far as I could tell. Through my Eddie Bauer binocs, one of them looked like my landlord—that tuft of hair sticking out the back.

“If you give it all up, where will you go,” Dave Carpenter (part of the SBA roadshow) asked me after the reading last night. I’d told him a bit about my euro trip and how I haven’t done much since. “Don’t know. Somewhere with a more moderate climate” was how I answered him.

For now, I'm hanging at that Nutana hotspot, the Broadway Cafe, admiring the tea, the overheard conversations (“They don’t even want to talk to me” / “Well now that you’re working it’s more of an investment decision” / “I thought of all my old buddies but . . .”), the pelican, the six hours of poetry talk ahead. After that (as the Asian guy answers his Blackberry) I’ll catch the Habs on tv—last night one of the roadshow readers pulled a Habs jersey from her bag and put it on before beginning to read; Go Leafs, I hollered—watch the sun go down, get up tomorrow and go visit my grandson Davey (he’s turned me into a non-stop singer/hummer). Put a period at the end of one sentence, start another.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ideas That Didn't Work (yet, anyway)

A "Regina By the Sea" thing, photos of every commercial operation here that begins with the word Sea--this after spotting the "Sea Breeze Laundry" on Dewdney.

(Pause here to remember the potato breeze of the Hawthornden kitchen where our clothes dried.)

But the Sea Breeze is the only one ("Seaboard Insurance" turning out to be a subsidiary of another business).

Housework.  Great for focussing attention on anything else, like this blog entry.

Tom's coming home this weekend and I'm hosting the family Mother's Day brunch.  (Quiche Lorraine x 3, here we come--with bacon, pancackes, fruit and some kind of sweet cake Emmaline and Allen are bringing ("sweet cake" not code for Davey, their new son).)

"Hockey" as the first word of the latest in a series of imaginary pubs ("Pub Scrawl") I started at Hawthornden.  The Back Inn, this one might be called, as if it's got about getting back somehow.  Hockey in every direction, for starters.  Perhaps this leads to talk of service and Euro cafe/pub culture and, before too long, to something else.

Something beginning with duck, as in

I spotted a duck
on the corner of Bryant
and Munro--a duck and an Old
Dutch bag and a grey squirrel.
The duck didn't mind a Ford turning right,
didn't mind me watching.
He sipped from a puddle, walked into
the lawn at 106 Munro.
Since then he's memory, that sure of himself.
[then something or other from the spot where
this is remembered] I recommend the duck,
the lone duck making afternoon
like pepper in a shaker made of glass.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A Line (I'd String If I Had Some)

I like to say to writing students:

"Keep the line (which has movement)
from breaking down and becoming
a hole into which we sink
decoratively to rest" (W.C.Williams)

after which I've heard myself say:

If the poem doesn't have action in the lines
it doesn't have much.

[to the tune of the Sibelius 4th on CBC]

as if poems should have.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Can you think of a less interesting title?  +21 in Lisbon today, that warm in London the week I was there.  Only +5 in Regina today.  Snow would have fallen, but the season beat it back just enough to keep it at rain, and a light one at that.

Twenty to nine, light still haunted a night-time sky.  I do believe we've beaten winter at last.

Tonight I'm wearing one of the shirts I bought in London.  First I walked Notting Hill Road in shiny blue running shorts with a bright red running shirt.  Not even my sexy Spanish sandals and my flat cap from Lisbon could save that get-up, which I was sure people gawked at from the top of the double-decker buses.  Later that day I visited the nearest clothing store, a Gap, and bought three shirts and a pair of non-shiny shorts, which I was prepared to wear out of the store, forgetting about the security fitting clipped onto the right leg.

The shirt worked with my new grandson, who was fussy until I picked him up, wrapped him up tight, and left him no choice but to wave his eyes over the vaguely hallucinogenic pattern I was wearing.  He dropped off soundly to sleep.  (Not to give all the credit to my shirt--I was humming a down-tempo version of "Please Please Me" at the time.)

This baby doesn't know it yet but he's born into an uncivilized climate.  Today I lead a Jane's Walk through it, talking about Hillsdale.  And tomorrow I get to work after an unmotivated week at home after my travels, weather promising.