Beaver Pond

Thank you, Anne Stillwell Leblanc

Beaver Pond

 “I left her by the gate to the Beaver Pond at 2:38. It takes her twenty minutes to walk around the circuit. I always check my watch. Then I know when I can expect her back. In exactly eight minutes, she comes out of the woods and I can see her at the end of the boardwalk. I park the car in a spot from which I can watch her and wave to her. Today, I didn’t see her come out of the woods. It’s the radiation for prostate cancer … it’s left my bowels weak. I had to go to the bathroom … so I turned the car engine on … it was 2:44 … about two minutes before she was due to appear on the boardwalk   … yesterday, a Great Blue Heron stood fishing in the pond … he flew when he saw her … a great crack of the wings … but today, the heron wasn’t there … just ducks … they flapped their wings, stood on the water, you know, the way they do, and scattered from the spot where she should have appeared …  she walks very quietly, tip-toe, you know … she likes watching the heron and the ducks … she doesn’t like to frighten them … I don’t know what to think … I had to go … it was urgent … so I turned the car around and drove to the nearest bathroom … about one hundred yards away … I was in there … I don’t know … about five minutes … I didn’t check my watch … it’s dark in there … no electricity …besides, between hobbling on my sticks, praying to God to help me to hold on, opening and closing the door, struggling to get my pants down without soiling them …and then I drove back to the picnic tables … and waited … and waited …and she never appeared. I haven’t seen her since … she’s gone missing … I fear the worst … “

On the other end of the phone, a long silence, some heavy breathing, then:

“We’ll file a missing person’s report.”

“You will find her, won’t you? I love her, you know. I must find her. I want to know what’s happened … ” the old man wiped the corner of his right eye with the knuckle of the index finger of his left hand. He coughed and cleared his throat.

“Twenty years younger than you, you said?”

“Yes,” the old man nodded.

“Well, sir: we’ve already started our investigation. We’ll do our best to find her. We’ll contact you as soon as anything turns up.”

The police officer put down the phone and the circuit clicked out.

“What the hell you gonna do?”

“Not me … us.”

“Okay … us then … well … what the hell we gonna do?”

“You tell me. We got her on video.  She walked out the other exit, by the park HQ, straight into the arms of the Deputy Police Commissioner. She’s twenty years younger than her husband and her husband’s got the sort of cancer that’s killed his sex life. Cancer? And the Deputy Commissioner’s the one who’s waiting for her? What the hell do you think we’re gonna do?”

Fall: Beaver Pond

Comment The Beaver Pond at Mactaquac is a beautiful place to be, all year round. We love it in summer and fall and Anne Stillwell-Leblanc (< click on link for website) has captured the stillness and silence of the place in the above engraving. As I have become less mobile, so I have sent Clare cantering around the pond to enjoy the beauty we used to enjoy together. Meanwhile, I sit in the car and watch for Clare’s regular appearances through the trees and on the footbridge. As I sit, I write. Sometimes it is journal style, sometimes poetry, and occasionally a short story, like this one.

Bistro Two is available online at
THIS LINK.

Poetic Structures

Poetic Structures
Wednesday Workshop
21 July 2021

External Structures

            Roman Armies, men and words, were structured, highly structured. Poetic structure can take many forms: external structure, the sonnet, for example, with its 14 lines and its 4+4+3+3 verse form which can also be 4+4+4+2 or 5+5+4, or 5+4+5 or 2 x 7 or 3+3+3+3+2. I have experimented with all of these sonnet forms, and many more, at one stage or another in The Nature of Art. Milton Acorn, the Governor-General’s Poetry Award Winner for poetry, wrote a book called Jackpine Sonnets. His Jackpine Sonnets are wild and beautiful, growing this way and that, totally individual and out of shape, just like wind-swept jackpines of Tara Manor in St. Andrews on the East Coast of New Brunswick, Canada, where I penned some of these poems.

Internal Structures

            In the same way that poems can be given a formal structure, so can lines. Structure can be external, flowing from line to line in an unbroken sequence, or it can be internal, limited to each line. Some of my poems include stanzas where the individual line flows into the stanza and the result is an amalgamation of both the individual and the whole. Individual lines can be structured by syllable count, 10, 11, 12 or more per line. They can also be structured by stress, the stress of normal speech or the stress of forced rhythm. Structures can have Greek or Latin names, English ones too. Or it can be the structure of simple, everyday speech. Fray Luis de León, (1527-1591) wrote that he counted his syllables when he spoke and he wrote prose and poetry the same way he spoke. Syllables, a strange term nowadays, not understood by all. Try the ‘beat’ of music: “You can’t always get what you want” (Rolling Stones) or “All you need is love,” (Beatles). Simple really, but it is all too easy to complicate these concepts.

