Saturday 21 December 2013


Sure, I'll take one. In goes the Stan Kenton album, Cuban Fire (which I claim to be the hottest big band record ever) and the complete Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard, 1961, my choice for the greatest live jazz recording ever. A blank card with a detail of a kaleidoscope image. Something for next winter: a baby outfit for Al and Emmaline. I salute Vintage Vinyl & Hemp Emporium in downtown Regina.
And I salute the man who in the parking lot of the Albert south Safeway found my wallet and made sure I got it back.

Wednesday 11 December 2013


My son keeps asking me about financial planning. Not advice--I'd be the last one to have any--but prompting, as I stagger toward what might turn out to be retirement. He hasn't been satisfied by my evasions: it's not about money, it (whether and when to retire) is about do the benefits of my job outweigh the irritants and how badly do I want to write full-time.
One way to look at Tom's appropriate but uncomfortable reminders is that my years of parental nagging are bouncing back my way. Years ago when Tom was a speedy pinch-runner for the ballteam (The Fighting Words) I ran at U of A, I reamed him out for getting picked off 3rd base. He was about 12 at the time. My team-mates thought I'd been a tad harsh. About five years ago, when I ran another ballteam (Glove Story) here in Regina, Tom, now 23 or so, was the star slugger and outfielder. Still, I was on his case so much for throwing to the wrong base or his positioning in centre field that he finally told me to shut up and let him play. He was right.
Anyway, as a freelance comedy/improve writer/producer/performer, he's a bit like me when it comes to financial planning. It's more about doing what he wants to do.

Monday 2 December 2013


I hung my lights differently this time--sag-like, from a bookcase over a frame under a mirror across a mask and window down to the socket. I'll hang decorations from the cord. This is mainly to leave room for the tapletop tree--a series of walnut arms that fit together treely, made by PossibiliTree--which will sit under the left sag.
About a quarter of my decorations come from a decoration party I hosted in my apartment in Edmonton in about 1993. Everyone brought one--taking the either tacky/gag route or the classy route I revisit every year at this time.
This time for me begins once I get my youngest daughter's birthday party out of the way, as I say. That's tonight.

Thursday 28 November 2013


This morning I was looking for a backpack for my grandson and getting keys cut. For while there, in the toy aisle of Canadian Tire, I thought about writing down the names of the various Barbies but decided, at Vampire Barbie, not to.
The topic of Barbies had come up in one of my classes. I'm all for such a conversation, but this morning in the toy aisle of Canadian Tire, I got tired of Barbies.
Later back in the classroom I mentioned the toys. And Possibilitree, the wooden Christmas tree builders I'd read about in this morning's Globe. Why the name Sport Chek didn't come up--well, you'll just have to ask it. I did note their slogan: your better is here, or something, better as noun.
I've also worked up a routine on menswear, the story of a word like that. Not much of a story, just what's up with the mens?
This is a blog entry I won't be able to make when I quit teaching.
And today I heard a story teachers love.

Thursday 21 November 2013


I'd been poo-pooing the Riders over their inflated sense
of entitlement. Today I showed up wearing a jacket zipped to the neck and waited a minute. When it got too hot I said so and whipped off the jacket, revealing a Rider jersey. The class stirred to acclaim. But right away I ripped down to the next layer, a Leaf jersey. An hour later, 48 hours before kick-off, Go Leafs I was shouting.

Wednesday 20 November 2013


I can't explain the lag between posts, but I've been teaching. And I'm not sure why this time in the semester brings me out grumpy. This is what I put to my first-year class yesterday:
How many people are present in your group right now?
How many phones are visible?
How many in your group had all three of your journal, Beauty Tips and “Sentence Combining Nov.18” sheet on the table in front of you before I began speaking?
          Reasons this was not done:
How many in your group checked URCourses for this class since Monday?
          Reasons this was not done:
How many in your group completed the “Sentence Combining Nov.18” (which means all 6 sentences) homework for today?
          Reasons this was not done:
How many in your group completed the other homework assignment for today: read (which means think about and prepare questions and observations for) the rest of the “Road to Dawn” chapter of Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw?
          Reasons this was not done:
How many in your group can I count on to have read (which means thought about, printed out, and prepared questions and observations for) poem #19 for Friday?
I meant it. They've been a good bunch but had let their standards drop. I tallied the results for each question. The numbers showed very good performance, except for those confused.
We moved on to something else. In the end, I thought I'd made my piont without the usual rant 'n rave.

