Thursday, 23 November 2017

It, Now

Maybe I should call the whole musical that. It, Now
I'm going to the opening of A Christmas Carol at Globe Theatre tonight. I've become fond of the show and its creators through my work as an audio describer, gearing up--I'm 95% there--for a Dec.16 live description of a Saturday matinee for people with vision impairment. (They're on receivers; I'm on a noise-reducing mic at the back of a balcony.)
So I'm going to the opening . . . 
I heard Ron Howard, on a facebook trailer for his online directing course, declare that at the core of any project is its certainty to break your heart, or words to that effect. 
On a balmy day like this one, the heartbreak will come, sure as winter. I'm thinking of this task I've undertaken. The further I go, the harder to turn back. 
But my play has hummed to a useful point of reckoning: what to do about Patty, the woman I imagined locked out--the very beginning of the piece. Especially if she's the focal point of the opening number set in a downtown park. You mean she has to do more than sing and dance and throw in bits of dialogue?
So what I'm going to do, as soon as I'm finished here, is write a page of dialogue involving Patty and her parents, who moved into the building to be near. Dialogue about how she feels, with her parents on the way to the pool. I'll rewrite it every day for seven and see where it gets us. 
If point of reckoning, then Opening--a front row seat, in fact. 


Monday, 13 November 2017

Today a Week Later, the Musical

One wonders how to end. Putting off an ending in favour of chronic beginning only works for so long. 
It occurred to me a few minutes ago, as I was composing what verse each character would contribute to a love song . . .
Let me back up a little. Act Two, I imagined, begins with a few tenants (members of the Champlain Association of Tenants, or CAT) sitting around in the newly renovated amenities room not just doing the obvious--wondering what "amenities" might mean--but telling stories about being locked out. They compare tactics. For his part, Patty's dad says that what he does when he's locked out is work on his love song. What love song. Well I'll sing you a verse, he says. But it's not finished. And he sings, to guitar accompaniment, a single verse of a waltz both contemporary and traditional that says, to summarize, if I say anything lovely, I hope it's to you. It doesn't sound too bad. Either he or somebody else says why don't we each add a verse. Paleo Joey, who operates a food truck, says what is this, folk music? I don't think I can do this tempo (to which others reply, we don't either.) But he does, a verse about the smell of his burgers, which hopes reaches you. So there we are with this "you" on everybody's lips . . .
One of the ending moments in a story like this is the act of singing itself. The premise of this piece is that everybody wants out or in of/to something. The source of whatever issues they face--something within themselves, no doubt--shows up as isolation.
A beginning. Eventually, they sing.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

T, the M

I was talking to a lighting designer down at Globe Theatre. I asked her if it was a possible on a stage the size of Globe's--25', close to square I think--for two spotlights to evoke two separate rooms at the same time. She said maybe, but it would be top lighting. If I wanted faces to be visible, there'd have to be lighting from the side, and one light would bleed toward the other. 
To solve that problem, she said (I'm paraphrasing), what you can do is establish the cue with the top lighting, then elaborate. In other words, after you put the idea of "room" into your audience, you can play with it while maintaining the illusion. 
Observations such as these help fuel what I'm up to with this musical. I do remember Sharon Pollock telling us years ago in Nelson that if you want a million birds to fly up in front of your windshield in your play, write it into the script. The director will make it happen. I know it doesn't quite work that way--Nicolas Billon told us recently that in one play he wanted a huge block of ice in which a corpse is frozen. He had to settle for a few ice cubes in an aquarium upstage center. Still, if I want two rooms, write "two rooms." 
But I'm glad I asked an expert if it might work.
I was thrilled by her nod to audience. As I've tried to say before, the audience is what matters. It behooves us--it really does behoove!--not to forget it. 
(Remembering now something Hammerstein said: only when the curtain comes up is the circle complete.)
(And remembering now the flamenco audiences in Andalusia, which shared with performers moments of mutual need.)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Today etc.

