of ancient rome, really, and vacuum cleaners

Image result for roman senator image

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so to kick myself into gear, I’m posting something written a while ago on a midsummer day.

Reseach and Findings: genealogy and dustbunnies

At the end of March in 2013 while on a golf trip in South Carolina, Ted had two minor heart attacks which led to two small strokes. He lost most of his ability to talk.

Image result for filter queen 1960

I plugged in the vacuum this morning. It’s noteworthy as I don’t do this very often. Behind the old trunk in the bedroom I found a ‘holy picture’ of St. Joseph. On the back is a prayer: CONSECRATION TO THE MOST PURE HEART OF ST. JOSEPH. I collect these pictures, a habit from childhood. We exchanged them like baseball cards in that time of innocence.

The Catholic belief is that Joseph never had sex with Mary. The Angel Gabriel had taken care of that, yet there have been books written about the brothers of Jesus, actual brothers, not spiritual ones. There are arguments for both sides.  It took me so long to start figuring things out.

Books were miracles that let me escape but as an eight year old I had to walk for a very long time to get the library, for once I realized what was inside one, I was hooked. It’s why our house today might fall down if we remove my books, literally and metaphorically.  Before I discovered the public library, there were no books in our house. Every once in a while my father would bring home a newspaper.  I never saw my mother read anything before I went to school when she had to help us memorize Catechism questions.  On the way to the library, there was a field edged with pink roses on bushes.

I move the old repainted trunk by the bed, steady the pile of books there, The History of Devon England, home of a branch of ancestors.  It’s Devon’s fault that I’m in here with this noisy machine this morning.  I glanced up from the History last night and saw the dust under the armchair.  If it had been an armchair with a skirt, I wouldn’t have noticed the dust. So now I’ve chained myself to this old Filter Queen, sold to my husband Ted a thousand years ago by a brother in a salesmn phase.

Under the old schoolroom bookshelf with doors I find two backscratchers. Now my back needs to be scratched, so I do that.  Behind the bookshelf that now shelves various kinds of paper for bookmaking, is a door about 18 inches high and two feet wide. If we had a safe, we could hide it in there I suppose. The smaller grandkids like to push away the shelf and peek into the scary space.  It’s probably full of dust too, but Filter Queen can’t, or won’t, reach.

Image result for bamboo back scratcher

Push aside the boxes of files about genealogy, the ones that have stood in as table for a lamp, beside my reading chair. The files once proved my father’s line goes back to Charlemagne, and now there’s evidence that the same line goes back to Flavius Afranius Hannibalanius, a Roman Senator and military officer appointed Consul of Gaul in 292 C.E. You may offer your allegiance when we meet.

Nothing in these papers shows a predilection or even a talent for housecleaning, my justification for feeling like a saint today. We are ‘noble’ and nobles don’t sweep floors. I’ll have a card made up. I don’t do windows. There goes the lamp…

The research has been wildly exciting, and shows that most of these ancestors were literate. Since writing and research is what I do, I dig, and find that the Afranius branch goes back, though the links are fractured beyond 292 C.E., to members of the family, who, while most were soldiers famous enough to have fought with Pompey and Caesar, and to have coins struck in their image, admits to a family member who tutored (and was executed by) Nero, and the playwright Lucius Afranius who wrote during the 1st century B.C.E.  Forty-two of his plays are still available to be staged.

In this epoch, I am one of the first of two large families to have finished high school, and it would be many years before I earned a degree; I, like wordsmith Lucius Afranius and the unfortunate tutor , Sextus Afranius Burrus, chose a degree calculated to keep me poor, unlike all those other Queen’s University students, the sensible ones in medicine, law and engineering who now ride around in restored Jaguars, many of them with chauffeurs.  I took a Fine Arts degree: painting, sculpture, printmaking.  It had little to do with words, except for Art History essays.  I hadn’t written much before that or been exposed to Literature written, or Art created, before or during the twentieth century. The nuns were great at ignoring culture in our Catholic insulated world.

Vacuum Cleaner - Electrolux

My mother, saint though she was, wasn’t good at housework; if she washed a floor I realize (only now) how far that was outside her comfort zone.  Back then, our shoes just stuck to the kitchen floor and after the advent of the Electrolux and the excitement it generated, it lived out its dull life in the basement, coming out only for special occasions. If Dad’s co-workers at Shell were coming to play cards, for instance.  Or for the bridal shower my mother held for me in which I was wrapped in toilet paper and blushed virginally as I unrolled it as every one of my comments was turned into an earthy joke I didn’t understand. What was so funny about ‘At least it’s soft…’

A few days ago a poet on Facebook shared a conversation with Edward O Wilson and Robert Haas from The Poetic Series.  E. O. said the creative arts are the sharing of our inner desires and humanity’s struggle.  Hass spoke of the paradox of stillness and motion in great art, desire appeased and awakened, Wilson of Science and Art having the same creative wellspring. I could argue that there is science in the old Filter Queen.

At the Black Squirrel book store I picked up Provinces by Czeslaw Milosz  translated by Robert Haas. In the poem ‘Creating the World’, Milosz portrays the Celestial board members submitting design ideas: a hedgehog, a soprano, panties with lace. Obviously these designs would never come into existence.  Too ridiculous.  Would have been turned down flat on Dragon’s Den.  Then Milosz laments ‘If only it all could last, but no way.’

Dust balls proliferate: Russia and the Ukraine, Israel and the Gaza, the lady on TV who writes love letters to her armpit, my sister who lives in a rural area drops by on her way to Walmart to buy a gun so she can pick off the squirrels at the bird feeder, and all those photos of wedding parties leaping into the air, blue of Caribbean in the background.

