Astonishing! My life. Your life. “When poet Wislawa Szymborska delivered her speech for winning the Nobel Prize, she said, ‘whatever else we might think of this world—it is astonishing.’ She added that for a poet, there really is no such thing as the ‘ordinary world,’ ‘ordinary life,’ and ‘the ordinary course of events.’ In fact, ‘Nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world.’ ” Hence, the title of my blog, “One Life.” Life is indeed astonishing. Singluar. Precious. All we get and such a gift. The quote above is from Rob Brezny’s blog. I’m a sceptic when it comes to astrology but Brezny’s so philosophical as to be thought-provoking. And illuminating. I strongly identify with this statement and will seek out her work.
By any medium necessary. Just a friendly reminder folks that before Skype or Zoom poets were using videophones to connect, to exchange verse, despite a myriad of limitations and challenges, by whatever means necessary.
By today’s standards said videophones were primitive machines but hey, we thought they were skookuum. One phone line was required for video, another for audio, that aspect alone a Hurculean feat. We would drag seeming miles of cords and cables from one adjoining business to another. Once on Second Beach we plugged in at the nearest concession stand, after jumping through hoops of bureaucracy for a permit.
Telepoetics was founded by Merilene Murphy in Los Angeles and became a program of the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre which I founded upon returning to Vancouver in 1992. We published The Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines at a time when a lack of bandwidth was always an issue. We felt lucky just to get online. I’ll never forget the sound of those beeps and boops. But again, whatever it takes! We did.
The Vancouver Videopoem Festival, later known as Visible Verse was our third program. The Edgewise archive is housed at Simon Fraser University Library’s Special Collection and open to the public by appointment.
“We” includes Kurt Heintz, Michael Turner, Victor Bonderoff, Steve Duncan, Kyle Hawke, Andrea Thompson, Raquel Alvaro, Ken Sullivan, Michael Raycevick, Andy Matovich, Liam Gorem, Debra Margolis, Kedrick James and John Anderson who were on board from the beginning, generously assisting with tech, promotion and funding. Then later, Josef Roehrl, Jen McLennan, Martha Cervantes, Warren Dean Fulton and others my brain can’t recall at the moment. It was a long time ago. And the poets of course, who graciously participated in such a weird endeavour.
Check out this partial list of Edgewise ElectroLit Centre events that includes many outstanding literary luminaries:
• October 4, 1994: First Telepoetics link with Los Angeles: Alexandra Oliver, Jamie Reid, Neil Eustache, Sheri-D Wilson
• April 9, 1995: Verse volley with Chicago’s U-Lab.
• June 4, 1995: Telepoetics Salon with Camden, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Chicago.
• July 29,1995: Launch Party for the Edgewise OnLine and Telepoetics link with Calgary.
• August 15, 1995: Telepoetics reading live from the Glass Slipper with Toronto; Judy Radul, Hilary Peach, Lillian Allen, Tom Synders, Catriona Strang, Paul Dutton.
• September 24, 1995: Chicago and Vancouver journalists read poetry, live from their respective Press Clubs.
• October 22, 1995: Telepoetics from the Grind and Gallery help Toronto celebrate their annual Spoken Word Festival.
• November 19, 1995: Telepoetics from Bowen Island with San Francisco, Robert Bringhurst reading.
• May 17, 1996: CU SeeMe link up with Brisbane, Australia from Edgewise Salon in Vancouver.
• June15-22, 1996: Telepoetics link with Los Angeles and Chicago from the Gastown Theatre.
• August 29, 1996: Telepoetics link with San Francisco, at the Edgewise Salon: Lyle Neff, Gerry Gilbert
• February 16, 1997: Telepoetics Web Cafe’ Link Site: Los Angeles Features: Mercedes, Baines, David Campbell, Kedrick James, Evelyn Lau.
• March 16, 1997: Telepoetics The Web Cafe’, Link Site: Calgary. Features: Sheri-D Wilson, Gregory Scofield, Cass King, Rick Keating
• April 20, 1997: Telepoetics Web Cafe’ Netcast: Over World Wide Web via The Web Cafe’. Features: Larissa Lai, Roger Blenman, J McLaughlin, Hilary Peach, Adeena Karasick, Mohammed Ahmed.
• May 24, 1997: Telepoetics The Western Front, Electronic Cabaret, (Part of the Body Electric Electronic Arts Festival at The Western Front Link Site: Chicago. Features: James P McAuliffe, Andrea Thompson.
• May 11-25, 1997: Telepoetics at The Web Cafe’. Link Site: Chicago
• July 29, 1997: Telepoetics @ The Web Cafe’ Link Site: Auburn, Washington. Features: Kate Braid, Wayde Compton, Kimberly Klaas, Jamie Reid, Justin McGrail.
