Wednesday 19 December 2012


I got the idea a couple of years ago to set a poem on every street in Hillsdale. Alphabetical order backwards. Arbitrary, for sure, but the last street would be Anderson, an avenue, where my parents moved us in 1961.

Enter here the notion that I could dedicate the poems to mom, who's 97 but in '61 was moving into the only new house she and dad ever owned.  Four kids, three at home. We moved on their anniversary, August 3. I remember in Herbert on moving day reminding mom and dad what day it was. They went inside.

Streetpieces has just been published in chapbook form by The Alfred Gustav Press, run by David Zieroth out of North Vancouver. 12 pieces, the rest to show up in the book, scheduled for the spring of 2014 from NeWest Press. David chose other than reverse alphabetical for the sequencing but I okayed it.

In the book I'll end the section with "Anderson Streetpiece: for Mom" (which isn't the title but could be). She spent more time in Hillsdale than the rest of us put together, I'm guessing (thinking of Betty Friedan's notion of the "matrilineal compound" that was any suburb post-war). CKCK used to show movies on weekday afternoons, not to suggest mom spent much time lying around, though she may have seen a movie or two (think Greer Garson).

The book will cover all this. For now, Streetpieces is fun to read and hold, I admit it, and so beautifully produced by David. Buy it and the other fine work at his press! (The exclamation point, normally banned, here signifies my shame at evoking "buy" in December.)

Friday 14 December 2012


Over New Year's I'll see old friends from high school. We agreed last visit not to keep talking about our bodies (more or less broken down). It's what we talk about at our age, Bryan said.
This morning around 9:00, at the central YMCA, seemed to be grandpa hour. One guy went into the men's can by the spin bikes and didn't come out for a while. I was starting to worry.
I heard this lyric:
Stiff back or stiff knee
you stand straight at Tiffany's 
'cause diamonds are girl's best friend.
I'll try to work that in at New Year's up by Pigeon Lake.

Saturday 1 December 2012


Not the kindest name for what my students are about to go through, me too. Finals, like nothing's left when they're over.
I asked one class how much they cared about their work over the last week of classes and final exams. A lot they said, with details.
I haven't prepared finals for my classes yet, at least not the fine strokes. I'm toying with the idea of something radical, I told one class.
Oops, "I Saw Her Standing There" has just come on and I have to go dance.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Learning to Draw: Seeing the Teacher

I saw her out of class--the only way I could see her, since I never took the class. She was drinking wine at her opening: canvases (about 2'x3') on which lots of oil had been pushed and rubbed until the figures seemed half-buried or revealed. Roughly the coulour of an alley two days after a heavy snow.
I didn't introduce myself. Upstairs at Mysteria was crowded and my coat was long. I had a tea date with my daughters and couldn't hang around.
I suppose I'd tell her the whole tale so far, including my idea for a show of bad drawings, curated by the right person.
I should think no further of the teacher. I really liked her paintings, though.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Finish Line

Unlike the sprinter who, to maximize his/her speed, runs through the finish line, some of my students have settled for to it. So far I've scolded and teased, tomorrow a hard cop / soft cop scenario.
At the same time, of course, every day offers (thank goodness I didn't say throws) up its delights, like the student who said she hoped we'd do the balloon thing (an idea to write a single word in marker on a balloon, blow up the balloons and bat them to each other--15 of us around a table--saying whatever word we batted). (Would it work better to write the words before or after balloon inflation?)
My daughter Lucy did some improv with one class, to bring body and physical movement into understanding a character. That sounded like fun, though I wasn't in the room.
And lots of student writing to read.

Wednesday 14 November 2012


Gather a group of poets and sell ourselves to private homes for a half-hour or more (various plans available). Somebody calls us. We go over, have a drink, visit for a while. Offer a poem or two. We'll have dry spells for sure when nobody calls. Why would they?
Still, one more call.
A friend says sure, bring the poets over and we go.
All it has to do is work

Saturday 10 November 2012


: said a Canadian male skiier, according to a story in the Globe & Mail ten days or so ago. The World Championen's women downhiller, an American, had said she wanted to race men. Chicked was what the men didn't want to be, said the story.
While saluting one of the sturdier noun-to-verb moments, I wondered how my students feel about the word chick, which I don't use myself (although since we talked about it, I use it more, but never mind). Here's a typical moment from the talk:

Four women along the front row to my left:
I don't mind. We call each other "chicks".

Two women to my right:
[looking as if they'd just set tongue to prune]
Oh. [shaking head] That's just not right.

The four:
Oh yeah. What else would you call us?
The two:
I don't know [can't think of anything].

On it went. The two women on the right, the youngest and oldest in the room, were sure, the others sure in their own way. It seemed close to home, the way we use this word.

PS: They didn't care for women, certainly not girls. My I call everybody "guys" didn't take. (I'd lost all my cred with gals.)

Thursday 8 November 2012

Yes, well, a day or two after that previous blog entry, I got word that another manuscript was rejected by another publisher. I'd told one of my classes about the Yes to the Hillsdale book, couldn't help it. (Bless their hearts they applauded.) So far I haven't mentioned the No. I notice I've delayed mentioning it here also. I always say oh well, they're idiots, I'll just stir the ms a bit and send it off somewhere else but I feel as if I've used up all the somewhere elses with this work. I guess it will just sit now. I've got a third manuscript out there . . .

Thursday 1 November 2012

Hillsdale Book

I'm thrilled to lick the envelope shut and mail it, the envelope with an "Author Contract" inside, a contract agreeing that NeWest Press will publish my Hillsdale Book.
Just last weekend in Saskatoon I was moaning about never getting another book out. I don't know what the hell I'll do if they don't take it I think I said.
I began gathering this book over four years ago. It's got everything I have as a writer (I think--I haven't read it since submitting it from Banff in May).
I did remember to sign the contract before mailing it back.

Sunday 21 October 2012


I delivered my Convocation Address at Luther yesterday without mixing that text up with my intros for this coming weekend's open mic in Saskatoon. In other words, all the stuff about the pool has been said. Next: the mountain.
I've also drifted into the job as MC for our (that's me, Mike Trussler, Medrie Purdham, Jes Battis and a student rep, Cassandra) creative writing Open House at Luther in November. I seem to be on about keeping a series of readings/performances not stalling. Evenings drag, even with the best stuff, if they go on too long.
I remember Tom Wayman saying Two words that should never go together: open and mic. One of his colleagues at DTUC in Nelson in '81-'82, Fred Wah, used to run what he called oral anthologies, still does. A dozen writers seated on a stage. 3 minutes each at the mic. No stalling there.
I know things are moving when well-known Saskatchewan poets jump up and down--for the first time, I witnessed someone stamping her feet, heels well off the floor with every stamp. Thrilling!--when I tell them, rudely if necessary but not really, their time is up.
Also true for this entry.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Royal Wood

For all my students today would know, Royal Wood is another name for rare oak. I was trying to remember the line from one of his songs: what good's a mirror without a face or, I wondered this aft, what good's a face without a mirror. Although I should know better by now, I was surprised no one in the room had heard of Royal Wood. (Later, in a Sven Birkerts essay, came an allusion to Kooky from 77 Sunset Strip, a tv show I barely remember myself. shhhhfflltttt said one my students, making the fly-past motion over her head. Now that was no surprise.)
See, the problem is, we're not talking about the face and the mirror or the mirror and the face, part of what their current assignment is about.
In another class we're reading The Things They Carried and I've issued a couple of half-hearted language and content warnings. Much eye-rolling (which we do, we humans, if we sigh or gasp) when I say this, but with loads of assignments and midterms and labs (whatever they are) my students, I'm wondering tonight, might find episodes of violence and other nonstandard behaviour, rendered with grim certainty along the trail in South Vietnam circa 1968, too much to carry. Even so, this will help with their assignment, which is to write an essay on what they (university students) carry, in the manner of O'Brien's fiction.
I'm thinking about tomorrow's class, in other words, on the O'Brien stories "Love" and "Spin".

