22 Oct 2013, 12:54pm
Cats Photos Poets

Possession is 9/10th

possession is 9/10th
Holly’s backback.

It’s only slightly less large, proportional to her, than some of those backpacks on kindergarteners.

Writers Fest Poetry starts today with the Archibald Lampman Award out in Orleans at the Shenkman Centre.

Competing in the timeslot is the Tree Press Chapbook Award and launch of Mary Lee Bragg’s collection. That is after a Tree Seed Workshop by Claudia Coutu Radmore on link and shift, something of a basic move for poetry generally and especially useful for renga and ghazals. That’s at SAW Gallery at 6:45.

The rest of the week will likely be the madness which is the love story of Apostrophe for Semicolon, a 108 (or maybe 110) sonnet run. I do a few in parallel. I’m done 38. They need some more polishing but they seem roughly right. 3 more are partly done. It is taking shape like a novel in sonnets. The most fun I’ve had writing poems since the train series. I’m all about the slime moulds. And gender flipping. And linotype. It all fits.

Friday is the big day , a triple header of must-see poetry at Writers Fest:

6:30pm • Knox Presbyterian Church • 120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin)
A Pretty Sight with David O’Meara

8:00pm • Knox Presbyterian Church • 120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin)
Complete Surprising Fragments of Improbable Books with Stephen Brockwell

9:00pm • Knox Presbyterian Church • 120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin)
The Bywords, John Newlove Poetry Award

I wouldn’t miss those. They’ll be great readings. Two books to buy. I have enjoyed every previous book of both. And I think I’ve only ever missed one or two Newlove Awards.

On Saturday is the other poetry event:

5:00pm • Manx Pub • 370 Elgin St.
Plan 99: BookThug Launch with
Michael Blouin, Sandra Ridley and André Alexis

All launching new books I’m curious to see the final product of. They all give excellent readings.

Our World Tuesday

Quote: “Whereas good poetry has easily recognizable truth and beauty, great poetry strains at the limits of both thought and expression — it doesn’t stop at the usual safe terminals” ~ Cal Bedient, in Poet Quote Unquote, ed. by Dennis O’Driscoll

13 Sep 2013, 5:18pm
General Ottawa Poets
1 comment

Seasons, Squirrels and Spreading the Gospel of Haiku

fading blossom
How quickly time passes. Sweater and jacket weather already.

Time’s irregular flow is exacerbated by the bucking weather. One day cold, one day hot humid and monsoon rains.

By Tuesday, it felt it should be Friday already, and today feels like Wednesday. Or Sunday, depending on which hour of the day I look at.

A correction to the last post. It seems the “mouse house” we found was of the other rodent. The weaver was a squirrel, or rather, a pair of squirrels, one silver, one black who are packing up due to the new air conditioning of us removing boards.

mint cookie
A cookie for us not the squirrels. What else for us?

John Brandi in Hindi and Punjabi
To see at least: John Brandi in Hindi and Punjabi

John Brandi in Hindi and Punjabi
The Punjabi Haiku Forum is a group is haiku enthusiasts who are translating the form for the Indian market. They have made this translation, as well as a children’s haiku anthology and a primer. They are copyleft so the word can spread. No cost to buy and no penalty to reproduce so long as you don’t sell it for profit.

Ottawa resident Amarjit Tiwana – here with his wife and our friend Angelee at the fall haiku meeting – is locally organizing donations of haiku text to start a library in the Punjab area. For several years he has run Haiku Punjabi and he started a FB group for haiku in that language. It has 1700 members.

Several years ago there was one book on haiku in Punjabi and he had translated the masters, personally funding its printing and distribution to schools. Amarjit’s printed thousands and taken them to schools and universities. Now about 20 haiku books have been printed in Punjabi and new poets are rising as they gain access to knowing it exists.

Imagine if one is a natural haiku poet in a long lyric community. Or one would be a gifted visual poet but all around is only spoken word or visa versa. It is of benefit to the whole world for one individual to learn what they can learn.

fall KaDo group 2013
Here’s the whole KaDo group at the fall meeting.