The kasen renga, a collaborative Japanese form of thirty-six verses, should aim to encompass the whole world. Subjects such as movies, sports, the arts, war, slang, sex and vacuums are the key to the success of the genre.  It could be said that lyric poetry is the same. So I’ll unplug the Filter Queen to edit The Queen of the Night Straddles a Vespa, make it a better poem after last night’s comments from the critique group. Poems about Jesus in the Montreal subway? Why not.  Juxtaposed verses. Yes.

Image result for vespa images

What was that brilliant idea I had when I was vacuuming.  The problem is concentration. Don’t think of Haas or Wilson when you are digging into corners.  Whatever I’ve lost might have given depth and zing to The Queen of the Night. There was a prayer we used to say when we lost something.  ‘Good Saint Anthony, please come round. Something’s lost and it can’t be found.’ I’ve neglected St. Anthony though, for years, so no luck there, although I must admit he still comes through when I am desperate.

Outside the air is soft and cool. I sprinkle fresh blood meal around the potatoes, cucumbers and potatoes that are growing well in containers. Squirrels hate the smell of blood meal. I’ve lost enough tomatoes to them.  This break before I go back to write.

What a crazy morning. One wants to stop thinking, reading. In The Rapids, by Susan Gillis,  she writes in a poem called ‘Glimpse: Poetry’, ‘…As for poetry, it lurks’.

 

 

 

The greatest little poetry conference in the world

We have done it again! Haiku Canada Weekend took place May 17 – 21, 2018, and one highlight was this presentation to editor Steve Luxton in celebration of a special anthology. On the cake was the poem silence, and a deeper silence, when the crickets hesitate, a haiku by Leonard Cohen. The carrot cake was baked by Angela Leuck, organizer of the 2018 Haiku Canada Weekend.

The anthology was of haiku on the topic of Mr. Cohen and launched on our Weekend at Bishop’s University, Lennoxville.  In the photo is Mike Montreuil of Éditions des petits nuages, Montreal, who published the collection as Gift of Silence: A Haiku Tribute to Leonard.

You will note that we were not the cast of thousands of which many conferences boast, but we can boast of thousands of poems being highlighted, read, written and edited during these three or four days, for though originally the conference ran from Friday until Sunday noon, there were several events that took place after the conference, including some workshops and a hike up Mount Orford.

Anyone who has not been to one of our conferences, (and ‘Weekend’ instead of conference is intentional…) can have any idea of the poetry, the workshops (small book making, origami haiku lantern folding, haibun, tanka, haiku, publishing online, and many of these in French as well as in English), the distances travelled, the presentations, the long-into-the-night renku, book launches, cafeteria meals (Wonderful meals at Bishop’s cafeteria and thank you to the staff of that cafeteria! Stanford Forrester and Philomene Kocher at lunch).

There was a banquet and ginko walk, and the gift of just plain walking on that beautiful campus with its super presentation rooms, banquet facility and food, sleeping accommodations…The flowers!  The venues, complete with grand piano and gigantic golden fan! Oh Angela, you have been a great organizer! Thank you!

Angela has been writing and publishing haiku and related forms for many years. The day before the conference, she’d just returned from a five-week residency teaching haiku in Labrador to students in elementary and in high school classes, yet spent the next day baking the cake. First of all, can you imagine that residency, during which she had feedback such as this from the coach of a sports team ― roughly the teacher said: I couldn’t believe it. On the bus to the game, the players were writing haiku!

Just to top things off, if you haven’t been taking haiku seriously, One of our haiku poets, Katharine Munro from Whitehorse, Yukon, has just been short-listed for the Vallum Chapbook award with her submission of a haiku sequence the distance!

When haiku poets get togther in local groups or at these larger events, the concentration is on writing better haiku and related Japanese form poems, three days, or in this case five days, of learning, and Kathy’s poems are the proof of it.  We are serious about showing that haiku is not just a counting game for children, but the ongoing development of the Japanese form. Soon the lyric world will be taking us seriously too!

On to the fun!  On Friday afternoon, there was a reading of Secrets du Femmes, a collection published in France, edited by Danièl Duteil, with the Afterword written by Janick Belleau.

A highlight of Friday evening is always the reading for the launch of our annual anthology. This year, editors Marco Fraticelli and Philomene Kocher decided to dedicate the collection to LeRoy Gorman, who has just retired from the volunteer position of Publications Editor which he took over temporarily 22 years ago.

LeRoy brought the newsletter out of the dinosaur age of a page or two, typed, stapled containing some news of the very new Haiku Canada Association, to our current varied-part journal The Haiku Canada Review, with its French section along with English poems, its book reviews, its haiku from all over the world, its renku and articles, and its Haiku Canada Sheets.  Thank you again, LeRoy. He was presented with a framed cover of the issue called a far galaxy with his haiku two hours/ to a far galaxy and back/ same old movie. Here is Philomene Kocher (editor), LeRoy, Claudia as cover designer and anthology publisher, and Marco Fraticelli, (editor).

The next morning and on Sunday morning the first presentations were the anonymous workshops, an important feature of our weekends. Unsigned haiku are dropped into a box or other container and these are pulled out and critiqued by the group without knowing whose poem they are working with. As the AGM took longer than usual, and those listed to handle the Sunday event were still at the AGM, Marco and LeRoy stepped in.  We are that kind of organization, the personification of flexible.

All day the book room is open, the silent auction is going on, and other presentations continue. Poets relax in between sessions. We like each other.

  

Terry Ann Carter stepped down after many years as President and we served up a royal roast…(This on the day of the Royal wedding, but we had more fun).