Comment: Clearly this is a simplification of what can be an intensely scientific and academic subject. We have only to think of the books of rhetoric, with their long lists of Greek names for the different syllables, long and short, and the different line lengths that run from Iambic Pentameter to Hymns Ancient and Modern. However, the purpose of these thoughts is to simplify and not to complicate. More important, perhaps, rhythm, in one form or another is akin to structure and many of us have an innate sense of verbal rhythm, whether we count our syllables on our fingers, as I do, or count them not, as is the modern trend in some poets. Think daisy petals: she loves me, she loves me not, I count them, I count them not. Yet still the rhythm is there and that, in many ways, is one of the key secrets of our unique poetic voices: we all speak and write in different fashions and that is one of the things that makes us unique.

The Musicality of Words

The Musicality of Words
Wednesday Workshop
Bastille Day
14 July 2021

            The Roman armies marched all over Europe and, as they marched, they sang marching songs, traces of which lingered, along with the Latin language, everywhere they went. Think of the poems in his book as songs, each with its own special rhythm. You can find music in a single word, in a group of words, in a single line. You can hear and feel it too when you follow the punctuation and move with the words across adjoining lines. Unfortunately, far too many of us have become used to slogans and advertisements: three words repeated incessantly, two verses of a song that loop continuously. Many of us have forgotten how to read anything other than newspaper headlines and simple sentences. We have also forgotten how to listen to words, how to gain multiple meanings beyond the simplistic message of slogan, sound byte, scandal, and news. Diversity of meaning is what you learn when you read poetry, for poetry is more, much more, than the delivering of a simple message. To read a poem is to set out on a personal journey of exploration, into your own memories and mind, as mediated by the poet’s words. It is also to explore the vast treasure trove of our personal relationship with our language. Remember: a poetry book is a dream you hold in your hands.

Comment: Words have meaning, but they also have music and the musicality of meaning must never be forgotten for when music an meaning combine, a new set of meanings is formed that depend as much upon the ear as they do upon the decoding mind. This is all a part of what we refer to as the poet’s voice and remember this style of poetry is not to be found in newspaper headlines nor on the radio and television news, scaled down as they are to the lowest common denominators of language.

Look carefully at the painting that heads this Wednesday Workshop. Look at the movement and the musicality of linked forms and colors in a still, silent, two-dimensional space. Meaning takes on different meanings and becomes something different when we look at these words of color, these soundless sounds, these rhythmical movements of color. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Indeed it is, and in poetry, it is also in the musicality of the words and the flow of the ideas that bind the words and change their meanings.

How to read poetry

How to read poetry
A Wednesday Workshop

The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature is a book of poems each one of which celebrates humanity’s relationship both with the natural world and the way that world is recreated by artists in so many different forms. In order to read these poems and receive full value from them, it would help to know how to approach them.

Preparing to Read

First, de-clutter the mind. Poetry cannot be hurried or rushed. Remember, it is better to read one poem a hundred times than to read one hundred poems once. Prepare yourself mentally and physically for your reading. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes. Concentrate your mind on something you find peaceful: a sail on Passamaquoddy Bay, a rose in Kingsbrae’s Rose Gardens, a butterfly in the Butterfly Garden, or a fine white cotton cloud in a cerulean sky. Breathe in and then breathe out. Now slow your breathing down. Breathe in, count up to four, slowly, breathe out, counting up to six. Breathe in, count up to six, slowly, now breathe out, counting up to eight. Breathe in, counting up to eight, and breathe out, also counting up to eight. How long will you sit there? When your breathing has slowed and your mind is clear, you will be ready to start. You will know when that is.

            Open your eyes. Take your book and begin to read. Don’t start on page one and rush through. Dip in, here and there, find a title or a first line that you like, and read that poem. Read it two or three times. Then move on, randomly to another poem. Select individual lines, phrases, sentences. Savour the words. Roll them around in your mind. Read them to yourself, quietly. Then read them out loud. Try to capture their essence, their rhythms. Taste them, as you would a fine Spanish Manzanilla wine. Select another word, another line, another poem. Seek and you will find some sequence that you like. Return to it often.

Comment: I will restart my Wednesday Workshops. The Nature of Art, the manuscript on which I am currently working, has an Introduction on The Nature of Poetry. I will put this up in installments. The handwritten opening page comes from an online video on Creativity and Writing Poetry during the Pandemic. This poetry video is the first one in the series. Click here for link. Other workshops on writing can be found by searching Writing Workshops on the Blog search (top right hand corner) or by going to this link Poetic Creativity and Thoughts on Writing

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse by Kaitlin Hoyt

Kaitlin Hoyt
(KIRA, May-June, 2021)

She is an oyster, silent at low tide, yet with a host
of pearls waiting inside her, ready to be released.
When set, she will release those pearls herself,
stringing them together, like Chantal’s beads,
into a skein of meaningful, enigmatic moments.