“in the mirror
my father stands erect—
hides his walking stick”

~ Amarjit Sathi Tiwana, KaDo meeting broadsheet from Sept 11, 2013

Non-Red-Letter Days

  1. Some times you’re in synch with the world, and sometimes you know you’re not.

    This would be a not day, or a knot-day. Brain’s a clattery train yard. Nerves on edge so any unexpected sound makes my skin leap. I’m officially tired of being me. I’m accepting CVs for people to play the role of me instead. I’m not sure who will handle the auditions. Ah, right, also taking CVs for a casting director.

  2. I’m taking stock.
  3. That does mean pilfering goods from the office right? (Of course, working at home, it means going from one pocket to the other. But get rebellion where you can.)
  4. I’ve concluded time is going quickly. That may be just confirmation bias since I concluded much the same at age 8.
  5. It’s the 10th year of my being at the Poetry-W listserv. How many dozens of people have been thru over the years? I was in a couple other face-to-face poetry workshops at the time which have fizzled since but that one keeps on. Now I’m more mentoring and sharing theory posts instead of being an omnidirectional fuzz looking for guidance.

    It’s funny that it works for me because it’s pretty consistent for me to write poem drafts constantly then binge edit in rapid cycles of substantive edits. With a workshop that allows only one per week, that means I have nothing or more than the group can accommodate. Still, I often can tell if I broke a poem. But close edits can be myopic and I tend to forget the reader needs to be oriented before I leap in mid-way. I like poems with gaps that don’t spell everything out.

  6. Charles Tumbrull said at Frogpond, in talking about juxtaposition,

    […] when the gap between the two parts is set exactly right by the poet so that with a moderate amount of effort the reader is able to experience an “aha!” moment and suddenly be smothered in extra meaning that was not present in either part. The proper regulation of the gap in a spark plug is often used as an analogy to the mechanics of the haiku. A functioning gap will vary for various people, of course.

    Some people have to be led by the nose. That’s fine. I don’t need to be the one with the shank lead. Other people already know what I’m saying. They can go off and speak to others rather than us both wasting time affirming each other. It’s that slim overlap where the gap is a productive one that is the sweet spot.

  7. One does what one does. As Marvin Bell put it, “Everyone needs something to do in his or her life that they would do even if no one paid them to do it.”
  8. For poetics I’m characteristically spilled water – spreading out in all directions, and wetting socks. That’s a kind of niche too. It worries when people say to be developed you must be a specialist in one thing. It nearly convinces me that one increasingly narrow path is an ideal.

  9. I know I lose out by being a generalist with gaps. But so do people who don’t read or perceive broadly. Not that there is anyone who is not a specialist or anyone who is not a generalist. The depth, widths and overlaps just vary. Talk to me about species or poetry or architecture or let the steering go any random direction and I probably can go somewhere. (Don’t talk to me of sports or movies or music or anything invoking the word hegemony. I will have no idea. I will glaze over. And you’ll just frustrate yourself.)
  10. While I was busy gadding about, it seems I missed another anniversary.

    Feb 22nd, 2003 I started blogging at Humanyms. I missed my own 10 year anniversary. Oops.

  11. In 2008 I pointed out I had 1200 posts here, and 4000 comments.

    I can’t exactly count anymore. A couple years ago I thought I was making an archive of older posts, but was backing up and overwrote the backups, and didn’t realize for some time. (Lost, lost.)

    Of those posts I can still see, those since moving to WordPress (the third platform), I have 1900 posts (murky estimate: about one every second day on average). I used to do daily and have switched to 1-3 times a week.

    There have been 6,525 comments. I’d like to thank you all, even if some, in absentia.

  12. People who started to write withdrew into less-traceable offline. Or decided to photograph or have babies or write cookbooks or change careers. Or outlet their lives at FB instead. But mostly just ghosted away and deleting blogs as they left.

    Blogging is often such a interstitial state – the old haunts are ghost towns. I suppose that makes it a mandala of life.

    As with anywhere, you can’t stay only with your cohort because they drift off or die off. You need contact with every generation, a continual stretch of neurons to novel challenges. To begin again. And again. And. New births of relationships to offset the constant loss.

