29 May 2009, 9:56am
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Kid Art

Strung all over the restaurant are the placemat art of diners.
drawings at Zaks
Kids come in and can draw. It’s a chance to draw anything and here, one gamer chooses to promote Pokemon.

drawings at Zaks
Other drawings keep the suggested line.

kids drawings
Some are content to draw flowers, food, smiley faces or something abstract. Josh drew a Godzilla labelled as Zaks being attacked by a tank and soldiers as Home Depot and a building labelled movies get bombed by firey airplanes. Going his own way with an anti-capitalist statement? Or just likes monsters and war movies?

drawings at Zaks
What will be the future of the kid Fissiza who, when given space to speak, doesn’t do the praise the corporate and the food but chooses to educate on “Africa is not a country”, puts a quiz on the side and points out where Nelson Mandela lived, where Lost was filmed, where pyramids are, etc. Fabulous citizen already. Future leader in whatever capacity life takes.

Story Link: This is fun(ny)…one kid’s response to a banned book list

Blog Links: Bear, in part 2, [part 1 excerpted here] talks about a Writer’s Job including research, listen, dialogue, give dignity and caring to characters, put words on paper that others can project into, get catharsis in a universe that is not interventionist and reach out perfectly. And across the pond, Jon Mayhem talks about the process of his hen hatching chicks and ties it to persisting thru the brooding of literary projects. (Did I mention the chicks?)

Local Link: Good to hear that Ravenswing was a smash hit. And Sat. May 30, at 1:30 at Prime Crime Books will be the launch of The Weight of Stones, a mystery by CB Forrest.

Health Links: Sodium 101 talks about optimal vs maximum ranges of salt, and in Portugal decriminalizing heroin and other street drugs while adding prevention programs causes a drop from 1400 to 400 annual new HIV cases in 5 years. [via John Baker]

French lesson: if someone calls you “mon sucre d’orge”, which translates into “my barley sugar,” they are actually giving you a compliment. Likewise, if you’re called, “Ma mie”. It is the softest part of the baguette. More terms of endearment

YouTube link: retro etiquette guide for FB

Poetry Links: the shortlist for the Trillium book awards has been announced, here’s a Happenstance Press sampler poem on an oboe and breath, audio of horse poem by Jen Hadfield, text of gods of panic and unfulfilled longing poems by Bachinsky at ditch (she has the a/g reading tonight in Ottawa with Marcus McCann), developing Guriel’s book cover, Christine McNair‘s sharp vivid words also at ditch along with current-ditch-issue poet Sean Moreland of New Stalgica and a sampler of Jeanette Lynes’, new blue distance. And if you’re stuck somewhere where you can’t catch audio poetry live, Rae Armantrout vids here or Evelyn Lau at the writers fest.

Quote: “Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man.” – Benjamin Franklin

Jane Goodall Talk

jane goodall Jane Goodall gave a talk in Ottawa in April which had a live video link. The following are notes from it.

Jane Goodall travels 300 days a year and has not been in the same city for more than 3 consecutive weeks since 1986 when, at a lecture, she discovered the scale of the ignorance of the impacts humans are having on other primates and thru deforestation. Since then it has widened out to an understanding of impacts on the soil, air and water as well. Next year a film of her will come out. Jane’s Journey will follow her in her normal lifestyle of educating people, including an airport that let them film thru the border search.

Things are frustrating, sometimes feel at an impasse but she assures that hope is key because “if you don’t have hope, you don’t take action”. One needs to keep your sense of patience, humor and perspective. “If you don’t vent your anger in productive ways, you make things worse.” She said she got lucky with the mother she had who supported her in an era when girls did not become PhDs in field study and galavant around the globe. When she was a toddler her mother found her in bed with earthworms. Instead of screeching, Goodall’s mom explained that worms need soil or they don’t feel well, teaching compassion and assuming she had not intended harm. If you weren’t so lucky, she says find people to support and be supportive. Find mentors, elders or be that.

Roots and Shoots is a Goodall founded program for supporting kids who have ideas about projects of how to help when someone sees a need, which has ranged from raising shelters to giving supplies to orphans. It is to cultivate this circle of interconnectedness that we sometimes forget about.

She related how the Vice-President of the World Bank said “today we are fighting water for oil. We can live without oil by changing our lifestyle but we cannot live long without water.” Ismail Serageldin also said (in 1995) “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.”

