“Don’t Get Off the Bus!” Wednesday Workshop

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“Don’t Get Off The Bus!”
Wednesday Workshop
Wednesday 14 June 2017

Journal: Roger Moore had the honor and pleasure of addressing the artists in residence at KIRA / Kingsbrae last night. He gave a brief biography of himself then stated that he did not consider himself to be a poet, the honor of the name is too high. He is, he stated, above all a writer. He began writing poetry at an early age, but was always put off by the lack of understanding shown by his contemporaries. Such slogans as “He’s a poet, but he doesn’t know it,” chanted endlessly, made him hide his poetic talent. In 1962, however, in his last year in school, he entered the Stroud International Festival for Religious Drama and the Arts and won first prize for a sonnet he wrote for that competition. This confirmed , in his own mind, that he could write and he continued to do so.

He attended Bristol University from 1963-1966, studying Spanish (Honours) and French. While at Bristol he published some 30 poems with the university’s literary review, the Nonesuch Magazine. He also wrote a weekly column in the student newspaper reporting on cross-country running in winter and athletics in summer. He began an MA in the University of Toronto in 1966 (completed in 1967) and decided to stay in Canada and work for his PhD (17th Century Spanish poetry). His encounters with the Toronto literary circles were not satisfactory and he realized that neither his style nor his subject matter were suited to the CanLit of the Canadian art scene. He hid again until 1977 when Fred Cogswell published Last Year in Paradise, Roger’s first poetry book, in the Fiddlehead Poetry Book series. By now, Roger had completed his doctoral thesis and published Towards A Chronology of Quevedo’s Poetry with York Press in 1976. From 1973-1977 Roger was first the Editorial Assistant and then the Assistant Editor of the International Fiction Review (University of New Brunswick). This position allowed him (a) to revise the submissions of writers whose first language was not English; (b) to translate articles from Spanish to English; and (c) to himself submit articles and reviews to the magazine. One of his first translations was of an article by Enrique Anderson Imbert, the Argentinian writer. Roger’s academic writing and editing is a different story and will be told at another time.

In 1979, Roger took his first workshops in creative writing at St. Thomas University  with Norman Levine, the Canadian Short Story writer. Norman Levine inspired Roger with a new taste for creative writing and he started writing short stories at this stage. He also started attending the Maritime Writers’ Workshops at UNB working with Patrick Lane, Susan Musgrave, Richard Lemm (twice) and Erine Moure. Roger was now submitting regularly to Canadian Literary magazines and his poetry was published first in Poetry Toronto (by bpnichol),  and then in Poetry Canada Review, The Fiddlehead, ARC, Ariel, the Cross-Canada Writers’ Quarterly, and in some twenty other Canadian literary magazines. In 1986, his second poetry collection, Broken Ghosts, was published by Goose Lane (Fredericton). Roger’s mother died in 1987 and his father followed in 1989. The poems he wrote at this stage were collected together and were awarded the Alfred G. Bailey Award for Poetry by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick in 1989. A second collection again won the Bailey in 1994, but neither of these collections were considered worthy of  publication by the multiple Canadian presses to which Roger sent them.

In 1991, Roger was the Atlantic Provinces Director for the League of Canadian Poets. He started, with JoAnne Elder, the Writes of Spring at St. Thomas University, and this continued for three years. The Writes of Spring was designed as a gender balanced, language balanced reading event in which eight poets participated. The reading group consisted of four men and four women, four of whom were Francophones and four Anglophones. These bilingual readings gave a wonderful insight into the poetry that was being written at the time within the province of New Brunswick. Roger started self-publishing his poetry in limited edition chapbooks at this time and gave his works to the participants and audiences in this series. He published six chapbooks this way: Idlewood, In the Art Gallery, Daffodils, Secret Garden, Iberian Interludes, and On Being Welsh.

