KIRA 1

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KIRA 1

Our first full day at KIRA, and it’s not over yet.

Last night we had our first dinner together, courtesy of Kingsbrae Garden Café. Wonderful food and a dessert to live for. All of the participants gathered around the table and we were graced with the presence of Mrs. Lucinda Flemer. Conversation was lively, with each of us defining our position and interests in various art forms ranging through painting, print-making, poetry, photography, short stories, and memoirs.

After dinner, we discussed the nature of the retreat itself. This centered on several areas: Establishing Goals, Towards a Shared Experience, Building a Creative Community, and Managing Expectations. We discussed an agenda for this morning (Monday) and agreed upon an action plan for our first day. We also agreed that we would achieve what we could during the first day and then change, as necessary, if change were needed. The main things: be flexible, be creative, talk together, work together, support each other, and cater, small group, to each individual.

This morning we discussed the creation of a personal time and space for writing. Each one spoke of where and when they wrote. We made some suggestions as to how time and place might be achieved, even during a busy working day. We then spoke about journals, pocket notebooks, hard work versus inspiration, and the need to recognize gems when we created them. Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. The hard yards must be put in at the beginning. Before long they will no longer be hard. The idea of the artist as a traveler was discussed. We are all making similar journeys, but we are all on different points along the way. Many of us were helped in our beginning days, and we in our turn must now help others.

We then worked on specific goals for each person, facilitators and participants. This was very person-specific. We agreed upon a schedule for Blue Pencil Cafés and gave the first ones later in the afternoon. We finished with a ten word exercise, courtesy of Jeremy Gilmer. Write a ten word story. We took time off to write and then ended the session by reading our efforts to each other. Great fun and a good time was had by all.

My own BPC went very well. More about that later, perhaps. It went on much longer than I expected and we both had great fun looking at a poem in all it’s different shapes, meanings, and possibilities. Tonight, we have our first set of readings and we will see how they go. The BPC material, reworked, should be ready for later. Again: it will be fun and words, thoughts, and ideas, will creatively take wing and fly.

 

 

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

KIRA & so much more

 

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KIRA & so much more

KIRA & Kingsbrae Gardens are so much more than an outdoor adventure. They offer a journey into yourself, an exploration of your inner depths, a Jules Verne voyage into the interior of the world that you are: the artist, the creator, the truly spiritual person that you are capable of being.

How do I know? Because I have been there. I have walked those beaches, explored those shores, got my feet dirty in the Passamaquoddy mud, climbed those hills, viewed those islands from both sides. I have been out to sea to see those whales, have crossed the Old Sow from side to side, have imagined myself as a pirate for the shortest of times, crawling my sailing ship around the whirlpool, listening to its sucking sound, watching the seals as they rose from the depths, the sea gulls as they dropped from the skies.

Within the gardens, I have touched those secret places, grasped the flowers, crushed the leaves of herbs between sightless fingers and raised those perfumes to blind nostrils. I have also breathed in the scents of salt borne on a sea wind caressing the cheek, smoothing the brow, bearing away the cares of city and suburb.

Renewal is here and now. It is the sea wind’s kiss, the suck of mud, between the toes, barefoot, the rise and fall of tides, the ocean’s life forced into our lives and floating our cares and despairs away. Nothing of the city lurks here to ambush us, unless you bring it with cell phone, computer, texting, and the dull, grey air that will soon be vanquished and whisked away by the breeze, terns, gannets, the seal’s nose breaking through the sea’s surface, the deer crossing the road, demanding their right of way.

At the end of my own residency in KIRA (June, 2017), I tried to summarize my thoughts about the experience. To read them for yourself, click on this link: Residency, June 29, 2017. I was invited by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick to write about my stay. To read that, please click on this link: KIRA: an intensive creative experience WFNB, August 5, 2017).

To find information about your own potential residency at KIRA, click on this site KIRA – Kingsbrae Garden or this one KIRA Boutique Writing Retreat.

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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!

Writing at KIRA

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BOUTIQUE WRITING RETREAT
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 30 – SATURDAY OCTOBER 6

This KIRA Boutique Retreat invites former KIRA Resident Artists (Roger Moore (June, 2017) and Jeremy Gilmer (July, 2018) to blend their knowledge and skills with those of the Kingsbrae Artistic Director, Geoff Slater, in a unique Artistic Retreat, tailored to the needs of each participant.

KIRA Boutique Retreats offer a series of one-on-one and small group encounters within the glorious surroundings of the KIRA Residence.

The KIRA Boutique experience includes scheduled one-on-one interviews with each of three instructors, Blue Pencil Cafés, small group workshops (according to demand), lively meal time discussions, and evening readings and talks by facilitators and participants.

The secret of these unique KIRA Boutique Retreats is the unbeatable ratio of participants to facilitators within a small, welcoming artistic community.

Your KIRA Boutique Experience may also include the wonders of whale-watching, the award-winning gardens at Kingsbrae, special events at the Kingsbrae Gardens, the beauties of the resort town of St. Andrews, and the outstanding gourmet food of the  Kingsbrae Garden Café.

As a participant, you can enjoy the solitude of your 20’ x 20’ artistic studio or you can join in the artistic discussions launched by our expert facilitators.