Then some books were launched including Mike Montreuil’s collection of French Canadian Northern Ontario (Matawa) joual poems, Claude Rodrigue’s intriguing French haiku crossword book: entrecroisées haiku.  He promises it in English as well next year.No automatic alt text available.

. These are a memoir of sorts, how he remembers his grandparents speaking, the language he used with his friends, poems about hockey, food, family.  Marco, Terry Ann and I also launched books.

Terry read from Tokkaido, I from fish spine picked clean (after which Terry played on that grand, the fish spine suite, composed after reading my collection, and I feel very special because of that. Thank you, Terry!) and then Marco read from One Thousand Years, a collection of haibun in which he ‘becomes’ Chiyo-ni for the prose, and follows with Chiyo’s haiku.  You will probably hear a lot more soon about this collection!

Sunday morning we participated in the origami lantern workshop with Jeanne Painchaud at which we were allowed to try to make one of these lovely pieces. Some poets were very successful, and others of us, like me, were not, but the lanterns were hung and looked splendid! They looked enchanting strung in front of portarits, and with those umbrellas looking as if they were enchanted too.

Now, you’ve probably been to a making-small-books workshop before, the creation of small books perfectly suited to the collection of, or the writing of, haiku and other small poems. But you’ve never been in one hall with four masters of the art, given the time to see each one present her skills on how to make one or more specific books. Here are Terry Ann, Maxianne Berger, Ruth Mittleholtz and Marjorie each showing new ideas for these books, with some special creations.

More workshops on haibun and tanka: (Yes, Rubber Duck tanka. There’s no world like it.)

I should have taken more photos…There were so many wonderful things. Gifts of local cheeses and maple syrup for the presenters, the book sales tables, silent auction items, workshops by French haikuists, a presentation on science and the environment in haiku, one on haiku and mental health and an online course for those studying to be health care workers, the banquet, the ginko walk.  We played hard, but we also worked hard, if we so wished. The traditional after-hours renku was read on Sunday by renku masters Marshall Hyrciuk and Karen Sohne, and the gingko prizes awarded to Sandra Stevenson, Luce Pelletier and Lynne Jambor!

The winners of the international 2018 Betty Drevniok and Jocelyne Villeneuve Awards were presented, as were the current executive, with new President (moi) new Vice President Claude Rodrigue, new Publications Editor Mike Montreuil, and returning Secretary Lynne Jambor, returning members’ Secretary Kathy Munro, returning Web Page administrator Luminita Suse, and returning Haiku Newsflash editor Carole Daoust.

Luce Pelletier and I with Sharon Morrison in between Suzanne Doereg and Lynne admire lanterns.

You don’t see anyone bored at this conference; there was a river to walk to, poems to write, poets to talk with, tweets to tweet. Cake to eat! Sake at the renku, along with other treats like biscotti and squares and chocolate.  And then there were the other small precious things, like this box of haiku ‘chocolates’ made by Kathy Munro and found on the ‘free’ table. I saw it there, fell in love, stole it, thinking that if it was free, it was mine. It turned out she hadn’t yet put up the little sign that said ‘Take One’ of the teeny tiny origami-like twists.  But lucky me, Kathy came up at the end of the conference having refilled the cups and gave the box of ever-so-sweets to me after all.

Thank you, Pearl and Marco for several photos on this post. What would we do without those who actually remember to take pictures.  Again, thank you Angela, and giving much praise for her stalwart sidekicks Steve Luxton and Carolynn Rafman.

inside silas marner a poem

Well, not strictly a formal found poem in that the found phrases used are not in the order they were found in the text of Silas Marner…This is more the story of an Art piece that sprouted at first more of a concrete or visual found poem. This is the context: I decided to make an art object from an old book that I found while perusing the offerings on a sale table at my local second-hand book store, which turned out to be Silas Marner, by George Elliot.  Fifty cents, a done deal.

First I selected phrases from the book, printed them in a large font and cut them into strips before folding the pages to form sculptural shapes. This was an absorbing experience, watching teh forms emerge, deciding which folds would make a satisfying shape. Once the folding was done, I added the phrases so that they stuck out from the folded pages, and looked for various Elliot-related images on the internet to print out, clip, and add to the pages.

Reinforcing necessary pages with handmade papers, I added such things as small maps and larger fold-outs of the area where she lived, images of her face, book cover designs of more modern reprints, period clothing.

I’ve not mentioned yet how much fun I was having with this project.  Suddenly (oh, that old saw, suddenly…) it occurred to me that the phrases that fluttered out as if they were the feathers or individual hairs of some exotic yet verbally-based imaginary creature could be made into a ‘found’ poem of sorts, and I surprised myself that I hadn’t thought of doing this until the poem pieces were already protruding from the pages.

Putting the poem together reminded me somewhat of one way to form a cento from other poets’ poems, and as in that process, I looked for what made a poem, but here that poem was a George Elliot poem, her words, her mind, her fascinating phrases.  I leave you with an excerpt from:

the vixenish temper which is sometimes supposed to be a necessary condition

like a raven flapping its slow wing across the sunny air/ Silas would rather part with his life than with Eppie/ I’ve been up into the top attic, but there’s no seeing anything for trees/ an hypothesis which covered a few imaginary calamities

Making this little Art object/poem from an old book cheers my heart just a little, one less book in the landfill, at least for a while.

 

that first poetry reading session at carleton place library

Joy, embodied by Sierra Raine

There was apprehension that no one would come, that people in our locality were just disinterested, or perhaps a little afraid of poetry. We had five poets lined up to read out of the generosity of their hearts, no funding here, only the gift of their time to plan, and to come out, and to share their poems.