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Putting the Pope's Former Butler To Shame

How lucky can a man be. In two hours my daughters arrive for cocktails, then they're taking me out for dinner and the Royal Wood show at the Exchange. One's arriving from work or maybe checking in at home. The other will have just dropped her mother at the bus en route to Saskatoon.
We'll hit Bushwakker for the meal, all this for my birthday, six weeks past but alive when my daughters get here.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Maybe I Should Speak as The Pope's Former Butler

I'm working on intros for the forthcoming Saskatchewan Writers [count me out for the would-be apostrophe] Guild open mic and on remarks for the Fall Convocation at Luther College and hoping to hell I don't mix them up.
If at the open mic I start telling stories about the last day the pool was open or if at Luther I speak in lascivious fragments, you'll know.
Usually I sort of wing the open mic intros but in May I wrote a bunch at Banff. The Luther thing comes around only every seven years or so. I can't remember what I did last time, other than use Lorna Crozier's "Packing for the Future: Instructions". The heart of the matter is that I'll urge the grads to stay at the pool, even after classes have started and summer has been given up for dead by Back to School fanatics.
Short and sweet and sexy at the open mic.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Blaming it on The Pope's Former Butler

Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned him in the title, but hell, just look out the window. In single file two men wear the coat of the cold. Leaves: cold. Limping takes longer one way than the other.
The day I got stitches in my knee out I had to park half way to Winnipeg and crutch it over. A nurse took me to bed 4 in the Ambulatory Care zone (short of full ward) and told me to expose my knee. I tried but couldn't pull my jeans over my knee and had to ask for a gown. She was about to say she didn't have gowns but pulled one out, the usual grey-blue. She pulled the curtains and walked away.
(Here I'd like to salute St. Itches, with thanks to bp, and to that kingdom three holes made on my right knee. Been a wet summer for the knee, almost as if there'd be leakage if the stiches gave. But they didn't, and things are coming around. I take back what I said above, that one way took longer than the other. I didn't keep track. St. Itches took off and so did the nurse.)
Blame the Pope's former butler. I had to crutch it back out across the parking lot.
But that was the last time. 

Saturday 29 September 2012

Pope's Former Butler Busted

That traffic on Winnipeg, blame it on the pope's former butler. And the broken string on my teabag and a laugh that reminds me of Elsie or something.
Confess, pope's former butler, to stealing that Elsie gag from Punch.
Babies hearing cutlery, the cafe's idea to paint charcoal highlights so the carpet on the walkway looks custom made: also the pope's former butler.
The pope's former butler paid too much for cheese, making a show of not hobbling to the dairy case for nothing. High water in the south of Spain, anti-austerity demonstrations on the Praca do Imperio in Lisbon--the pope's former butler.
He drives only popes, can't drive himself for groceries or mail, which he never gets. He's who he is because he remembers what everyone says. He just wanted to look at them (the pope's papers), the pope's former butler.
The Criminal Code is 135 years old. The pope's former butler wants a Pardon.

Monday 24 September 2012


I'm putting in for some, testing my knee after the scope. Say hello to muscle in some pose. See how straight things go.
I've also claimed recently that learning to get old (in the youngest possible way, of course) feels like learning to walk, learning to step outside.
(Maybe I'll try that out on Brenda Schmidt in tonight's launch of her Flight Calls: An Apprenticeship on the Art of Listening. That last bit.
(I have a feeling Brenda would say Absolutely!))
A simple stretch.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Surgery Sugar / Reading David Foster Wallace

I showed up at Day Surgery, Pasqua Hospital, 10:30 Friday. My friend Mark drove me in his Jeep.
A woman who's a dead ringer for that secretary who died at her desk during the 4th season of Mad Men led me to a change room and told me to take everything off. You're familiar with these hospital gowns? Been a while since I wore one. Well they haven't changed much.
Three hours of paperwork and waiting followed. Time to dig into A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace, 1997. Count me as the x-millionth to say Wow, virtuosic! though dated in places--"great LA touches, like everyone having a cellular"--but nostalgically so in an essay called "Greatly Exaggerated" that offers a neat survey of the death of the author issue, an old issue even then, early 90s, nostalgic for me because it coloured, at least indirectly, every moment of my grad student career, and my teaching career since then.
Now, morning after my knee scope, the knee feels fine, if not yet restored, three one-stich incisions--evidence of underground triangulation and colour photography--appearing to pin it to my leg. I'll finish the Wallace today and catch the Daniel Scott Tysdal (Big DFW fan) talk this aft.
As for sugar, in Day Surgery they complimented me on how fast I woke up, how ready for food I became. Nurse Sylvia, from Wolseley, brought me a muffin.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Surgery Assessment

Do you bruise easily?
How are the bowels?
The waterworks?
Any trouble sleeping?
What time is it.
Did you ever have surgery before?
Once for an absessed appendix, thirty years ago. Twice on my left humerus, fifty years ago.
Which humerus was that?
Can you live from midnight to late afternoon on nothing by mouth?
You bet!
Now, next of kin?
Next of what?

And so on. Just a knee scope Friday. I'll crutch to the Daniel Tysdal keynote Saturday, cane to the Brenda Schmidt talk Monday, ease to the Old Campus Renewal fete Wednesday noon and the Hagios launch Wednesday night, drive to the SWG Open House Thursday.

Saturday 15 September 2012

What the Afternoon Said

Every time I look west it's Court House. Often I'll see figures in orange jumpsuits--no one I know, so far.
If I light a stick of incense (Sage) on the sill, smoke settles in or out, my breath with it. My sister, visiting from Kelowna, notes the wind, but that was yesterday.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Crazy to Say So

It's surely crass of me to mention in every entry that "Hillsdale, a Map" is available for $20. I dropped some off at a couple of fine stores this morning. I suppose there's no harm in naming them: Paper Umbrella and the Mackenzie Art Gallery shop.
Later, in class, I listened from the edge of the blackboard to a 19-year-old talk about getting older. I didn't know whether to laugh or weep. You can blame all that on Brenda Schmidt's "Note to Joy", which got us talking about what we lose as we age. Soon someone pointed out (it wasn't me) that one person's older is the next person's young.
Just before, what was likely an overload of questions about the poem, spoken by a dozen different mouths, gathered into clarity that lingered just long enough for the class to get writing, later talking about older. It wouldn't have happened unless that many people got involved in reading the poem.
Changing the topic, I've begun to compare being my age to being my grandson's age. How much we learn to get used to. They're both just as new, unless I'm crazy to say so.

Sunday 9 September 2012

"Hillsdale, a Map"

Jared Carlson and I had agreed to prepare sweets to go with the wine for the launch of our map, which took place the night before last in his downtown Regina studio.
"I sourced out my baking," he told me, gesturing to the crabapple pastry, chocolate strawberries and other delights. I brought a variety of oatmeal cookies but forgot "pumpkin muffins by Alice Hill" (I had the label ready) I'd made that morning. Jared said his family--his wife Christina, parents and in-laws, siblings, kids--weren't used to art openings, but man, they're obviously used to what hospitality means.
It was huge fun, especially the mix of writers, Globe Theatre folks, Hillsdalians past and present, strangers, Luther folks. Jared and I delivered short presentations, each of us pulling down a pashmilla scarf to reveal one side of our map. Other than that, lots of wine and sweets and chit-chat.
I love the deep tiredness after a peak experience like that, both culmination of the map's production and initiation of its public life.
If you want a copy, let me know.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The Poetry Book for English 110

Just now I sat down to think of how to bring my students and Brenda Schmidt's Grid together. (My students have to do the bringing, but that's another story.) I opened the book at random (a word to explore in general with all my students) to find "Whiteout," page 43 (the number of Ron Atchison, former Rider great, father of a former student).
Good, I say, having seen the rush at Staples the day before. A poem about school supplies.
Not so. We get to toilet and horizon wiped out, which I think is a hoot (my grandson potty training and all); I wonder if my students will.
Then seriously, storm tension. That listening for connection. And that killer last idea,
not to forget her two-line stanzas and what they do.
After we read a bunch of poems we'll see what they add up to, maybe, but that's later.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Teaching Ideas

