Saturday 28 February 2015

The Secret of Long Life

If I would have said "Secret Clubhouse for Maple Leaf Fans" would you still be reading? Only if you're Tom, Don, Jared, Brenda, Justin, Justin, Dave and one or two more. We all know the Leafs are on the ice tonight and maybe they can beat the Habs--oops, they're down 1-0 late in the first. 
My son Tom, #1 on the list above, became a Leaf fan growing up. (I hear I wonder why.) His timing was good. Doug Gilmour led the team to the final 4 two years in a row, the only team to do so. I give most of the credit to Cliff Fletcher, who brought Gilmour in, and Andreychuk and the others. This was 92-93 and yes, isn't that a long time ago now.
There was a direct line from that team to the Sundin years. Of course Mats himself was a fabulous player and leader, captain of the Swedish captains internationally. He was supposed to put the 92-93 teams over the top, when they got him from Quebec, but it didn't work out that way. They haven't done much in the playoffs since. (Meanwhile, Quebec moved to Colorado and won a Cup in 96.)
And I remember meeting my friend Dave in the Library pub just off the U of A campus in Edmonton. On some kind of class orientation we found ourselves side by side over beer. It didn't take long before the Leafs came up. 
Both Dave and Tom, like me, tune them out when they're losing, having seen that show. The Jays are warming up in Florida, the Raptors are enjoying a lull before the push to the playoffs, so we leave the Leafs alone, though here I am, talking about them.
Better change the subject soon!

Wednesday 25 February 2015


I caught Eve Egoyan the other night at Darke Hall. Part of what she does as artist whose medium is piano, as her website says, is her earwitness project exploring what sound can do to light (is how I'd put it).
I took the word to a couple of classes today. Why not nosewitness or fingerwitness, students asked, then disappeared, out the door with nothing but ears--go downstairs, walk around, come back up.
Quicker than the time it took me to write the sentence you have just read (should you still be with me, dedicated readers--that's you, aunt Betty and uncle Fred), my students sat down and wrote what they'd heard.
I asked if they'd heard anything interesting. I must have put the question more effectively to my afternoon class, which had heard the number 12 and languages and Cheetos. And that hum, and trucks backing up. Conversation about hearing ensued. But we didn't get to sounds our bodies make (beyond the obvious ones), or to whether I'm hearing the hard sweep of snow away from the window or just seeing it.
And I sent an email to Eve Egoyan. After performing most of the hour-long Ann Southam piece called "Simple Lines of Enquiry," Egoyan spoke of how the piece needs time to build the context for itself. Readers of contemporary poetry may understand what she means. I refer of course to those poems which call into question our usual ways to read. 


Monday 23 February 2015

Having Halted the Leafs' Losing Streak

I returned to Regina. A pattern of warmer/colder days applied to both cities.
Everyone's getting traded. Any Leaf named in trade talks says that's the nature of the business. If I were in their poet skates, I'd find it tough to prepare for games with that on my mind, though the 2.5 mill I get per year might help.
I didn't detect much love for the Leafs in Toronto, but I added what I could. When from my daughter's balcony I spotted what looked like the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens and said so, Lucy confirmed it. The former Cathedral on Carleton and Church, now known for its Loblaws, could barely show itself butt first to the cityscape of downtown Toronto, but barely it did.
Lucy and I made two or three trips there, as did thousands of others. Once I saw a guy pulling his hockey bag and a couple of sticks into the elevator. I damn near requested his presence on aisle 25, where a red circle represents center ice at the Gardens, so we could stage a face-off for the camera.
As the scenario played out in my mind, as soon as the puck (or a can of tuna) dropped I'd flip it past the guy and break in alone . . .

Sunday 15 February 2015

Off to Explore Matters in Toronto

Dedicated readers of this blog--a frosty afternoon to you, Uncle Jack and Aunt Moss--have been waiting for me to cure what ails the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They think that because I've been a Leafs fan since 1957, I should be the one with answers. In recent years my answer has been to ignore them when they're losing.
It's tough to say that. The team still represents greatness, in my opinion. I think of names such Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, the Big M, Sittler and McDonald, and--one more time, let's hear it for my favourite Leaf ever--Borje Salming. Only a couple of months have passed since the Leafs were the hottest team in the NHL. I suppose what defines me as a Leaf fan is that I assume further greatness could arrive any moment.
In this sense I'm out of touch with the Toronto that won't stop bitching about their hockey team, if it's theirs. Why don't they get behind it, I wonder.
But how did I get on this topic! I'm flying to Toronto, and it's not for the Leafs.

Monday 9 February 2015

Later That Same Week

A night later. I'm at Crave, just past tapas. Earlier I'd spotted Jane Munro, one of the featured readers, in a mirror, and walked over to say hello.
I left her with her friend and returned to my table.
I'm  ready to shift gears in my class from poems to scripts. We'll have to talk about what that means. First we'll talk over the excellent ideas Judy Krause left behind last Thursday--to look for your own pleasure in what you write, for starters. For your poetry portfolios due this Thurs, I'll tell my class, HAVE FUN.
Well, I'm set for class tomorrow and Jane's on in 20. Time to wrap this up.
A collaboration, in character, about shoes: that's the next idea, maybe.

Sunday 8 February 2015


It wasn't that long ago, a year. But a year ago already. I'm referring to a piece of writing that began in my notebook in Guimaraes a year ago, itself a re-visit from four years before. (You can refresh my memory here.)
This referring to it comes from reading it, a piece called "City Dance" after the dance show I went to that night. This reading, in turn, comes from a survey of the poetry manuscript I'm making from the travel writing. Since September I've sent the whole thing out in bits to 16 different journal publishers (the score tied at 4-4 so far). 
So here I sit with my tea, my binder of "cities", my shaking of head at how time couldn't care less about me or anyone else. Friday in class, journaling with my students on the topic of time passing, I claimed that awareness of time is one of the few things that strengthens as we age.
I want now to bring this entry to a reason I've retired: so my days can immerse themselves in the richness of their passing instead of skittering along oblivious.
Which is not quite how I might say it next time but close enough for now.

Wednesday 4 February 2015


One writer said she couldn't revise because it would be an entirely new piece. I said well isn't that what revise means? So far she can't get past what she thinks a poem should be.

Others look miserable, as if what's the point of picking up stones putting them down.

A friend told me about the American poet (sorry, can't remember her name) who tells her students not to use metaphor. Tough assignment! It would help if we all understood what metaphor is in the first place, but ok. The way I might put it is risk verbs (which also might call for a refresher).

At the grocery store 30 minutes ago I imagined a scene--where parking lot meets store entrance--we all pursued in writing. No pauses to describe allowed. I don't know if we'll get to that one.

Twice I brought to class today "The Double-Headed Snake" by John Newlove. Everyone seemed to enjoy the notion of terror and beauty joined at the hip. And the poem both asserts a wise cadence and circles back on itself as if unsure. In the end we have it both somehow, anything but static and safe.

Tuesday 3 February 2015


A month's not much time. You've heard of the coach who's lost his/her dressing room? I think these new writers would say they've learned lots, but it's the more I fixate on. Maybe too much so.
I saw certain looks on their faces today, two or three around our circle, saying I've gone as far as I can go right now. They could barely bring their eyes to the page of a classmate's poem.
I'll go on giving advice. When not everyone's keen to use or tell us something from their notebook, others are.