Two days before, the librarian sent emails to the poets asking if they knew of anyone else that was coming, as she had sold only one $5 ticket. (The tickets were to benefit Library programs.) Well, I responded, each poet has at least one partner, or relative. That will make five more in the audience…

The librarian, Meriah Caswell, had reorganized the whole back section of the library, lining it with those comfy red leather couches used for the evening on publishing, with table-clothed tables for books. There were flowers, mums and tulips, in the next room where the reading would happen, and chairs, lots of chairs. Cookies, fresh veggies and dip, and bottled water.

And then they came, the audience, filling the room to capacity. Gift chapbooks with one poem from each reader were passed around, while Meriah and the poets heaved a gentle collective chinook of sighs.

Two rounds with each poet reading for eight minutes each time worked well, with a break between rounds for mingling, looking at books displayed, snatching cookies and veggies. It was a great way to organize a reading. Thank you Meriah.

The content of poems read ranged from the serious to not-so-serious, from subtle murder mytery to parrot toes, from being hooked on computer games to details of living and observing in the high North, from the theme of beauty and the importance of trees, to French titles of poems that are from titles of Eric Satie musical compositions.

Here is the sampling of poetry by these poets taken from the gift chapbook POEMS THAT WOULD LIKE TO LIVE AT YOUR HOUSE:

by Carol A. Stephen

A Study in Scarlet Threads

After a painting by Mary Pratt

 

To cut around its crown, to slice slowly

along the ridges of its skin, to gently pull

 

the two halves open to the tiny jewels,

the deep cinnabar, its red heart.

 

Pomegranate, painted with such precision,

blood-toned juices pool crimson on a base of foil.

 

My lips purse, anticipate the sweet-tart taste. My tongue

remembers astringence, the tiny seeds, their bitter white.

 

So perfect the artist’s rendering. I reach out to

dip my fingers in the nectar, but I touch

 

only canvas ridge and crevice. Only a painted image,

yet so real to fool the eye, to tease the tongue.

by Dean Steadman

Snakes and Ladders

 

The kitchen table a sea

of abandoned board games and ship-

wrecked cereal bowls spilling their cargo

of milk and

Cheerio, goodbye,

the youngest yells as he runs for the bus

forgetting his lunch and schoolbag, again.

Sixes and sevens!

Sleep in an hour

            and wake to snakes

on all your ladders.

Still, there’s no sense

crying over

(walking under)

when already the day has climbed high

above the back deck, and the finches, gold

and purple, are descending on the feeders

to breakfast in quiet on

nyjer

and safflower.

They come and go, the flotsam

and jetsam of clouds, although perched

they could be accidental seraphim—

their sudden song

the ascent of silence into music,

a presence invisible and, by chance,

guardian, their ascent into flight a reminder

of a leaving that won’t leave you alone.

 

by Lesley Strutt

Surrender

 

I take a breath    decant the air   smell

not sorrow    not grief    the damp is not

 

tinged with death   it lasts

longer than my swift intake shorter

 

than my life

elegance is not what I am seeking

 

and yet here    pungent deep and still

waiting where it always was

 

among the dying lilies   steepled branches

under moss    dark vines where

 

birches lean like thin men on a long journey

somewhere they have not reached yet

 

I cannot offer anything I think is valuable   I’m useless

as a child’s sunhat tossed on the wind     but look

 

how sudden is the red against that great blue

by Claudia Coutu Radmore

Knitting, crocheting and jam-making improve mental health, study finds

telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/25/

Fogo Island is the proof of it; these islanders aren’t

worrying, aren’t stressed. Here there are more

knitters, crocheters, and jam makers per square

inch than anywhere else.  They are happy,

and there’s hardly a visitor leaves without

something, a warm pair of socks, hats or mittens

a scarf for Mom.

 

It’s like the years after the war when wool

could suddenly be other shades than grey.

In Fogo the dye baths have to do with

the bright paint on their houses and the

quieter colours of the rocks.  It all harks

back to our mothers and learning to

knit and to pearl not as hobbies but

 

to keep us warm, quilts made from

old dresses and shirts in designs to lift

the heart in houses without running water

toys made with hammer and saw, a time

when preserving was to keep the family

healthy and to get through winter, when

painting and singing and crocheting nets

 

were your evening pleasures.  Fogo islanders

hook that scrap into a rug, sawed-off ends

become tiny pink houses to put on keychains

for the tourists, that scrap of wool knits into

a bright spot on a hat. Here it is, the reality

show.  Knit one, purl two.

Sweep the sawdust out the door.

by Cliff Bird

The Trouble with Poetry

He started talking to me, his deep raspy voice
mangling his French and I suspected he was

actually Jesus, wearing his clam-digger pants
and sandals, but something about his height

a hoodie that hid his eyes and his dark, perfect
period-correct beard hinted at possible salvation

from a man maybe thirty, but I understood
nothing he said at 2:00 a.m. February 2, 2018

at the 24/7 coffee and tea service on the inside
pool deck sailing to Martinique, except parlez-

vous francais? to which I mumbled, un peu
and I could tell he was not pleased, but he went

on so incomprehensibly to my blank stare
he may as well have been speaking Sumerian

and I was overwhelmed by my helplessness
in not understanding Jesus whose strident

message was meant for me only, and I cursed
my ineptitude in French, the loss of opportunity

a scary moment, but why had he returned as a
French speaker? Well, I supposed he had to

start somewhere and why so soon, this iteration
following others in ancient Egypt, China, India

Central America and more recently, in Palestine
clearly something was up and as I was squeezing

lemon into my tea he turned and walked away
and I had a notion that I probably should have

tried harder, but I had more a important task
to attend to
And so ended the evening amid books being signed, the last veggies eaten, and the last cookie, left there for me. Thank you Meriah, thank you poets, thank you wonderful audience/library supporters.  Starting with the workshop in haiku also sponsored by the library, April as Poetry Month has been truly celebrated in Carleton Place.