I went down to Atlantis after the Rider game, which I didn't much watch, to drink tea and come up with ideas for my three classes that start Wednesday.
The minute class starts, get my 100 students to write two sentences on how you're feeling right now or one question you brought into this classroom today. [Now as I write it, this idea (no doubt like the ones following) seems juvenile, as if I'm teaching grade 7 Language Arts, as I once  did, 1975-77.]
In any of my classes, ask Does game day matter? or Does bad service make you mad? Do this in two steps, the first one "general", as it will likely be, then "specific", which might help us no matter what the context for that pair.
Try this orally: Is this your idea of a good time, why or why not: You're riding in the back seat of a stretch limo, right-hand side. You're wearing the jersey; the team just won. You roll down the window and salute with your glass of champagne half-consumed, the other half spilled. There's really no name for what you're doing, the way your eyes vibrate and your mouth attacks.
For Devin Krukhoff's Flyways, the fiction we'll read in the Sask Lit class, get each person to pick a story and write a one-pager, being as convincing as possible, on why the rest of us should read it.
In any class, especially Expository Writing (251), make a list of ordinary language--the plainest, not necessarily cliche, most often used, most obvious phrases. Look these over. Re-label the category. Talk over what our policy might be toward this category.
To accompany first readings of poetry in the 100 class, discuss: "The thing about poetry is that it's renewable", as Sven Birkerts writes in "The Walk".
For 251, begin with that essay, a narrative of waking up, especially into writing. We can talk about whether we believe it. And voice, and elements of the essay poetic I, for one, will be applying in this class. And all sorts of decisions.
Imitate Birkerts' sentences, or Krukhoff's.
And so on. Later or tomorrow I'll pull specifically from The Things They Carried, the fiction in 100.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Birthday After

I'm 61 now, as of yesterday (a birthday I share with someone dead, someone terminally ill, a startlet--just to name the ones I know), but when my bookmark blew off my table at happy hour at Beer Bros, I still didn't know what to do. It blew through the iron railing, out onto the concrete. First it lodged under a planter then beyond.
Well, now that I'm 61 such things don't matter more than a paragraph. I was reading The Other Walk, essays by Sven Birkerts, exhibit #1 on how to approach the essay in my Expository Writing class. The set of bookmarks I have is what Coteau gave me on the occasion of My Human Comedy, 2008, which is now out of print. (If you want a free copy, just ask (me).) I thought for a minute it might be fun for someone to pick it up out there on the mall, where now it's drifted toward the alto sax busker, who's terrific.
But my newest publication would have to be Hillsdale, a Map, with Jared Carlson, which we're launching Friday, Sept. 7, 7:00, 1855 Scarth in Regina, 3rd floor. We like it, already noting several changes we'd make if the thing ever got reprinted. We printed 100, a limited.
I picked up the shipment from the printer's yesterday, the big day. I've always liked my birthday. In Kelowna last week, my innocent observation that "I didn't expect any kind of birthday fuss" was met with flat-out derision.
But let's blame it on the map, this mood of satisfaction, which would puncture instantly if the Jays manage to blow it in the 9th against Tampa.
Happy Birthday to you too, if it is.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Learning to Draw Victoria and Hamilton

I notice I dress up more when I go downtown. Nothing radical, but I consider my shirt, maybe my shoes.
Yesterday I headed out to execute a drawing at Atlantis coffee shop (corner of that nice British couple, Victoria and Hamilton). A guy from CTV was carrying his camera by the neck of a tripod, legs extended, looking before he set the tripod down at what the camera would see.
At Atlantis I sat facing south. The two crosswalks turned into legs, as I drew, splayed from the corner. I worked on the curb. The look of fabric bunching was all I could come up with. As I'd done before, I'd drawn an aerial view in which me drawing appears, a space I tried to blacken. Man, this one needed help.
I switched to the 3B (for Better Get Good in a Hurry). The crosswalks narrowd at the far ends, but I could stay there until rush hour and never get them right.
Later the 3B came back sharpened and issued this report: "The focus is wrong. Get tight on one crosswalk--white line and a foot or two of pavement." The rest of the drawing was cross-hatched out in the loudest way. I was left with a lane of the pool, end view, which might work, at the pool.
At my table at Atlantis I smelled diesel, glad I dressed for it. I didn't know what to do with the crosswalk now but cross it.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

"Hillsdale, a Map"

is on the way. It's a real, four-colour, full-sized, limited edition map--real as memory, featuring "65 Points of Historical Interest" and several poems and various design delights created by Regina designer Jared Carlson. We'll have a launch party September 7 at Jared's studio, 1855 Scarth  Street, 3rd floor, 7:00.

For now, if you'd like to order a copy, go ahead! Send $20 and your mailing address to me at Box 24061, Regina S4P 4J8. You'll love it.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Learning to Draw the Pool Again

Closer this time, along two lanes. I drew dangling strokes with the 5B. Lanes turned to tresses or tire tracks. I added water.
Now I'd drawn fabric, two seams. I drew the lanes a darker black and faint lanes crossways underneath.
How to pretend you've drawn reflected light from the Adult Lane Swim Only sign? Pick a new pencil, the F. This creates a far shore or side view of a stool and only after that the edge of a pool, water's edge, water I swam to get there.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Learning to Draw: Concrete Abstract

I’d never noticed the yin-yang of the Safeway sign before. And how many times had I stepped over, without examining, the concrete painted yellow that marked the outer limits of the parking lot. These limits had been built in 1956 (I’m guessing). Now Safeway wants to remodel, i.e. take over the whole strip mall and knock down houses to the south. This matters if time matters. The concrete looks as if it hasn’t taken paint since ’58, or the paint has been beaten out of it, or yellow snuck away in bits one spring fifty years ago and every spring since. Therefore, if I were to draw the concrete I’d have done my bit for preservation and could head down to the FreeHouse for a beer.

Just then a ’53 Chevy painted bright mauve drove by. I glimpsed the passenger—a woman, short hair, those sunglasses seniors wear (top of the list of “things my kids must never let me do”).

According to the photo mounted above a booth at the Mercury Cafe, across the street from the Safeway, the parking lot in its early days held many a Chevy and Ford and Dodge, though none of them bright mauve.

Page 43 of some book might say It’s not about subject, it’s about commitment. Sure, but there I’d be, face to face with old concrete that will soon—I think it’s right to say—be knocked away.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Learning to Draw a Dashboard While Parked on 13th Ave

Soon the dash was just a steering wheel which resembled a pumpkin hollowed in quarters or a pretzel or a lucky charm.
I gave the 2H a turn. Things turned dotty. An attempt to indicate distance beyond the wheel (the space to pedals or my feet) resulted in four sandwiches seen from above.
I decided what the hell I'll see if I can fix it by going  back to the 4B and its original lines. Work was done on roundness, dots disguised as vinyl stitching.
Needless to say--what a useless piece of language that is!--the hands themselves did the best work, pretending to grip the wheel and turn it. Now the wheel was a celtic cross within the ring of a one-quart [sealer? ceiler? cieler?--help!] ring, which I accepted as a step in the right direction at least.
What else should be here but the wheel, I wondered in the end.

Monday 30 July 2012

Learning to Draw: Hardwood

I realized it was easier to draw what I imagined than what was at my feet. One book I read, The Natural Way To Be Miserable, claims the two are related.
I drew a large crumb I didn’t have to imagine. After that, individual sections of oak and I met like miners breaking through from opposite sides.
The book went on to say The artist forgets that he/she draws, when the page becomes easy as breath, breath easy as a word (doesn’t yet matter which one). It’s like standing before a fine shelf and wondering what you’ll put there.
I ditched any notions of near or far and pretended the floor was viewed from straight up, which meant—this I realized with Einsteinian impact – each path of oak called for its own exposition, which I now must provide. (Let’s see, at an inch and a half wide per strip, 60" wide in total, 6-7' long, this floor added up to about 250' of oak I had to draw.)
By this point I was ready to give the whole thing to Stan Still (no relation to Jennifer or Cheryl), a character I’ve met before, and let him learn to draw. He’d like the hardwood drawing. He'd finish it. He’d claim to see himself in the wood.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Learning to Draw From Nature Continued

By the time I broke for a hot dog in the plaza at noon, I'd try to make clear the fact that the bottom of the drawing--subject: an 8' x 5' section of hardwood floor--was closer to the viewer than the top was. I paid close attention, therefore, to the grain at my feet (which, though I was tempted, are not in the drawing) and darkened lower lines.
After a while I walked over to sit among the grass and flowers, responding. For the first time, I reasoned, this hardwood on my page was hearing its oak roots. I drew a bit, wondering what I meant by that.
Later I took the drawing to the pool, a mistake. The hardwood looked watery already--could be a reedscape, trails to marshplants growing eight feet under.
What did I have to worry about. I'd committed to the study of individual lengths of oak floor. The drawing still might work.
To be continued.

