A Writer’s Year

A Writer’s Year

Comments: Limited edition. 40 copies. Self-published and printed by Covey’s, Prospect St., Fredericton. Free to workshop participants (all four of them!) and to anyone who asked for one. I also gave away free copies of my books to all participants as a reward for having the courage to brave Covid – masked and socially distanced – and to listen to me and share my ideas.

Comment: My first publication with Cyberwit.net. A pseudo-autobiography masquerading as a memoir. The original version of On Being Welsh was awarded first place in the D. A. Richards Prose Award (WFNB, 2020). It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My second publication with Cyberwit.net. allison Calvern helped me select and order these poems and my thanks go out to her for all her hard work. Geoff Slater and Ginger Marcinkowski also read and commented on the poems. Stars at Elbow and Foot covers 30 years of writing poetry, 1979-2009. It took a year or more to pull those thirty years together. It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My third publication with Cyberwit.net. An early version of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature placed second in the A. G. Bailey Award for a Poetry Manuscript (WFNB, 2020). I revised it during my second residency at KIRA (May-June, 2021), sharpening the vision and concentrating on the links between one creative form and another. Geoff Slater and Ginger Marcinkowski again read and commented on the poems and Geoff suggested that I write the Prelude: On Reading and Writing Poetry. It is available online from Amazon and Cyberwit.net.

Comment: My fifth book of the year, self-published and printed by Covey’s, Prospect St., Fredericton in a limited edition of 40 copies, once again given free of charge to my creative friends. Patti painted the flower on the poet-painter’s cheek and I thank her for that. Geoff Slater played a large role in my painting and drawing by persuading me that my cartoons were not worthless. John K. Sutherland has long supported my cartoon art, and he encouraged me to ‘leave tangible footprints’ and to get some of my art work into print. I couldn’t have done it without Salvador Dali, though, and that’s my version of his watch going over the waterfall.

Comment: My comments on a year’s work as a creative artist would not be complete without a mention of the Kingsbrae International Residencies for Artists that take in the summer months in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. I received an invitation to attend KIRA in May-June, 2021. I would like to thank Lucinda Flemer and the KIRA support group for their kindness in inviting me back. The creative friendships that I have made with KIRA artists over the years have just been amazing and the whole atmosphere at KIRA is not just inspiring, but awe-inspiring. Just look at this. How could a writer not be inspired.

Dawn from the Red Room at KIRA

I would also like to mention the online workshops that I have taken with Brian Henry, of Quick Brown Fox fame. I attended the Friday morning advanced writers workshops from January to March, and again from September to December. His knowledge, skills, organization, and support are second to none. I have made many wonderfully creative e-friends across e-mail and our Zoom classes. My year’s work would not be complete without a tip of the hat and a great big thank you to BH & QBF.

Final Comment: I am grateful to Jan Hull, Stoneist, for her reminder that today is Old Year’s Day and that the Roman deity, Janus, is a two-faced deity, with one face looking back towards the old year, as I have just done, and the other looking forward to the future, as I am doing right now. All in all, a busy year and a very enjoyable one. Let us hope that next year is also an enjoyable and a very creative one.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day

Still Life with Hollyhock
Geoff Slater

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. Intertextuality,
visible and verbal: this is a poem about
a painting of a digital photograph of a
hollyhock, a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, naturaleza muerta in Spanish,
a nature morte in French, a dead nature,
then, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display, in this coffin’s wooden frame.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Still Life with Hollyhock

Comment: Back home in Wales, Christmas Day was for family and Boxing Day was for friends. I guess the same traditions still exist here in Island View. And what better friend than Geoff Slater? I met him in 2017 at the first KIRA residency and we have been friends ever since. We have worked on so many projects together: painting, creative workshops, videos, sound recordings, poetry, and short stories. He has illustrated several of my books, McAdam Railway Station, Tales from Tara, Scarecrow, and I have put some of his drawings to poetry, Twelve Days of Cat. Last, but by no means least, his painting of a hollyhock from my garden appears on the front cover of my latest poetry book, The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature (Cyberwit, 2021). The title of the collection, incidentally, came from sundry discussions we had on the nature of art and the Prelude: On Reading and Writing Poetry (pp. 7-31), was written at his suggestion. Poems to Geoff can be found on pp. 43, 44, and 61-62 of The Nature of Art.