So there's this couple, in their 70s, going strong but for the usual "body flaws." They explore this concept in a song set both in their living room at a downtown heritage apartment (called today, for the first time, the Champlain) and at the local pool in high summer. Feeling free in the sun, the husband and wife sing and dance with noodles and floaties and balls--a pool toy story. They don't sit down until the end, which is where we leave them. They'd started that way when Patty, in the hallway, walks by their apartment, ear cocked. She gives us a dozen words of exposition and disappears until needed again. At the same time, the man and woman stand up, a tad unsteadily, and they're doing a verse at the pool. Of course, for the location switching to work, it has to work. I think it will.
Writing such a scene, I have to believe it. And so will the actors, so the audience believes it.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Today, the Musical Again

I admit that talking about differs from doing. Nevertheless (a dandy old word to type), talking helps. Though I already knew that this musical, if it's ever finished, will be Book Six in my Man From Saskatchewan series, until this afternoon I hadn't realized what that meant. What is means is that matters of downtown history and architecture, City policies (especially parking and zoning regulations), and development trends in the Transition neighbourhood, must find footing in the piece. These are matters worth singing, the way I see the world when I'm writing, is what I'm saying.
I must have mentioned in a previous entry that "The Key" began with the image of a woman locked out of her heritage apartment and about to see if someone can buzz her in. She consults the list of names in the wooden case by the inside door. She sings a song called "Names." That's at present the second scene, but anyway the names thing was a result of Provincial Archive research I'd done into the earliest days (1928) of the Frontenac, where I live. I listed who lived in which of the 55 suites, and when I wrote up a short essay and gave it to the apartment owners, Nicor and Campbell & Haliburton, who are into heritage, they printed the piece and framed it for display during an open house in the renovated Amenities room (which in '28 and forever thereafter was marked with a metal "A" instead of a number). 
We get along fine, the owners and most of us, most of the time. But in the musical, we'll see!






Thursday, 26 October 2017

Now, the It, Part Many.

You might as well know his name--Paleo Joey, a character in my musical. Since whatever I say about him doesn't matter until he speaks for himself, I've gone ahead and noodled around with notions about this guy.
Paleo Joey is the name of his foodtruck business, to be more precise. He runs a honkin' big Kurbmaster with all the trimmings. His idea of exotic is the burger he sells, made the way he's always made them, and his mother before him: beef, an egg, chunks of garlic, green onion, leftover oatmeal, mushroom, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. 
Well that last bit crept up on me. What occurred to me today about character--as I fretted over how all the characters could avoid being versions of myself--was that it was moods I should go for. And figure out later whose they are. 
I think our friend PJ is divorced. He claims he got into cooking when he realized that the ten foods he loved most--tomato, potato, bread, honey, banana, peanut butter, onion (he's partial to walla walla), olive oil, coffee bean, garlic--should not be stored in the refrigerator. From then on, he thought about how food felt.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Today the You-know-what, Part Next

Patty knows she can show up at somebody's door out of time. That is, no "later that day" or "the week before" or "for the third Tuesday in a row" required. 
But the question is, whom will Patty visit? (If Patty's telling it, maybe she'd use "who" in that question.) They don't have to be knock-on-the-door visits. She could sneak past the door, pausing to listen. She could pretend. She could be told about it. She could remember. All that has to happen is that the scene be cued, at which time Patty could vanish until needed.
I'm less enthused about research on condo conversion (which, supposedly, is the issue hanging over all the characters) (condo diversion, I scrawled at first at the coffee shop this aft, as if to escape my task). If people have to come together around this issue, I'd better know how.
It's fine to speculate in this manner because until I find out what Patty, or somebody else who carries the story, wants to do, I won't know.
In the meantime, I'm going to try solo percussion for her hallway dance. 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Today, the Musical, Part 11