We have discovered a raft of local believers in poetry. We never knew!  We hope to spread the word, and perhaps poetry will be the thing to do, what people will want to read and hear again.

 

 

 

 

 

it’s spring and poetry month and so a poem about/from my parrot

This is Desirée who came to live with me 18 years ago. She is a Green-Naped Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, a species of Australasian parrot no bigger than a crow. Eighteen years is a long time for this particular kind of parrot to live. The larger a parrot, and therefore its brain, the longer her life span.  Desi’s is about twenty years. I have been fortunate to live with four birds of this species, all of them rescues, since 1986.

I’ve written two chapbooks of Desirée poems, still enchanted by her, amazed at her accomplishments, particularities, biology and personality. (Can a bird have a ‘person’ ality, I wonder.) She does. She’s funny, gorgeous, affectionate and at times, destructive with that sharp beak. She also uses it to brush up against my cheek and to kiss me on the lips each morning.

those zygodactyl feet

your toes and claws
two facing forward on each foot, two back
my gut flutters to realize that as hatchling
you were like other baby birds
how in becoming parrot your outer digits
rotated to the back
and your ankle! turning backwards
when you walk
that sweet scaly footskin
pearlgray as a lady’s gloves
and the little metatarsal pads
cushioning the tiny bones of your feet
oh, my heart
your pigeon-toed walk!

The next poem follows Desirée the time she escaped from my screened porch north of Sharbot Lake. It was August. She was two years old, and had never really experienced the outdoors. In the next twenty-four hours she, who had never flown farther than from cage to table, flew over 40 kilometres across the sparsely inhabited Canadian Shield, coming to rest at a resort in Westport, sliding into the punchbowl at a Teacher’s Alumni Barbecue. She is a fruit eater and nectar sipper in the wild environment of her origins, depending on sugar for nourishment, so, as she would not have eaten or had anything nourishing to drink for 24 hours, she’d headed for what looked like juice.

This poem tracks her through the biology of her eyes, how each part of them functioned as she flew across tree, rock and lake, to land at the resort..

eye parts/ a shine of blue

she chews through
the gazebo screen
new use for eye
how far to green
what is this
constantly changing non seeable
between here and there
a resistance that
supports the moving wing

1. tectonics

a sclerotic ring of bony plates
encircles the cornea
holds her eye rigid
but allows angle adjustment
tilt down to confusing variety
of hard edge shape, defined curve
straight line
tilt up to formless blue
amorphous whites
the security of height

2. view

her eyes are one thirtieth
of her body weight
should we have eyes as large
they’d look like soup plates
on either side of our head
two foveas for each eye
allow simultaneous sharpness
ahead and to the side
instinctive direction
toward green
pull of east, of south
to absence of human creature
from treetop to treetop
over flatshape blueshine
pull of joy
of life

3. lens

the pupil seems dark
at the centre of the eye
an oval transparent lozenge
lets light in to her retina
zonular fibres attach ciliary muscles
that reshape the lens
there can be no grey–
she sees or she does not see
nightfall
black in black on black
scratchings, rustlings in her tree
claw over claw her panicked crashings
into things she can not see
at night the hairlike muscles
let her down
where is the towel she sleeps in

4. cornea

a curved lens
her cornea takes in light
bends and directs it
vitamin A filters out harmful rays
at death the cornea will collapse
this strong thin protector
as insubstantial as water
dawn wakes her
she has never before known
this slow waxing of brightness
its brilliance dazzles
she melts into morning as it breaks
til light persuades her into flight
but where are her people

5. photoreceptors

on a smooth curved retina
rods interpret light
cones read colour
neuron and blood vessels nourish
many more photoreceptors than in humans
ultraviolet-sensitive cones
in tetrachromatic eyes
pick up radio waves, microwaves, infrared light
every surface distracts
where in this pattern upon pattern
colour upon colour does a bird find food
so many airmiles in this heat,
she falters, stops more often
fears escalate as random sputterings
of fluorescence turn phosphorescent and she’s tired–
when she falls into it, the shine of blue
is water

6. eyelids

eyelids are three:
transparent nictating lids
in the inner corner of each eye
work sideways with tears
upper and lower lids come together
horizontally over the cornea
in blissful states they meet
in an upwards curve
but now the top lid is heavier
she’s crawled from the water
but oh, the weariness
warm sun on rock, mat of soft grass
her eyes will not stay open
dream memory: eyelids stuck together
she’s curled up inside thin white walls
light is coming through them
she’s so small, so small to struggle
peck pecking with her special tooth
(whatever happened to that tooth?)
her wet body inches out of the shell
her lids’ first puzzled parting

7. structure

the muscular sclera pockets her eye
an egg-shaped envelope of tissue
with a vertical lens to divide the interior
watery aqueous humour
in the front
jelly-like vitreous humour
on its deep skull side
crampton’s muscles
shift shape of cornea
so Desirée can see
what she needs to see
when her feathers dry

8. iris

her round aposematic iris
has sphincter and dilator muscles
that tighten and loosen
to control the amount of light
that goes into her eye
this bright red iris looks charming
but when it pins and flares
Desi is about to draw blood
any human who grabs her
needs to learn this–
even a cook who saves her–
she takes a piece out of his hand