Monday 28 October 2013

re Dave McFadden

I see in today's Globe that Dave McFadden, one of my teachers in Nelson years ago, is ailing. I wanted to tell a few stories about him but they're pretty weird and they'd take too long. Dave liked play, that's the gist of them. It was wonderful to experience as a new writer.

Thursday 17 October 2013


I threw a few rocks an hour or two ago, my first attempt at an upright stance (like that used by Stephanie Miller, for you curling fans). The knee feels fine. I fell during the first slide but stayed pretty steady after that. My draw weight was excellent, I think because the afternoon women's draw had just come off and the ice was still keen. Standing instead of squatting in the hack, though, presented the problem of how to see down the sheet bent over. Just get a glimpse, then visualize where the broom is, instead of sighting toward it, was the strategy, which actually showed promise.
Yesterday in my Sask Lit class I wondered if maybe we should figure out a game to play in the classroom. An athletic game. K., normally the most talkative one, grew silent. Turns out she hates athletics because she was never any good. She said she'd rather hang back and read books, which I suppose is ok. But "curling" was one suggestion, not a serious one. This all came from reading Lorna Crozier's Small Beneath the Sky, which my students are charged with imitating (a task, I always notice, students are reluctant to take on, either thinking it's plagiarism or just not original enough).
And ads for a curling event in Medicine Hat are marring the MLB playoff game between innings. I'll only catch the first few innings anyway before I head off to Artful Dodger for the Coteau launch.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

And Now

The Leafs are on again, scoreless so far against Colorado. But so are the Tigers-A's. I've just finished reading student responses to the ending of Sven Birkerts' "Brown Loafers". Not having to attach a grade freed up my responding, I noticed.
Now the A's have second and third with nobody out against Scherzer.
In the essay, a pair of ill-fitting brown loafers stand in for an old friend who, after a terrible bout with heart disease and cancer, takes his own life. He'd given Birkerts the shoes, which B. wears to the memorial and hauls out of his closet every once in a while, though they hurt his feet. Still hard. Harder. go the last two fragments, referring to the shoes. The students seemed to de-value the shoes in favour of the loss and grief. I kept saying what about the shoes, throwing in an exclamation point (otherwise banned in the civilized country of our classroom).
Poor Scherzer. I like the guy, but now they're loaded, nobody out.
My son Tom's at the Air Canada Centre right now, half-way through the first, no score. He sent a pic. I warned him about the time my wife and I went to a Leafs game in Edmonton years ago. The 7-2 shellacking bummed me out so bad I couldn't enjoy dinner downtown. Made for a tough few hours, which we laugh about now
I saw my all-time favourite Leaf, Borje Salming, break his stick over his own goalpost after he'd tried to cover for his defence partner and left his own man free to score the 7th Oiler goal.
Now Scherzer's a strike away from getting out of it. Line drive to Jackson, cut to commercial.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Tough Call, but the Right One

Leafs-Habs right now, how could I do anything else? I'm supposed to be getting supper ready or working out, or something. I might mute it and listen to MLB playoffs, might not.
Leafs, awesome powerplay goal! Down low to Bozak, bad break for Price.

Saturday 14 September 2013

City of Apologists for Saskatchewan Roughriders

Three Rider players were arrested a day or two ago--now released until next court date, in October-- for aggravated assault after a late-night altercation along the Dewdney strip in Regina that sent one man to hospital with serious wounds. But today on the pre-game radio show, which I happened to be listening to on the way home from washing my car, via the liquor and grocery stores, the commentators portrayed the players as victims. The argument went like this: We live in a fishbowl, the eye always on us. Believe it or not, some people want to take us down a peg for some play we did or didn't make. And they don't hold back. Touchy situations arise, and we're going to react. We have to be smart, that's all, and cover each other's back.
So despite the controversy and debate, two descriptors offered by the Leader-Post, the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club decided not to suspend the players--citing the need for more information, not to mention the fact the players are innocent until proven otherwise. They'll be in the line-up tonight against Toronto.
The commentators said nothing about obey the law or what makes those idiots think that just because they're Riders they can rough people up. Just be smart.
They added, in the end the Riders will do the right thing. They always do.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Real Swimming