• October 17, 1997: Edgewise Poetics Virgin Megastore Unplugged. (Part of Bravo Vancouver! The Vancouver Cultural Alliance’s celebration of the arts. Features: SR Duncan, James P. McAuliffe, MC Exu, J McLaughlin, Rob McGreggor, Cassandra Onyejikwe.
• October 26, 1997: Telepoetics @ The Web Cafe’, (Part of The Vancouver International Writer’s Festival’s 10th Anniversary) Link Site: Chicago. Features: bill bissett, Sheri-D Wilson, Jill Battson, Kazuko Shiraishi, Adeena Karasick.
• December 15, 1997: Telepoetics: She Words The Vancouver Press Club Link Site: San Francisco, Features: Abby Wenner, Terrie Hamazaki, Jen Lam, Hilary Peach, Christine Taylor.
• July 13, 1998: E-zine launch Vancouver Press Club, Features: Bud Osborne, Miranda Pearson, Jamie Reid, Phinder Dulai, Loranne Brown. • January 30, 1999: First Nations Telepoetics from the Liliget Feasthouse. Link Site: Alert Bay. Features: Mahara Allbrett, Marilyn Dumont, Marie Annharte Baker, David Campbell.
• February 11, 1999: Love and Lust Telepoetics Style. Link site: Chicago. Features: Leanne Averbach, Billeh Nickerson, Mahara Allbrett.
• May 17, 18, 22, 29, 1999: Telepoetics from Video In. Link site: Chicago Features: Ana Bella, Host Anna Wagner, Poet, Justin McMillan, Vanessa Engle. Tech: Vanessa Larouchelle, Dickson Chow.
• September 6, 1999: Labor Day Picnic & Lone Star Linkup. Link site: San Antonio, Texas. Live from Spanish Banks in Vancouver featuring Carmen Rodriquez, Susan Mullen and Verbomotorhead.
• October 2, 1999: EEC Web Site and Virtual Workshop Launch featuring readings by the Seven Sisters Writing Collective and our revamped site/zine.
• November 7, 1999: The Vancouver Videopoem Festival featuring works by Adeena Karasick, Tom Konyves, Zaffi Gousopolous, Jason da Silva, Jannie Edwards, Bob Sherrin, Jill Battson, Alyson Vishnovska and Annabelle Chvostek, Bud Osborn, bill bisset, Jason LeHeup, Kurt Heintz, Patricia Smith and others.
• January 19, 2000: Bravo Arts Channel and Book Television Linkup with e-poets.net Director Kurt Heintz from Atlanta, Georgia, and EEC Executive Director, Heather Haley.
• May 7, 2000: Telepoetics with Chicago Authors, hosted by Vanessa Larouchelle. Participants included Glen Sutherland, Mohammad_reza Mohseni, Katrina Lim, Gabrielle Martin, and Hayley Crittenden.
• Saturday, May 27, 2000: “TWO MOMENTS” Interactive Event as part of Asian Heritage Month: featuring Kyle Hawke, Jen Lam, and Henry Mah in Vancouver and Tetsuro Shigematsu in Montreal.
“Pandemic.” Since March 11. Global. Lethal.
Ahoy maties! It’s been approximately two months since my last entry and these past two months feel like an eternity. What was a “corona virus” has evolved into “Covid-19” for “coronavirus disease of 2019.” Blithely celebrating New Year’s Eve we had no idea how much this plague would radically alter our lives.
I’m pretty useless these days, feeling numb, scatter-brained. I’m frightened, confused, anxious, overwhelmed. And high risk, apparently. Every time I sniffle, feel a hint of sore throat or headache I must work hard to tamp down panic. Certainly I’m not alone in that but I am isolated, Staying Home as much as possible in order to “flatten the curve,” stave off a surge in new cases, steering through this hard curve the only course.
Fack. I’m starting to talk to myself. Or, think out loud. Can you say, “cabin fever”?
In an “isolationship” because my boyfriend and I have symptoms of what is likely a cold, or spring allergies in my case but who knows? It’s not as if we can get tested. I would be mortified if ever responsible for spreading anything, especially to our sons.
That said, mine escorted me to the 24-hour supermarket for a midnight run to avoid the crowds. He knows my cupboards are bare, that I’m struggling so paid for my groceries! Though he will always remain my boy I’ve managed to raise a good man. A mensch. After much agonizing I finally decided to don a mask but couldn’t because it fogged up my glasses!
I’m rambling. Hard to hold onto one’s sanity. Stay Safe. Stay Sane! Junior said I was driving erratically. At least there was no traffic. Hah! But hey, we scored toilet paper! So it was all worth it, right?
My focus is gone. Incredible how everyone, everywhere is focused on one thing, one extraordinary event. The tension is oppressive but it is a novel virus, no one knows how this thing will end. We are smack dab in the throes of it. A fucking crisis!