The process of creating this piece is the process of opening to collaborators. To that end, today was the first meeting of our two-person support group. "There can't be that many of us writing musicals right now," he (this person who shall remain anonymous) said. 
We compared notes on scenes, process, timeline, what our pieces mean to our respective artistic practices.
His is a theatre and hip-hop background. He's a director and actor. Everything he does is about how it is for anyone else to experience it. As a poet, I was more private in my pursuit. I know I've got to get with actors and a designer and a composer/arranger and a director.  
Just talking to this guy opens my process a bit.
Meanwhile, back in the opening scene of "The Key," Patty, over the hot opening vamp, animates a bunch of strangers in a downtown park to sing what's on their minds, which turns out to be a list of complaints about matters political, personal, psychic, urban, residential, etc. from which they all want relief. It ends on the button: Patty standing on a park bench, everyone else kneeling with their arms outstretched toward her, ready! This will bring the house down, if it works.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Part 10

To write a musical, I'm calling on everything I know about using and receiving language. Not much, I admit, but a lot, too. 
And the thrill of coming across, during a routine trip to the kitchen, the beat and harmonic guts of an opening number--well I tell you, that's a thrill that 20 minutes later has not worn off.
I'll figure out the words later!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Nine

I pause from my labours at keyboards to watch some baseball post-season action. That puts me in the path of the irritating SGI "Drive Alive" commercial.
Irritating because its rhyming is so lazy. The four couplets end "hosts/most," "friends/trends," "begins/in," "ride/alive." That's one pure rhyme, two near rhymes, one flat-out impure rhyme.
Dedicated readers of this blog--a fond autumn greeting to you both, Aunt Sneaky and Uncle Pete--will know I've long enjoyed the challenge of formal constraints. The more obsessively I establish them, the more generative they become, has been the prevailing idea these last 35 years, or ever since I encountered this idea as 
Fred Wah's creative writing student in Nelson, B.C.
Pure rhyme is the latest formal constraint I've taken on. The sense such a pursuit makes to me is that rhyme is at the heart of what moves me about musical theatre. 
So I'm going to stay true to it.
PS: Stephen Sondheim speaks also of trick rhyme: like his "personable/coercin' a bull" in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" from Company. Use sparingly, he reminds us. And only if it fits the character.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Today the Musical, Part Eight

Today I sat down with The Great Broadway Fake Book. (I pause to tell this story: years ago--50 of them--my friend Terry turned me on to jazz. (I should also credit my sister Fay and her Ray Charles collection, and even dad's big band LP by, a band whose name I can't remember--the Elgar brothers, or something. That band was usually pitched as mellow, but they could really swing when they let it go.) Terry was into the hardest contemporary jazz--Coltrane, Ornette, later Miles and, my fav, the Jones-Lewis big band which was a powerhouse for a few years into the 70s. He was clear by the time we all finished high school that he'd be a jazz musician, which he became. And he used to talk about fake books, or fakebooks, of well-known tunes represented by only title, composer and lyricist, lyrics, melody, time signature, tempo term, and chords. Often they seemed cobbled together from different photocopiers or sheet music scores. Plastic spiral binding. 
I don't know why they're called that. Maybe because if you have the melody and the changes, you can fake the rest.)
Anyway, this afternoon I sat down, at the piano, with the fakebook of Broadway tunes and worked through four or five pages, maybe half a dozen songs, in an hour. I can read music; I know how to play chords. I'm clumsy as hell as a piano player, though. I'll have to practice before I can perform songs, accompanied by myself at the piano. 
I tell you, it's like magic. Play a Richard Rodgers tune from Allegro, you'll hear it as simple, and perhaps (lyrics by Hammerstein) sentimental, but then you're at the end of the song feeling as if you've learned from it. 
That's what I'm after: why this is so. Why I'm so moved.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Seven