20 minutes ago, leaving the pool, I saw it. A young woman in a blue racing suit emerged from the water, stripped off her cap, re-tied her single long braid, twisted it into a bun and pinned it, pulled the cap on, tucked in her hair all around, jumped back from a wasp, dove in, and in a half dozen powerful strokes reached the far side--all in 15 seconds. I tried not to stare. Water polo club, I guess!
At home I opened a new 500g jar of organic peanut butter. Stirring it cast my hands, arms and shoulders--many other parts  of me as well--back to the pool, my clumsy widths, pushing more water than I cut through.
The peanut butter was fine, "may contain other nuts and seeds" or not.
Hoping the pool was swell at your place too,

Wednesday 4 September 2013


During the night I enjoyed a visit to my hometown--Herbert, where the Coteau crosses the Trans-Canada between Moose Jaw and Swift Current--and decided to move there. I was quite realistic about the pros and cons of life there, deciding that I'd open a coffee shop/bar on the pier. Coffee/tea until happy hour, liquor after that. This dream ended with (1) winter, and (2) no lake, sea or river in Herbert.
Today we start another round of classes. In recent years I've been dabbling with thinking about retirement. The August 23rd headline in the Globe and Mail sent me a clear message: RETIRE OLD TANKERS, SENATE URGES. Some things need simply to be "taken out of service," as the Senate committee chair said. Perhaps "retrofitted or barred".
I've always said I'd retire when the pros (even the poetry) of the job no longer counterbalance the cons. And certain elements of the job do seem to call for my retrofitting or scrapping.
But fun is fun. Today I plan to sneak early into my 2:30 class and sit in the corner, pretending I'm a student, until all the other students arrive.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Lake Gasoline

I hate giving up in late August, as in summer's almost over and back to school next week. Only at this time of year do we hear people say pencil crayons. What they mean is, back to school, NOW, as if that breeze off the lake--today the smell of gasoline, though usually nothing but blossoms and fresh air--doesn't reach this memorial bench on the east shore. I want to seize these people by the shoulders and cry we live in a place to which the natural world, gasoliney or not, calls for a measure of determination of what we do. To waste the word now on what needn't happen until it needs to happen (which will vary with any one of us) seems opportunity lost. It's the 27th of August. Relax!

Wednesday 7 August 2013


Was there a real Val Marie? said a customer at the museum cafe in Val Marie. A nun said the woman handing over his takeout latte. At that she turned back to her story about her friends visiting from Vancouver who had not yet embraced the landscape. In a later story, 12 ball teams came down for a tournament two weeks ago. Good for liquor sales? Oh for sure. They crashed at houses of the single guys from around here. This second story diverted me from the point I was hoping to make with the first, which was that we could try out this statement by Barry Lopez, delivered on page three of "Landscape and Narrative": "The landscape seemed alive because of the stories." We would re-introduce the friends from Vancouver into the Grasslands National Park, let them graze out there for a day and half, then get them talking. Or get them to play ball. Drifting under a fly ball (mosquitoes, raindrops, holes, all that sky) and catching it--that's a story they'll tell.

Friday 2 August 2013


It was the worst of service and the best of service. I approached the counter of a bookstore in Winnipeg. It was a Saturday afternoon, busyish. I was not in line. When a man appeared more concerned with a stack of papers than me, I interrupted him. "I'm working on these papers," he said to me, with a jab of his head down the counter, where others were working at tills. "And I'm trying to spend money in your store," I said, making sure he read my annoyance. He rushed me to the woman at the till, with a "She'll be glad to help you." And she was. She right away knew how to find what I wanted: Calvino's Invisible Cities, which I'd been praising to my son Tom. She led me straight to it, noting over her shoulder that in fact the Calvino was a Staff Pick this week. "Whose?" I asked. Mine," she said, with a flash of a smile and her black hair (about which, another time, I'll say more). It wasn't the edition I'm used to, but a few days later, from a Vancouver coffee shop close to where he's thinking of moving, Tom sent me this photo:

Wednesday 31 July 2013


I took a walk after lake Wascana this afternoon

using prepositions beyond alphabetical order.

I imagined a city and what people did by them

besides keep one eye for cloud.

Wednesday 10 July 2013


I was heartened just now, arriving to my office at Luther around noon, to see the Geography 100 instructor holding a globe as he spoke. He seemed to be turning it.
I'm tempted to sneak across the hallway right now and eavesdrop on what they're up to:
He's speaks quietly, gesturing with one straight arm. As high as it gets he says.
I've left my office door open in hopes of catching more. He's do doubt aware that scientists are looking for other earths, in case we blow up this one. Across the hall, he's the only one I've heard speak. Large variation in solar radiation gets a louder tone.

