Monday 31 March 2008

the day after Talking Fresh 6, for me

Say good-bye to Talking Fresh 6, now that Kroetsch has hit the road for St. Peter's. Not that the weekend was only about him.

Denise Chong said she was learning stuff the whole time. In every session, she shifted expertly between passages from her books and musings about writing and history. That voice in her writing--that voice you wouldn't mind being around--was also on hand for Talking Fresh.

Sharon Pollock replayed a history of professional theatre in Canada, pointing out that it was short-term, federal government make-work programs in the early 1970s, and not the Canada Council or other granting agency, that sparked growth of new theatre artists and companies. She bowled us over with a scene from Doc, its two voices controlling us.

Dennis Cooley brought in (at different times) some Hayden White, some poems of history by Pratt , Kroetsch, and Scott, some notes on what poets do with history. Coming the afternoon after Kroetsch's own reading from The Seed Catalogue, Cooley's commentary citing the same material was a neat reply. During the panel, he brought out his own Bloody Jack, with a poem called "The Facts" (or something like that), a poem new to the second edition.

I introduced Kroetsch by telling everyone he was the same age as hockey legend Gordie Howe. For the next two days, Kroetsch exhibited much of the same guile and brawn that Howe used to lay on defencemen in the 1950s. As always, our Mr. Hockey was generous with his attentions and damn funny half the time, tired too. The scene he read from The Words of My Roaring--Johnnie Backstrom buying contraceptives--was hilarious.

All that's left to report is that on the day after Talking Fresh, a rock dove got in. Got in but couldn't get out at first, until it finally squeezed out between the railings of my balcony. (I hope that doesn't give away too much of my perimeter rock dove defence, because that information is still classified.)

Monday 24 March 2008

Imagining an Audience

I hope the rest of you don't mind, but I'd like to send a fond hello to all the Leaf fans out there. I'd say they were the best team in hockey right now, after watching their gut-drenched win over Ottawa the other night, except that my son already corrected me, pointing out that in fact the Leafs had played badly--bumbling, in their early-season manner.

Still, I've rinsed my glass and now offer it in toast to you, Leaf fans. The film just now settles to the bottom of the glass, just our Leafs will one day, soon, settle into their traditional roles as Stanley Cup champions.

I think that's enough for now. The Leafs are at home to the Bruins, the team they're trying to catch, in 24 hours.

Sunday 23 March 2008

Rock Dove 6

With my happy hour, drop-in book launch coming up on April 17 (details at my website or upon request), I've been compiling my launch mix cds. Right now, some funk, Grateful Dead style: "Shakedown Street".

Launch music cds have nearly replaced rock doves as my private obsession. Easy to say, now that the doves had had to find solace elsewhere. (I think I saw Winnifred and her mate heading southeast, toward that new condo unit made from old apartments.)

Edith Wiens, Steve Earle, Ella, Wailing Jennies, Tierney Sutton, Ry Cooder, Eddie Daniels, Bill Evans, Leonard Cohen, Allison Krauss, the Mavericks, Emmy-Lou, Blossom Dearie, Tom Waits, and others.

Maybe I'll make a rock dove cd: Ex-coos.

Thursday 20 March 2008

Rock Dove, the next one

The low-voltage lead to the perimeter of the balcony railing didn't work. Killed the geranium, is all. But the rust on my barbecue seems a tad crude for rock dove sensibilities, for they try to penetrate only the north edge of the balcony.

Now that I've strung 25' of 3' netting, however--held in place by s-hooks wired to the railing--maybe the rock doves will take their act to the balcony of suite 18.

Fat chance, which is how I see rock doves. A bunch of fat chance.

(Fat chants, if I was a little more adventurous.)

Saturday 15 March 2008

the songs of Stan Still

Just a while ago on the phone, my eldest daughter's question about "my schedule for the day"--we're trying to meet for lunch or a beer or something--left me a little puzzled.

First will be some internet backgammon while I stretch for my run.

Well, I can see that continuing with such a list will be pretty boring. But maybe what's most on my mind at the moment is how exactly I'm going to follow up my public claim to do a "songs of Stan Still as performed by Gerald Hill" gig at the Freehouse on April 19 (two days after the launch ofr My Human Comedy, another story). I'll have to sing a couple, see if I can get a guitar player for a couple, maybe even dig out my trombone.

(Haven't played the bone since the '05 Grey Cup parade.)

They're supposedly songs written in the voice of Stan Still, whatever that is. Mostly about feeling helpless in the face of love, is how I recall them right now.