Friday 27 July 2012

Learning to Draw From Nature

I read in A Child's Garden of Drawings I think it was of something called "responding" to nature or, in my case, to my stability ball (a light purple-blue) and hardwood floor (that's Vermont oak, not Quebec oak my landlord assured me a year ago). I'd do them both in shadow, mine and theirs, and morning light, blinds drawn.
First response: hardwood, a series of vertical lines, many of which got lost on the way to the bottom. (Texture I call it.) And here comes my most profound discovery so far: I held the 3H still and moved the page! Whatever rule the lines followed I couldn't figure out, but it was good for the hardwood, I was sure.
I turned the book sideways and drew the lines left to right, moving toward the top of the tipped page. The lines felt swimmy.
Next, nine or ten minutes--it might have been 50--on the many features of the oak, its gestures, seams, talk.
At this point I'd planned on introducing the ball but realized I could get serious and address every foot of every board and that would be the drawing.
To be continued.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Learning to Draw Out the Truth About My Knee

I tried all of the following:
It was a knee-on-knee at the blueline. Thinking he'd dump the puck in, I took off after it. He didn't. To avoid the offside, I reached back with my right leg. At that point somebody hit me knee on knee and I went down. It hurt. I left the ice. That may have been the last time I laced the pads on. For sure it was that day.
But that was five years ago. I ran a half-marathon since then. (A moment of declaration: I run a little faster, not much, than I draw.)
A colleague told me about the spirit of the knee according to certain medical traditions. Its moods/prospects/faiths, in other words. What it's hungry for.
I drew the knee. The drawing, now that I think about it, was as bad as the knee. Any retrospective (Early Drawings) might have to skip this one. The right leg was meant to be extended, resting on a chair, from a pair of dark shorts. We looked down as if from our own eyes. What I see now, however, is a vague curvy form extending straight up from what looks like a flower pot. A mortar and pestle?
I don't know what else might explain the torn meniscus. I felt it at the end of curling season. But how could curling cause it. First treadmill then elliptical sessions, over a period of two and a half months, had to be scaled down then cut altogether. Once I got the ipod and programmed a workout playlist, I must have upped the pressure--bopping along as I had to--on the torn part of the knee. Haven't been to the gym since. That was about two weeks ago.
It couldn't have anything to do with the way I'm sitting right now, ankles crossed, toes against the wall.
My thought had been that the knee, misshapen as it is, might come out all right in my drawing, misshapen as it would certainly be.
I don't put down my own drawings to evoke your sympathy. And there will be a retrospective, with guest curators introducing the drawings--so goes an idea I just had.
Now the knee says it looks like rain. That's what the clouds look like: knees. With space in them, and fluids.

Monday 23 July 2012

Learning to Draw In: A Defence of the Local (Occasioned by a Bum Knee)

Your widest emotional range, entire behavioral archive, tracks of who you are, whatever you imagine or can't write, the truth of this or any point, anything you're good at, whatever fuck-ups your soul has endured, any blues any idea, where you keep and find your best stuff, whatever sad news you're ever going to get, whatever you fear, the next idiot move you or someone you know makes, what you leave, whatever plunder your bad guys make off with, whatever loves comes in--
it's all
(forgive me for stating the obvious)
right here.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Learning to Draw Abandonement

According to the Doomsday instructions I'd printed and taped to the bottom of my pencil box (which by Doomsday I expect to carry), to abandone the pillars project I had to crawl naked to the alley and draw just one pillar, free of its neighbours, free of any one point, of everything but shadow which, even at midnight, hung hungrily, offering to swallow an ending if it had to.
I was not to speak unless run over, to invent what I couldn't feel through my knees.
And just one pencil--the 6Brenda or the 2Harvey. I had to draw the last pillar anyone would draw.
I had all night.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Pillars, Part Three

As soon as I drew shadows I got into trouble. What is it with those things? They draped the five pillars I'd outlined.
So the 6Brenda had a purpose: get in there and people the shadows. She didn't wait around for further instructions.
I appealed to the Nymphs of Clumsiness who flickered at every stroke. I diluted my approach, trying the puddles.
I remembered something about drawing upside-down, either you or the drawing. So you don't expect so much. I tried it on the lamp-posts. Result: what look like lousy eyes.

Monday 16 July 2012

LTD (Learning to Draw): Those Pillars, Part Two

I passed through the alley on my way to the pub. Wish I'd brought the extra-large sketchbook I said, though I had in fact packed the book.
I blame it on the Riders right after the big win at home against B.C. Too happy was my alley, I tell you. How could a man sit still? I might draw one telephone pole but could I do five?
I imagined drawing the curve-tops of the five pillars and the puddle with its own laws.
I did think of shadow but not for long.

Saturday 14 July 2012

LTD (Learning to Draw): Planning to Draw Those Pillars Behind the CU Building, Albert and 13th

I ruled thin lines. I'd draw from a photograph (back door of the building, 8:45 a.m.--workers, well-dressed, not too happy (one of them watched me every step from her car to the back door, and I made myself a snide remark about how I don't blame her, given the visual felony about to occur)).
Soon I was drawing the alley, which on my page resembled lines, a dozen of them, originating in or heading to a single black dot about half-way up the left side and an eighth of way to the right.

That much made sense. I hated to give up that ruler.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Learning to Draw: First Among Pines East of Luther Residence, Hot Out

On the theory that bad drawing of a tree, pursued over time, looks like the tree, I packed my new pencils—Staedtler Mars© Lumograph© Drawing pencils, leads ranging from 6B to 4H. I didn’t yet know what the B stood for or the H, but I’d figure it out. (B must stand for Body, H for Heart, there.) I’d go draw that tree east of Luther, in the shade.
I selected my vantage point and reviewed my task (what we Vis Art types call study): draw the pine, probably badly, but keep going. These new pencils had to work. I’d give up and become something else, if they couldn’t work the shadows round the tree. I picked my longest pencil, the 4H.
In a while a limb in my drawing headed off to the right (the tree’s left, the brain's right) to a cluster of leaves that resembled baby chicks. To do the crown I’d have to draw nothing but leaves and somehow wind and bright sun. Did I want to spend all day drawing leaves?
What about the pines behind? Good question. Scribbly phantoms, scare me up a tree, was my first impulse. Eventually my drawn tree claimed useful enough status on my page. It wasn’t this pine (/spine), didn’t suggest the glory of any pine. But when I jabbed at the base with the 2B, it stood there.
Shadow of shadow and light of light, I’ll say that’s what I learned.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Ltd: Cumulus Cloud (With Grey Tint) Over Luther

The cloud took off before I finished it. I was left with the world's only remnant. For that reason, it looked pretty good, having snagged useful borderline--cloud and blue sky.
I'm obliged to report, however, that I seemed to have drawn a rear view of a woman with haircurls and scarf--one of my sisters, I think it was. Her shoulders were crooked for some reason.
Not because of the sisters but because of the lousy cloud, this season of drawing has--as Kramer in Seinfeld says, from the former Merv Griffin Show set he'd found and installed in his living room--"officially bottomed out".
Tonight I'll borrow that set of drawing pencils Lucy's been threatening me with. Tomorrow I'll draw those pillars behind the Credit Union building on Albert and 13th.