We need to shift our sense of what is worthwhile. We can choose sustainable choices by simple decisions. For herself, she doesn’t use plastic water bottles. The amount of waste in bottled water is staggering. More energy goes into making the bottle than is in the contents and there are clear risks with the plastics at every stage of making and use and refuse.

It doesn’t take long to brainstorm over ways life is more pleasant, less irritating while being more sustainable. Plastic bag you don’t want to take one thing home? Feeling overrun with plastic bags? More pleasant to carry a light folding reusable bag. (Cloth bags are becoming the standard again finally.) Garbage smells? That’s organic material that could be composted or vermicomposted instead. Both mean not interring more in landfill and being trucked thru various NIMBY states, dropped down mines or on native reserves. Rather than be on autopilot, walk when taking vehicles would be less pleasant and more time. From a top-down position ask your MP to support the passing of Bill C-311 (the Climate Change Accountability Act).

Our small choices add up collectively to systemic challenge and change. We think in terms of how decisions affect family, job opportunities and convenience but there are habits that are also convenient and cheaper but it requires a pause to think. She was chided by her publicist that in every shot she is wearing the same clothes. She said they work. There is no need for excess.

goodall ryan On stage with her for some of the time was Ryan Hreljac whose project of Ryan’s Well is a household name. Since the start 10 years ago they built their 500th well which translates to clean accessible water for 620,000 people.

We are well-positioned, educated and aware to make all kinds of positive differences. She described how, as we understand more, the line between chimps and other primates like us is getting muddier each decade. We are not the only tool makers as we self-touted last century. We are not the only ones with language. They can recognize themselves in mirrors. They wage wars, are omnivores, hold hands, kiss, teach their children, adopt. Chimps also have a sense of humor, of play, of self.

She described how although the situation is grim, laughing is not optional, but a salvation, “Laughing is important or else you give up.” It takes only a few people to make a huge mess but fortunately, there are enough of us to also put it right.

She pointed out how a spearheading few can groundswell many. (As any of us can see in the change of spirit [Proposition 8 notwithstanding] in the U.S.)

There have been in space but chimps can’t design and build rocket itself. She joked that if they could, they would probably put the whole human race in it and send it up. The difference between them and us is our explosive intellect, our capacity to bring the past with us through oral histories and writing and make long term plans for the future, based on research, taking decades of consequences on various species into account. We should use that.

Quote: “You have to do many things yourself.  Things that you cannot delegate.” – Nadine Gramling

Readings and Walkings

Let’s see. Where to start in? rose bushes The world’s something of a garden walk these days. Here, the rose bush has supple thorns that still bend to touch.

For a minute and a half you can sit in on a flutist and a male red-winged blackbird making park sounds. (The audio isn’t exactly clean with a bit of wind catching the mic but picture grass and breeze and it’s all good.)

war protest, May 27
One thing is still timely: the all-day peace vigil today opposite the Arms Trade show at Lansdowne Park.

And recently? There was the reading by Brick Books I mentioned which was a fun night. Kitty kept things lively with her pop-quiz-style constraints, a sort of point at you, you and you next: read for 5 minutes, and now, speed round, pick a 2 minute selection. Reid, O’Meara and Mcinnis didn’t know when they’d be up or for how long. It felt more communal and interactive as an effect. An interesting sort of constraint where poets are in the awkward position of needing to know how long any given poem will take and egad, a time limit that means usual reading poems don’t fit. Not a now I do my thing for 10 minutes and I’m done. There was a lot of laughter thru. A gamut of good poems. Some new, some out of new manuscripts, some out of books. And the night was capped off with the Call Me Katie quieting-soul-beast music.

I didn’t take photos but John W caught Kitty at the door prize moment and Charles shows her with the Brick books table. Charles got a picture of Peter Midgley who was one of the features the next night at the above/ground reading.

Monday night, Midgley did poems with a mixture of languages in his dramatic poems. he included a cultural form called Praise Songs, which he prefaced by saying are actually not songs, nor are they praise. They are a speaker’s corner sort of call out of political criticism like the original Persian ghazal was. A vivid sort of speech. A cross-pollination of different spheres of cultures and intersections of is always refreshing.