Enigmatic, yes, but, like Elgar’s Enigma Variations,
a Russian Doll puzzle of secrets and intrigue. Comic
book artist, she evolved to graphic designer, then
multi-tasked first to Kinetics, and then to a painter
who reaches out in empathy to the world around her.

For her, all art is linked and communications are key,
on many levels. Visualization. Achievable goals.
A step-by-step process with each step foreseen, planned
beforehand, and each step always taken with an open mind
that accepts the true response, leaving falsehoods behind.

Kinetics, yes, but she is above all a loner. Kayaking.
Hiking. Weight-lifting. Yoga. Meditation. Mindfulness.
Caring. Sharing. She sends me her web page and I am
blown away by her empathy with birds and the natural world,
that world her oyster and her, an oyster in that world.



Comment: This particular bird visited our Mountain Ash in the garden at Island View. Kaitlin saw my photo and asked if she could paint it. I sent it to her, and this is the result. Wild life to Still Life to art and never Nature Morte! Together, Kaitlin and I have preserved forever the surprise visit of this beautiful bird.

Sculptures in the Gardens

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Sculptures in the Gardens

It’s the only sculpture garden in Canada. It may even be
the only one in the world in which the sculptures
shake off their shackles and come alive at night
when the moon hangs heavy in the sky and shifting
shadows prowl beneath Kingsbrae’s trees. Deadly
nightshades, roaming with no thought for the humans
who walk around by day taunting these sculptures,
thinking they are lifeless, mere images set in stone.

Beard not the lion in his den, nor the fox running wild,
nor the chubby bear whose clumsy run belies his speed
and strength. The dragon opens iron wings, but beware
of the hot forge lodged in the snap-dragon’s mouth.


Have you seen the cerulean whale, marooned and ship-
wrecked on these foreign soils? Once upon a time,
in a fairy tale, he roamed the seven seas and plundered
men and ships with abominable ease. Ease and the easel,
plein air paintings, sculpture portraits taken from life
and converted to a ship’s canvas that will never sail.


Ask not who is that bearded man, for he might be the one
Don Juan invited to supper. Ah, the hard rock ship-shock
when with a thunderous knock he arrives, an unexpected
guest, at the coward’s door. And shake not his hand lest
his fearsome grip turn you to stone or drag you down to hell.

Painting a School Outing

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Painting a School Outing
Beaver Pond, Mactaquac

The yellow of the school bus is easy, but
what colors do you give the rainbow of kids
arcing out through the exit? And how do you
portray their energy, their noise, their origins
when such a variety of accents assaults
your ears and drives the wildlife into silence?

What colors would Rimbaud have given to
their vowels, their consonants, their high-pitched
tones? You can sketch their orderly rows as they snack
on the top-hat magic pulled out of backpacks.
But it’s not so easy to paint the pop of cans,
the scent of chocolate bars, or the crackle of chips
released from packets and popped into mouths.

Running round after lunch, they drive the wild
birds wild with their unorganized games of tag,
their impromptu dances, their three-legged races,
their winners and losers, their joys and sorrows.
Fishing nets are produced from nowhere. Girls,
boys wander to water’s edge in search of prey:
incipient frogs, newts, tadpoles, bullheads, but
how do you paint the wet and wriggle of them?

Try painting this. Whistles sound. Kids regroup.
The bus reloads and goes. Now paint the silence.
Sketch the tranquility of woods, bird-calls back,
of the beaver pond with its lilies stretching their
green necks skywards towards a pale blue sky
where cotton clouds cluster together in celestial
flocks. A pastoral scene, this painter’s paradise.

Comment: The woodcut was a gift from my fellow KIRA artist in residence (May-June, 2021), Anne Stillwell-Leblanc. It goes well with this poem about nature, noise, and the absence, then presence, of silence. For those of you who do not know the Beaver Pond at Mactaquac, it is well-worth a visit. My thanks to Anne for her permission to use her art work.

Cave Paintings

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Cave Paintings
Cantabria

Who painted these pictures on the walls of night’s cave?
This grayish hand, fingers flexed, outlined in black soot,
that deer dancing, those bears, horses, bison, running?


Did they come from nowhere, plucked from nothing but
the artist’s memories of what he saw as the ice age faded
and heat and warmth returned to warm his world? Drawn
from life, without doubt. Unless these Neanderthals were
truly creating art from a literal vacuum with nothing new
invented since according to Picasso. And he should know.

Imagine them as sounds, as letters from distant relatives,
as colored vowels scored on the blocks of a child’s first
alphabet set. Sit and stare. Watch flames flitter over
sharp shapes. See life enter the drawings as flimsy
light flickers over the cave walls’ dips and bumps.