Friday 6 July 2012

Learning to Draw (Ltd): The Usual Parts of One's Own Body

It was late, perhaps early. I'd been watching Oppenheimer and Jays-Royals. Feeling a cold, I'd belted back a couple of lemon brandies and fallen asleep.
Although Sam Waterston played Oppenheimer the same way he played McCoy on Law & Order and the Jays' frightful bullpen could not hold back the Royals, I dreamed nothing of it. (Not a whisper of a dream until later: driving a semi out of my friend's farmyard, trying not to wake anyone up.)
At 2:16 a.m. I activated the rarely used dimmer/fade light and picked up the Pentel P209.
I began to draw.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Learning to Draw (Ltd): Twice in One Day

Globe & Mail, July 3, A2: "Physicists say they are close to confirming the understanding of all matter". Good. That means I had a chance when I drew City Hall. Just the part I could see.
A simple grid started to work for the west side. Did the building hold no shadows? Not yet, according to my drawing.
I applied a straight-line scribble to that west wall. Again I managed to confuse my own eye: Is the middle corner closer or further away?
Conclusion: I need new truths--a sentiment forever obvious, of course. At the rate I'm going I'll be 80 by the time I can draw a window, with curtains and my daughter inside, about to meet me for lunch.

I confronted shadow head-on by drawing one--the shadow my hand made when held at a pencil point centered and 2" from the top of the page. I didn't draw the details but will tell you results were worth the page, the way my line became its perpendicular fragments from pencil nib to forearm. Small hairs included.

Monday 2 July 2012

Learnng to Draw: Getting to the Next Drawing

This one I invented before I drew it. A bike trip for groceries. I'd buy cabbage and speak to someone. Later from my position east or west--I hadn't decided yet--of the Safeway parking lot on 13th, the conversation would lend emotional weight to this drawing that all other drawings so far lacked.
I couldn't see how the drawing would work but there I was, helmet and grocery list in hand. And my drawing kit consisting of the Pentel P209 and the 5x8 sketchbook I bought from the Art Store on campus and started using, as a notebook, on April 11, 2012. I pedalled west on13th.
I couldn't find celery seed  but picked up a cabbage, forgetting to speak, and carried myself out the door to a perch half-way up the sidewalk of the acupuncture shack across the street. I drew a van the three of the 5 elms along the Safeway lot on the Retallack side, east. The left-hand tree seemed to penetrate the van, which soon drove off. I drew shadow, grateful for its uniform shade.
Should there be dialogue between an object (/subject) and its shadow? Mine was disappointing, a shortage of definition in all things, except the ones I didn't draw.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Learning to Draw: Stone in the Strange Lot West of the Library

To hell with trying to draw something, was my cry at noon today, after in two attempts failing to capture the commissionaire guiding cars in to pay their property taxes on the west side of City Hall.
A few minutes later and a block east, faced with the centre stone (sawed-off pillar, actually) in a group of 13 others in a circle, I put the Pentel P209 mechanical pencil into gear and let it roll, doodlic. I ignored the darks and lights of the Tyndall stone.
Soon the stone, about 3x5 inches in my book, resembled one of those Lee Valley fridge magnets. I carried on curvy, claiming after a while that the best time for a dark line is after many lighter. Those voices calling from my inner jury for signs of sunlight on the stone were put on hold or transferred to the Technical Department.
Back and forth I swung the 209 over what has yet to decide if its top is flat or concave.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Learning to Draw: Taking the Learning to Draw Class or Not

My peeps want to know if I'm going through with taking the class--not just the name-calling commenters on the previous post but the waitress at Fireside Bistro who, glancing over my shoulder at the glass of beer I'd drawn, said What is that?. (I gave her time to say No, it's pretty good, I mean not bad, but. She said nothing more.)
Not. I'd planneed on walking into the class with a mechanical pencil and the sketchbook I've been drawing in, not the full kit the class requires.
Here I borrow some Phil Hall from his wonderful Killdeer: "put the art before the course" (which I just now realized is punny). I'll continue to draw out the summer, including drawing my way into essays (under way, my peeps!). Next: exciting mechanical pencil portrait of the Scarth street mall.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Learning to Draw: On Opening the "Materials List"

Now I'm really nervous. I'm thinking I'll not follow through with my registration, which seems to be screwed up anyway. This particular course looks too intensive for how I'm approaching this process. I'm going slower.
My old friend Dave in Edmonton put me onto John Ruskin on learning to draw. Before I got to that, I turned the page in The Seeing Hand: A Treasury of Great Master Drawings and found Ruskin's "Rock Formation at Glenfinlas", a rock face in every sense. The conversation there could last a long time.
He did this with ink and watercolour, 19 x 13 inches. Somehow the stream runs fast, the foliage rich and deep. The face can't be touched by any word.
Now I'm going to think about not taking the class.

Monday 25 June 2012

Learning to Draw: Swimming Pool

Applying long minutes about perspective I'd viewed on YouTube, I swam, sat on the east-side apron (concrete), and drew Wascana Pool. With lanes, roped area, ladders, and two of the 50 or so pool-dwellers present. A ladybug, baked bright orange, did about as well, except that after flopping about half-wounded, I don't get to fly off to safety.
My pool seemed to have no water in it. (Cross "ripples" off the list of what random smudging is good for, and "any sign of time of day" and "fibreglass slide" and "pale-turquoise-and-mauve sandals two feet away".)
I thought about executing the drawing wet, which I yet might try, if I could be sure it wouldn't screw up my sketchbook (what I used to call a notebook.)
The west side underwater was darker, I noticed. I scribbled tall trees. I sketched the apron edge, forgetting to aim for the vanishing point.
It was a mess. The lane lines weren't bad.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Learning to Draw: Signage for Hot Dog Truck

The two hinged panels of the sign, when I drew shadows extending left from each base, became pantlegs leading to flat black shoes, a man or woman walking right to left. I darkened the inside, the side I could see, of the right-hand panel.
Now the pantleg flattened, no sense of leg in there. But as sign, it sort of worked. The best part was beyond my making: the strip of bright light along the nearest edges of the two panels.
I darkened the shadows, the feet turned ragged.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Overcoat, The End of It

Pardon the photo but we've reached the bottom of the overcoat story at last.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Learning to Draw: Frisbee

On the way to Tangerine for tea I thought of both having frisbees given away at my funeral and drawing a frisbee without looking at one.
Promising at first, but the more I drew, the more the frisbee seemed hollow, a dish, even from the top. I drew the inner edge, showed it curving underneath. It was darker there. I drew the word FRISBEE but could not make the letters look real. I toyed with a rationale for "not real".
Continuing to play around at the foreground edge, I implied more inside than out. A bowl, as I say, had appeared, with fragments of FRISBEE down where the berries would be instead of swirling away with the disc.
I kept looking at that leading edge, wondering what it would take to make it look just tossed. Further scribbling. I threw in a smudge. Now the frisbee was long gone, except for a couple of letters, which last time I looked, lined the bottom of a cup. I tried to add a handle and move on.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Learning to Draw: Chair

This morning I was caught drawing. A chair. A woman on her cellphone kept looking at me. Finally I showed her the chair, a brown-stained wooden thing in bright sun (alternating with raincloud) next to a silver pillar. Downtown Regina, Scarth street mall.
Seeing how I'd handled the darkness and lightness in the chair itself, never mind everywhere else, the woman looked away without the usual looking back. I attempted to show the chair closer than the tiled floor it stood on. I tried to disguise the chair's outline.
If she wanted, I'd try to make the chair not look so flat, but why am I still talking about her.
I found it easier to compose a list of other things impossible to draw, which includes rain, two girls running through it, my annoyance at cars parked on a pedestrian mall, a man's pronation in cheap shoes, and the woman's decision to stand up from her own chair.
Further darkening failed to bring her near.

Monday 11 June 2012


The last few nights I caught the General Fools Improv Festival here in Regina. (My daughter Lucy was part of the show with her improv duo Dot & Mae.) It was the kind of audience any writer would die for (I guess the writing would have to be pretty good in that case). Lively, noisy, ready. They know something good is about to happen. Rows of chairs form three sides of the performance area. 18 large lanterns and two lighting grids create the light. The bar is open downstairs.

On the other hand, at your average poetry reading the audience (which, like the improv audience, usually seems drawn from a community of people who know each other) tends to sit in "respectful silence" (to borrow a phrase from the Euro 2012 commentator for the England-France match). A podium is placed far to the front of parallel rows of chairs, house lights switched full on. Maybe the bar is open.

These are obvious contrasts, for obvious reasons in terms of genre of performance. And aren't we all tired of talking about the state of poetry, including poetry performance, these days. Still . . .