  13. go fish
    There’s more fish in the seeing.

  14. I suppose that I seem sad. I’m not good at rah-rah hop-up the excitement. I don’t trust excitement and whoop. That seems a sport for the young and excitable. I don’t know about excitable, but I’ve never been young. Or maybe that’s just my shoulder talking. (Shh, shoulder, watch your language – this is a Family-Friendly Space.)
  15. I don’t seem to post poems here much anymore so here’s a draft being wily about getting done.

    a couple going down the canals

    when my hearing clogged I stood, s_t, in dad’s
    head. birdsong shut out and conversation

    became more in_erence th_n usual,
    reliant on hands, say again?, helpers.

    fatigued anger. strained, withdrawn, pretending
    that I know what was said because I’m tired 

    of being accommodated, or not.
    how much of his irritation was ‘him’?

    or about ‘them’? how much, daft vs. deaf?
    how much m_re would golden-years marriages

    flourish with hearing aids? ads: “hear the vows
    you renew daily.” “get him back.” “turn up 

    those sweet nothings.” photo ops: jammed
    restaurant, two deep in conversation,

    walking thru the door of a party, “that
    whistle didn’t come from your hearing aid,”

    “the fun back in functional”; a coup
    with a couple, their 5000 buck ears.

pea blossom
Quiet as a pea blossom? Yes. Sometimes.

Another episode of my sporadic participation in Thirteen Thursday.

Noteable Quoteable: “Word of mouth comes from intermittent delight. Things that work all the time are harder to talk about.” Seth Godin

Margaret Laurence Lecture: Lorna Crozier

large crowd
Last night Writers’ Trust had their 27th annual lecture by a leading Canadian Writer.

Mary Osborne  Executive Director Marilyn Simonds introduces Crozier
Executive Director, Mary Osborne welcomed the 190 or more people to the Museum of Nature auditorium. Marilyn Simonds introduced this year’s lecturer, Lorna Crozier who published her first book in 1976 and 15 books and many mentorees since. She was given the Order of Canada in 2011. She talked with CBC All in a Day on May 31 and the podcast of that should be up shortly here.

Crozier gave an entertaining and poignant talk, weaving quotes and anecdotes from other writers and her own life, from Margaret Laurence to Rumi

The nearly hour-long lecture was held inside the structure of a letter to a younger writer. I can’t condense or relate it all. Some is in the phrasing that I couldn’t both transcribe and keep up with what comes next.The details make up the whole and the room which was pin-drop quiet in admiration, ready for a standing ovation from at least midway. But here are a few things.

Each section of focus started with “Dear younger poet” of important things to know. For example, “books will not be the children that you didn’t have”…they won’t keep you awake a night worrying where they are. They won’t hold your hand on your deathbed. They will never give you that hateful look of your younger self as they walk out the door. On the other hand she related a story of a writer being told by the nurse that upon giving birth she had just achieved the most creativity that it is possible for a woman to achieve. The writer sat bolt upright and fierce and declared no, no, it wasn’t. She has made books.

Other things young writers should know is the sense of place, its impact, or your own placelessness and its significance. And your own name, that name that you would give yourself, not the name passed from your parents or your spouse by birth and legality, but your true name if you were to choose for yourself. Who do you write to? “I see my reader as the better part of me, braver, wittier and funnier.”

Dear younger poet, tell what you must. She described the story behind her story in the Dropped Threads Anthology of going public with the repercussions of the silence around her father being an alcoholic. Many people wrote to her and said that story reflecting their own story allowed healing by opening up solitude for some understanding company. At the same time, she expected her mother would never see it. Her mother lived in a small prairie town with no bookstore. She amended (to chuckles from the crowd), a town that had only a Coles Bookstore. Most anthologies have a short print run and disappear.