Monday 1 July 2013

A Leaving Alive


Time to pull shut the screen door on the Hemingway studio (named after the architect, not the writer) and climb into my Matrix and drive off.
Two weeks isn't long enough but the hours on my new pine deck seemed endless. (Old deck shown in the pic.) You should see my tan!
I finished a piece on a painter.
I found a shape for my Luther College 100th Anniversary Poet Laureate piece.
I found a form for ongoing work on "cities".
And I left a nip of scotch for the next person.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

The City of Anne Carson

I'm nuts about Anne Carson's Red Doc. If I like it hard enough, I won't have to quit writing because of it. About an hour ago I took a pic.

As you see, it's sideways. But dedicated readers of this blog--hello from the Banff Centre, Uncle Chivas and Aunt Regal--will make the effort. They'll see Carson text in the foreground, what's left of my Trad, and the Bow valley beyond, facing west. Warm if the sun's free of clouds, cool otherwise.
I called a piece The City of Anne Carson because everything I'm writing is. A city.
Much as I'd like to continue this entry, I notice \North By Northwest is on TCM right now.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Photo Assignment

By noon tomorrow I have to ship 3-5 new photographs to my instructor and be ready to talk about them during a group critique Thursday at noon. She gave me a quick intro to Photoshop. Right away I realized (1) I don't have time to poke at the skin, never mind the deep flesh, of what this software can do, (2) what is the point of eliminating blemishes from photographs? and (3) my photos don't have any blemishes. I think I'm over all three.

Wednesday 19 June 2013


I wish I had a picture but we all know what they look like. This one perched on the new railing of the Hemingway Studio in the Leighton Artists' Colony, Banff Centre. It appeared to bend over and rub its eye in a spot of rainwater. It straightened up; I thought I caught it blinking once or twice. This happened again, same eye.
I'm sure you've guessed by now that the magpie was in fact sipping from the rainwater. Sideways must work best for a beak like that. (I'd call that magpie left-beaked.)
The black cat included in the previous post, fresh from its appearance in a poem in honour of Wilf Perrault's alley work, had just this morning been given the job of screensaver.
As the magpie drank, thought that's not the right word for it (might even take more than one), the cat was staring right at him. But wouldn't turn around.

Saturday 8 June 2013


At a time like this, after another rejection, I want my readers--a hefty good afternoon to you, Aunt Matilda and Uncle Walt-- to pick me up in their arms somehow. To prevent me from becoming nasty in this list of What To Do When Rejected:
1. Call the rejecters gutless.
2. Doubt that they know what they're doing.
3. Pretend not to notice.
4. Carry on with the next thing, assuming I have one.
5. Walk in this rain, leave my umbrella at home.
6. Buy something.
7. Go to sleep.
8. Push this list to 10.
But seriously, seems wrong that they said No to what I proposed.
I select #4 from the list: working on the mind of the alley, maybe in the alley, maybe over. That way I can do #5 also (with umbrella) and avoid #6. Put off #7 until I've accomplished something (for which their saying No is the bummer it is).
I've got this new camera, see, and an hour and a half or so to wander up and down a few alleys.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Why I Visited the Station in Melville

The CN passenger train stops in Melville. A gym for CN workers stands beside the tracks. Passengers stretch their legs. A train both local and through, I figure.
Once I caught the train in Regina bound for Ottawa and, a week later, two years in Papua New Guinea. It was more like a pod: close at hand was anything I'd need--I'd go down to the dining car, that's all. I did then pretty much what I'm doing right now, writing stuff down.
Dad had cried in Calgary when we said good-bye, just the second time I'd seen him like that. I'd already taken too long to establish myself, was how he might have seen it.
I didn't think of any of that at the station in Melville. I saw those passengers stretching their legs, and the run-down condition of the original stationhouse, and (100 years ago) the pastors arriving to turn the sod for the Luther Academy.
From the station out--trajectories repeated thousands of times for newcomers to the southern prairie, once the tracks got there.

Friday 31 May 2013


Yesterday at 2:00 pm, one hundred years to the hour since the sod-turning ceremony for the Luther Academy in Melville commenced, I reached into the back of my car--parked to face the Academy, now Melville Heritage Museum--for my shovel.