Tonight I'm off to the Vertigo reading, one Shelly Leedahl in town.

Tonight's reading has been switched to the FreeHouse, by the way.

Monday 4 June 2012

Learning to Draw

I'll know I can draw better when my most sophisticated technique is no longer "the smudge" or the "scribble long enough, hope something turns up". The latter maneuvre is best practiced with the eyes half closed, a musty sense of "gesture" running the show.

After a while I forget whether the smudge was meant show distance or nearer. I couldn't tell if I was looking out the window or in. Sometimes I'd scribble further, throwing good lead after bad.
If only I could get my head out of the way--that's my latest notion. I'd just need a glimpse, my hands just a moment. There'd be sunset and traffic noise and the Court House and lots of concrete. And those people walking by, one wearing a turquoise scarf.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Overcoat, Part Four

The other day they called to say my overcoat was ready.
(For those of you who, like me, are too lazy to go back to my earlier entries on this topic, the story, briefly, is this: I acted on a deep and sure desire for a long overcoat of high quality by ordering one from Italy through the high-end menswear store in downtown Regina. One arrived, too big. A second arrived, too big.)
This time I wore a certain pair of jeans, a certain pair of shoes down to the store, in order to best assess the look the coat would create in its drape to mid-calf.
Well, the coat felt gorgeous but looked a little straight in its lines. Think wool stovepipe. My expression, tending to dour anyway, must have looked even more sour than usual in the mirror. "I can take the sleeves up a little," the guy said, trying to help. "And it won't take too long."
We smiled at each other.

Friday 1 June 2012

Three Stops in the World of Writing

One of the three chapbooks in the next series of David Zieroth's labour of love, Alfred Gustav Press, will feature new work by yours truly. But I recommend this press anyway. Here, to give you an idea of what this Press is about, is David's note accompanying Series Eight: "I hope you enjoy these three chapbooks, each produced with the help of my stalwart netbook, laser jet, stapler, blade, steel edge and pencil, each imperfect in its own handmade way. Paper or production peculiarities that may arise on your copies will be unique, as is the poetry of Dorothy Field, Cornelia Hoogland and Patricia Young." Only $10 for the three in each Series!
And Talonbooks has published my first blurb: on the back cover of Wayman Chan's gorgeous new Chinese Blue. It's a fabulous book, a total ripper. I tried to find some way to say so, coming up with "These poems are marvels of the gone but ever-sighted, every moment in/out simultaneous. Read Chinese Blue in your hover-alls."
And Brenda Schmidt's Grid, which shows us what language is for.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Moyie-Regina, Notes

All day the wind blows right to left.
Most highways curve to the town from above rather than behind.
The notion that one more tank will get me home is more than a hit song.
After #3, #1 seems lean with fewer curves, long ones, no summits or climbs or descents, no constantly slowing to 80 or 60 or 40. #1 is a handier highway for doing other things.
For a man breaking every hour and a half, the 116 km from one side of the pass to the other on #3 is enough.
#1 has the four-lane. They've both got critters.
I suppose the magnificent sky need not be mentioned.
After the last of the roadsigns, the landscape inside the border from Alberta better (than #3's coniferous green) presents the illusion of appearing for the first time.
I'd take a pic if I didn't already know what it looks like and could find my camera.
Re poem as photo and photo as poem: how much detail? how much to leave outside the frame?
For gas I'll take Walsh over that sleazy ESSO at the Maple Creek junction.
Here we have proper ditches supervised by culverts at every crossing. Here we have the rhythm of telephone pole and wire.
What a smart yellow stripe the highway wears.
A manager at a gas station says to a customer emerging from the men's can: How did you find it? (as in Is it clean enough?) The guy says I followed the sign.
Project I'm giving to Stan Still: rest stop poems/photos.
By morning it was the sunlight on Fernie--mountains and rivers all directions, it seemed, and #3 at its best, sweeping down from Cranbrook. By late afternoon it's the coteau laying out for #1.
A Bluebird bus parked in the ditch at the Webb junction says  CLAIRBORN 4H CLUB.
In Herbert I pretended I hadn't been born there. Bought a Diet Coke, getting rid of some change.
Plenty of character in the right-hand lane (eastbound) near Valjean.
Series: individual poles in late-afternoon light, where they connect to the ground.
Series: close-ups of locally made billboards before towns.
Now it's time for game two, Jays and Orioles, on AM 1190 Weyburn.

Monday 28 May 2012

B & B

I recommend the Mountain Time Inn in Moyie, B.C. (pronounced, the local history book tells me, Mo-yeah). Leaving Tom's place in Vancouver at 6:30, by the time I got to Hope I'd decided to take #3 all the way to Medicine Hat, skipping the Rogers Pass/Calgary route this time. I hadn't driven #3 in years. I tell you, it was no picnic. Up and down, around corners the whole time--where did all these summits come from? But beer 'n burger at the Moyie pub, a 6-0 Blue Jay lead in the early going against Baltimore, and a sunny view of Moyie Lake, and yes a shower--all these things have me in good nick at the moment, my second glass of beer resting on the Cleopatra issue of National Geographic, July 2011.
Yesterday Tom and I nipped down to Seattle to see Ichiro and Albert, I mean Mariners and Angels. Albert barely got the ball out of the infield. Ichiro made three graceful plays in rightfield but did zero with the bat.
Away a month, I'm ready to get home. First, though, a spell on the Mountain Time deck.

Sunday 27 May 2012

TWUC Cabaret

This is me thanking Betsy Warland and crew who organized the TWUC conference and agm in Vancouver. For the Spoken Word Cabaret in particular. I can't believe it hadn't happened sooner. But cut the bios, which are available elsewhere, and stick to 10 minutes x 6--be strict about time, I mean--and most of all, open the bar before the show, and turn down the house lights. A correction: most of all, keep the life and variety of voices (at 10 minutes).
The six "voices":
- melange of hiphop spoken word lyric confessional
- critique of Colonialism, not freshly rendered
-the ten-minute Peeping Tom opera performed  by operatic soprano mezzo tenor bass
- the sound poet with the loop machine
- the stand-up monologue sketch comic
- the performance poet delivering stock tips from his iphone

(all lables approximate)

Sunday 20 May 2012

Airing Out

Did the dishes in the studio, gathered things, wrote in the guest book. Other than that, more of this ravining--looking out south, just up and over the hump from Bow Falls, seeing what might be in it for me--and breakfast and out the highway west to Kelowna. What I don't like about this leaving is that I don't like it. I'm tired, a little emotional. Well you just get yourself un-tired, mister, I can hear my three sisters say. Be a train and get here.
I did finish my Hillsdale book, which I've referred to numerous times in these blog entries the last four years. For a while I thought maybe I was writing the book as blog entries.
Other things, unfinished. See "emotional". See "tired". If I have to write everything to put it in a place I can handle, that's seems a burden.
Good think I've got a little red car, westbound.
So long (from) Banff.
love, Gerry

Thursday 17 May 2012

Visible Cities

The ones right in front of you, for instance. City of trees cut down this year.  City of red cars. Cities roped off so the deer and elk won't eat them.
A day of snow and cloud becomes bright. Those low clouds, which by morning had sent all poets to love poems, now strayed. The hundred-footers wave to themselves. Not hot but it'll do.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Invisible Cities

To see what words have to do with cities, see Italo Calvino's "Cities & Signs 5" in Invisible Cities. It's the kind of thing I'd be tempted to raid for an epgraph.  Then I'd suppose it was too familiar. Sooner or later I'd quote the last sentence: Falsehood is never in words; it is in things while attempting to convey a dynamic of my Hillsdale book (as I call it) or of any writing any of us do.
I've dug this book before for the pleasures of its imagination, by which I mean leaps, bounds, unbounds, out-of-bounds joy at where you've found yourself, high limbs of some pine, craning your neck to see Bow Falls past the other pines. In Calvino it's so elegant, funny. (I was tempted again, this time to posit the existence of a particularly European orientation toward one's readers, but I doubt there is one.)
I've long found the notion of invisible cities useful. Right now, for instance--just got this idea--I could reveal the cities in the ravine, cities in view. No doubt the open-air 6th-floor lounge at Lloyd Hall (here at the Banff Centre) would fill the sky with cities.
I just drank from one.