I think I've figured out how to get Patty, as I'm calling her for now, to get from the vestibule of her apartment building, where she's locked out and buzzing strangers to let her in, to the series of scenes in which we all get to know these strangers. Once the big oak front door opens, which it does after a cacophony (perhaps fugue) of "No" and "bugger off" and "oh yeah? You should hear my problems," Patty does her hallway dance, sometimes chanting a simple verse about "this is how I move" this is where I step," sometimes walking silently. These serve as transitions from one scene to the next. Her chant will have to remind us what progress is being made in these scenes.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Six

Noodling with melodies and music-notation software. I have a ways to go with both.
In the meantime, back to Sunday in the Park With George. One of Stephen Sondheim's basic principles is that Form follows Content. (I hear you, Black Mountain poets: form is an extension of content.) This applies to his melodies. Instead of composing a tune and chord structure and verse/chorus structure and finding the words to fit, he would find the melody to fit the words, even if chorus/verse regularity is not available. The songs are about the character, not about the composer's clever ideas.
The same is true of rhyme. SS is a stickler for pure rhyme, but that doesn't mean abab, for example. He might go aba-cdcd- and then pick up that resolving b
That principle--Form follows Content--gives us songs in which a character develops, which allows an artist like Bernadette Peters to give everything to the moment she's playing. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Five

I'm directing anyone who wonders why I have been swept away by musical theatre to find a clip of Bernadette Peters singing "Children and Art," from Sunday in the Park With George. Preferably the whole show, available on DVD, but if only one song, make it this one.
There is no turning back from work this good. 
I'm afraid to play the thing again for fear I'll vanish into a puddle of tears or forget who I am or something. 
At first, when asked to explain what moves me about musical theatre, I would babble about the necessary suspension of disbelief being so freeing, so open, so powerful. Something about "it must be the fact of music, which in some form every human being knows." 
"Children and Art" gets beyond all that. To see and hear Peters, playing a ninety-eight-year-old grandmother in a wheel chair, singing of what came before in the world and what will be left, as her grand-son kneels, holding her hand . . . in Peters' gorgeous soprano that has aged so well . . . and with her comic genius always at hand . . .
And I haven't mentioned Mandy Patinkin, the grand-son, who is superb, or the first act of the play, in which MP plays the painter Georges Seurat, and BP a figure in Seurat's famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. 
Give this song a listen somehow. And while you're at it, catch a clip of Patinkin doing "The Day Off (Dog Song)" from the same show.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Four or So

The minute I turn from composing the piece to talking about the piece--say, for a grant application--the thing threatens to dry up. But today did bring an idea or two. 
1
I'd been thinking of how to move what I might call poems--really just a series of character sketches, not unlike many poems I've written--to what I might call songs. Working the former into the latter. Instead, maybe the song can move to where the poem is. If I have something that works as poem, find a way to sing it.
2
The play involves people who live in an apartment building, a setting that offers potential for both individual and group exploration. I'd been thinking that sooner or later, likely later in Act Two, a meeting of the Tenants' Committee would be a chance for the individuals to sing in duos, trios, etc., maybe even by way of resolution/climax, but don't quote me on that. Anyway, today |I realized that I'll need an earlier iteration of a group voice in some form. A scene writ smaller than the TC meeting, but building toward it.
3
The cast of characters, and their individual developments, must remain fluid at this point. So far, one of them is the live-in janitor who at one point takes the woman in the vestibule to an (imaginary) patio on the building roof. His doing so, and his singing up there, doesn't fit with the "silent one" tag I've stuck on this guy so far. But that's the kind of work I'll have to do with all these characters. Find out who they are, and let them be true to it.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Musical, the Idea

