Reading the poem aloud, I changed some of the word order to the rhythm of my speaking voice. It’s reading before an audience and hearing their reaction that tells me when a poem is right or needs retouching. Alas, those live readings are gone for now. Anchor, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog are good, but not quite the same. But, for a rhythm and voice poet, who loves live readings and welcomes a live audience, they are better than that midnight silence under dark trees.
How could one not give thanks for the bounties of Thanksgiving? Listening to Cross Country Check Up, last night, as I have done for the last 55 years, I was amazed at how people, some of them in dire circumstances, were able to find things for which to be thankful. I haven’t made a list of the things for which I am thankful and I certainly didn’t call in to the talk show to give my opinion, but let me think…
I am thankful for the beauty of the natural world. Just look at that sunrise! Yesterday we walked in Mactaquac and admired the beauty of the changing leaves. Migrating geese put on a display, taking off from the waters of the head pond, flying, then settling down again. We: I am grateful for the presence of my beloved, still beside me after all these years. I am grateful that we are together and that we are both of us able to walk and indulge in this province’s autumnal beauties.
I am grateful for faithful friends. I will not name them all. If I did, this blog would never be finished. This morning, an e-mail from Geoff Slater, whose paintings and drawings have often appeared on the blog, spoke of the nature of ritual and how we use it. He spoke of external rituals and how, during times like these, when our normal lives are upside down, we lose the ability to follow our external rituals. This may cause dismay and a loss of stability to many. However, he also reminded me that we, as practicing artists, have established our own internal rituals. These keep us going in the difficult times, for they are always there to fall back on. Following his line of thought, I explored my own daily rituals, the ones that have kept me going throughout Covid-19. Thank you, Geoff, for those ideas and for your long-term friendship.
I am grateful for the initial offer, from the University of Toronto, to come to Canada to study all those years ago. Canada gave me a chance to challenge my established rituals and to build and shape new ones that were more suitable to my inner being, a being that I had kept well hidden from the Masters of the Universe who limited my creativity, and ruled the rituals of my Boarding schools and my undergraduate studies. Above all, I am grateful for that rich, inner world of creativity and dream and I am doubly grateful for those who have allowed me and encouraged me to express it and set it down for others to share.
So, Thanksgiving Day: a day on which to give thanks for all the blessings that are in our lives, large and small. Sure, times are tough. Sure, we could all do with more money. Sure, we could go on and on about our wants and needs. But today my want and my need is to give thanks for who, what, where, when and why I am. As my friend Norman Levine once wrote: Canada Made Me.
There is so much happening. It’s hard to keep track of it all. Reading and annotating the material I am working on for my online writing seminar. Painting: a delightful relief and relaxation. Who cares if I can’t paint? I can make meaning out of shape and color, like my friend Matisse. Writing: the poetry is back and I will start revising those short stories again soon. I may also go back to my first novel. I have abandoned it for too long.
Meanwhile, each dawn is a busy dizzy time. This morning I decided to lie in bed until 24 birds had flown past my new bedroom window, one for each new pane of glass. It took about fifteen minutes. I watched the mist rise and then the sun start to break through and when the sun came, so did the birds. Dizzy Dawn is now hanging on the wall, along with another set of paintings I have finished recently.
Life is good. I hope it stays that way for as long as possible.
Meditations on Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
Modes of limited transitions, moods of time tapped in time to time’s rhythmic piano.
Scales fall from the listener’s eyes. A transitory awakening, this glimpse of the composer’s vision, each note a new version extracted from abstracts perceived in color, each note a hue, and chords a rainbow spectrum of light glimpsed darkly through a raindrop’s lens.
Birdsong and sunshine. Notes perched on the matinal branch, each in tune with the other, at times discordant, yet the morning chorus diluting the day with the liquidity of light and sound.
Spotify Remember to scroll down to the correct episode.
The Origin of the World Gustave Courbet L’Origine du monde
The origin of the world and where I came from, her deep, moist cave that cast me from dark to light. She loved me, she said, depriving me of her warmth, leaving me to go back to her lover, loving him more.
Was it guilt that drove her to drinking whisky? A forty-ouncer a day at the end, sometimes more. She would wake in the night, wander the house, banging against chairs, tables, walls, and doors.
