Sunday, November 12, 2006

Tour notes, day eight; November 8, Vancouver to Salt Spring Island BC

All the things I never wrote about before; apparently when I get home or soon thereafter, the first meeting of a little fiction group for workshopping that Tina-Frances Trineer is setting up; me and Nicholas Lea and Steve Zydveld and Kate Heartfield and I forget who else. It reminds me that I keep wanting to write fiction on this trip and things keep getting up in the way. It reminds me that we haven’t had a Peter F. Yacht Club meeting in months and months (since last fall, I think); I know I’m late with the next issue, one edited by Laurie Fuhr… hard to have a writer’s group when we never get around to grouping… Jeff Derksen suggests that if my lovely daughter Kate is into films and filmmaking, I should tell her about the work of poet/filmmakers Abigail Child and Henry Hills; I keep seeing poems on the bus, the BC Transit, pieces by Jane Munro (from her Point No Point) and Rita Wong. And why haven’t I emailed Karl Siegler yet, while in Vancouver? I wonder what it is he’s doing; I liked it better when he lived here, and I could visit him more easily…

Got a nice email from Heidi Greco yesterday, apologizing for not being able to get into Vancouver for my Robson UBC reading; I haven’t met her yet, but remember her from an Anvil Press collection of three writers that came out some ten years ago or so; I remember reviewing it somewhere as one of my very early reviews. When will we get any more of her poems? And got a stack of new books from that nice Brian Lam at Arsenal Pulp; why don’t they have any new poetry titles? At least the gay Canadian male poet anthology in April or May of next year… got an “old lady” bag from him too, for all the books he handed over; now I can be mean to children, now I can treat animals as though they live like people…

After reading the Globe and Mail yesterday about a group of new Canadian visual artists, I went through the website of Toronto photographer Jennifer Long; some of her photographs are wonderfully sublime. The Globe and Mail called this particular series, “hairwork,” “a series of cropped, almost clinical nudes […].” I would call them much more than that; even through their cropped bodies they seem very personal, personable; subtle and even alluring; I would hardly call them clinical. Is it wrong to even find some of these images quite attractive? Going through her website, I think I like her visual art very much.

My horoscope from yesterday’s paper:
Someone you work or do business with is about to pull a fast one in the hope that they can cheat you out of what you deserve. But they can only succeed if you are so sleepy-headed that you don’t see it coming. How likely is that? Wake up to reality: not everyone is as easy-going and honest as you.
How likely is that? Pretty bloody likely, I’d say. I’ve been jet-lagged a week; can barely keep my eyes open after 10:30pm. Living the past few days on coffee and pizza slices, coffee and pizza slices.

The reading last night was pretty entertaining, able to hear donato mancini read for the first time, with American poet Lytle Shaw; audience included nikki reimer, Colin Smith, Jonathon Wilcke (whom I know from his Calgary days, and don’t see nearly often enough), Jeff Derksen, Pauline Butling, Meredith and Peter Quartermain (I really need to learn more about this guy), Maxine Gadd [see my review of her latest book here], and a bunch of folk I either hadn’t met yet or lost their names in that sieve of memory (I’m famously bad for remembering names). Apparently Kim Minkus lives here now, a poet who works at Simon Fraser University; I used to work with her over a decade ago at Octopus Books in Ottawa, and she says that I even published her work somewhere, although for the life of me, I can’t remember where that would have been. Hoping to get a submission for the third ottawater from her. At least I remember her name…

mancini apparently a second trade collection in the spring from New Star Books, the same publisher that did his first [see my review of it here]; he read a series of “candle in the wind” poems, after realizing that Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana were both thirty-six years old when they died, writing a series of poems for others who died the same age, including Bob Marley and others; very interesting, and the crowd loved them. Strange little pieces from a very nervous manciniShaw, a poet I’d not previously heard of, was introduced by Derksen as being part of all these traditions including Fritterman and Hejinian, but I had a hard time finding an entry point to the work; I obviously need to know more background before I can know how to get inside it. Maybe I should have picked up a book? He’s author of, among other things, a new book on the late New York poet Frank O’Hara, subtitled “the poetics of coterie.”

After the reading at Spartacus Books, moving boxes and glasses and drinks back to the Kootenay School of Writing offices, hanging out there for a while instead of those drinks we meant to move further on; various folk wandered off instead of moving further; Cochrane was supposed to come out after he finished teaching, but managed to bail on us (oh Mark). Did you know that the Kootenay School of Writing got evicted from their previous address last year, where they held readings the last time I was through (the last reading I went to was Barry McKinnon launching The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 in 2004)? They had to move their office and Charles Watts Memorial Library to smaller offices that don’t really allow for events or availability, unfortunately. Can you believe its been ten years since I first read at the KSW, with Kathryn Payne and Clare Latremouille?