I meant to start sooner in telling you how things are going with the musical I'm writing. Since it occurred to me that as long as I get one useful idea per day, work is moving ahead (unlike, say, construction on Lorne street in Regina) I'm going to try daily entries on the idea of the day.
Today it was the old man and the old woman. I'd listed them with about a dozen others as characters who lived in a heritage apartment in a western prairie city. I came up with an idea for a song. 
He:      Old man.
She:     Old woman. Old man,
He:       Old woman,
is how it begins. This comes from reading Stephen Sondheim's commentary on Irving Berlin about keeping it simple. Hard to do.
Anyway, the man and woman get to a song called "Body Flaws," several verses leading to a refrain, as in,
He:     We've got a lot of parts to our bodies.
She:    We've put a lot of feet in our shoes.
He:     Not wearing shoes.
She:    You should try it
Both:   (with a jump) and diet!
He:     Ah, what the hell . . .
She:    We all hear the bell
Both:   that tolls for our body flaws.
Not sure how to stage it yet. But that's the kind of thing I've been after so far today. 
The man and woman decide to go swimming at an outdoor pool, an obvious golden-tan-mine of body looks and images.
It may turn out by the end of the song that all this has been some kind of dream/fantasy (a stock element in musicals of the past), and we see the two of them in their living room, reading. A tremolo sustains in the score but no other sound, light or action. To black.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Wet

But it wasn't the other day.











I'd stopped in at Tangerine for a coffee. Bless their hearts, they still play satellite jazz, the only place that does. This was quarter to five, driest summer since 1887.

"Hot, the Musical," is how I might say it, given the weather and all these musicals I've been reading and listening to. I'm going for rhyme in pieces I'm writing. I'm aiming for song.

Hot, too, the jazz--contemporary, free-form, with a mix of classics. The musicians push the far edges, both in charge of and carried by the settings they create.

Today's sky, to name one, I was about to finish my americano and crash. For the fortieth day of the last forty-four, the shadows cut sharply wherever they fall.

Playing Sweeney Todd

Tonight I'm playing Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and reading Stephen Sondheim's lyrics. Act One is just over and I've leapt to my feet.
I can say I've always loved Broadway show tunes. I heard them at home as a boy. Dad had joined the Columbia Record Club, or one like it, and the Rogers and Hammerstein sang out from our mahogany living room in Herbert.
Musical theatre as an art form, however, didn't sink in until I got hooked on Mary Poppins at Globe Theatre two years ago, when I was retiring from Luther, launching Hillsdale Book, and writing A Round for Fifty Years: a History of Regina's Globe Theatre. Working on the book during the rehearsal period of the show, I became so inspired by the excellence of cast and crew that I built in a Mary Poppins diary into the book, making of point of finishing the first draft of the complete text on opening night.
Something like that happened again during the recent run of The Little Mermaid at Globe, for which I was hired to do a live audio commentary, delivered via mic and earphones to vision-impaired patrons. I felt as if I had a small stake in the delivery of the show. But more than that, I fell in love with the cast--the brilliance of their work as singers and dancers and actors, the genial hand of Stephanie Graham as Choreographer and Director.
Here's the kicker: I was deeply moved by these performances. As in, to tears. Such shows are products of the Disney musical theatre machine but high-end products, artfully composed, that sent me trembling into the night, wondering where I'd been.
So I've decided to write a musical. I might as well say it. It will take a long time. Lots of time to listen and study and write. 
Hence my viewing of Newsies (Broadway hit, 2011, also a Disney product) on film at the Cineplex last Saturday. Original Broadway cast. It was stunning. Think Brando, think Baryshnikov. And they could sing.
And kicker of kickers, tonight I played Act One of Sweeney Todd, with Len Cariou as the barber and Angela Lansbury as his co-conspirator. (Spoiler: he slits their throats upstairs, she serves them in pies downstairs.) Unfuckinbelievably good, this show. 
I'm trying to learn why all these shows--and a shout out to Kinky Boots, which I saw in Toronto in '15--move me so. I'm teaching myself. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Day After