9. field

all day the pecten
like a folded tissue
on the outside of the retina
has shaded her habitual 360 degree
field of vision
just one moment of weakness

10.

there’s still enough light to fly
after a flight of forty-five kilometres
over Canadian Shield rock, lake, forest
and she’s starving
twenty-four hours without food
then the clearing, humans!
smell of hamburger!
large bowl of what looks like juice!
she lands on the rim
slipslides into the punch
it’s deeper than her bath
and her eyes sting

11

her eyes betray her now
at the optic disc there is a blind spot
the young cook scoops her
out of the punch bowl
her nictating lids work
to wash away the sting

12. eyelashes

he’s understanding
takes her home, entranced
he notices that each upper and lower eyelid
has miniscule lashes–not hair
but vestigial feathers without barbs
curled
the bird is startled
to find his human eyes close
examining her eyes
past caring
she looks past him
past this place

I’d put an ad in our local paper, distributed in the Sharbot Lake area. The cook, though he wanted to keep her, realized someone who cared for her had lost her, and put his ‘found’ ad in the local Westport paper.  The two distribution areas overlapped so there were about eight households who received both papers, put two and two together, and several people phoned me. Desirée and I were reunited in the resort kitchen, where they’d been trying to feed her with seeds. She, however, is a sugar bird, needing sweets and carbs, so after four days, she dived into the french fries on the table, and then into a butterscotch cream pie before she fell asleep on my shoulder, her beak all sticky with potato and pie mush.

she hops up on my shoulder
stops being a wild thing, submits
once more to being a loved thing

And if you’ve been heroic enough to follow this post all this way, my congratulations. At the moment Desirée is asleep in her favourite place, in one of my dresser drawers, on a towel.

(Heading in for a nap. See you at lunch.)

 

 

The League of Canadian Poets at the inauguration

Are you important? asks the tiny taxi driver when Lesley Strutt and I say our destination is The Parliament Buildings. Well no, we tell this delightful man of East Indian origin, we are going to a celebration. What celebration, he asks and we explain. After listing all the important people he HAS taken to the Parliament Building, like Jack Layton. Many times, Jack Layton!, his summing up of the situation as we arrive at the gates was as follows: You ARE important because you are POETS and you have been INVITED to Canada’s Greatest House!

We were to be present, as representatives of The League of Canadian Poets, at the formal installation of Georgette LeBlanc as the 8th Poet Laureate of Canada. As it turned out, we were not important enough to be dropped off at the Centre Block, so we strolled up the hill and showed the invitation to the Mounted Police at the East Door. Visitors must be impressed by their efficiency, and that of the guards, but they make the process as comfortable as possible, and as pleasant.

With our new IDs clipped to our clothing, we were escorted upstairs and invited, yes, invited again, to wait until the designated room was opened. We were not left adrift however, but with a former page, presently working as a part-time guide, and so we had an interesting conversation with her about her studying the sciences at Ottawa University, and her interests in writing. I took photographs of the stonework and Lesley and the stonework and the stained glass window celebrating the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

Once the room was opened, we wandered. You will note how taken I was by the red and gold carpets, their luscious borders, the wood and plaster carving and sculptures that decorated where wall met ceiling. The bar was open (but Lesley and I were driving…) and hors d’oeuvers were served. They were really good!  Worthy of the event.  David Stymeist arrived; it was a relief to see one more poet in the room among all those suited up as appropriate to those who are associated with Parliament business, and a photographer and probably reporters, though I have not seen paper or virtual evidence of news jounalists or phographers being present.

Lesley knew others in the room and learned quite a bit about the goings on behind the inauguration, which we discussed briefly with our new laureate-to-be, before the actual ceremony. She is easy to be with, friendly, interested in anything that would make her work easier over the next two years.  With the Parliamentary Librarian Sonia L’Heureux, who was responsible for her appointment, we mentioned how odd it was that the room was not filled with poets for this important event. Perhaps next time it will be; she was interested in our thoughts about it.

The Honourable George J Furey and Ms Georgette LeBlanc with The Honourable Geoff Regan 

For the formal installation ceremony, The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C, Speaker of the Senate, introduced The Honourable Geoff Regan, P.C., M.P, Speaker of the House of Commons, one of the movers for Georgette Leblanc’s becoming Poet Laureate, who then introduced Ms LeBlanc. She outlined her hopes for poetry in Canada during the next two years, and we were treated to a poem in French written for the occasion.

Georgette LeBlanc, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, grew up in Baie Sainte-Marie, N.S.  and now lives in Church Point, N.S. At the end of this blog I will have two links about our newest Laureate.

We met Ms LeBlanc and found that she is charming and has an openness about her that makes her approachable. She was interested in The League, its raison d’être and its vision. I think we will all get along quite well and be the richer for having her as Laureate.

Having been introduced at VerseFest was one step in her two year appointment, and my feeling is that she will do much to connect with young poets and the poetry community at large, and the appreciation of all forms of poetry across Canada.

Afterwards, in the adjoining room where our coats were, we hammed it up in the mirror between statues of Sir John A. and Sir George-Étienne. 