Apparently Karl Seigler is around on Friday; maybe I’ll see him then? Apparently potential drinks on Friday night with Wilcke, reimer and who else? Warren will be the last day of a shoot, so Nancy says he’ll probably be later than usual…

Looking forward to two days offline, on Salt Spring; looking forward to looking forward to.

Tour notes, day nine; November 9, Salt Spring Island BC

Picked up by Robert McTavish, filmmaker, before we headed off to the island on two ferries, an hour and a half to Victoria and another half hour straight to Salt Spring, where he left his car. Schemes on the Newlove selected he’s been working two years on, for fall 2007 Chaudiere Books. He made a big production about having to buy six wine glasses at a thrift store (for only a quarter each) because his girlfriend, musician Sharon Bailey (who has put out a cd since I was here last), is apparently constantly breaking wine glasses; then, Robert managed to break four of them before we got on the ferry (stepping out of his father’s van, which he couldn’t do easily, because he overdid hockey the night before and pulled a bunch of leg muscles…), and one more later on in his kitchen (he swore). After my extremely clever idea to start a pool to put money on how/when Sharon would break them, and he breaks them. I didn’t think those last two would even make it over to the island. He drank out of the final one in triumph…

Copies of the film, What to make of it all? The life and poetry of John Newlove, arrived in McTavish’s mailbox as soon as we were back on the island; a beautiful thing. We don’t know when it appears on Bravo yet, but copies are available through his distributor, Moving Images Distribution. God knows for how much. Should really get into seeing it today; spent last night mostly on guitar with Sharon, after a quick dip into the Royal Canadian Legion #92, Salt Spring Island where Robert works (and Newlove’s son-in-law as well). There are lots of folk on this island I tend to forget about, including CBC guy Arthur Black (apparently at the Legion every Thursday), or poets Brian Brett and Phyllis Webb (will she ever have another book out? I think a book on her work appearing soon with Talonbooks…). Last night many hours of guitar, including original pieces by Sharon and plenty of covers back and forth (I played the spoons, too). Going quietly through John Newlove at breakfast, this poem from Moving In Alone (Toronto ON: Contact Press, 1965).


Everything ends once
and cannot be recovered,
even our poor selves.

Your tongue thrusts into my mouth
violently and I am lost,
nothing is to be said. I am plunged
into the black gap again.

It is not to be endured
easily, unthought of, never
to be dismissed with ease.

What can I do. My hand
shakes on the page. Knowing
I am criminality, there is
nothing I dare do.

Ah, I can’t go home
and make love to her either,
pretending it’s you. (John Newlove)

Apparently Susan Newlove here over Christmas, to visit her daughter and family; McTavish lives in a little cove with (as he calls it) the best beach on the island (and it’s private, owned by the person Robert rents his house from). A quiet setting with birds and water and trees and rocks and mountains and sky and sky and sky and water and sky. Few poems over the last few days, but too busy to try; fighting with the wireless on this thing (might go to the Legion and attempt again/more).

Got an old old old issue of Open Letter from Robert, from 1966; few poems, few poems. Jennifer called last night to tell me how wonderful I am; no, wait, that wasn’t it.

the way to hump a cow is not
to get yourself a stool
but draw a line around the stop
and call it beautifool

to multiply because and why
dividing thens by nows
and adding and (i understand)
is hows to hump a cows

the way to hump a cow is not
to elevate your tool
but drop a penny in the slot
and bellow like a bool

to lay a wreath from ancient greath
on insulting brows
(while tossing boms at uncle toms)
is hows to hump a cows

the way to hump a cow is not
to push and then to pull
but practicing the art of swot
to preach the golden rull

to vote for me (all decent mem
and wonens will allows
which if they don’t to hell with them)
is hows to hump a cows (ee cummings)