She ran up bills in local shops, and the keepers would dun me for the money she owed. She also borrowed cash and some days her fingers were bare. She left pawn shop IOUs on the table and I drove
into town to redeem her rings. Once, in a drunken frenzy, she cursed her only child. A mother’s curse is a terrible thing. Living albatross, it claws lungs and heart. Its weight drove me to the bottle. I too sought oblivion.
Joy came when blackness descended, the albatross flew, amniotic waters rocked me in warmth and comfort, and my body’s boat floated once again on an endless sea. Reborn each day, mornings cast me back from dark to light.
Comment: Here is the link to the DiversityTV reading of The Origin of the World. The Origin of the World begins at 28.40. I will attach my own reading from Spotify, just as soon as I complete it. I always find it fascinating to compare the way others read with the way I do. meanwhile, I would like to thank Alexandro Botelho for his invitation for me to participate in his DiversityTV show. I enjoyed his reading very much and I wish him all success with this venture.
Black umbrellas burgeon beneath sudden rain. Waterproof cloth opens to provide protection. Churches fill with defenseless passersby.
The cigarettes they smoke flare shooting stars through finger bars of flesh and bone. After the rain, gypsy women flower in the street.
Carnations carve wounds in their sleek, oiled hair. They offer good luck charms and fortune telling.
“Federico! Federico,” the gypsies cry out, “tomorrow, the guards will take you from your cell. They will drive you to the hills and shoot you dead.”
“Tonight,” Federico replies, “I’ll paint the city red. And tomorrow… ” “Tomorrow,” the gypsies sigh, “the Alhambra’s walls will run red with your blood.”
Comment: I have made some minor changes to the sonnet that was published in Iberian Interludes (available online at this link) The sonnet is a Golden Oldie, going back to our visit to Granada in 1986. I asked my pre-teenage daughter if she would like to go to a country where there was no snow in winter. She laughed at me. “Don’t be so silly, dad, there’s no such thing as a winter without snow.” We got to Madrid on January 5 and awoke to 3 inches of snow on January 6. “There, dad,” she said. “Told you so.” We took the train down to Granada and that year they had six inches of snow in the city center, for the first time in forty years! It also rained, and this is a poem about the Granada rain.
Eclipse at KIRA June, 2021 as seen from the Red Room
Another exercise in light and the emotions triggered by changing light. I couldn’t look at the early morning sun, with its partial eclipse, especially through the camera’s eye. So I did my best through the digital screen. These photos are the result of hope and a set of digital colors that are way beyond my human eyes to comprehend.
Incredible moments in time and space, and oh so subjective, this seeming objectivity of the camera’s eye. Who are we, what are we, we tiny morsels of humanity when we see ourselves, so miniscule, so seemingly meaningless, beneath the daisy eye of heaven and the celestial dance that began before us and will continue long after we have gone.
The Old 100th in metrical form:
“All people that on earth do dwell, Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. Him serve with mirth, his praise foretell, Come ye before him and rejoice.” Scottish Psalter, 1650.
Comment: No, I am not an overtly religious man and definitely not ‘a man of any cloth’. However, yesterday afternoon I received my second shot of Moderna and I want to offer my thanks to all those, world-wide, who made the vaccine possible and also to all the New Brunswickers and Canadians involved in distributing and delivering the Covid-19 vaccine. Today, I remembered my digital photos of the partial eclipse I witnessed at KIRA, St. Andrews, NB, earlier this month. So, this morning, for better or for worse, I have come before you to encourage you to rejoice.
Spotify Don’t forget to scroll down to appropriate audio episode.
… early morning sunshine creepy-crawly spider leg rays climbing over window and wall my bed-nest alive to light not night’s star twinkle but the sun’s egg breaking its golden yolk gilding sheet and pillow billowing day dreams through my still sleepy head …
… the word feast festering gathering its inner glimpses interior life of wind and wave the elements laid out before me my banquet of festivities white the table cloth golden the woodwork’s glow mind and matter polished and the sun show shimmering its morning glory on garden and porch …
Comment: Not every day is the same, nor are the colors the same. Monet would watch the sun crossing the face of Rouen Cathedral. Every hour brought a different set of colours and a changed palette of impressions. No two mornings in the Red Room are the same. Each one presents a changed light, changing moments, changing impressions, but all (or almost all) are unforgettable. The poem, incidentally, can be found in One Small Corner. A Kingsbrae Chronicle (available at this link).