Saturday 12 May 2012


Not to get holy but I'm blessed with fine light this afternoon.

Friday 4 May 2012

Fun With This Marten

I just saw my nasty little friend the marten making his rounds, evening, his coat a deeper brown-red than the one on his cousin, the cousin who took out the squirrel that had made a home inside the north wall of my studio. This was two years ago.

I'd had fun with this marten, whom I'll call Spit. I'd read up on him. I'd claimed to be him in a poem. By the time he ran across my window sill in front of me I'd come to count on his quicks. That's the thought I was entertaining when, about 15 seconds later, I heard the scuffle inside the wall.

It didn't last long. Spit enjoyed his dinner, and the wall was left without a squirrel. Banff Centre staff came out and covered the hole.

Anyway, the family's still around, with lots of newly cut-down spruce to hop through, that tail curve.

The title Surpreme Ravine Commander, however, goes to the giant crow.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

May I?

Already? Here it is, May. Which doesn't matter. Twice in the last 20  hours I've encountered Basho's "days and months are the travellers of eternity". Writing a traveller figure myself, I considered a nod to Basho.
(In the first place, Fred Wah turned us on to Basho in 1981-82 in Nelson, B.C. Basho as long poem. I took to the idea I read in Basho, thanks to Fred, of writing a poem and leaving it, on a stone or tree or edge of a stream--right now, in a studio at the Banff Centre, you might find the poem pinned to a spruce cut down within the last two weeks--and have often written one-offs and left them. One's floating in a scotch bottle (I'll think of the name in a minute) in Emma Lake, by now deep in the reeds. In Nelson I mimeographed poems by me or several of my mates and tacked them up around Nelson, and harvested them a week or two later--ripped, faded, run over, scratched out, kissed. (All of that applies to the poems, by the way, and not yet to me.) The Afters became more interesting than the Befores, a point driven home two years later, when the librarian at Selkirk College asked for my Hung Poems, as I'd called them, for the archive.)
This traveller I'm working on isn't as grown up as Basho.  He travels like cheap light, round and round in the same bulb.
I forgot to mention yesterday's encounter with Basho's words: as epigraph in a film screened by Alberto Becerril, the film-maker. In the film we see the cycle of corn near a town the size of Banff not far from Mexico City. We see water in the form of rain and drops and one thin cascade, all of these persistent but precarious at the same time.
And now, sorry but the sun looks as warm as it's been for days. I'm heading outside.

Thursday 26 April 2012

New Post

In Banff I'll start drawing. First this screen next to a window looking into a slope of Tunnel Mountain. Whatever's around. See what I can do with a pencil. Finish that Hillsdale book.

Overcoat Update:
They sent the second one back too, the one the Portuguese guy was going to tailor. The plant and the store talked over "sizing". A third coat is on the way. The manager of the menswear store threw a scare into me when he mentioned the "outdated" system of sizing at the plant. I thought at first he was talking about the style of my chosen coat. As I said before, mainly lawyers and the odd actor wear coats as long. I got over any fear. The coat's in it for the haul, and I don't mean Hall of Shame. One of these years I'll wear it down a mountain.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Overcoat, Part Three

Many of my readers--thanks for the postcard from Zambia, Aunt Sally and Uncle Huck--wonder if I've taken possession of that long overcoat I bought from the high-end menswear shop (the coat that had to be returned to the plant in northern Italy and, when it came back still too big, assigned to the Portuguese tailor for alterations). No.
In the middle of last night I caught the end of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a movie I enjoy. Steve Martin wears a long overcoat, more of a long raincoat I think.
And I've discovered long-overcoat central in Regina: the court house I can see from my window. I guess when you're admitted to the bar, job #1 is a visit to that high-end menswear shop, the one with the Portuguese tailor who's by now taken my coat apart, snipped off a few mm here and there, and stitched it back together. Lawyers in long coats, a stream of them, those extra-wide briefcases the size of mom's Singer.
I don't care that the coat, when I take possession, will hang in my long closet until autumn. It's forever, this coat--an evercoat, you might say.

Friday 13 April 2012

What's Next

Nobody asks, but I answer anyway. I heard from a woman who'd taken my Writing With Style session at Banff. She's published, been sending stuff out, made travel plans.
My students who just finished 252 (U of R English code for the first creative writing class) want to fight through exams and get a job. Their writer selves will take hold, I'll say, and commit to a piece of writing.
Those geese on the lake--must be time to bed down and get those eggs going, or maybe I'm way off.
The engineer in the studio in New York, February 1962, when Sonny Rollins lay down "Where Are You?" (with Hall, Cranshaw, Riley), must have heard the universe through a horn.
That manwith the plastic bag over his left shoulder, walking past the Court House, Victoria's next.
I'm going to finish this entry and head over to Beer Bros. to work on some poems and meet my daughter and her boyfriend for a beer.
If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.
First the Rollins has to let me go.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Good Night, Blue and White

One of my readers--thanks for the note Aunt Cynthia!--thought she'd see more poems here. A second reader (anonymous, but I have suspicions) said fewer poems, more on the Leafs (a sure sign, I reckon, of someone chained by the neck to a favourite team, like me).
On that latter point, when every sports reporter in the land points out how many years it's been since the Leafs won, how many since they even made the playoffs, I say I don't care. In my lifetime I drove dad's '65 Plymouth to band practice or something at school, it was June, and sat there long enough to hear the end of Game 6, Stanley Cup finals, Leafs beating the Habs.
Eight or nine years earlier I collected cardboard rings on Rogers Corn Syrup jars and sent them in for 5x7 (maybe larger) black-and-whites of Brewer and Baun, Duff and Keon, of course the Big M and the rest.
More recently, my son and I (I'd claim I did nothing to influence his choice of favourite team, if anyone would believe me) felt together the trials of playoff runs in '92 and '93, the Gilmour/Potvin/Burns years. Tom made a cardboard playoff standings display, hand-coloured icons the size of thumbprints attatched with pins and slotted left or right with the fortunes of their team.
Now that I've lived such joys, no one season, even a dozen seasons, can mean much, except the year the Leafs break though, truly.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

More About the Rumpus Room

If you heard Aunt Maxine upstairs looking for at Uncle Pete--stomping around, swearing at him--for sure you'd find him shooting pool. Gets noisy down here he'd tell us. Sometimes you can't hear people. I could hear her, though, threatening to take him apart, poor guy. I was afraid to go up there myself.

Monday 2 April 2012

In Praise of His Rumpus Room

I call it his because I see him in it, trying out his games. He painted curling rings on the tile floor, 4 feet in diameter, for a set of hard-plastic rocks filled with sand--1/4 the volume and weight of real rocks--mounted on bearings. They'd slide; I don't remember much curl.
The 4x8 table brought pals over, his and mine. He rigged up a rod strung with wooden disks you moved with your cue to keep score. For snooker. And he loved billiards, eight ball, any game he learned. You could beat him, but you could lose.
The frame of the door leading to the laundry room and deepfreeze--and the darker corner where he shone his shoes, and the cold room where she kept her jars--jutted to within two feet of the pool table. He built a stubby cue, tip made from hockey puck. You'd have to hunch over, do your best.
The pool table, a rocking chair, couch and tv, and his piano at the far end. I call it his piano because he's the one who stood there, tapping on the bench as you played, reading the notes the teacher left in your book.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Overcoat, Part 2

A man phoned me yesterday from the menswear store to tell me my overcoat was in. My extra-long, charcoal, wool (20% cashmere) number I plan on wearing the rest of my life. This was the second such call. A few weeks ago, the coat (which I'd had to order, since coats on racks are too short for my liking) fit way too big. Beautifully long, but too wide in ever other way.
In an earlier entry, I confessed that I like the overcoat Jerry Seinfeld wore in his famous tv show (of which I remain a big fan). Since then I found another model: Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, shot about the same time as the Seinfeld run. In that movie, it's called a topcoat, as in "Officer, [Harrison Ford shouts, trying to escape the pursuing T.L. through a crowd] a man in a topcoat, back there, waving a gun!"
This morning I delayed over tea until the menswear store opened at 10. I got there at 10:02. The store had been open since 9.
"Gerry!" said the well-dressed man. "I'll get the coat."
I tried it on. Dammit but the coat is still too wide (but beautifully long still). This time, the man said, they won't have to order a new one. They'll tailor this one. He made some marks.
I wasn't sure--the damn thing was so wide through the sleeves and body. I was on the edge of calling off the overcoat buy.
But the well-dressed man said the magic words: "Our tailor's Portuguese. He's 60 years old. He's wonderful."
I'll wait.