I'm Poet Laureate of Luther's 100th Anniversary festivities this fall. I'd been fired up by the idea of turning some sod of my own, maybe even a strand of the same sod the pastors and Melville dignitaries turned in 1913.

Trouble is, no sod. The Museum sits hard against a nursing home on one side, a 1954 addition on the other. Parking lot around back, lawn in front. Unless I dug up grass or blacktop, or messed with a family memorial garden, or helped myself to the ditch along highway 10, a football kick from the Museum, I'd turn no sod.
I went up and down about it a few times.

I took close looks. 
I spotted the fire escape on the west side and climbed up and sat for an hour and a half until, I reckoned, the pastors a hundred years ago were done saying a few words over their turned sod.
A while later, an Ambulance pulled out from the nursing home parking lot next to the former Academy. I wasn't on it.


Thursday 30 May 2013


Looks wet, an hour past sunrise already. Today's the day I load the shovel into the car and drive up highway 10 a ways. Can't say too much about it yet, except that the same thing happened one hundred years ago, minus the car (I doubt there was a highway either, and I wasn't the one digging). No point in hitting the road until 8, but I was lying in bed, beginning to work on the piece--oops, that's a hint--so I might as well get up . . .

Saturday 25 May 2013

Hillsdale Book

Readers of this blog--hey there Uncle Phyllis and Aunt Pete--will have noted references to Hillsdale, a 50s-era subdivision of south Regina. I think this was the first time I spoke of it, a turning of the first word, I suppose.
Well it's in the can now. Friday I shipped the file to Newest, who are bringing the book out next year. I wrote it because I loved writing it.
In five days I'll turn another new word, so to speak. Can't tell you much now, but there's a shovel.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

On David Gilhooly's "Frog"

I had in mind a wee exploration of where this piece of public art is and what it's doing and why aren't we told who made it and what it's called. I took photos.
I spent half an hour there and another half in the coffee shop over a breakfast tea sending the photos one by one from my phone to my computer.
I thought it had been installed in 1972 or so during the height of the pop/folk/funk ceramics period at U of R with Gilhooly and Yurisity and Fafard and others. The frog looks a tad crude up close, and in need of repair. (If this is a frog, I thought at one point, that aged, washed-up leftie--hanging on to face only one or two batters per outing, once or twice a week--is a viable  relief pitcher for the Jays.) But while everyone else is just on the way to work, the frog's been here 40 years.
And that was the idea (including the word frogment). I pedalled out to the campus to flesh it out and, not incidentally, to get on the U's case for lack of plaquage for the frog.
Turns out that Fafard himself had the thing built. Story here.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

What To Do

I remember one of my teachers, Fred Wah, saying he'd have several projects on a go and he'd toss his language in the air and it would land on one of them. Starting tomorrow morning I'm going to act more single-minded: use the Farmer's Almanac to predict and/or report on the construction of a schoolhouse a hundred years ago. Until I come up with something more interesting, that description will have to do.
I'm trying to keep it a secret. Hint: shovel. Hint: put the shovel down and get inside.
I don't know how my many readers (that's you, Uncle Lou and Aunt Ise--don't worry about the Leafs, they were playing with house money) see the Almanac, but for me it's about story, not fact. And it's about detail. Apologists for the builders of the school house may exist. They make stake claims on the truth, but I'm going to make a verb of almanac and we'll see.
Hint: sod-turning May 30.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Buildings that Kill Downtown 1

I don't know whether to draw these or complain about them.

Now, in warmer weather, downtown should come alive. It tries, but half-block after half-block of frontage that doesn't admit or invite pedestrian traffic, other than to those who work there, kills downtown, yes kills it.
I'll shoot more of these.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Learning to Draw: Interstellar Space

If any subject requires no hurry, it's this one. I finish this post, play backgammon. I'll start at the nearest edge; that cloudish, getting-warmer sky will do. Having read somewhere that a bit of foreground detail best frames infinity beyond, I'll see what the trees in Victoria Park have to say, from my spot on a bench there. I'll take the F pencil, for FAR.