But, I will write because now I have time. At last! Only have to convince myself it matters.
My heart breaks for all those who have lost loved ones and I must thank our brave and dedicated nurses, doctors, first responders and working class heroes; truckers, cashiers, hospital cleaning staff, delivery drivers, posties. I love how communities around the world have spontaneously come out on their balconies in the evenings to pay tribute and cheer them on. So heartening! And as moving as this Lego animation of Prime Minister Trudeau’s message to Canadian kids. It’s a little hokey but I find myself feeling emotional lately, heartened to see good things like kindness and compassion spreading as well.
I thought 2019 sucked! All I had to contend with was a broken arm, ensuing loss of income, thought 2020 would provide a bit of a respite, that I’d at least semi-retire, despite no real savings or RRSPs. (A whole other can o’ worms.)
In any case, we’re doing okay in BC. Hanging in. On. I’m worried about my bestie who lives and works in NYC. We were discussing what a shit show the un-United States is. I am so grateful to be Canadian. We are not morally superior and I like Americans but cannot understand what is happening down there. Okay, don’t get me started. I will work on my manuscript, have a private party/ happy hour and blast some tunes. I am also grateful for music, for spring. Birdsong. Love. The life force is relentless. Just, hold fast!
Fortunately she never went viral. My mother’s name was Corona. French/Irish Catholic, Québécois, no one seems to know why. I vaguely recall some family lore that claimed a nun at the convent where she was born took it from the typewriter in the office. Why? Was my grandmother incapacitated? She’d become pregnant at age 15 by one Reginald Haley and sent to the home for unwed mothers. Apparently he returned the day she reached the age of consent to marry her. They had four more children before he went off to war with the Royal Rifles regiment, eventually taken prisoner by the Japanese army and dying of dysentery. Grandma contracted cancer forcing Corona to quit school at the age of twelve to care for her and her siblings. Damn. It’s a Shakespearian tragedy! All this according to Corona who loved to regale us with stories, mostly sad and horrifying tales of terror and abuse. Though I loved her deeply, Corona was a horrendous mother and I wince every time I hear “coronavirus.”
Ain’t life grand! As I told my sister, all the pain becomes assimilated, though we had to ignore it in order to survive.
She does a good job of not thinking about it and though not much consolation I told her we will never be free of the past, memories a vital part of who we are. Like scars, always visible but integrated into and onto our body. Soul. And I cherish my scars; hard won, well earned, the best sort of tattoo.
Though a devout atheist I am blessed. Twenty-five years ago my son was born. I always joke I nearly forgot to have children; in other words, he wasn’t planned. Conceived in love certainly but I was still conflicted about parenthood. My mother did not inspire nor evoke tender feelings. We did share a strong bond but because she was bipolar, or something-undiagnosed-our relationship was fraught with tumult, pain, anguish. And abuse. My father-who turned out not to be my biological father-was no picnic either. They were miserable together; took it out on each other, then me and my two younger sisters. “Dysfunctional” would be an understatement. Of course I knew none of these terms, just knew we were fucked and that beating your kids, wrong. I considered running away many times but there was no where to go. As we moved often there were no aunts or grandparents close by. No refuge.
When I discovered I was pregnant I was dismayed but knew it was now or never. The doctor tried to convince me to have another abortion but for the first time I felt strongly, said no, I want this child. No doubt the hormones might have clouded my judgment and my dreaded biological clock was ticking but I have no regrets. Raising a child with special needs has been a huge challenge and I’ve had much less time for creative pursuits but my passion for poetry dims in comparison to the love we share. He’s a good son. A good man. It took me far too long to realize nothing in this life is more vital than family, friends, community. Nothing sustains us like the power of love.
Got to go on a road trip, one brief summer escape; drove up to 70 Mile House in the Cariboo to visit my previously estranged sister Donna. Despite my trepidation there was little to no awkwardness, as if nearly 20 years hadn’t passed. Well, we went through hell together, which creates an unbreakable bond. Both Donna and her partner Gord were kindly hospitable. She doted on us and he made several repairs to my vehicle. Also, escaped the Internet, caught up on some reading; relaxing.
Got my dog fix as well! Went on a walk along Watch and Green Lakes with sweet border collie Davis and my sister’s friend Sonja, owner of an exuberant beagle/lab cross named Ridley; thrilled to hear the call of the loon, the area dotted with wetlands. Donna carried an air horn, in case of bear encounters, though we weren’t exactly in the wilderness.