Once seen, never forgotten. Not just the paintings, but also
the clammy cave damp, the red hanky draped over a pocket torch
to imitate firelight, the drip of water, slow growth of limestone
deposits growing into stalagmite and stalactite. Such things
flit in and out of my mind like owls or bats, drop in on my sleep
wake me with predatory beaks and claws, calling for my skull’s shut
doors to open wide, to let them in, and to bring them back to life.

Comment: The picture comes from an ash-tray my parents bought at the Cuevas de Altamira, in Santillana del Mar (Cantabria, Santander as it was known then) in 1963. We visited many cave sites in Cantabria including Puente Viesgo, where we saw the sooty hands. Back then, the caves had only just been opened. At Altamira, a young lady came to greet us. We asked her if we might view the caves and she whistled loudly. Her husband came down from the fields where he was working. He took a large iron key from his pocket, opened a huge door set in the rock, and in we went. One light bulb illumined the inner chamber. Only a small segment had been dug out. We reclined on a rocky bank. He doused the electric light, took a torch from his pocket, and covered it with a red pocket handkerchief. He moved this back and forth to imitate firelight and immediately the whole wall came to life and the animals moved in the flickering light. Pure magic. Unforgettable. We were the only people there. Four of us. A few years later, you had to book an appointment and a place. Within six years, the caves were closed as the heat of human bodies raised the cave temperatures and caused the paintings to deteriorate. I was so fortunate, so privileged, to see those paintings in what was almost their pristine state. In 1991, I visited the facsimile of the caves built in Madrid. I paid my money, went in, sat down, and came out crying for all those things we had lost, for all that beauty that had been denied.

Ginger Marcinkowski

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Ginger Marcinkowski
(KIRA, August, 2019)

“My walk each morning, rain or shine,
feathers my black galoshes with dewy grass.
There I would ramble through gated doors
that kept out the world and sealed in
my pen’s work for that day. 

I often found myself sidetracked,
exploring paths that led through flowerbeds,
and up to my favorite sculptures.
I paused to watch my fellow artists
as they focused on chosen subjects
unaware that I was eavesdropping. 

Then silently, I would steal away
along the well-trod path to my studio,
pausing long enough to greet the llamas
and baby goats. If I listen carefully
I can still hear their bleating. 

In wonder, every day, I climbed the steps
of wood that led to my studio, opened
the door, and turned to breathe in my good
fortune. “What a blessed woman you are,”
I would tell myself before taking my place
for hours on end at my desk, each moment,
each stroke of the pen, each letter added
to the growing lines on the page, a gift.”

Comment: I have been writing poems about the KIRA artists as part of my next poetry book, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This is my KIRA2021 project. The Nature of Art is a revision and expansion of a poetry manuscript of the same name that placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey Award (2020). This poem appears in the section entitled Impressions of KIRA Artists. Currently this section contains eleven poems, but it is still under construction. This poem is interesting in that it is a ‘found’ poem, in the sense that Ginger wrote these words to me in an e-mail. I removed them, reordered them, polished them, and sent her back her own poem in her own words. What fun! This should help explain the use of inverted commas at beginning and end, for this poem is spoken in Ginger’s own words.

Inquisitor

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Inquisitor

Inquisitor

He told me to read,
and plucked my left eye from its orbit.
He slashed the glowing globe of the other.
Knowledge leaked out, loose threads dangled.
He told me to speak and I squeezed dry dust
to spout a diet of Catechism and Confession.

He emptied my mind of poetry and history.
He destroyed the myths of my people.
He filled me with fantasies from a far-off land.
I live in a desert where people die of thirst,
yet he talked to me of a man who walked on water.

On all sides, as stubborn as stucco,
the prison walls listened and learned.
I counted the years with feeble scratches:
one, five, two, three.

For an hour each day the sun shone on my face,
for an hour at night the moon kept me company.
Broken worlds lay shattered inside me.
Dust gathered in my people’s ancient dictionary.

My heart was like a spring sowing
withering in my chest
It longed for the witch doctor’s magic,
for the healing slash of wind and rain.

The Inquisitor told me to write down our history:
I wrote … how his church … had come … to save us.

Inquisitor was also a requested reading last Saturday. My promise, to put it up on the blog, with a reading in my own voice is now fulfilled. I love this poem: it speaks volumes about the Catholic Church in Oaxaca and the relationship of the Dominicans with the local people, aboriginals all and inhabitants of the Valley of Oaxaca for at least 10,000 years. The numbers represent the approximate date, 1523, of the arrival of the Conquistadores in Oaxaca, about three years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. The poem, Inquisitor, can be found in Sun and Moon and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot, both available through this link.