I wonder how a writing moment full of motion is like any in a game you're playing. Hockey or ball, I mean. Waiting for the fly ball to come down. Or a split second from crashing with boards, puck, and back-checker who may or may not be taking a run at you, at the same time. ("If it feels so good, it ain't ever going to lie," I heard just now in a song lyric on CBC, but that's not what I'm saying.) 
The word time doesn't quite apply to any of those moments. So why use it. Ok, deleted. 
Hitched as it is to the past, now has no meaning except more of it. 
I think that's what athletes love about play-offs. They get pure, the players do. Beyond language, my cue to end this entry. 
There's nothing I need add about the Maple Leafs. They're out. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Sight of Day

        Can’t stand the sight of day is a claim I cannot make. At any gas station along the Trans-Canada or highway 3 west of Medicine Hat, “half-decent out there” / “gettin’ there” is conversation anyone can do. Not even the light industrial landscape of southern Alberta, with its canals and irrigation rigs and wires, can take away a day like this, +15 at times, highway dry.
Dry as a bone, I’d thought, pulling into the graveyard in my home town four hours ago. I have a photo from there, three sisters around the grave of a fourth, baby Jennifer Donna, as the headstone says. She’s buried near a pine tree up the south slope. Up on the flat, the newer graves—Jennifer died in 57—spread east as if about to re-occupy the town.
What I remember of the day she was buried is not being allowed to go out to the burial. The kids don’t need to be there, is the kind of thing dad would say. I don’t remember grief, just the pantlegs of the adults back at our house afterwards.
Beyond the graveyard and the CP mainline next to it, the old #1 highway crumbles along east-west, what pavement looks like left for forty years. Readers of that text called “To Be Opened In the Event of My Death” will know that I’ve asked for my ashes to be scattered along that stretch of ex-highway through Herbert forty years ago replaced by the four-lane south of town.
Well I’ve changed my mind. Plant me on the flat above Jennifer Donna. And come on out and say hello some March 15th years from now, there by the tracks and highway, when winter shows signs of letting go.
















Friday, 10 March 2017

Nelson, BC

I lived in Nelson in '81-82, a student at David Thompson University Centre (DTUC), where my first three creative writing teachers were Fred Wah, Tom Wayman, and Dave McFadden. I felt lucky to be learning from them, and have remained so ever since. It's not much of a stretch to say that everything I do as a writer carries a grain of what I learned. Not just individually, Wah-Wayman-McFadden as a group made for a vital blend of approaches to pretty much everything. 
So, in Nelson on March 17 I plan to read poems from my first and last books (a span of thirty years) which shimmy with residue of my first three teachers. 
More on this later.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Anecdote of Feeling Miffed

“Please give us your Birthday so we can give you a present,” said the gateway to wifi at Broken Rack, 3806 Albert Street, Golden Mile Shopping Centre.

I asked the server if she was a manager. No, but she could take a message. Thanks, I’ll send a note, I said.

(I was on the verge: leave for a movie or stay to watch curling.
By the time Howard was left a double-raise double in the 2nd which he didn’t come close to making, leaving Jacobs a draw for three,
I was staying. Wing Special and Caesar salad didn’t hurt.)

So this is the note to the Broken Rack, 3806 Albert Street,
Golden Mile Shopping Centre:

I know you want the best for your customers of Wifi Hotspot
and did not become successful by giving away your services but  
do you not see the moral stakes in withholding your gift of internet connection until we give something to you?

Nevertheless, I stayed, 3-1 Jacobs in the fourth, 4-1 through five.

We have choices. In other bars, wifi comes without condition. Are we to take our business elsewhere?

One Rebellion Amber on, my complaint would be finished if not for its righteousness, as Howard was finished, down 6-2 after seven
without hammer.

I was down to my last sentence: Just give.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Remembering St. Peter's Abbey

I notice a dead spot when I meet a face known so intensely years ago. The windmill at St. Pete’s, the crossroads and grid, god-damned chickadees massed like avengers over the graveyard path. Back and to the right, the junkyard, sweet enough for me in ’98 or so, my outdoor office there.












