Thursday, 31 July 2008

In Training

Now the pigeons have taken a new approach. They back just enough of their rear ends over the roof of the building so that they can shit directly on my balcony--anywhere on my balcony, doesn't matter. Judging by what I saw out there just now, two of three of them can gang up and all shit together in the same spot.

Perhaps I've forever ruined a prime nesting site with my netting and my plastic barbs and toxins, but they still rule the air overhead, and in fact are such skilled shitters that they can hit a folded lawnchair from 300 meters.

Keep your Beijing Olympics, I've got to beat the pigeons.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008


Jean-Jacques Rousseau was into rowboats:
"I would row out into the midle of the lake when it was calm; and there, stretching out full-length in the boat and turning my eyes skyward, I let myself float and drift wherever the water took me, often for several hours on end . . ." (from the "Fifth Walk" of Reveries of the Solitary Walker Penguin Classic, trans. Peter France).

I'd love to be in a rowboat right now myself--get out into this wind and noise, see what sails through the the sky.

More than once I've leapt from rowboats to tractors. And from there, not far to a trombone.

Monday, 28 July 2008

More on Marlatt / Rock Pigeons

I didn't know until last night at the reading out at Sage Hill that Daphne Marlatt's The Given, about which I've marveled in a previous post, completes a trilogy, as she says, after Ana Historic and Taken.

The work manges its polyphony with the lightest, surest hand imaginable, ranging from the body on out into times and places close and far. It becomes personal and cultural document. It both preserves and explores, answers both to itself and its worlds. Her performing of the writing adds yet another figure, another character to the text.

Put me down as a big fan, in other words, as I have been since working on Ana Historic in my PhD (all but dissertation) work years ago.


Not to spoil the appreciative tone of this post, but the second of two annual rock pigeon breeding cycles has led to a renewal of hostilities out on my balcony. Seems the newborns haven't absorbed certain lessons all the way into their DNA. I've had to deploy the barbecue lighter, the tinsnips, the high-tension wire laced with mini-barbs (something like this: ---*---*---*---*---).

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Tonight in Saskatchewan

I've had my toot with the writers tonight and now I'm home.

I was babbling on one of two themes: the way the local tends to be overlooked by those who are local, and the plague of fantasy/scifi for young readers and writers.

The latter is a provocative sentiment, of course. Seriously, I'd like to open a dialogue on this matter. It goes something like this. I just finished a week as Instructor of the Sage Hill Teen Writing Experience. All 8 kids, ages 14-16, were experienced readers and writers. For most of them, that meant experience, including with the previous Instructor of the Regina SAge Hill teen program, with fantasy and scifi. When I encouraged them to represent their real world, the one that only they, each one of them, could represent, it was new territory. When I wanted to see their world, each of them, in writing, I had to find a way around the default fantasy/scifi orientation. That's a problem, I'd say.

The other theme I babbled on about this evening at Bushwakker was about how somebody should be writing about Saskatchewan writers. As several people have pointed out, perhaps I should be doing more of such writing myself, positioned as I am as a tenured professor in a Saskatchewan university. True enough. But for now, my point is that many of us still hold to the assumption that if it's local, it's just local, or regional, and that therefore if we pay any kind of systematic critical attention to it, we're revealing ourselves to be mere cheerleaders, or mere provincial hacks.

For me, these two themes are linked. Even as readers, never mind as poets or critical writers, we think that we must find ourselves elsewhere, we must define ourselves in terms of how we fit into so-called "universal" paradigms. (That's not quite what I mean, but I'll leave it there for now.)

All that aside, it was just darn fun to hang with Ariel G., Roewen C., CHris R., Jeanette L, Tracy H., Andy S., Katherine R., Nathalie T., and others this evening. I was tuckered out from a week with the Sage Hill teens and also before that from the weekend in Moose Jaw. And now I feel better.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Marginalia upon reading Daphne Marlatt's The Given

Ease with which her intertexts (a tired word) rise and subside like breath (which gives us the metaphor for the writing and its thin line between life and extinction).

The story in so many fragments it is fragment where everything is.

Every-ready to leap via a letter or a sound to the next idea--that haphazard but always building the poem until more and more comes into play.

Model of longpoem action, that refusal to end, that willingness to embrace the next move in any direction: time, place, form.

Writing to itself. Writing that reads itself.

Remarkable lightness with which these words settle: mother, home, loss, story, body, self, writing--any one of which could sink a page of writing in no time.

Her writing has been this way before.

A poem that ends with the word word. Writing that opens its own past and present, that constantly questions itself. Adjacent fragments speaking to and from each other. Writing that absorbs everything from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth to the "famliar ache and shift" of one body. Writing that asks "where does the perceiving body begin and end?"

What is most given is the past, never distinct from the writing present.

As always, writing that makes you write.

Saturday, 5 July 2008


Now that I'm back in Regina, I'm slow to get back to work. Must be the normal post-retreat lull-la-lull-la-lull.

I was admitting to someone up at Emma that the kind of energy I like about that place--the days, light, the rowboat (well, it's a long list but one of those three is usually involved) and the socializing that goes with it all--doesn't work for everybody. Can get a bit noisy for some people, not that anything too wild occurred.

That was cause to re-think how I work as a writer. How I work as a writer seems to require, usually, attention to day/light/rowboat, or whatever it is, right now. I mean right now, which is why there's a joke on page 25 of My Human Comedy about poets who have to sit where they sit yesterday, or they're screwed.

(Later: idea for series of hits called "Episodes Taken from Real Life''. Play them straight, see what they look like.)