Monday 29 April 2013

This Is What We Bought With That Hot September

I made it about 20 miles west of North Battleford and turned back. I'd slipped and headed for the ditch--driving snow, build-up in the passing lane, temperature 0 degrees--but managed to avoid it.
A couple of hours later I've selected the Roibas tea at Mc-Rob in Saskatoon. In a hurry to get on the internet, I passed everything but POETRY in the Mc-Rob stacks. The closest would be GROUND WRITING, if that's what I saw.
The damn highway. I took my snow tires off last week, knowing I'd rather drive the nearly 2,000 km to Edm and back on the summer tires.
Never thought of checking the weather or road conditions before leaving Regina at 4 am.

Tuesday 16 April 2013


I felt like sitting in outdoor furniture--recycled plastic deck chairs, swivels and gliders by Ratana. I imagined them indoors.
(I think we must pause here to wonder at indoors, at in with doors, at doors for the line we cross. The out-of-doors, the door saleman cracking wise: I'm out of doors.)
Seated in the glider, I told the woman the chair was pricey. Well it's quality she said. Five-year warranty.
An hour later, I'm still thinking about it--setting up the glider indoors, at my place. I'd have to move a cabinet to make room.
Question is--and here I'm asking my many readers (that's your cue, uncle Peach and aunt Pit)--would you sit there?

Sunday 7 April 2013

I'm Waiting to Eat My Orange (Though Once Eaten, It's Not Much Good)

Just now over at the Y, I finally added an apostrope to MENS outside our changeroom.
Pretty soon I'll get to what's in the archive of Archive of the Undressed. Thinking like the orange, I wonder if the book is about undressing, as in destabilizing yourself, as in leaving the changeroom changed.
Well never mind that last bit, but Playboy is not the point of the book, although Jeanette Lynes in her intro, an essay called "Begin the Slow Peel of Elbow Gloves", makes much of her fascination with vintage Playboys--their founder and style and readers and women (especially those lost) and personal resonance. What we take off, and how, and what we leave on--on our bodies, first and last of all--is what makes up the thematic heart of archive. Formally, this happens via all manner of voice, rhetorical dynamic, fragment, found language, autobio snippet and so on until, in the end, the book itself is the performance we've lived all this time.
Something along these lines is what I'll run by my students tomorrow. They're the ones who have to write the essay.

Thursday 28 March 2013


I plan to ask my students to find poems, as in found poem, as in look through these books I picked from a scrap heap to find language that might work in a new context--on your page, say, made into lines, retitled. (Mine's called "Floor Care", from a janitorial services company adspam that sneaks through the fax machine at Luther.)
When I'd sorted sorting through the books, someone asked me what I was looking for. I wasn't sure how to answer. But as I flipped the books, lifting piles in boxes, I began to see that any sort of classifying--of aircraft, mangement technique, biology, human behaviour, anything else--begged to be lifted and set down as new language. Captions for charts, reference systems, ordering--same thing. Lutheran ministerial manuals, I noticed, didn't work. Or science fiction novels.
John Geiger's account of uncovering the freeze-dried body of John Torrington, circa 1837 (the body, not the account), will prove fruitful for whoever slits through it this afternoon, I hope.
I may tell my students the story of finding a poem in an issue of Propellor Maintenance. I can't remember where or why I'd be reading that magazine, but the poem was called "Maintenance"--I don't have a copy on me at the moment. (Readers interested--good morning to you, Aunt Murphy and Uncle Jean--may consult the thin Gerald Hill segment (which I prefer to the fat Gerald Hill segment), in the U of R Archives.) Sub-headings included "Waxing the Tips" and "Leading Edge". The poem ended with a hearty "good luck!", which all propellor maintainers seem to need. I loved that poem because my poetic was built-in.
I did attempt to re-capture the machine moment when, over a succression of cold mornings at St. Peter's Abbey, I sat in the front seat of my Olds, a '89 Delta 88, I'd owned for a week. It was field work--sitting in the Olds, looking around--but the immediate task was to thumb through the Manual to read about some system or other on this Olds, which in '89 would have been best in its class by far, its innovations unimagined by my former wheels, a rusted-out Datsun pick-up. To make more of this story I'd claim that my poetic showed up here too, in the manual, for me to write down. "Getting to Know Your Oldsmobile" said the manual. That's all I needed.
While I'm at it with these books, this afternoon: cut-ups.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Embraceable You