Friday 23 March 2012

Body Like a Boot

I wiped them down with mink oil just now, thinking I'd stroll this entry.
The boots smell of the mink oil. For the first time in my life I learned to apply it--rub the oil on, in circles. Speed up or slow down according to the Mozart on CBC.
You'll have to put them down to type boots beside the rags beside the sugar bag my sister gave me.
My standard for minking my boots had been with a brush, a second brush to polish. Simply not what mink oil needs.
It needs a hand, either one, preferably both. The second hand follows along inside the boot as you rub your circles into the leather.
I pretended to get into an argument with Suzette Mayr one time in Banff about which boots are the genuine Aussie number--the Blundstones, like mine, or whatever knock-off she wore. Suzette argued back. I happened to knowthe waitress was Aus. We called her over (or maybe I did by myself, but Suzette agreed). Which boots are the real ones, we asked. She picked mine.
Maybe pride ends this entry. It was all a laugh, the thing with Suzette. Too bad about her boots, though.

Monday 19 March 2012

Signs It's Time To Finish My Hillsdale Book

They took down the old flagpole at HMCS Queen.

A black truck was seen entering.

At the turn to Anderson, I couldn't tell what was coming.

Once our family home, this house looked 50 years old.

Something had been written on the pavement.

The entrance to Munroe Park looked uninviting.

Natural gas had been leaking from the valves.

Not much seemed unstrange.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Questions to Ask My Students

What's something she'd always wanted to know?
A woman cries at a bus stop. What's going on?
[these are separate questions]
What would he notice right here and now?
[outside, +15 this aft]
She picks up an old photo of herself. She'd forgotten about it. What does she see?
Would he rather clean his teacup or leave it seasoned like mine?

Tuesday 6 March 2012


Maybe I should stop talking and just get them to write. I think they'd like that more. I guess what I'm doing is a pre-emptive strike toward writing I'd rather read. Don't get romantic, get specific, is the kind of thing I've been saying.
Some students aren't convinced. They're bringing in knives and Russians and south Florida and forgetting that a human being, their character, wants something--which no plot exotica can provide.
I wonder if that's what I shouldn't be saying.
It's taking too long (my fault) to get to material and the workshop fun that goes with it.
Meanwhile, I hope the Raymond Carver stories pay off--the ones in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love in which, as I claimed earlier today, the story lies deep, barely visible through words.

Sunday 4 March 2012


At Westminster United this aft, I opened the Chamber Singers concert program. Item 1, "Sing We and Chant It", which once I'd sung.
In that choir years ago, an eighth note was as fast as I could go but I could hold a tune. And read. Like the other 4 or 5 in the bass section, I clustered close to Daryl, our one proper singer. Daryl knew how to sing and smile at the same time, which the conductor, a Welsman, wanted from all of us, especially for a Renaissance seize the day number such as "Sing We".
This afternoon, seated eight pews back from the stage, See poem as location for voice, I read in my notebook. (I thought I should mention it.)
A single voice, soprano, began to sing from the stage. Sing we and chant it, while love doth grant it. The fa la las came from all around, the rest of the choir rising as a kind of flash mob and filing up to the stage. A series of love songs and death songs followed--madrigals, canons. I went to market, I met swans. I could hear myself.
For their encoure: "Sing We and Chant It" again, the choir filing off.

Tuesday 28 February 2012


I went to pick up my overcoat today, the one I'd ordered from the high-end (highest-end) menswear store in Regina. To be honest, I admit that the look I wanted was the Jerry Seinfeld overcoat look. 12 to 20 years ago. That look no longer applies maybe? (Betsy, my ex-New York friend, would say, "No, 12 to 20 is about right, by the time it gets to Regina".)
Anyway, I don't care. I want a long coat, below my knees. Being a tall fellow, maybe an out-of-date fellow, I found all the overcoats in the high-end store to be too short. So I ordered one, paying about as much as I paid for my first car.
Today I parked on Hamilton, took off the coat I was wearing and stepped inside the menswear store for the new coat (which is Italian, by the way, a Biello, in a charcoal wool).
"Let's try it on," said the high-end guy, the latest of a hundred sales guys to flummox me, except in this case I'm so sure.
"You bet," I said. Well, the coat was way too big--gorgeous for length but wide through the torso, long and wide through the sleeves.
"Tell you what," the guy said. "We'll order you another one, a smaller one. We'll try to get it here before winter's out."
I don't care about this winter. Me and the coat are good for twenty winters, I told him. Just a guess.

Sunday 19 February 2012

One Afternoon During the Midterm Exam

Eight essays remain on the table, but only seven of the writers are present.
Eight people are present, but only seven get essays. How so?

Monday 13 February 2012

Fourth Letter Home

The traveller sees Don McKay
reading "Sometimes a Voice" on YouTube
as Hillsdale voice, the same
facial track as Woody Allen but
a voice from the trees
in Monroe park grown now
and from lights over back doors
and from that dark over McKay's left ear
the easement draws.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Not Sure What to Call It

I heard scene and fiction and narrative. And not sure but the lines felt long. The word poem seemed slow to come. Tomorrow I want to speak of that but don't know what I'll say. What comes to mind first is that in a poem you make a line and you end it. After that, what you call it matters not. I'll show a few examples.
Pretty soon what my students write turns into poems that I might write.
Nevertheless I press on. You give me action in your lines I'll be happy.

Monday 6 February 2012

Update re Loco Log

You fans of my Loco Log (hello Uncle Martha and Aunt Pete) have been clamouring to find out whether I counted that photograph of a CP locomotive. The answer is not yet. But should I? My own eyes didn't see it but there it was, paused over Albert street, joined at the rear to 9132.
(I told my daughter Lucy one day on a road trip, the two of us, she was about 15, that the CP locomotive we zoomed by east of Belle Plaine was one we'd never again see. So we wrote it down, or I did anyway. By now I've logged about 50--number then location, day, time.
Lucy didn't take to the idea at first. Six or seven years later, she's weakened a little, I'm guessing. The prize: spotting a locomotive a second time.
This idea I blame on direction.)

Monday 30 January 2012


Shelley I'm wondering if you say tyuning or tooning? But sorry, I have to move on to the next post, which begins:
I read Don Kerr's poem called "the fart" in his Wind Thrashing Your Heart, published by Hagios last year. Hilarious, one of several poems working that way. One of my students said he thought the poem was about secrets. "I suppose farts are secret," I found myself saying, via class chat.
So far, no response.

Friday 27 January 2012

Next Question

What kind of music do you most want to make?

Monday 23 January 2012

Into Thinking

I'm going to             
               claim Twilight has jazz as
                           speed a sprained ankle.

I'd like to write it better but
                      reading page 212 air

Listen to Stan Getz
                that Latin strings album

I shake my head sadly. Page 212
                              (taped opposite)
                                            all in the leading.

You never told me
            mind if we do
                       something different?

Wednesday 18 January 2012


Let's see if this works. I pass out pages ripped at random from a copy of Twilight found in my laundry room. Make something of this, I might say. I try the idea myself.
Page 163 begins "'No,' he said curtly, and his tone was livid."
Not very nuanced a characterization.
The spacing of words on the page itself cries out don't read me but I guess
lots of people do.
But on to the making of something. The poem scoops
a word or two (as much
as it can stomach) finds
grimace twice in three pages and gets
the hell away.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

"On Being Ill"

Writes Virginia Woolf:
Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist's armchair and confuse his "rinse the mouth--rinse the mouth" with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us--when we think of this, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature."
Her essays are full of this sort of thing--wonders of brilliant sentences. I can't wait to run this one by my first-year students. Classes start Thursday.