They do require a voice that can sing in key and is not afraid.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Rock Dove, 4

One of my more recent attempts to bring Sask poetry, or any poetry (but starting with Sask poetry), and my students together, they had to write hybrid essays made from their commentary on a Sask poem of their choice, their own parody of that poem, and whatever they noticed about the difference. At least.

Reading the results, I wish there was time to do the same thing again this term. The students did well but might relax into the challenge even more a second time. The parodies (definition I go by: repetition with a difference) were devoted, almost innocent, some of them, in their obedience to orders they inferred from the poems. Minus ambiguities, rambunctiousness, denial, resistance, mystery.

I'm also touched by their sense of newness, as it occasionally seems to be, when they come to a poem from the parody side, so to speak.

And I can tell you this much about the rock doves: I drove home from the hardward store on east Vic with barbed wire, turpentine, roofing nails, exterior caulking, and weatherproof nylon mesh called DoveGlove. Also 24 feet of 1x4, flexible plastic sheeting, black paint. [Later: a cheap set of steak knives.]

If you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'm working out there.

[next: why I'm a Leaf fan]

Rock (Dove) and Roll Hall of Fame

Sure I remember the Dave Clark Five, one of five inductees--with Leonard Cohen, John Mellancamp, Madonna, and the The Ventures--into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Like the Beatles, the DC Five first showed up to North American audiences via the Ed Sullivan show, which used to air on Sunday nights, right before Bonanza. Although saxaphones were not new to rock and roll bands that followed black R and B groups, the Dave Clark band featured a baritone sax, about as large a sax as you can get. There he was, lip-synching along with the lads on the Sullivan stage. "I'm in pieces, bits and pieces," was one of their anguished refrains. ("Glad all over, yes I'm glad all over" was another.) I bought their 45s--Capital Records, if I'm not mistaken, like the early Beatles.

Meanwhile I'm building my rock dove hall of fame to which no rock dove will be inducted. Sorry, the details are still classified, but let's just say that yesterday after rock doves number 34 ("Esther") and 35b ("Rod") played down in the alley in the meltwater, they were unable to talk it over later up on my balcony.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Rock Dove Chronicle, Part Three

I just got a great idea. Make essay assignment #4 exactly the same as #3. These ones aren't good enough--don't lay out clearly enough what they want to do, or do it systematically enough.

Seems over-formal when I put it that way.

So why not ask them to build on what they have already, more or less incomplete as it is, and give themselves a chance to do some better work (on will Ferguson's Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw).

Meanwhile, the same rock dove has been settling every two hours or so on the south side of my balcony. I've chased it away by crashing a broomstick against my balcony door. That's my main tactic until I install certain anti-rock dove devices--sorry, that's classified information for now--in their faourite spots.

Just now I chased one away. A different one.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Rock Dove Chronicle, Part Two

Let the fun begin. Just now down at the Freehouse I had a couple of beer and a grilled pork sandwich with fries, met with Nik and Deborah from Coteau, touched base about the forthcoming "Happy Hour with My Human Comedy" (more on that later), had one more beer, wrote another verse of the rock dove song I'm going to sing in April (also at the Freehouse) and picked up some bacon on the way home so I can have a BLT for breakfast, if only I had a tomato.

That's right, happy hour with My Human Comedy, a come-and-go launch, with me reading every 20 minutes or so, otherwise your regular happy hour. I'm going to burn a disc or two of my favourite music to keep us company.

Might as well have fun with it, because soon enough the work will seem stale, the book will be more or less abandoned (although never, I hope, lacking in interest) and left behind for the new.

You're all invited to the launch. April 17, 5:00-7:00, at Le Bistro, 3850 Hillsdale Street in Regina.

For the rock dove:

one too many species in the bird world
one too many feathers in my trap
one too many wing-ed adversaries
one too many rocks doves taking a crap

Saturday 1 March 2008

Rock Dove Chronicle, Part One

Watch me snuff out the rock doves along my west side. (Here picture me with a water pistol, old beach towel, flyswatter, barbecue skewer.)

I'll start by reading them some crappy poems, some of my out-takes. If that doesn't stop the pigeons from roosting, I'll set out copies of the Leader-Post, or line my windowledges with dirty socks. I'll hire schoolchildren with extra-long scissors--whatever it takes.

You can enjoy "Song for the Rock Dove" in My Human Comedy, forthcoming from Coteau, but after that say good-bye (to the rock doves, that is).