If I hear anyone say "embrace winter" anymore, I'll plough him/her right in the face. That's how bad things are. Pretty soon the automatic chickenwire fence gate that opens for condo owners in the Balfour won't be able to close again.
Other reasons for my mood have been proposed, actively, but I blame weather. I say this with Clifford Brown on the box, a trumpetous winter. And I can see hair blowing off someone's head, south wind on the alley.
I'm trying not to project my dread onto others. But even here I have not succeeded.
Along comes Al Di Meola, following Clifford on my playlist. Once, driving from Rocky into Calgary on a Friday night, I had to pull over, because Di Meola seemed to be paralyzing every frame of my body with that guitar of his. Elegant Gypsy is the name of the disc, if you're interested. (Come to think of it, who would be?)
I'm going out there now. Down to Atlantis to read my students' poems.
If not back by sunset, I'm snowed in.

Saturday 2 March 2013

One Saturday Night Not Long Ago

I watched soccer, I watched curling, I watched hockey, I watched page 45 of The Best Canadian Poetry in English (2012), I watched United Artists day on TCM, I watched this screen. Recipe book, windshield, aisle 7 at Safeway, stopwatch on my phone. Pretty soon I'll catch the opening at Neutral Ground.
I just thought of a reason: all day today I'd planned on working with Don Kerr, my editor on the Hillsdale book. Don had to cancel so we'll do it next weekend.
To get ready for Don I assembled a "page of propositions aboutHillsdale Book", a list of queries I'd noted in December (when I last gave the ms a good reading), a new poem, and binder worth of small changes to the ms I'd sent NeWest from Banff last May. Don will have his own notes, I'm sure. He's already told me that a certain section is not to his liking.
That's so next weekend now. Later tonight I'll catch the first half of West Side Story, the last half of Stoughton-Martin from the Brier.

Monday 25 February 2013

The Good News

The Leafs look great in Philly tonight. Kessel just scored, but even before that. The bad news is that they've embraced goonery to become a top team. Guys whose job it is to drop their gloves and beat on the other team's goon(s). Way to goon, Leafs!
I'm not immune to deriving pleasure from the team's recent form.
As I was saying, the bad news is that I'll be leaving soon to catch tonight's Vertigo reading at Crave.
I didn't mean it like that.
But maybe I can sneak into the bar for the last ten minutes of the third.

Friday 8 February 2013

For Alice Velma Hill, 1915-2013

I salute our mom in those daytime hours
in the city after dry years and war years
and small town years. Here was
a new house, the first
she and dad ever owned, beige
split-level, nothing around but mud.

I salute our mom in those daytime hours
in her picture window, bedrooms (four)
bathrooms (two), L-shaped
living room, rumpus room and new
washer/dryer. It must have been quiet
with dad at work, us kids at school.

I salute our mom in those daytime hours.
We rushed home at noon for lunch
and dad lay down for a snooze
and we all rushed off leaving mom
the housework and shopping,
the Thursday afternoons at the rink.

I salute our mom in those daytime hours.
After school we’d practice
our piano or horn to play
“I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.
Mom from the kitchen would say
“I like that one”.

I salute our mom in those daytime hours
we always came home to.

Sunday 3 February 2013

An Old Movie

"Twice each day for the rest of your life you will examine your conscience", says the boss nun-in-training. Cut to a series of shots of apprentice nuns, including Audrey Hepburn, examing their conscience, voice-over listing the imperfections. "I left a light on last night."
My conscience tells me we like old movies because they let us make-believe the made-believe. We can tell ourselves stories about stories.
Now they're snipping Hepburn's hair and pulling on her first cowl. She prays. Fred Zinniman shoots this and other scenes straight up. Every woman's face showing utter lack of will. The men up at the front, the priest and his associates, look bored.
"Sister, you make a beautiful nun," say the patients, when she returns to duty on her ward. They applaud. Hepburn blushes. Later she tells another new nun, "We shouldn't blush, I'm sure we shouldn't".
"Go write it in your notebook, says the other.

Wednesday 30 January 2013


I don't know why I'm so grumpy these days. (To my readers--that's you, Uncle John and Aunt Deere--quipping big surprise or something more original, pipe down.)
This afternoon I scolded a student for showing up to her first class two and a half weeks into the semester.
When someone in the office asked me how's Gerry today, I said why am I so grumpy. She showed me her plastic bracelet, which says Have a complaint free day. Without the hyphen.
I seem to need someone to grump at.
Maybe I made a mistake laying Best Canadian Poetry (in English) 2012 on my first-year students. I'm you-know-what about that too.
Tomorrow Connie Gault's visiting my creative writing class. That should be fun.