Belford Ken Belford and his newest book lan(d)guage

It also contained poetry that wasn’t contained in that de facto mandate that seems to exist where one talks of myths or personal history. It used the head and politics but wasn’t cerebral nor straining to persuade. Nicely balanced. One poem of his was of pathogens, how we swap them with money by trading animals, how pathogens pass invisibly at the river mud, may lie in obscurity and have no impact on humans or have huge impacts. One poem spoke to how economic systems of market forces impact the social. Lovely to see poetry with cognition involved and control of metaphor.

IMG_6811 Clint Burnham with jw before the reading.

Burnham‘s poems were interesting. One poem was, on the page, like a vocabulary list which read continually coupled and recoupled meaning from set phrases so the narrative kept breaking and reforming. (Example eludes me just now.)

It was tiring to hear because it requires continual listening unlike some lyric narrative poetry that’s “baggy”, where you can blah blah fill in the expected for a line or stanza at the time and it goes directly where one might expect from the opening. In contrast his density reminded me of Crabwise to the Hounds.

We do tend to be a recording-oriented sort of town. Here, the Michele Denise Smith is being audio-captured as she read. I’m afraid being first, each thing that came successively displaced it. I’m trying not to take notes but rely on memory. This has repercussions occasionally.

IMG_6816 Gregory Betts pitched hit on Monday since Christine Stewart had to cancel. (No wardrobe was forwarded, so he dressed as himself.)

He read from 2 poems, one of which was political and yet what I liked better was his erasure version of Shakespeare’s sonnet 51. From it he plundered words to make 51 sub-poems from it, each poem using the words in the original order. Interesting challenge and constraint. (I’m rather fond of constraints it seems.)

This selective erasure and slicing has a long tradition, sampling to make a new text. Saw this recombining elements to make a new narrative in a Canadian Bible Society tract at my feet in a parking garage. “I am familiar with all your ways…even the very hairs on your head are numbered… for you were made in my image …and in me you live and move and have your being.” (That would be Psalms, Matthew, Genesis, Acts across centuries slid togehter as one voice and thought.)

What else lately?

The Great Glebe Garage sale: a couple verbal vignette… a senior was standing on his porch is playing the violin with the case out for the Food Bank. The street is full of the notes, strings like acoustical prayer flags above the people visiting neighbours. At one house a man leans in at a table where the money raised goes to a Kenyan school charity and says, I have a bunch of stuff that I got here this year to pass to you to sell next year. Gifter’s wife clucks, suggests he could pass it all over now. He declines, and with a springy step, he’s off to the next yard sale table.

At another house a just over knee-high boy spies a shiny sword. He is adament that he wants it. His mom says no. It goes back and forth perhaps 7 or 8 times of I want. No. I want. Then the lady of the house says, oh I’m sorry honey. That’s my boy’s sword. He was playing with it and left it there. It’s not really for sale. Boy accepts the dibs called. Mom shoots a grateful look at the intervention.

Poetry Blog Link: Elsewhere Robert Lee Brewer has had a good excuse to not blog. Eek. Good to see he’s back.

Poetry Link: Over at AngelHousePress essays, Gary Barwin has an essay on the process of making a poem thru shifts of the fragments, what goes into his thinking.

Quotes: “After two years, it seems to me that poetry is not, in fact, a skill one learns or teaches—like driving or typing—but actually a virus one catches from sustained and intimate contact with the infected. ” – Robert Peake

24 May 2009, 11:25am
Comments Off on FW: The Job of an Artist

FW: The Job of an Artist

In lieu of my own words, a tip of the post to someone else. At her blog Elizabeth Bear says with clarity and power, how she sees what her job is, and isn’t, as an artist. The distinctions she draws between roles, the awareness she has on impacts to the artist and the audience are articulate. It’s a trumpet call back to the fundamentals.

My job as an artist is not to console you or distract you from the things in the world that make you unhappy. That’s my job as an entertainer, and often it’s in direct conflict with my job as an artist–but conflict is what makes narratives interesting, so that’s okay. My job as an artist is not to give you characters and stories you care about and invest in and want to spend time with. That’s my job as a storyteller, which supports and informs my job as an artist.

My job as an artist is not to propagandize for anyone or anything, because that would mean I have the answers, and my job as an artist is to point out that there are no total answers and no moral certainties and that the ones we think we have mostly are broken and flawed and kind of suck. My job as an artist is not to rubber-stamp anybody’s belief system, including my own.