Back from our wanderings, just before we finally watched the John Newlove documentary; between the book exchange (free stuff) and the Salt Spring library (cheap), I must have picked up about twenty books, maybe more, for less than $5.00; what the hell? Copies of e.e. cumming’s 50 poems, Isabel Huggan’s The Elizabeth Stories (I’d heard good things about it) (Ottawa ON: Oberon Press, 1984), old copies of Quarry magazine and Coach House Press’ The Story So Far (there was talk a while ago of current Coach House Books restarting the series…), a stack of recent BRICK: A Literary Journal issues, Greco’s Last Book: Selected Poems of Stanley Cooperman (Vancouver BC: Intermedia, 1980), other books by Daphne Marlatt, John Nold, Maxine Gadd’s selected poems [see my review of her book since here], Thomas King, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Diana Hartog, Catherine Owen, and a two volume Conversations with Canadian Novelists by Donald Cameron (Toronto ON: Macmillian, 1973), including interviews with George Bowering, Rudy Wiebe, Robert Kroetsch, Timothy Findley and piles of others. What a score! There are a couple of books with “Phyllis” written in, including Allan Safarik’s OKIRA (Burnaby BC: Blackfish, 1976), signed to “Phyllis” from the author. Is island poet Phyllis Webb unloading excess? Almost makes me want to call her to see what else she has… Picked up a lovely picture book too, Saskatchewan In Sight by John Perret; its actually a book I was going through from the Ottawa Public Library to help with my prairie novel, so it’s good to have a copy I can go through more regularly…

On the Mathematical Probability
of a Head-on Collision

Here I am heading east thinking of
you heading west and you’re probably thinking
mild sexual thoughts as you cruise along, while I’m
passing a lot, vibrating at the perfect frequency
and remembering how love is often best
when you just pull over
and I’ll bet you’ve just speeded up. (Diana Hartog, Matinee Light)

Listening to Iron + Wine and pining, wondering

Some of the most expensive real estate in the country, McTavish says. The last time I was here, summer before last (when I read for the West Coast Poetry Festival), one of his friends asked if I was planning to move out here; oh, they said, everyone who ever comes to visit ends up giving up their lives wherever they’re from, so they can live on the island, it’s just that beautiful. If they last the winter (most of them don’t), folk end up staying for good. No, I said, I think I’m fine in Ottawa; besides, I grew up with a similar experience of open lush green and solitude (with fewer oceans and mountains, granted), so I understand, but is it wrong to be happy where I live? (The city I mean and neighbourhood too, not necessarily my little itty bitty apartment…)

An unencumbered view; look up Walker Hook, Salt Spring Island on google maps. A little inlet outside his solarium (windows windows windows on the water), not a body or boat in sight (but sometimes boats); where am I writing from? As far west as I think I have ever been…

After years of waiting and wondering, I finally got to see McTavish’s documentary on John Newlove, narrated by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers; more than worth the wait, and including interviews with John himself as well as his wife Susan, stepchildren Tamsin and Jeremy Gilbert, and George Bowering, Allan Safarik, Joe Rosenblatt, Barry McKinnon, Douglas Barbour, (the now late) Fred Douglas, and others, and film clips of Newlove’s last two readings in Vancouver in 1999 (I was lucky enough to be there for the second one), at the Vancouver Public Library and Anza Club, organized by The Capilano Review and Jamie Reid; his first reading in Vancouver, he said at the time, in some fourteen years. It’s strange to think of, in all the time he lived in Ottawa (seventeen years, more time than he lived anywhere else) he managed to only do four readings; somehow I was present for every one, and had even organized one of them. What the?

Originally, I actually met McTavish originally because of the Newlove documentary. Since I lived no more than a block away from 1996 on, Bowering apparently told McTavish in Vancouver (how many years ago; ten?) that he hadn’t seen John in a decade or more, why not talk to this kid in Ottawa? He actually sees the guy… suddenly McTavish making regular visits from home bases in Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and now Salt Spring Island with camera in hand to crash on my couch before wandering over to interview John or Susan yet again…

Robert worried his television too small; I suggested we play it on the big screen at the Legion, but Robert thought it not the best of ideas…

Tour notes, day ten; November 10, Salt Spring Island to Vancouver BC

A morning of ferry delays, a squall with winds over 100 km/hr that knocked out power all across the island (not where we are) and pushed ferry departures by hours and hours; instead of getting into Vancouver by about 2:30pm and working online downtown (posting this nonsense, for example) and showering and banking and doing laundry, getting in around 6pm or so and heading straight back to Warren’s apartment (a bookstore downtown I really wanted to get back to, but there you go). Leaving now at the 4:30pm ferry, but at least this way able to mail another box of books back to myself (via that lovely lovely Jennifer; oh lovely Jennifer…). Hoping drinks tonight along Commercial Drive with Wayde Compton, Jonathon Wilcke and nikki reimer…

Water rippling all up and down the coast along the inlet; the hook. Rain hard on the roof for hours before the end of sleeping. Nearly 10am before it slowed down. The water and the ducks and the trees returned to normal, quickly and slow.