Thursday 24 January 2013


I visited Old Fashion Foods this morning, looking for the C-complex 'n minerals caps I blame for keeping me healthy, healthy as a course, this semester and last.  I growled as I turned into the parking lot of the south Albert location. Where's the -ed, was my beef, one I'd had before.
I tried that idea on the woman behind the counter. Yes, she said, the what?
I tried it later on my creative writing students, who seemed less knotted about it than I. Don't buy your vitamins there, I told them. (They'd already sworn to buy coffee from Robin's instead of Tims, backing me up on the apostrophe issue.) (One student had checked for plural: There was only one Tim Horton, right?)
I've been healthy as a Horton all winter, as I was saying. He was a rock-solid #7 for the Leafs circa 1959-1969 or so, till he got in a spat with Imlach and played out his career in Buffalo, if I have the facts right, starting up the restaurant in the early 70s. Horton was my favourite player for a while, between Mahovlich and Keon--he wasn't just tough, he was slick, rare at the time for defencemen if you weren't Bobby Orr.
From south Albert they sent me to Vic and Edgar, where they'd set a bottle aside. When I got there I bought 2 and said nothing about the -ed.
Horton was killed in a car crash by '75 I think. He'd sold out to his partners.
I popped my first cap with an apple just now.

Sunday 20 January 2013


A Skins curling game, Canadian Figure Skating championship, NFL football playoff game. Pick one.

I used my fingers to scrape cooked-on egg from a frying pan, and similar claims, as likely to be true as false, about how I keep house. I invited my grandson over to sit on my kitchen floor in absorbent pants.

Given a list of actions and images, which ones would you call burlesque and why.
Figure skating costumes, make-up, tall-man-tiny-woman Pairs teams, choreography, past champions, ends of routines. The return of NHL hockey, turntabling, cold wind on the coldest day, second piece of your daughter's pie, the relationship of the blade to the ice, witch as a verb on your writing, memory.

Nothing compares to that, they said on tv just now about the Dance champs' routine. Here's where we invent further burlesque. Every year it's a new lift.

Do you want your poem to tell us what we know or what we don't know?

Monday 14 January 2013

Fan post: Vertigo

The camera tracks two cars driving left to right along Fort Point Road in San Francisco, a long shot. The front car pushes the right edge of the frame, the rear car pulls at the left. After a while, ten seconds or so, the camera lets the front car go and draws in on the rear, tracking its swing to the right where it stops beside the other car, the Golden Gate bridge towering in the background. Gorgeous sequence, one of about five hundred in this film.
Vertigo--and Hitchcock, its director--has been a favourite since I first saw it upon its re-release with four other Hitchcock films in about 1982. As years passed, I was delighted, puzzled at first, to see that my children enjoyed Hitchcock films too. Odd content maybe, but the precise story-telling--fabulous economy of story-telling motion--is what hooked us.
Yesterday's Vertigo came from the big screen at the Galaxy. For a while I was the only one in the theatre, a creepy thrill all its own. Finally about a dozen other fans trickled in. Despite a couple of howlers from moments that have not aged well, the film seemed more glorious than ever.
Never mind the plot, dig the camera movement and Bernard Herrman's score, just for starters.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Time to Think About First Day

The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012, ed. Carmine Starnino, Tightrope Books, will challenge me and my students, starting tomorrow (in their case, yesterday in mine).
"[S]aying something true about life" (from his Introduction) we will either look for or not, or find or not. Starnino offers that phrase as half of a shorthand--"a game" being the other half--in his sketch of the range of Canadian poetry, at least as surveyed via "54 print and on-line magazines", as Molly Peacock's Prologue has it. (Peacock is the Series Editor of the Best  series, now in its 5th outing.)
Like many of my students, I can buy in to versions of that range, which may change with every poem. These are first-year students, for whom a poem, any poem at all, offers an invitation to either quit before reading or smother with interpretations, used ones, worn out.
Of course I generalize here. One poem will generate fresh energy in the body and mind of one reader. "Also a twilight everything turns from:" (Susan Gillis, "Solstice Night"), for example, will take us from a conventional, if fresh enough, depiction of snow on a lone house on a winter evening to "We're burning / everything we have", from the last two lines, which I for one will read as a way to read.
And in other poems the games will make us play.