26 Nov 2011, 8:15pm

Down the Right Track

Somehow this glimpse of the St. Laurence Seaway seems like it could be anywhere, anytime. The coast of England in the 1800s. Prince Edward Island in the early 1900s. A remote bit of Sri Lanka thru a pinhole camera. It looks wide as an ocean there and resort-beach blue in spots. (Never mind the flutter of snow.)

For some reason this one gets 10x more views than the other shots out if the back car of the train.

Part of me is still running down the tracks.

My brain is coming back from the rush and mush that was travel. I think I finally have the scaffolding I need for the next poetry project in part from the re-uncovering a commonplace book of my cousin from the 1920s. It doesn’t all fit together but elements feel promising.

I’m hoping life doesn’t get too jammed before I get a chance to write while memories are fresh of a couple posts to go here or there somewhere.

November is the season to be disheartened. A dread that starts in November is over me fully by November and doesn’t usually release until new years.

Yet, it’s the particular season to be thankful. I’ve never been as blessed with such treasure house of good people as I’ve come to know over these last few years.

We have a roof over our head and food on the table. And two kitchens. (The one for the new house is ordered to be delivered.)

Information is at the fingers. I’ve been going thru the Library of Congress archives online where you can find all sorts of ephemera and broadsides. Edwin Markham from 1912 in the African Methodist Episcopal Church Review, Vol. 29, Num. 2, said, “Give thanks, O heart, for the high souls/ that point us to the deathless goals […] Lincoln, Mazzini, Lammenais/Living the things that others pray”.

Dr. Frank Crane wrote in the same Ohio magazine the next year this:

Deliver me from this world and and its conventional dominancies.
Let me be obscure enough to to wear the clothes I please, talk as I please, and kiss the woman I please.
Save me from the galling chains of prominence.
Save me from the mud of success.
Save me from any reputation that I may have to live up to.
Give me this day an honest doubt, a vigorous, distinctive doubt, to cure the flabbiness of my faith; a procreative, genetic doubt.
Give me this day some intoxication, not of drug or drink, but some sight or sound or upsurging idea that shall make me a little crazy.
Sharpen my instinct, sharpen my passions, sharpen my will, sharpen my reason; deliver me from bluntness and rust.

I love his cadence and music and the unconventional wishes for prayer or manifesto. Who would dare to ask such things of god as for a “procreative, genetic doubt”.

Kathleen Kirk points out poems of thanks and praise at Escape into Life. Robert Lee Brewer has a poem up called ‘i’m learning to listen’ which ends, “bless this conversation headed/everywhere & nowhere & don’t spare/me one more inch or let this fire burn out.”

21 Nov 2011, 7:15pm
General Ponderings
Comments Off on Words and Vulcanizing Habit

Words and Vulcanizing Habit

A photo presents as the worthwhile that which is pretty and/or remarkable and ready for consumption. Well-composed, best image yet usually. But an image can’t go as deeply as words. Even a photo that moves causes movement but not instructions.

Photos in blogs are kind of like crutches after the cast is off. They’re good to have on hand like an odd object as an icebreaker. Rule of thumb is you need one to break up text. (Nasty, nasty text, do you needs a shutter-coating?) Images are a distractor, believing that without that device, whatever is the real matter of what you say is uninteresting.

And it works. A photo is often shoved in self-consicously. Most of the time the red herring of an image is the only thing that gets commented on. Maybe people do read the rest. Maybe some people just look at the pictures.

A picture is easy to respond to. Words to give an adequate response to already verbalized ideas take more length than this medium allows by politeness. The rule of thumb being if the comment is a goodly percentage of the post, put it on your own blog and leave a message pointing to it. But people don’t want to go to such trouble usually.

An image in a blog like wearing a pretty frock so if you’re boring, at least people have something to look at. It sells short the speaker and the audience as being able to engage with one another. It’s a nice thing to have as a bonus when the writing is good but when it is not a frock can’t save the day.

And yet newspapers over the last century went from solid text to picture books in a time when literacy was growing not declining. What to make of that?

It’s a dumbing down isn’t it? It’s like offereing a lower price than marked as a seller before anyone asks for a lower price.

It’s kind of a rah-rah, a pep squad of manufactured excitement planned to great a vibe in case one doesn’t spontaneously erupt on its own.

Most photos as quick to absorb. It allows one to move on quickly. Battery life is longer for computers these day. A few minutes and the connection won’t kank out.

People like the starting point of being told what to feel and react to agree or disagree and skip all that the gathering data, paying attention, figuring out stages. I like the gathering data stage. I could do that all day. I like the seeing every possible side of the story and what is omitted from all of those. I hold off deciding and jumping to conclusions. I try to negate my own judgements on the matter.

I fail more and more at this detachment, and I probably will for a while longer as several directions of stressors intersect for a couple months. My emotional winginess may be higher and it may be counterproductive to stomp myself down. Leeway might be healthier, to slip up more, even if it makes my vulcan ego sore.

Realistically until the end of January I’m likely to have stress triggers than I’ve had in a few years. So, what makes the cut and what gets the mute button? Only between one’s own ears is private and even that leaks out in body language, in silences or disproportional reactions.

The question is with a blog is what privacy? To write anything down, especially digitially, even by email, is to take out a public billboard with no control over who sees. What level of defence is worthwhile?

