Smurfs

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Smurfs at Mactaquac

There’s something special about our Fall, here in New Brunswick. At Mactaquac Provincial Park, just beside the Beaver Pond, a group of travelling Smurfs have avoided the hurly-burly of the camp ground and put up their houses in the woods. Lots of things handy: water, shelter, shade, and the Convenience Store just around the corner and down the road.

The New Brunswick Smurfs, if you can find them, are interesting people. This group has constructed temporary homes in different sizes for the adults and the little ones. We didn’t see Papa Smurf, or anyone else, while we were watching, but he’s probably in there somewhere, with the family, keeping them quiet and waiting till we move away. Then they can all come out again and nature watch in relative safety.

 

GBH

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GBH

Grievous Bodily Harm to some, but to others, Great Blue Heron. I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder. How about Grand Beautiful Harmony? Awesome is an overused word, especially when it comes out as almost an expletive: awesome. Awesome haircut. Awesome meal. Awesome tie. Awesome photo. Awesome heron. Or just plain, old awesome! With an exclamation mark of course, and the air punched up from diaphragm and out through tight lips.

That said, certain moments do fill us with awe: an awe of the wild, of nature’s bounty and beauty, awe of the elements, the stillness of the fall pond, the subdued rifle crack when the great wings first open, or the echoing slap of the beaver tail striking flat on open waters. Poetry in motion: that sudden catch of the breath as the launch into the air makes our hearts, just for a moment, first stop, then beat more quickly.

KIRA Video

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Kira Video

So, our July project, a video of the first KIRA poet reading his KIRA poem, is now completed. I read One Small Corner at KIRA and Geoff Slater, Jeff Lively, and Cameron Lively added video to verse in this blend of magic. Thank you so much: I really appreciate this visual rendition of my words. So much so, that for once, I am at a loss for words. I will just let the video speak for itself and myself. Just click on the link below and you will be transported to KIRA and Kingsbrae Gardens on a magic carpet. swift and smooth.

KIRA Promotional Video

Our September / October project is to inaugurate the first KIRA Boutique Retreat (Creative Writing). This will run from September 30 to October 6. I will be one of the facilitators, along with Geoff Slater, the artistic director at Kingsbrae and Jeremy Gilmer, this year’s writer in residence (July 2018). For a description of my own stay at KIRA last year (June, 2017), click on the first link. Click on either the second or the third link below for more information on KIRA and the Boutique Retreat.

KIRA: an intensive creative experience WFNB, August 5, 2017).

 KIRA – Kingsbrae Garden

KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat

Life-Long Learning

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Life-Long Learning
KIRA & Kingsbrae Gardens

It’s hard to believe I could be back with my friends at KIRA & Kingsbrae by the end of next month. What an honor and a pleasure to be invited to help facilitate the first KIRA Boutique Retreat on Creative Writing. Geoff, Jeremy, and me … we will make a truly creative dream team. We are working out the details as I type this.

My task will be to work with poets and short-story writers. I have just successfully completed two online courses from the School of Creative Writing at the University of Toronto, my  Canadian Alma Mater (MA, PhD). Kerry-Lee Powell offered the first course: Writing Short Fiction II, while the second course, Poetry II, found me studying with Sachiko Murakami.

Life-long learning is so important. Over my life, I am not that old at seventy-four, I have learned that it is the ability to change, to adapt, to learn new things, that marks us out as creative people. Since my escape from imprisonment in the Ivory Tower of Academia (aka retirement), I have ventured into several new worlds, including that of online learning. My two most recent online courses from U of T now stand alongside an online course from Humber College on novel writing. Alas, this course did more to confirm that I wasn’t really a novelist at heart. As we live, we learn. I have now laid aside my three embryo novels to concentrate on my stronger areas: poetry and short stories.

Along with these online courses, I have been through the give (offering) and take (participating) of multiple creative writing workshops. So much knowledge gained. I have also enjoyed several positions as academic editor, associate editor, editorial board member, of multiple national and international publications, in English, French, and Spanish. In each of these new adventures, there was so much to learn.

Now I have the chance to return some of that acquired and accumulated knowledge to others who, like me wish to practice their life-long-learning skills. The unique KIRA combination of conversations, selected workshops, one-on-one talks, round-the-table discussions, evening talks, and readings will open many horizons to writers old and new, and not least to myself. As I live, I learn.

Round-the-table discussions: The Spanish have a wonderful term for this, de sobremesa. This refers to the discussions that take place, around the dining table, when the meal is done and everyone is comfortable in each other’s company and multiple conversations flow.

As for KIRA itself, I look forward to returning to my conversations with the land, the sea, the flowers, the birds, the statues, the alpacas … I love talking to them in Spanish … and the rowdy, old peacock who squawks his joy at evening, when the sun goes down. And don’t forget those Indian Runner Ducks: Beatrix Potter talked to them … and so did I … in fact, in Beatrix Potter’s case, one of her own Runner Ducks, possibly a distant cousin to those at Kingsbrae Gardens, became better known as Jemima Puddleduck. Who knows? Between poetry and painting, you too may find your own version of Jemima PuddleduckPaco the Alpaca, perhaps?