Where the hell did I put my scarf? Have I already lost my scarf? Almost impossible to find one on Salt Spring.

Apparently a nice review in the Ottawa X-Press today of the Monty Reid book we published, which is pretty cool; hopefully it’ll get more of a crowd for the reading he’s doing with Clare Latremouille at Collected Works in December, or the one at the Ottawa Art Gallery a week later for the Decalogue: ten Ottawa Poets anthology. Already got a few emails on the subject. Apparently I’m going back and forth between Kristy McKay and Douglas Barbour in Edmonton (which I have no problem with); Kristy worried about me being a “latch-key kid,” which I actually prefer when I’m visiting folk; that way I feel as though I’m less in the way.

Lost while looking out across the water.

Reading the old Charlie Brown stuff in Robert’s bathroom; the great stuff, from 1962. A quick shower, Robert (or Sharon or both) wash their hair with Head & Shoulders; remembering back to my maternal grandmother’s house on Ridgemont Avenue in Ottawa in the 1980s, that she (or Uncle Bob or cousins Patti and Kim or all) did the same, the only other household I knew that did. I remember it as memorable simply because different than what my mother bought; why would I be thinking about that now? Salt Sprint Island, perhaps as far away from Ottawa as I could get and still be in country, and back to my pre-teen self in my grandmother’s bathroom, taking a shower and the rarity of another shampoo, the rarity of being away from home. Over the past few years, I think I’ve become quite good at it, this placing within placelessness, a place where to be and to go. And on the League of Canadian Poets list-serve, a conversation about writing place vs. nature poetry, and what the hell all of it means. I kept adding my own twenty cents in.

Last night another evening of drinks and pool and other nonsense at the Royal Canadian Legion (the only one in Canada, I told them, that I frequent…), including meeting Tamsin Gilbert (John Newlove’s step-daughter)’s husband, who works there with Robert; a really nice fella. Also, as they do every Thursday, Arthur Black and Derek Lundy came in to the Legion to play snooker; I got to meet both, which was pretty cool. Black did a thing on Diane Woodward a few years ago (not long after she and I broke up) for Weird Homes after she moved to Madoc. This morning, introduced Sharon to the work of Salt Spring Island poet Phyllis Webb, from one of the books on Robert’s shelf; here’s a piece from her most recent collection, Hanging Fire (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1990):

Cue Cards

Fabulous fold of the gray cloud
over the banked white one –

Stolen thunder. Stolen gold.

Heart of the jungle darkness.
Hot death. Rousseau and Conrad

meet at the river bank
stare at their outstretched hands

that hold no clues.
Clueless. Monsieur Rousseau

falls down in a faint
seeing stars and shepherdesses.

And Mr. Conrad stumbles on
lured by drumbeats.

Half dead at the end of
his story, he leaves his trail –

and another Rousseau, Henri,
paints stripes on a large cat

as it royally passes through customs. (Phyllis Webb)

Aiming for the 4:30pm direct ferry back to Vancouver; aiming for the post office before we head through.

Tour notes, day eleven; November 11, Vancouver BC to Edmonton AB

Sharon and I back on the ferry, so so long. Somehow the bus a half hour later than the half hour later than we were originally told, a Pacific Coast Lines bus that took us to the airport first and then downtown when we were aiming for the train station but we never made it, jumping out after over an hour at the Hotel Vancouver and tearing off to Commercial Drive to meet up with Wayde Compton for drinks; apparently the first Line Books are out (an imprint of West Coast Line), but he forgot to bring them by; hopefully getting them in the mail later. Ryan Knighton came by too, and later then Warren Fulton. Almost went to the Jacqueline Turner launch at Spartacus Books [see my review of the book she was launching here] to hang out with Jonathon Wilcke etcetera but decided a quiet drink with Wayde instead of a reading.

Always a little stressful heading into Alberta, a woman there that left me so far behind and broke me (I haven’t been the same since); far worse when I get to Calgary (I haven’t been able to spend more than a night in Calgary in years). It’s been, what, five or six years and I haven’t quite been the same. See also: paper hotel (2001) and what’s left (2004), two parts of a trilogy (a third waits on publishers’ desks, the unpublished ruins (a book of absences…). Moan, moan, moan. How some of these things linger years if I let them…

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