In 1999, Roger chaired the third Atlantic Association of Universities’ Teaching Showcase at St. Thomas University. He edited the proceedings with Denise Nevo and they were published by Mount Saint Vincent University Press. Denise suggested that Roger might publish his poetry with MSVU and declared herself willing to edit and publish any work he might care to submit. This most fruitful collaboration with a wonderful lady who was also an outstanding editor allowed Roger to publish six more poetry books between 2000 and 2012, namely, Sun and Moon (Poems from Oaxaca), Though Lovers Be Lost, Fundy Lines (Prose Poems), At The Edge of Obsidian, Obsidian 22, and Monkey Temple. Roger continued publishing chapbooks and Dewi Sant (with the Central New Brunswick Welsh Society) and M Press of Ireland were among those that appeared, while Land of Rocks and Saints (Poems from Avila) was published by Nashwaak Press (Stuart Donovan) in 2008.

2015 saw three books appear in print: Stepping Stones (in collaboration with David Brewer of Rabbittown Press), Systematic Deception (in collaboration with Randi Drake of Ottawa), and Triage, his last poetry chapbook. In August 2016, John Sutherland, a member of one of Roger’s writing groups, introduced him to CreateSpace / Amazon / Kindle, and since then eleven books have been published online: Monkey Temple, Though Lovers Be Lost, Bistro, Sun and Moon, Obsidian’s Edge, The Empress of Ireland, All About Angels, Avila (Cantos y santos y ciudad de la Santa), Iberian Interludes, A Cancer Chronicle, and Nobody’s Child. Bistro (Flash Fiction), Avila (in Spanish), A Cancer Chronicle, and Nobody’s Child (short stories) are new, while the other seven titles have all been expanded and revised. Bistro was one of three finalists (and the only independently published book) in the New Brunswick book Awards (prose fiction) in 2016 (results announced, May 2017).

This Wednesday Workshop / KIRA Artist’s Report has two concealed messages. The first is that writing, like all creative activities, is a long apprenticeship (in the words of Fred Cogswell). The second is that if you want to travel from Halifax to Vancouver, you must stay on the bus. Quite simply, if you get off at Fredericton or Quebec City, Or Montreal or Toronto, and if you stay in one of those cities and don’t get back on the bus, you’ll never arrive at Vancouver. So: writers young and old … stay on that bus. Persist with your work. Never give up your dream. Never give in. Looking back from the vast old age of seventy-three, I realize now how easy it would have been to admit defeat and stop writing at so many stages of my writing career. I kept going and I encourage, nay URGE, any writer / creative artist reading this either to stay on that bus or to climb back on board. Quite simply, the world needs us and the world needs our poems, our paintings, our sculptures, our music, our encaustics,  and our stories.

Chronotopos

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Kingsbrae 13.1
13  June 2017

Chronotopos

plant a plant
deep its roots
rooted in fine soil
potting soil in a pot
firm the fingers
the spot well-chosen
in a flower bed
in a pattern
in an empty space
in a growing garden
within a larger garden
in an old estate
in a small town by the sea

Russian doll puzzle
garden after garden

(one a secret
with its birds and voices
lost in the hedgerow
and the echoes
of secret meetings
watched only by the guardian
the robin that watches)

planted and replanted
unfolding flowers
in a sunshine world
in a state of grace
hope and handicraft
hand in hand
with faith and belief
and everything planned
to take advantage
of this time and this space

these words so simple
these thoughts so complex

Comment: I began this poem on  10 March 2017. It formed part of my initial poetry sequence with Kingsbrae unseen, save for videos and photos of the gardens and their history, viewed on the Kingsbrae website. As I have grown into the KIRA experience, or perhaps I should write ‘as the Kingsbrae experience has blossomed within me’, so I have found these words prophetic, yet strangely inadequate, in the way all words are inadequate when tides flow, days flourish, and ideas blossom, sometimes in that formless world between sleep and dream where reality is something for which the writer reaches out but finds it is beyond the fingertips and just out of reach. As my Judo instructor told me, a long time ago:

“The more you strive,
you cannot reach it.
The hand cannot grasp it,
nor the mind exceed it.
When you no longer seek it,
it is with you.”