Enjoyed driving in wide open spaces! Visiting parts of the province I haven’t seen in a long time reminds me how epic this place is, how fortunate I am to live here. My new 2002 Camry performed well. I need to add oil more consistently, she got somewhat overheated in those mountain passes. We travelled Hwy 1 up and returned via the 99 south. Felt so good to get out of the Big Smoke. Lyle had another scooter stolen recently! Nothing to be done about it apparently, certainly not by the VPD. I will always love Vancouver but I don’t need to reside here. I’m a small town girl at heart. These days, all I want to do is get the hell out of the city, permanently. We’re discussing the possibility which might even become Plan A.
I was contacted recently by Sarah Tremlett of Liberated Words out of London, UK regarding the forthcoming book, Poetics of Poetry Film published by Intellect Press. Me plus Whore in the Eddy, the videopoem I produced on Bowen Island with my son Lucas are to be featured. Nice to know I’m not entirely out of the loop. I had dealings with Sarah and her Liberated Words associate Lucy English when I was the Artistic Director of Visible Verse at the Cinematheque, of which they were big boosters. As I told her, I’m counting the days until I semi-retire next spring-hopefully-and can get back to writing, perhaps even videopoetry.
It was a huge relief to have the cast removed after six weeks. Any degree of debilitation is irritating so a fractured radius constituted a huge challenge to my finances and morale. I am grateful for the Internet and good friend Thesa Pakarnyk who kindly facilitated a GoFundMe to cover rent, bills and groceries while I was off work. I had applied for income assistance to no avail. Ignored for two weeks, when the ministry finally made contact I was given nothing but a series of hoops to jump through; sent in 20 documents and still they wanted more! I gave up in disgust.
My latest challenge is buying a new old car with a $2000 budget, financed by my dear son. The Volvo is on its last wheels; broken doors and a leaky sunroof. I’ve decided I will not drive out to Surrey to look at cars, no matter how long it takes to find a deal closer to home. So many scam artists on Craigslist!
Oh! And speaking of poetry, after years of searching for a home for Rattler, the 80s zine Peter Haskell and I published in Los Angeles, Simon Fraser University Library’s Special Collections has acquired it and are in the process of cataloguing. Oddly, no one in So Cal could see its value.
And lastly but not leastly my poems Houla and Birdwatching appear in the current issue of EVENT Poetry & Prose. Nice to be reminded that I am a poet. I hope to write verse again in the not-too-distant future. Might as well post them here:
An infant is not a toy.
An infant cannot breathe underwater
Or fly though the air. Do not drape it
Over the prone man’s head
Or dress it up like a doll.
Journalists view the grisly scene.
Post. Share. Tweet.
UN observers abort,
Prominent commentators punt.
But the drunken skipper acts,
Ordering clean sheets and neat rows
Down below in the hold.
Rogue unidentified man
Hoists the limp boy
Let’s not quibble.
It matters not if the child
Is southern or northern,
Whined or knew pride.
It is as good as dead.
Frantic, dog-chasing-tail orbits.
A million ships cannot transport us.
Binoculars resting on the sill
Blackly inveigle us to look.
The luxury of observation,
Cotton sheets abuzz,
I sleep with a mad bomber
In a bed too narrow
To contain explosives.
Eroding acres encroach
Shores of receding flesh.
Grip off, I watch
Elfin hummers amok,
Swarm a blustery afternoon.
I recall bionic gunrunners, East Van,
First day back from gangster land.
Recoiling at the forecast I’d fled,
Cramped in a compact car,
A woman piloting the wife at last.
Blindfolded against his scrutiny,
Foiling implicit shame, I skirted
Roadblocks, sculpted my spine
Straight, forced it
To withstand gales. Tolls.
Lousy steward, I drop
The argillite raven,
Gleaming abalone eyes divided.
I slap my back with hot plasters
So it might bend when necessary.
Fit inside. Repair.
When will listening
Reveal the shape? When
Will seeing decode the trick?
Mangled my arm recently, which is why I finally have time to blog, albeit slowly, with one hand, the left. Suddenly I’m a southpaw and stranded since I can’t drive either. Survived a long winter of cold and flu viruses, snow days, then, bam! Only thought I was in the clear. Freak accident. I was sitting on the floor, leaning on a folding chair when it suddenly collapsed, crushing my forearm. Ouch! It’s the same radius I broke in a horrific car crash as a teenager. Surgery was required again, this time to remove the metal pin used to set it way back when and replace it with lighter, stainless steel hardware. I got an upgrade! I’ve been in a lot of pain and off work for a minimum of 6-8 weeks according to my orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank. Being self-employed I am not eligible for EI or such benefits. I’m currently subsisting on meager savings which will run out soon. Dear friend Thesa is kindly setting up a GoFundMe campaign. There is hope. There is always hope.
And wings. Flight. I am grateful to my fellow avian afficionados across the street that hang both songbird and hummingbird feeders. Once again I have a use for my binoculars. Such a lovely distraction.