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.