RETREAT FEES:

The KIRA Boutique Experience costs $750 for a six night residency.

This includes:

1. 6 nights accommodation in the beautiful KIRA residence.
2. 2 meals a day.
3. Tailor-made writing workshops (on demand).
4. Blue Pencil Cafés, one-on-one interviews with the facilitators.
5. Round-table artistic discussions at meal times.
6. Evening talks and / or open reading sessions.

Facilitators:

Geoff Slater, Artistic Director, Kingsbrae Garden / KIRA.

Roger Moore, award winning poet and short story writer, KIRA (June, 2017).

​Jeremy Gilmer, CBC finalist (short story), KIRA (July, 2018).

Please contact Mary Jones to sign up.

Phone 506-529-8281

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS EVENT

Click here for the direct link to  KIRA and Kingsbrae.

 

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.

Revisions: Wednesday Workshop

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Revisions
Wednesday Workshop
27 June 2018

Below are the texts of a poem that I am attempting to revise. Any comments on the text(s) or the revision process will be welcome.

In Absentia 1
Princess Squiffy

I hear her voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by her plastic plaything.
She isn’t there. He is and he’s talking.

I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his
other sex perfumes, but there he is and
when he stops talking, I can hear her voice.

I move to his talk box. A shadow, I
can’t quite make it out, then her voice again.
My whiskers stiffen, I lean forward, sniff,
but no smell. She has no smell, and scentless,

I cannot sense her, I bristle, she calls
me by my favorite names, mews, and I mew
back in reply. But I can’t smell her. There’s

no sense of touch … is this the hell all cats
will suffer … shadows on a screen, a voice,
haunting, memories shifting and dancing,
nothing solid … just shadows and absence?

Problems:
Repetition of scents / smells, there, voice (4), plus avoid all cats

Solutions:
Seems easy to tidy up … but … how do I end the poem with I hate him? Would it make the poem stronger? It would man a total rethink and restructure. 

In Absentia 2
Princess Squiffy

I hear her voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by her plastic plaything.
She isn’t here. He is and he’s talking.

I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his
other sex perfumes. He stops talking. I
can hear her warm, sweet words: where can she be?

I move to his talk box. A shadow, I
can’t quite make it out, then her tones again.
My whiskers stiffen, I lean forward, sniff,
but cannot sense her. I bristle. She calls

me by my favorite names, squeaks, and I mew
back. There’s no sense of touch, of her presence.
Is this the way we all will suffer? Wood

burns. Firelight flickering, shadows on
cave walls, long gone memories revived to
haunt us. Are these the torments held in hell?
Will dark shapes shift on half-lit screens? Will the

memories of loved ones come back to taunt
us, haunt us?  Will there be nothing solid
in the afterlife, just outlines and absence?

First Revision:
I quite like it, but it has become much longer and the cat’s voice has either been conflated with the human voice at the end or it’s an exceptionally intelligent cat, knowing all about Plato,  unless those can pass as feline memories because she was in the cave with him.

In Absentia 3
Princess Squiffy

I hear your voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by your plastic plaything.

You are not here. He is. I can hear you
talk. I stalk to his noise box. I see a
shadow, moving, but I can’t make it out.

My muscles first tense, then stiffen. I sniff,
lean forward, but find no trace of female
smell. I cannot sense you. You call me by

my favorite names, mew at me, and I
respond. Shifting shadows, your haunting tones,
memories dancing to the music of

your absence. I can’t eat. I bristle when
he laughs. Where are you, my love? He doesn’t
care for me the way you do. I loathe him.

Second Revision:
This is much shorter, builds up to the proposed new ending, eliminates the repetitions, and replaces hate with loathe, a very catty sound. However, I have lost the ending that I liked so much: the suggestion of Plato’s Cave has now been lost. So, let’s head to Plato’s Cave.

In Absentia 4
Plato’s Cat Cave

Princess Squiffy

I hear her voice, delicate, distant. I
run to the sound, jump on the table in
my usual spot by her plastic plaything.
She isn’t there. He is and he’s talking.

I can see him, smell him. I hate him, his
other sex perfumes, but there he is and
when he stops laughing, I can hear her voice.

I move to his talk box. A shadow, I
can’t quite make it out, then her voice again.
My whiskers stiffen, I lean forward, sniff:
she has no smell. I bottle-brush my tail.

Envoi
by Plato

Firelight flickering, shadows on walls,
distant voices echoing, memories
perched on our shoulders, night owls hooting.

Is this the hell we all will suffer, shapes
shifting on a screen, voices taunting us,
memories dancing to half remembered
melodies, nothing solid, shadows, absence?

Third Revision:
This poem has now changed shape and direction. I quite like it but it is dependent on a knowledge of Plato’s Cave. Does the cat belong in Plato’s Cave … I think of Kipling’s Just So story The Cat that Walked … perhaps it does. Perhaps it doesn’t.

Decision Time:

Playing around with the text was fun. The text moved in several directions and now I must choose my final direction.

Comments on any of the versions or on the revision process I used will be very welcome. And yes, nothing perishes. My poems, like my cats, have nine lives (well, four in this case, with possibly a fifth to come).