Stone Carving

Elise

Elise in her Studio

Kingsbrae 6.2
6 June 2017

Stone Carving
Elise Muller

Last night, Elise Muller led the second of our after supper artistic discussions. She told  how her grandmother had been a sculptor, but had never talked to her directly about stone sculpting. Later, when at art school, Elise took a course on stone carving and knew immediately that it was what she wanted to do. Something appealed to her and she was hooked.

Elise then showed us a series of photographs that displayed her sculptures in chronological order. She talked about each one individually, the stone from which it was carved, the manner in which she carved, and the effects she was trying to achieve. Movement interested her and she was trying to sculpt a series of movements into her stonework. Her early sculptures featured different forms of movement, fathers and mothers carrying their children, a woman wading,  and so on. At this early stage movement was present, but it was not conceived as an intentional thematic link between sculptures. Her later sculptures, some commissioned, some made for friends and family, were conscious attempts at carving movement into stone.

A statue called Ballerina was sculpted by Elise for her grandfather and shows her own daughter dancing. The slender figure moves elegantly, poised and posed in stone. A companion piece, Ballerino, shows a male figure dancing. Even a perched bird, a Whisky Jack or Grey Jay, carved in stone and perched on a stone pedestal, leans forward in a moment caught by the camera that photographed the stone. Movement, caught in still stone and photos, is everywhere in the later sculptures. Looking at them, time stands still and the stone flows.

Open discussion followed and we chatted about the healing qualities of crystals and how stones too held their magnetism and personalities. Elise talked about the different types of stone, the various marbles, soapstone, granite, and we discussed the fundamental cost of the actual stone, before it was even turned into the work of art. Elise told us how she was attracted to different types of stone and how the raw material would “call” her and attract her attention. Sometimes, she said, she drew her ideas from the stone, however, on other occasions, she would sketch what she wanted to carve and then find a stone that would be suitable. This latter method she associated more with her commissioned work. Elise also told us about the effect of weather upon stone and how some stones could be left outside in sun, rain, and snow,  while others needed more protection.

Art lag, something similar to jet lag, but far more pleasant, was setting in and, a weary group, we adjourned early, leaving behind, with regret, some wonderful ideas and memories, but taking with us images Elise’s creative techniques and mind pictures of the creations that Elise had plucked from her stones.

Plein Air

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Kingsbrae 5.3
5 June 2017

Plein Air
(for Ruby Allan)

Plein air,” she said,
and I imagined her
sitting before the blank
spread of a canvas,
a ship’s sail waiting
for a sea-side breeze
to fill that empty space
with color and mood.

What routes will
her paintbrush take
as it wanders
over the new world
lying before her?

Plein air, al fresco,
in garden and street,
before the shops and then
on headland and shore,
alone or accompanied,

with sea birds wading
and the gull’s cry echoing
its sea of sound as the sun
sets in its bonfire of brightness
and throws light and shadow,
chiaro-oscuro, all around.

Journal:  Above Ruby’s poem, there is a photo of her Kingsbrae  studio with a new painting waiting for her on the easel. To my mind, this particular photo is very reminiscent of Dali’s paintings of paintings within paintings, all seen from different perspectives. Alas, the photo will not sell for as much money as a genuine Dali.

Among other things, we discussed the value, versus the price, of art last night. It seems that some paintings are sold at so many dollars per square inch. I find this very interesting. I told the story of how I give away my books to friends. Occasionally I find those same books, signed with suitable, individual sentiments expressed, on sale in the second-hand book stores I frequent. It is sad, and in a way very funny, to think that something I give away for free ends up earning money (a) for the recipient who received and accepted it as a gift and then sells it to the second-hand bookstore and (b) for the bookstore owner, whom I may or may not know, who buys the book second-hand and sells it on to a customer.

Ruby and Anne both told similar stories with regard to paintings that artistic friends of theirs had painted. It brought us to question the whole nature and value of the art we produce. Value, of course, is not something that has, of necessity, a dollar tag attached to it. Art for art’s sake and therapeutic art, for example, have different values both for the creators and the admirers of such art. As Oscar Wilde once phrased it: “To know the price of everything and the value of nothing” and value, like beauty, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.