Comment: Another moment of magic: this is the morning of the partial eclipse (Thursday, 10 June, 2021). However, there’s enough cloud cover for me to have missed the actual moments of the eclipse. That said, the sun is all distorted and not at all clear, as it usually is when seen early from the Red Room, nor is it the same rich colors at all, so perhaps I did catch something worthwhile after all. More than worthwhile, this too is a magic moment.
Spotify Don’t forget to scroll down to appropriate audio episode.
Dawn at KIRA
A fiery wedge, fierce beneath black-capped clouds, alive the firmament with light, breaking its waves over woods, waters, tranquil the bay, grey, yellow-streaked, then blue, the new day dawning, driving night away, false shadows fleeing.
To rock this new born babe, to swaddle it in a cloak of cloud, disguised for a moment its promise, nature nurturing heart and mind, filling the flesh with memory’s instantaneous flash breaking its light into the dark where no light shone, fearful, the dream world, gone now, dwindling, as day light shafts its arrowed flight.
How thoughtful My Lady who placed me here, at this desk, at this window, at this moment of time.
Glorious, this day-break: words no justice can do to peace and light, this early morning, filtering sunlight through the waking mind, relighting the fires within the heart, and glory a word’s throw away outside this window.
Comment: The poem dates from June, 2017, my first KIRA residency, and can be found in One Small Corner. A Kingsbrae Chronicle (available at this link). The photo, however, dates from this morning, Friday, 11 June 2021, and coincides with my second KIRA Residency. The early morning light in the Red Room is indeed glorious, and the room well deserves its name. The small table by the window overlooking Minister’s Island and Passamaquoddy Bay is a wonderful place for a writer who wishes to create nature imagery based on impressions of light and changing light.
Wake up, sleepy heads, get out of bed and admire the sun as he starts his daily climb. He has left the underworld and his horses have started to draw his chariot on its daily trip up the sky. Look closely, and you can just see the hot breath of their efforts, up there, just above the sun.
Visitors Day at KIRA and the artists work in their studios showing their methods and techniques to visitors from the local community and further afield. The mist disappears very quickly and we are left with sunshine and warmth. A good day for sitting out on the porch and waiting for guests.
I sit behind my table on the porch at KIRA, making notes in my journal and waiting for the advent of guests. I have no plans other than to sit ad write. If people arrive and wish to engage me in conversation, that will be great. It will be even better if they pick up a book, open it, choose a poem or a passage of prose, and allow me to read it to them. They can follow the text while I read. When people do arrive, they look first at the covers of the saddle-stitch books and chapbooks. Many comment on the wonderful pencil sketches that Geoff provided for them. A couple are drawn to the bright colors and cartoons of the larger books. Title and cover combine together to persuade each visitor to pickup a book and start to read it.
This is more or less what guests and visitors see when they approach the book table. You have to imagine me, the poet, sitting behind that table, masked if I do not know the guests, unmasked and at a safe distance if I do. I find it difficult to read out loud with the mask on. It is much easier, mask off.
I promised one guest, alas, I have forgotten her name, that I would post a poem and a voice recording of it, here on my blog, so that she and her friends could hear me read. This is the poem I read to her. I do hope she is able to locate my blog and follow this up. Here is the poem, from Sun and Moon. Poems from Oaxaca.
Santo Domingo Worshipping Gaia before the great altar in Santo Domingo
If the goddess is not carried in your heart like a warm loaf in a paper bag beneath your shirt you will never discover her hiding place
she does not sip ambrosia from these golden flowers nor does she climb this vine to her heavenly throne nor does she sit on this ceiling frowning down
in spite of the sunshine trapped in all this gold the church is cold and overwhelming tourists come with cameras not the people with their prayers
my only warmth and comfort not in this god who bids the lily gilded but in that quieter voice that speaks within me
and brings me light amidst all this darkness and brings me poverty amidst all this wealth
I will post some of the other poems that I read on the porch over the next few days. Meanwhile, be patient with me. I feel that I am all off-balance, trapped between two worlds, part of me is away in KIRA and part of me is home in Island View. I find it difficult to work on my KIRA2021 project, a rewrite of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature. This manuscript placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey poetry award in 2020. Since then, I have been revising it and adding to it, with KIRA2021 in mind. However, creating and posting seem to be two conflicting skills right now. The need to express (open blogging) and the need to create (secretive and non-sharing). I hope this helps to explain my irregular postings and my absences from this blog.