This one took off. This one was bought by the minister of her mother’s church where she had attended for 40 years. This one was read from the the pulpit to her mother and her peers who didn’t know the secret. Instead of bringing her to healing, it pushed her the opposite way into shame and exposure. In the weekly phone call with her mother, she found out what had happened that she can’t undo. Was it not her story to tell, she asked herself and the audience. Despite the pain it caused, she would urge that we must dig for the most important truths, the most true stories of self to write about. As her husband Patrick Lane’s said in his memoir, you have to write what you see, that obsession, your own conviction. As Rilke said, “a work of art springs from its own necessity.” She added, “somewhere there is a reader who is waiting for your words so her heart will not break”. As Anne Michaels said, “I write and read to hold another close.”

What else is key came though someones Hungarian grandmother. She said you have 3 ears. 2 ears to hear what is being said, and 1 ear to hear what is not being said. That 3rd ear is the poet’s ear. Crozier related that over a life she doesn’t regret awards not achieved, grants not received but when she didn’t pay attention.

When she was with her parents, “hundreds of stories passed back and forth across the table like salt and I let them slip by as if someone else were there to collect them.” Sobered by the loss of details, is she reformed. She asked, If I were asked to draw my husband’s feet, could I? Could I draw the black patches on my 15-year-old cat?

The Writers’ Trust was founded by Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence, and David Young. It has been doing these lectures since 1987. Past speakers include Alistair MacLeod, Dionne Brand, P.K. Page and Roch Carrier. The first 25 lectures have been collected into A Writer’s Life by M&S. Next year’s lecture will be by Guy Vanderhaeghe. The organization also provides financial grants (almost a million dollars through The Woodcock Fund), a writers’ retreat (Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon with four writer-in-residences per year) as well as scholarshps at the Humber School for Writers.

Making Voices

The responsibility of learning is to not let it end at you, but to pass it on.

Tuesday was a Tree Seed Workshop on Voice. About a dozen were there at start time and a few more joined in progress. Actually participating is the gain because part was guided listening to the body but still, he raised points to notice.

13 things I learned from John Koensgen‘s voice workshops.

  1. “Being grounded” isn’t an arbitrary phrase. It is contact with the ground. We were instructed to lock our knees and notice how weight carried through the feet then bend the knees slightly and back and spine aligned and feel the difference.
  2. Focus on breath, not to control it but watch it. What moves? Voice comes from the voicebox but not exactly. It is produced by the instrument of the mouth and the column of air.
  3. He had us fold over, a vertebra at a time while making various kinds of sounds and see how that position effected the sound and various ways to feel the sound resonate in various parts of chest and head.
  4. Without holding tension in various section of my back I can bend over and touch my toes with my knuckles. [That’s been a few years. We did other exercises for muscle tightness of face too.]
  5. Instead of a relaxation exercise he asked us to do a tensing one. Just observe normal breath while tightening feet, then calves, then butt, groin, gut, chest, arms…[It was a palpable striking effect how much that effected lung capacity.]
  6. When you tense you work against yourself. When you lock your knees you lock your being. You mute yourself even mechanically. [I’m a chronic knee-locker.]
  7. Your job when reading poetry is to communicate. Talking loud isn’t the same as communicating. [Or as Brian put it, “to be meek at a microphone isn’t to communicate loudly. it is just to have amplified meekness.”]
  8. Projecting isn’t just volume. It is being present. It is living in the words and speaking them outwards to someone.
  9. Speaking, you are accepting what you say. Not trying to fit it into a breath but putting it on breaths.
  10. It isn’t in your control to have the message accepted or rejected. If the audience doesn’t care for it, that’s their problem. Your job is to reach out. Accept and offer not foist.
  11. There’s a concept of 3 circles
  12. The first circle is talking to self, second is addressing one person and third is talking to everyone and the gods. Patsy Rodenburg talks around the ideas.
  13. When you read a poem as if to self, how you utter is different. It’s flat, low, inwards. Mumbly. [A lot of poets don’t shift gears to address the words outwards.]

One thing that distinguished RC Weslowski’s performance was his use of the second circle. How much of the time when attention wanders from poets is it that they are speaking as if to self so signalling, please don’t attend to this, as opposed to opening the mouth and making a clear sound and communicating a direct natural speech communication?

I’m not sure if the quote below falls more towards urban legend or anthropology but it seems like a good thrust of idea to consider.

Noteable Quotable: “In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” ~ Gabrielle Roth

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