So, Boxing Day is for friends. And I dedicate it to Geoff Slater and all the many friends I have made in KIRA, Kingsbrae, and throughout my multiple meanderings through the realms of academia, coaching with the NCCP and the NBRU, researching in communities like the ACH, the AATSP, and the MLA, various editorial positions on academic journals like the IFR, BACH, STLHE Green Guides, STLHE Newsletter, La Perinola, AULA, CJSoTL, Canadian Modern Language Review, Calíope, translating for different associations, including the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in St. Joseph’s Convent, Avila, and volunteering with STLHE and the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. To all those friends out there, including my friends and e-friends in TWUC, the LCP, and the WFNB, and those on Facebook, my blog, and my online Skype and Zoom courses and meetings, plus, of course, those I know via Quick Brown Fox, you are not forgotten. Here, for you, on Boxing Day, is a hug or a wave of the hand and a great, big thank you for being there.

Selection of my books
on the sea-shore at Holt’s Point.

55 Years Married

Poppies by Clare

55 Years Married

White Flame
in praise of my beloved

White flame, her hair, emerging from shadows,
lighting her path downhill toward water’s edge.
Wind-driven waves splash lake-side where she
will wander. I watch her footsteps, not now
as firm as once they were. Burgeoning age

grips hip and joint. Toes and heels no longer
lift in the same old way. Component parts
break down, arteries clog, arthritis worms,
painful, into fingers, wrists, and knees. I
recall nursery rhymes: “Jack be nimble, Jack

be quick,” but she isn’t anymore and
neither of us could jump over candles.
Candlelight, inner light, outer light, her
hair, so pure, so white, her voice clear as a
bell, soft yet luminous, as she picks her
way on a perilous path through wayward

woods, not stumbling yet, nor lumbering,
and still she lives, as I still live, in hopes
to see each other, until earth stops our eyes
and we can see, sense, touch, hear no more …

Comment: Yes, we got married 55 years ago today. This poem, written for Clare, appears on page 120 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature in the section entitled The Nature of Human Nature. I have written several very personal poems about Clare and our relationship and they can be found in Secret Gardens the chapbook I published in 1991 on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary. Several poems from that collection also appear in Stars at Elbow and Foot. Selected Poems, 1979-2009. (Cyberwit, 2021). The painting that decorates this page is also by Clare. She is a talented multi-media designer and several of my book covers were designed by her. This is one of her rare paintings. We have three of them on the wall, and they are all exceptional.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
White Flame

LoVe

LoVe

I love to be cryptic. Nothing better than a series of hidden messages concealed, or partly concealed, within a pair of paintings. And what have we here? Well, can you work it out for yourselves? Or do you need an explanation?

Okay: an explanation it is. First, the title of this blog post and of the painting on the left. LoVe. LV = Roman numerals for 55 / fifty-five. LoVe = love it. More, much more: I also love my beloved and, on Friday, 24 December, this year, we will have been married for 55 years, all of them spent in Canada, where we got married, all that time ago.

Perspective: so important, even in a painting that lacks perspective. So, let’s put it into perspective: that’s the year before Canada’s Centenary. And yes, we visited Expo in Montreal in 1967. Or, if you are a sports fan, that’s the Christmas before the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup (1967) for the last time. And we were living in Toronto. And I was studying at U of T. Wow and double wow: nobody in Canada, under the age of 54, was alive last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the big one. And still the Maple Leafs, like our marriage, endure. We are the everlasting drum-beating bunnies, going on and on, for ever and ever.

Now look deeper. See what else you can see. I will assist you no further, except to add the initials – and title – of the right hand painting. AMGD. Work that one out, if you want to and if you can. And remember: presents for special anniversaries like ours come from the heart – not from a gift shop. So that is my anniversary present for my beloved. What a pity: she never reads my blog.

Survivors

Survivors
Chuck Bowie
(KIRA, June, 2019)

We met at St. Andrews, at low tide, on
the underwater road. In secret we
shared the closed, coded envelopes of thought,
running fresh ideas through open minds.

Our words, brief vapor trails, gathered for
a moment over Passamaquoddy,
before drifting silently away. Canvas sails
flapped white seagulls across the bay.

All seven seas rose before our eyes, brought
in on a breeze’s wing. The flow of cold
waters over warm sand cocooned us
in a cloak-and-dagger mystery of mist.