In the taxi this time, we were merely two nobodies who wanted a taxi at the Château Laurier. We did not broadcast that we had been to the Parliament buildings, (so boring in that area where EVERYONE had come from the Parliament Buildings), nor did we mention why we’d been at the Château. (to use its facilities)

Still, plebes that we are, Lesley and I felt the great honour of having been there to represent the League, and are filled with the the pleasant memories of our first encounters with Georgette Leblanc .After all, it’s part of our League business as representatives, another step in getting the League known to some of the rest of the world. For more about our 8th Poet Laureate, follow these links:

https://sencanada.ca/en/sencaplus/people/meet-poet-laureate-georgette-leblanc/

https://ckpgtoday.ca/article/522643/georgette-leblanc-looks-raise-profile-parliamentary-poet-laureate

http://poets.ca/2018/04/02/npm18-poets-laureate/

 

KADO AT VERSEFEST OTTAWA 2018

Our star performer poets of the afternoon presentation were Hans Jongman of Welland, Ontario, and Luce Pelletier of St-Bruno de Montarville, Quebec.  I asked them to come because I enjoy their poetry and because it would be an honour to have poets of such sterling reputation on the podium at Versefest. We had encouraged KaDo members to bring anything Japanese to the presentation, and what generous and imaginative poets we have! Special kudos to Betty Warrington Kearsley who picked up platters of sushi, and also mochi which is an Asian treat made of rice flour. Another hero of the afternoon was Bryan Cook, who brought four gorgeous painted scrolls and hung them on upright bulletin boards.  Betty also brought a vase containing branches, which the audience was invited to decorate with haiku tags previously made by Lesley Strutt for Japan Day at Landsdowne Park a few months ago. Members also brought various kimono and lay them on the stage. Guy Simser sent two, though he was not able to attend.

The audience was invited to try them on and have their photos taken if they wished.    Here are Maureen in  a blue-and--white kimono, and my apologies for the image not being clearer, and Forrest in a short black one, which I think he considered was a ninja outfit, and in which  he did a super job of decorating the branches. He is with his mom Sharelle. Forrest also helped with taking the covers off the treats, and making sure the napkins matched the plates. As you can see, thesushi, mochi and sake were a hit.

    

haven’t said  much yet about our presenters.  Hans spoke with a great and wonderful confidence, reading a wide variety of haiku on all subjects, several on war. He read haibun from both Swooning and Shift Change. Had it not been so late in the afternoon, and had we not been preceded by four packed and terrific hours of lyric poetry by local and American poets, more lyric poets might have been blown away by his poems, and those of M. Pelletier, who gave a presentation which was brilliant in content and in performance. Her bilingual poems, given in her calm clear voice were from Papier rose  pink paper, and, as luck would have it, her video presentation would not work, no matter what Jennifer Pederson (Bestest Hero of the whole festival) tried. However, she breezed through, and I hope people look her videos up on YouTube, where she has reached 7700 views.  Afterwords we hammed it up, Luce peeking out from the side of the bulletin board, and then the three of us doing the same thing.

KaDo would like to thank all its members, and the Versefest organizers for making a place for Japanese-form poems among all the other forms at the festival. We especially thank the intrepid audience members (you know who you are!) who stayed late on Sunday afternoon to participate in our Haiku Pop-Up.

The Most Dangerous Writing App- literally.

I’ve known writers who use this and it works for them!

The Write Nook

I am always looking for new writing exercises to pass onto you fabulous writers. Writing can become very tedious, which in turn can force us to become stagnant. How many times can we sit down at the same computer, at the same coffee shop, and work on the same few pages? It will make anyone go a little crazy and will eventually bring on a nasty case of writer’s block. To make sure we keep our creative juices flowing, we need to switch up our routine a bit every once in a while. Maybe we take up a bench in the park for a few hours instead of writing under the dim light of our favorite coffee spot. Or maybe we try writing at night, versus during the wee hours of the morning. Or just maybe, we take a break from our current project and focus on some freestyle writing-…

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not your usual evening at the library

Carleton Place (and environs) is bursting with writers!  It is also bursting with amazing librarians who listen to the members of their library, and so, when local writers wanted to know more about publishing, a plan was hatched to get that information for them. An evening was planned. Here, after the librarians, is the second cast of characters. From the left, me, then Joelle Hubner-McClean, David Mulholland, Sandra Nikolai, and Linda Seccaspina, who moderated the panel.

We were all treated better than the Queen, we four panelists being directed to ridiculously comfortable red leather sofas, and Linda to her matching chair.  This is the way writers like to be treated.

Linda asked questions about our backgrounds and publishing experiences, which we answered as best we could. The audience was interesting and intent, their attention and conversations before, during the break and afterwards insightful and delightful.

What did we write, and how did we get that published, and what were the various choices on the road to getting published. What were the time frames involved. What about rejections.

I learned so much, and brought a lot of reality to the conversation concerning sending manuscripts to big publishers. We covered wait times and probabilities. David, Sandra, Linda and Joelle have had wonderful successes and know so much about e-books, self publishing, and Amazon as well as where to go on the internet to find the information needed.

I was so impressed by all the others. They write history, fiction, mysteries, children’s books. They’ve done their homework and publish in ways they are quite happy with. They actually make money writing!  They are happy with their results but that has everything to do the quality of their writing as well as with the time and effort they spend publicizing their books, doing readings, networking. They are good at selling their books, and great at explaining content, motivation, how a story or a book starts, all the way to how their books get edited, how to work with editors, how they arrive at the cover designs and who their audiences are. 

We were asked whether we preferred e-books or ‘paper’ books, and the answers were surprising. All preferred the paper versions, but they all have more money in the bank from the internet ventures. One benefit from being on internet sellers’ forums is that their books are being sold all over the world.  Given that, I admitted that I love the physical form of books that my publishers created, but working with publishers is difficult. Arctic Twilight, for example, does well on Amazon, but the publishers benefit for the most part, as they are still the sellers. These writers have done the wiser thing; they have remained the sellers, which makes for a much better deal.