By dead I mean I mean looked-out (maybe lucked out)--something so burned into perception that I shy away from more of it.










Idea attributed to F.G. Lorca, who pinned
a version to his door:

book a sheet of curling 
for those who had never curled,
never split the house,
never hit.  









Lorca showed up in time to join
old-timers hockey in Leroy
Tuesday and Friday mornings in Leroy
10:00 for an hour and half
because the ice here’s no good.
Everybody behaves himself?
Oh, you betcha.
We all know each other.











Where I walked, I'd walked before. 


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Watching the Scotties

Homan makes an in-off double for 3 in the second, and the Scotties crowd, mostly Ontario homers, goes nuts.
By the time Homan hits another double to leave Englot a draw for only 1 in the third, it looks uphill for the Manitobans, though Englot's confident draw to the heart of the rings makes a powerful statement.
Manitoba has to take over somehow. They're in it but behind after four.
Englot's steal of 1 in the fifth gives them new life. And she steals another in the seventh for a 4-3 lead.
Honan looked good to take her deuce with last rock in the eighth. After the four tricky skips' shots, a deuce it is.
As action in the ninth builds, both teams demand challenging shots from the other. Englot is left with a difficult pick for 1 but she racks on a guard. Steal of 1 for Ontario and a 6-4 lead.
With last rock in the tenth, Englot has her 3 set up. But by making a much-needed double, Honan leaves Englot a draw for 2 only. On to the extra end.
Englot fights to the end. Honan has to make her last shot--a simple raise take-out to leave the winning point.
Big smiles from everyone, both teams curling so well.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Highway 6

I mean it when I say lucky me today, heading up highway 6 from Regina, straight north. 









What choice did I have? The one time I tried to drive where the highway wasn't, I got stuck. Taking this photo.









I called the motor club and got terrific service from the young buy running the towtruck from Southey, about 15 km north of my bog on the north slope of the valley. Needing to winch my car straight back, to prevent it from sliding further into the ditch, he rigged up a pulley system at the back of his truck so that force applied to it translates to force applied perpendicular to my rear axle. 










The diagram is not drawn to scale. The back of the truck was another half-length back. He got me going and I carried on.



Waiting for the truck, I'd begun a piece called "Lorca in Saskatchewan." What he'd find holy here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

At the Moment

I'm excited about going back into my Cities manuscript, pieces based on travels in Europe and beyond in the last few years. Of course, the fact that I'm composing this blog entry says much about what "excited" means here: a glam opening, the sheer fun of what I'm about to do, before I do it. 
Still, I look forward to breaking down the pieces not so much in terms of language (they've been stripped down) but in terms of stanza and line form. 
Previous intrusions of prose journal-esque entries: delete. 
Remove "City" from name of poem. Bread, instead of City of Bread. 
Remove date and location (though saying so, I feel a shudder). 
Saying all this, I remember A Dictionary of Altitudes in the Dominion of Canada--found in Nelson, somehow, 1981-82--a listing, by altitude and source of survey, of every location in Canada where altitudes had been measured. As if attracted to the look of its pages, I produced poems named after towns, with the rest of the data included in each title. I swung beginnings of lines back and forth. Some of them worked great. Others, well, cut to Regina a year later. Get Paul, Anne, Bruce, or Brenda to tell you how I closed one line with "passing" and opened the next with "wind." 
A few of these--known (as the months passed) as the "better ones"--were published, in Dandelion and places I've forgotten. I felt at home with the approach. I didn't see any reason not to. It gave me a lot of room. 
The only snag was that after the first seven or eight poems, things got a tad repetitive. Neat bits were buried in fussy regularities of form.
So it has gone with my Cities. More than a half-dozen have found homes in print. The rest continue to hover, now that I've brought them to mind again, like aircraft on the fringes of a storm. 
Time to land them, I can't help saying. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Ten Reasons To Love La La Land (the movie)

The irresistible vein of its pop hooks.