Do you want to entertain people who want convenience amusement, or do you want to engage fewer people on a less superficial level? Both models work. It doesn’t matter whether you entertain or get into deeper matter because it’s not in the control of the writer or the content who comes or stays. If you care about what you talk about or photograph, that appeals. Your own engagement sets the stage of permissions for others to engage and enjoy themselves.

What is in the closest to being under the control of the writer is one’s effect on oneself. Is one is helping self-development and allowing people to listen in should they want, or pandering on spec to things that interest less as a dancing bear to an empty or full stadium?

Self is liable to hold self back with excuses like what-if more than anyone else is likely to impede.

Quote: “Our ideals, like pictures, are made from lights and shadows.” ~ Joseph Joubert

16 Nov 2011, 12:15pm

Wordless Wednesday

pocketed leaf
I pocketed a compound leaf from the ground to identify with my tree book. Hm, left that a bit too late.

21 Poets for the Guatemala Stove Projects
21 Poets for the Guatemala Stove Project goes to a second printing!

night river
Night river is a changing bar code. No purchase. No returns.

The Home Hardware flyer gave me a double take. A home smores making machine to do a dozen marshmallows at a time? How is that “Old Fashioned” is that? And the home popcorn machine to make 50 cups at a time. Talk about home theatre!

Well, nearly Wordless Wednesday.

Quote: “You’ve got an old fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, ’til death do us part.’ Why divorce doesn’t mean anything nowadays, Hildy, just a few words mumbled over you by a judge.” ~ Walter Burns [via His Girl Friday]


Yes, life, very funny. Point made. You got me. I’ve criticized my mom for not using new oven mitts because they were too good to use while there are holes in the one she is using. And here I am with a suede-bound paper notebook which I’m not making intended use of, although I pat until it would purr if it could.

The paper is too beautiful to soil with my trivial processing of thoughts so I’ve written in tiny writing on only 4 pages over the month and a bit. This is silly, and yet the mental impasse is not shifting. It or me will have to shift eventually.

Maybe I will have to set it aside, make it another special notebook for special occasions only. Although I have 3 already which I aim to stretch over decades. One is at 20 years now; a graduation gift, set aside for great days coinciding with civic holidays designed to be time lapse clips. The second is nearly as old. A friend took all the poems I’d included to him in letters over the years and hand-transcribed them in a book and gave them back to me as a “I’m listening” gift. The third book is only for taking on trips, a travelogue. Although these days, after it has gone on 15 years of trips, I have been too afraid of losing it to take it with me on the last few. All of life is a record, a muddle, and rewrite, and an erasure all at the same time.

[photo by Brian from our walks this spring]

Much of life is in this dynamic tension of what to cling to, what to let go of. It seems a particularly fitting time to treasure and take stock of what I will and won’t miss of my daily. It’s almost a month until we move. And one project is wrapping. Another will shortly.

Letting go and entering into whatever comes next is a happier state, no question. Clinging doesn’t actually permit a holding on, whether one stays or goes. There is no lasting constancy, only flux. A leaf pressed in a book is a bit of autumn, but not interchangeable with any day.

Admiring a leaf, experiencing its light and shadow, texture, color and smell, and then letting the wind take it….that’s hard to do and it allows the appreciation to not hang itself in a noose of fret.

[photo by Brian of me at a pause at a Paris lake we rowed on this summer]

What is worth keeping is worth keeping well? A pocketful of leaf fallen to bits is not holding on tho any more than phoning someone to blame them for not calling. Speaking as someone on the frequent receiving end of that from family, it does nothing for bonding. It may be a stimulus for seeing past the flap to the reason for compassion but is unnecessary, wrongly-routed cling.

It is a kind of babysitting self to be fully in a moment without already being overtaken by nostalgia for when this moment is past, anxious to get back to where one already is.

We can’t linger indefinitely, yet we can’t close off to the moments because they are transitory. We need to discern and hold on and fight for those rare gifts that are precious. Readiness to let go, readiness to hold because a few seconds can make a week or year worthwhile. What does the dollar store plaque say? “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” It was listed as anonymous but it’s Italian poet, Cesare Pavese who said it like that but once something lucid reaches culture, it becomes internalized by society, owned by all, coming from no where like a snowflake in the water cycle.

church steeple sunset
You never know when spectacular is going to crack open.

Quote: “The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Making Little Beauties by Paying Attention

Walking among the leaves. Sumptuous those colors of yellows, browns, reds, pinks and greens.

drained canal
A P.S. from the last post; this year of the canal now.

Leaves get into the printing act.

The Small Press Fair is Saturday afternoon, noon to five.

I’ll have a table there with a few books and chapbooks; Mammals of Hoarfrost released in September in Paris, Thirsts released in October in Montreal and Kingston, and the one I edited to release in Ottawa on the day of the small press fair. It’ll be a double-beauty. (I’ll add it to my site for online purchases, probably next week.) In Air/Out Air contains poems by 20 poets from across Canada and the U.S. with all the sales going to benefit the Guatemala Stove Project.

P.S. They’re done: See the building of those chapbooks

Come to the Jack Purcell Community Centre, just off Elgin Street north of the Glebe on Saturday afternoon to get a copy of any of them and all the other treasures at the various tables. Coach House will be there this time round, along with Apt. 9, AngelHouse, Chaudiere…bunches of letterpress, cookbooks, graphic novels and ephemera and whatnots and whathaveyous.

(And another spoiler: Coming in December, another group chapbook that I’m co-editing will release.)

Quote: “Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.” ~ Agatha Christie

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