Our examples of publications ranged from chapbooks and hand-made books to hard cover books with dust covers and paperbacks. Tables were set up for our books and for signing those books, and a delectable array of treats book-ended the coffee machine. I don’t think any writer could have had a more agreeable venue, audience, company or organizers.

I did not expect to go home with gifts. One was meeting Jennifer Fenwick Irwin. She brought me a gift from her father, Roly Fenwick, who had enjoyed Arctic Twilight so much that he gave me a copy of the catalogue for his latest exhibition. The paintings are glorious. Thank you Mr. Fenwick.  Thank you so much!  

Then more topping on the cake, with parting gifts from the library. I’ve been using this lap desk since that evening; it’s something I may have been looking for all my life.  Thank you.

I don’t know who was responsible for choosing that gift, or for writing our names so elegantly on the card envelopes. I keep that envelope propped up on my mantel. It makes me feel great every time I see it, reminding me of those hours enriched with so many people interested in words, and interested in getting those words out where they should be.

Thank you Meriah Caswell and Heidi Sinnett. That evening was a gift to everyone who was there, the writers, as well as the readers who love words.  And thank you Linda Seccaspina, for captaining our ship last Friday evening.

 

fish spine picked clean end of conversation

Hello new book! I begin this post with my editor and publisher’s name along with mine, and part of the skeleton of a fish. It’s sometimes a good idea to start with a part of something, a manageable piece, to take time to see the part, and so the whole, more clearly.

So here is Éditions des petits nuages, a small press with a big vision, one that takes risks and sends out into the world a fullness of books on poetry, mostly Japanese-form poems, in French and in English. Poet, translator and editor in his own right, Mike Montreuil’s ‘nuage‘ publications run from the historically important through compilations of contemporary poetry. I’m proud to be published once more with Éditions des petits nuages, pleased that some of my books are part of his publications list.

Montreuil is also the Publications Editor of Haiku Canada, main editor of the Haiku Canada Review and its Haiku Canada Sheet Series, both functions he has recently taken over from LeRoy Gorman. It’s a hat that is not easy to fill, but Mike will do a fine job.  And so, back to some the many poets published under the mantle of the ‘little clouds’: Andre Duhaime, Micheline Beaudry, Maxianne Berger, for starters, and Jocelyne Villeneuve. The Villeneuve project alone is worth many blog pages, as is the collection of years of The Betty Drevniok Award poems and judges’ comments, all this besides Montreuil’s work for The Haiku Society of America and sundry other poetry-related projects.

Now it is my turn again to be published by the little clouds, with fish spine picked clean, a collection of tanka, the five-line poems that can, every once in a while, be written in one line as it is in the title of this blog. It’s one of my briefest tanka, but one that pulls in what I like to portray in such a short poem, an image, but an image that links with an emotion, a very human poem.  After so many publications with my name on them, it’s still amazing to see the title and my name on the spine of this spine.  It’s been a long time coming for another tanka collection (after Your Hands Discover Me/ Tes mains me découvrent, 2010, Éditions du tanka francophone,  Montreal), and it mostly comprises already-published tanka in other other journals, in paper or online, such as Skylark, Take Five: Best Contemporary tanka, or Gusts, Canada’s Tanka Magazine, or in themed books such as Blackbird’s Throat.

These poems might count as a section of memoir expressed in tanka, but as such, it is of course, only the smallest part, a particle perhaps, of thoughts and feelings throughout my life.  Records of a kind. Not a narrative per se, but bits and pieces of nature, happiness, love, and sadnesses such as most people have, and about which many poets write. The ‘spine’, so to speak, of tanka poetry.

And what is this spine, my spine, trying to say and why collect all these pieces of my self into a book.  For I am not famous or rich as a many a poet may and should be. Not a celebrity poet whose books everyone wants personally signed, a writer the world clamours to know more about, which doesn’t matter, as it’s the right time to do what you’re doing as long as it is the right time to be doing it. Ah, I will be known throughout the land for long, oblique, tortured sentences. Still, it’s the way it is. Now is the time for fish spine to be shouting ‘life’ and this is how life is for me: how it has been, how it is, including the lusty erotics… who is to say when those experiences in life have been there and gone. Not me.

fallen into temptation/i unbutton/his shirt —/moon’s wry/romantic grin

never sleep they say/in the path/of a moonbeam/but my love/who’s thinking of sleep

crossing the bridge/across the border/the fire in us/could have melted/this steel

Putting the collection together has given me the chance to share the beauty of a dear one’s love of language, the simplicity of  a Brahms passage, or cross cultures with the poetry of another country, showcasing the relationship between early tanka and the Chinese poets.

languish languid limpid livid/you loved words/they came tripping out/like spring brook water/lively

then three simple notes/down and back/generates a measure/the ordinary…/seeding the/extraordinary

the smiles/of small girls/deny what is written/that no one is glad/when a girl is born                        (with reference to a poem called Woman by the poet Fu Hsüan who died c. AD 278.)

Within this collection of notes and whimsies written over the years, and the freedom allowed by Montreuil as editor, I can even approach being funny, reference Artificial Intelligence, indulge in my liking for the word ‘tarty’, and, using a famous pair of dancers, give a nod to how women are men’s equals, perhaps at times more equal, despite obstacles that few even notice.

it’s been with me, officer/all night long/the robot/had already/learned/to lie

fred and ginger/she in high heels/this marmalade is a hit/packed with tarty bits/of orange peel

The book will be out by March 12th, and I will be reading from it at Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series on March 13th.  Thank you so much,  Mike Montreuil and your little clouds.