My job as an artist is to keep hanging out the reminders that it’s always more complicated, that the human condition is fraught with contradictions and compromises and crippling choices, that we make mistakes–sometimes terrible mistakes–and that’s okay, but also that we are capable of so much more than we aspire to.

My job as an artist is also to stand on the corner with a sign and say “Have you looked at this? This is pretty fucked up, right here.” My job as an artist is to point out that ideologies are flawed, that absolutes are nonsense, that cultural expectations are relative, and that we are also deceived by the lies we sell our children.

But I also know that my job as an artist is to point out that we human creatures have as enormous a capacity for kindness and compassion as we do for creating misery […]

My job as an artist is to tell you what I see, not what I wish I saw. My job is to tell as much of the truth about the world as my tiny flawed inadequate little brain and art can encompass. And the truth–even the tiny, fragmentary, self-contradictory truths that are all I have to offer–the truth will make you squirm.

It makes me squirm too, and flinch, and want to go bury myself in puppies. The truth is like that.

Poetry Upcoming and Some Floral Finds

This weekend – no wait, week – um, month? yes, that’s it – is full. But more immediately there is now. And the fullness is light, scent of lilacs.
aunt's lilacs
The lilacs my aunt picked for me.

There’s a fullness of stomach, fullness of sleep, fullness of breath. Not quite fullness of energy but we’ll work on that. Er, play towards that?

In and around the weekend there’ll be visits to see dad, whose fluids/kidneys went wonky and is on IV for one more day. His spirit was rebounding yesterday.

Family have been coming in to see him. I saw 5 aunts and uncle and a few neighbours. Apparently I have a (North Carolina?) cousin who has 2 masters degrees, in music and in business who is going to tour Europe as a pianist with his pianist wife. Probably should have asked the name if I were to come across the name.

Lots of news around. Not sure yet what all I’ll get out to… Today is the annual neighbourhood sale of the Great Glebe Garage Sale. (See David’s tips) By time we woke up the early birds will have likely already blazed thru.

bill bissett and the tribute readers are at the Mercury Lounge with the AB Series tonight. Be there or be…whatever shape you normally are. Ravenswing, the DIY zine fair, is at Minto Park (Bank/Gilmour) Sunday afternoon.

Tomorrow at the Carleton Tavern is Brick Books reading with Brenda Leifso, Nadine Mcinnis, David O’Meara and Monty Reid, with music by Call Me Katie.

Monday Friday there’s a above/ground press reading at the Carleton Tavern with Elizabeth Bachinsky (Home of Sudden Service), Matt Rader (Living Things) & Marcus McCann (Soft where). There on Monday [thanks for correction, Amanda] is it’s Clint Burnham, Christine Stewart, Ken Belford, Peter Midgley and Michelle Denise Smith.

Poetry’s everywhere and everywhen.

mailbox stuffed
The mailbox was wedged full of noon, the journal of the short poem. Gorgeously hand-stitched and the end papers were glittery in one. One by Scott Metz (of The Roadrunner) was fascinating. Two texts, both translations of Basho, one by Sam Hamill, one by Tim Chilcott with companion poems made within each from adding bold text to words or partial words. I’ve yet to go thru all of them. But there’s this [I’m taking only half the poem to chew] from Jane Hirschfield in issue 06,

Before a life, air.
And after.

As silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.

I took the two issues of noon and other books out for a walk yesterday, but weather turned that into a nice walk in the rain. But cycling in a world where dust is settling and flowers blossoming is a fair trade.
unidentified in the month of May
Anyone know this flower? My field guide doesn’t cover it.

Thank to Christine, the i.d.: garlic mustard

apple blossoms aunt's kitty
The apple trees in front of one my uncle’s barns and my aunt’s kitty.

And on a different note, some satire… Top 10 Secret Commandments for Self-Loathers that I found funny.


2. Thou shalt be best at everything, else thou hast failed!
6. Thou shalt feed the hungry – every living one of them.
7. Feel at all times happy, for moodiness is abomination.
8. Remember to err is regrettable, to forgive thyself, defeat.

p. 29 of Self-Loathing for Beginners by Lynn Phillips. Also love the pingpong tip icon where short cut to neurotic opposites are called out “You’re too morally rigid. Oooops; now you’re too lax.”

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