We spun our spider-web dreams word by word,
decking them out with the silver dew drops
proximity brings. Characters’ voices,
unattached to real people, floated by.

Verbal ghosts, shape-shifting, emerging from
shadows, revealed new attitudes and twists,
spoke briefly, filled us with visions of book-
lives, unforgettable, but doomed, swift to fail.

Soft waves ascended rock, sand, mud, to wash
away footprints, clues, all the sandcastle
dreams we had constructed that afternoon,
though a few still survive upon the printed page.

Comment: We, like the words we leave on the printed page, are survivors. Sometimes, when the seas rise high and our paths grow rough and hard to travel, we need a friend to reach out to us in our time of need. That friendship extends across differences and distances. Here, on the shores of time, we can meet and greet and share. Patos de diciembre, we can paddle together and give each other strength and comfort.

This poem appears on pages 64-65 of The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature, soon to be available at Cyberwit and Amazon. More details later.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Survivors

The Nature of Art

The Nature of Art

It’s here and it looks beautiful. The photo does not do the cover justice as Geoff Slater’s painting is just phenomenal. The book holder wishes to announce that the photo does not do him justice either. He is much more good-looking in real life. I don’t have the Amazon / Kindle details yet, but I’ll post them as soon as they arrive. meanwhile, you will all have to make do with one poem. But remember: “A poetry book is a dream you hold in your hands.”

Still Life with Hollyhock
Geoff Slater

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. It is the painting
of a photo of a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, then, a nature morte, a dead
nature, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display in this coffin’s wooden frame.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Still Life with Hollyhock


When I Paint

Meditations on Messiaen
Insights from Beyond

7

When I paint

I choose at random a brush and a color.
Then I stroke bright lines across a white page.
Fresh snow waiting for tracks and footprints.

“I draw meaning out of shape and color,”
Henri Matisse with scissors and cut outs.
And I am here with brushes and tubes of paint,
totally clueless, waiting for inspiration to descend.

But it doesn’t. Just these lies, these colors, these shapes
that define my life and elaborate a destiny
that I never planned nor wished for.

Colors, so vibrant. Anger. Energy. Tranquility. Rebirth.
Thoughtfulness. Meaningful. Moments held
in the mind’s eye, clasped between fingers,
dripping off the ends of a brush,
mixed and mingling in the unconscious mind’s eye
that contemplates, yet never judges, the colors
that unfold subtle, untold meanings, across the page.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
When I Paint

Art from the Heart

Art from the Heart

Just out today, thanks to my good friend Jared who turned a difficult task into a simple one. And yes, this is my first art book, though there are two more, at least, to come. Thanks to Patti too for the delightful portrait of the author as a flower-child. That was some time ago. This is a very limited edition. Best friends only – BFF. NB The photos are rotten. I apologize for that. However, the cartoons are very special. Here are the two on Climate Change, much debated, sometimes denied, but all too true for this poor snowman.

Climate Change
aka

“I won’t believe in climate change until April or May.”

April May be Too Late.

Again, the book is fine.
My photos are shaky!

Poetry Painting

Poetry Painting

This was a totally new experience: a poem written over a painting that linked visual to verbal. I tried several versions of the words and have come up with a better one… but, once the words are on the canvas, it’s so hard to change them. The spoken word, once loosed, can never be recalled.

Our New Brunswick leaves have gone already. We are looking at ships’ masts, sails unfurled, in an anchored harbor. Further south, Thanksgiving is here. My distant neighbors and friends are contemplating turkeys and family gatherings and all that is good about harvest festivals and the end of the productive year, the agriculturally productive year, that is. Below them, in Mexico, the land of four continuous harvests, growth continues.

The cycle of the seasons rolls on and on. In the British Isles Woodhenge has turned into Stonehenge. Four thousand five hundred years of history measured in stone circles, seasonal star and sun points, times for sowing and harvesting. Absolutely bewilderingly marvelous. More than 5,500 standing stone calendars can be found in those islands.

And here, in my painting, leaves, letters, words deliver a message of intertextuality. Change is upon us. We live with it, focus on it, describe it in words. Each letter, each word, is a leaf on the tree, falling or soon to fall.

Autumn Leaves

Catch them
if
you can.


Catch them
while
you can.

Autumn Leaves.
Don’t grieve.
Close the door
when she is gone.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Autumn Leaves