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KIRA: The three standing stones, though I think of them as talking statues. I stood in the middle between them, closed my eyes, opened my mind, and listened to the magic as the breeze blew through them and sang secret songs to the music of their stone flutes. They filled me  with the sound of their ancient voices, their poems and stories, the magical mysteries of their myths. Come and visit and I’ll show you how to stand still and listen to what the stones have to say. When you allow that poetry to flow through you, you’ll never suffer from writer’s block again!

Obsolescence

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Obsolescence

The programs that no longer work.
The files you can no longer access.
Photos that vanish
leaving a blank space in the album.

Memory that goes on the blink.
Forgotten phone numbers,
the birthdays of family members,
that carton of eggs left in the store,
your cousin’s face, her name,
the parking spot where you left your car.

“What day is it today,” you ask,
for the second or third time.
“What time is it?”
“Who’s that coming for tea?
Are you sure I know them, dear?”
“Where did you say we were going?”

“Just round the corner, to visit a friend.”
Or should that be … round the bend?

Comment: Apparently I placed this poem on Facebook a year ago, but I have found no trace of it here, on the blog. This time last year, I lost both of my computers to what was diagnosed as obsolescence. Luckily I had most things backed up. The group who swore they could transfer 99% of my hard-drive material to the new machine, migrated just 1% (my desk top) and the other 99% went on walkabout. I was able to piece much of it back together, but obsolescent programs and out of date apps no longer functioned. So much material was deemed irretrievable. This experience made me realize, yet again, how fragile is our hold on our possessions, our memories, our sanity, and yes, our very lives. For me, it is a very sobering thought that, with a flick of a switch, I, like my computer, could be turned off, and 99.9% of the wonders of my beautiful existence would totally disappear from the memory-banks of this earth. Some say, and I believe them, that, like my computer, I will be re-cycled, recirculated. I will become a part of the wider oceanic world-consciousness. Alas, we can have faith in whatever we wish to believe, but sometimes, we really don’t know.

Purple

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Purple

I write poems
in green ink,

but I prefer
purple.

Bruised clouds
on an evening sky,
dark depths
of a rainbow glow,
Northern Lights
singing at the deep
end of their scale …

or just a desire
to be different …
slightly different ..

as if that one thing,
the color of my ink,
might tip the scales
and turn me
from mediocrity
to celebrity

with a wave
of a violet wand.

or the click
of a pair
of ink-stained
fingers.

Curse of Cursive

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The Curse of Cursive
Wednesday Workshop
8 August 2018

It appears we will no longer teach cursive writing in our schools. Instead, we will teach our children to print. I will not pass judgement on this decision. Quite simply, my handwriting has always been bad. Very bad. I have never worked out why, but I suspect that it is because I think very quickly and my hand tries to keep up with my brain, and the result is the scrawl that I call my handwriting.

I type with two fingers, too, and stare at the keyboard as I am doing so. I tried to follow a typing course one year. I worked at it for two months. At the end of that time, I tried my touch typing examination and managed a rate of 78 words a minute with an accuracy of  82%. I did the same test with my trusted two fingers: 114 words a minute accuracy rate 98%. Oh dear. I still type with two fingers and I still write badly and no, my thoughts have not slowed down.

Just glance through the above photograph, taken from the journal I keep everyday. “Almas de Violeta,” it reads, “an early poetry book by Juan Ramón Jiménez, the Nobel winning poet, was first published in violet ink. I have a copy of his complete works, Obras completas, in which these early poems still appear in purple, or violet rather, to match the color of the title. He published in green ink too, but personally I prefer the purple. Bruised clouds on an evening sky, dark depths of a rainbow glow, Northern Lights singing at the deep end of their scale … or just a desire to be different … slightly different, as if that one thing, the color of my ink, might tip the scales and turn me from mediocre to celebrity with a wave of a violet wand or the click of a pair of ink-stained fingers.”

Now, wasn’t that easy! And there’s so much personality in tone and color, ebb and flow, the link of a poet to the words on his page.

Once, in a faraway library in a distant, magical land, I was studying an autograph manuscript, written by Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645). The hand-writing began very steadily. Then I noticed a red dot or two on the page. Then a larger stain. Our poet was a notorious drinker. The letters grew large and loopy. The paragraphs sprawled. Punctuation marks and accents, slashed and splashed, and missed their targets. By the end of his evening, with his bottle surely empty and gone, I could just about make out what the good man had written.

When I turned the manuscript folio, from recto to verso, it was a new day and the original handwriting was back, small and neat. I have noticed the same phenomenon when I write late at night. Unreadable words, occasional wine splutters, spelling and grammar mistakes, disjointed readability … but the thoughts and the ideas are still there, still clear. Sure, I need a bit of hard work to interpret some things, but that’s the curse of the cursive, I guess.