The good-natured nod to its own traditions in terms of theme (boy meets girl, boy and girl chase dreams) and look and pace.

A slew of non-Hollywood allusions, to boot. Take them or leave them.

Virtuostic performances by Emma Stone, and Gosling's not bad either--a blend of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

That opening number on the LA freeway. First you fear it's a Coke commercial, then WHAM!

Surprise, plenty available.

Courage and artistry to evoke potentially asphyxiating elements of story but develop them freshly.

The devotion to place. LA, obviously. Like everything else, this devotion is delivered cheerfully, with full knowledge of its own impossibility.

That the representation of jazz music isn't any more reductive than it already is.

Lorca would love it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Farewell Puerto Morelos

No doubt my dedicated readers--good day, uncle Dano and aunt Dana--will have blamed chronic sadsackitis for that melancholy that shows up whenever I leave a place.  This time it's Puerto Morelos, on the Mayan coast of Mexico, where I've lived for three weeks, the first two down the block from a sister or two. I blame it on lifestyle routine which, once established, is what living means to me and which, once lost, as today, leaves life a little hollow.
What is this routine I speak of? Mornings at the notebook, afternoons at the beach, in short (and I don't forget you, my angels of coffee, beer, chitchat, reading, food, walkabout).
As for the notebook segments, let me try to show you. The other night this line came to me in bed: If we were now a rowboat. Most of the time in my writing life, I would try to build from that, as in, say, If we were now a rowboat we'd be strong in the sea's long arms or the like. However, that's precisely the mode I've been struggling to avoid, preferring, as noted in an earlier entry, to write wrong, as in If we were now a rowboat pacing you-know-who, the rooster next door, Ashok would come to mean us.
How this matters, who knows. But I've written--or will have, with one more spell up at the airport in an hour or two--five thousands words embracing wrong. 
But farewell, Puerto Morelos. Whoever's in my chair, enjoy!


Friday, 20 January 2017

Booking

As a frequent solo traveller [accidental comma I deleted but like: As a frequent so, lo traveller . . .], I'm often seen, if seen at all, in the company of books.
Let me tell you about three I packed down to the My Paradise beach club for a six-hour session in the sun, shade and water today:
First, The Remains of the Day (K.Ishiguro), told in a butler's voice, a marvel of decorum and restraint which gives up its thematic kicks ever so subtly. 
Second, The Art of War, which accompanies my re-integration into the world of online backgammon.
Third, and most important for my present writing purposes, The Poet in New York by F.G.Lorca. This is the second time this book has blown up my world. Three years ago, it provided text-track for my poet-in-Andalusia travels. I brought it to Mexico now for more poet-in-a-new-land orientation. But, you faithful readers of this blog--buenos tardes, Uncle Copa and Aunt Vaso--will have noticed something or other a few entries ago about a certain non-approach approach to writing that I'm now calling "writing wrong," as in writing that refuses itself. What it looks like so far is five thousand words which may interact conventionally with nearby words but, a few words further off, have lost touch. Wouldn't you know it: that's sort of what Lorca was up to during his visit to New York in 1929-30. I'm no Lorca, you understand. But I'm trying to write evasion. (See Lorca's "Imagination, Inspiration, Evasion" in his Conferencias.) 
Come to think of it, Ishiguro's novel is full of evasion of the English butlerish sort. 
And Sun Tzu's 2500-year-old treatise on the theory of warfare is famous for this nugget: "All warfare is based on deception."

Monday, 9 January 2017

Red Flag

No fishing today.








Plenty warm enough but windy, good chance of rain. My sisters work on pelicans.








Pelicans chase smaller birds off their perch.









Puerto Morelos parks its low-tech charm.









And the boys pour concrete for a new restaurant.








Later, there were fish after all: catch of the day.