The fun never stops! Poetry, his and mine.

Listening to Miguel Migs playing Bump Selectra, a dub selectra mix on the Beat Blender play list on Soma FM, recalling the meeting Josef and I had with the RDI consultant this morning. It was a fairly productive meeting though I suffered a headache the entire time. We need to work on Junior’s non-verbal communication skills. Less talking on our part as well, so that he is forced to reference, check in with us. An over-reliance upon words keeps him in his own head in a sense. It’s so frustrating that he was misdiagnosed and not identified as ASD until age 10! He was prescribed years of speech therapy which turns out to be the last thing he needed. Vocabulary does not equal communication. We want him to look at us before talking, before launching into a topic. It is imperative for him to shift his attention to the person he is interacting with. Get in his face, literally, is what we need to do. There are techniques like pausing until he references us, feigning incompetence and doing something unexpected. All these things force him out of his static thinking mode. Our objective is to help him develop flexible thinking and dynamic communication.

The fun never stops! As we all recover from our fabulous AURAL Heather performance enthusiastically recieved at the Violet Femmes 2 compilation showcase, I now must focus as well on a grant application for the next week, for the Canada Council Spoken Word and Storytelling program. I want to write up a proposal for a multimedia performance piece based on my poetry and our AURAL Heather work. Haven’t a clue! Do I write a *script* or can I just enclose the cds and text of the poems? I asked my performance artist friend Victoria Stanton and she had some helpful suggestions so I’m a little less worried and feel like I can tackle it this weekend, have an approach now. I think!

I applied for a videopoem last year, was unsuccessful. I apply every year and every year I am turned down. (A hummingbird just flew up to my window! There are so many birds around right now, being spring, and they’re actually flying into our doors too. I had to put up some decals but one robin still insists on attacking his rival, his reflection, no matter how many decals I put up. Spring fever! I should open the door but it’s not warm at all yet.) Josef encourages me to write the damn proposal every year anyway and apply in order to “crystallize my vision.” Still need funding for Christ’s sake! Anyway, when I get this out of the way I can go back to the novel. Looking forward to my writing retreat in Gibsons next month. Rehearsing and working on a video too. We have several performances coming up and the Al Purdy A-Frame Trust Fundraiser we’re hosting here at our place April 26.

Wow it’s blustery out there! Chimes are making lots of lovely music and the umbrella on the deck just blew over. It was so warm yesterday, Brinda and SamIAm sprawled out being sun dogs on the deck. Today it’s as if we’re back to winter and they’re huddled in their beds and indoors. My mutts as weather barometer.

Wednesday

Well I managed to escape the kitchen and tear myself away from Facebook, now let’s see if I can accomplish some writing on one of my two designated weekly writing days. I will have to work on a grant proposal I’m afraid, as much work as there is to do on the novel. I am going away next month for a week minimum to work on it in order to meet Mother Tongue’s BC Novel deadline. I hope I make it. It’s a long, hard overhaul involving much slogging and heavy lifting. I also need to continue working on Bushwhack.

In addition, I am toiling on a tribute to Al Purdy for an event in the city and then for the fundraiser we’re hosting here on the island later this month. I was lucky. I had a teacher in high school, Mr. Carter, David Carter, who gave us contemporary Canadian poetry to read. I doubt that this was part of standard curriculum at that time but fortunately for me I was exposed to Susan Musgrave, bp nichol, Earle Birney, bill bissett and many others, including Al Purdy. I was so jazzed, I started to write poetry. With my working class roots, I could relate to Purdy, truly the voice of the land, a versifying Everyman. I could also relate to his anger and black humour. I love his work. I’m going to read What Do The Birds Think?, a poem he wrote in the 60s while traveling in the high arctic. Then I will perform my poem Habitat with its birdlife references. What is it with poets and birds? I know watching them in flight fills me with desire. See both poems below.

Synchronicity? I was talking to Josef the other day about David Lynch and how I wanted him to watch Blue Velvet with me. I had just ordered a DVD of it, wanted him to see the opening especially, with all that hyper reality-neo-Technicolor and most visceral audio. We have starting work on a new video and Josef is producing again. Later in the day as I was driving around Vancouver, I heard David Lynch being interviewed on CBC radio! He was talking about TM-Transcendental Meditation, explaining that it wasn’t a cult, why would he, as an independent thinker, an artist, being involved in a cult? He’s organizing a huge benefit concert with Paul McCartney and others to promote TM to teach the technique to a million kids. The other odd thing is that I had looked into TM as a way to relieve stress, which has been having an adverse effect on my health, but I got sidetracked and didn’t pursue it. Now I will, am going to go to an introductory seminar next week. If it’s good enough for David Lynch, it’s good enough for me. He discussed as well how it helps him as a creator, to be clear and intent on his vision and he certainly achieves that. The interviewer had to ask, naturally, “Well how can you be so happy and then create such dark and disturbing work?” I get that all that time, “Oh, your work is so dark,” and have said before, that’s like telling me my hair is red. He explained, “You don’t have to suffer to depict suffering, you just have to understand it.” I try hard not to suffer anymore. Been there, done that. Paid my dues. It’s a romantic notion, a misguided, outdated notion that the artist has to suffer for his art. All that drinking and drugging, it’s over.

Tuesday

Feeling so stressed, like I can’t catch up though determined to do so. I got to teach yesterday, facilitated my Word Games poetry writing workshop for kids at Junior’s school, Island Discovery. I write out a poem on the board, perform it for them, (kids are a tough audience) and then we have a lot of fun together engaging in neo-dada games and activities. Most of them get it right away, children being natural born poets. I sit down and work with the ones who don’t, encouraging them to free associate, reminding them there are no rules, especially at the outset, that it’s more important to just get some words out, down. It went well, the kids got excited. Several parents kindly made a point of telling me that I inspire their children and that’s a good feeling. It doesn’t feel like teaching, more like sharing, my passion for language, poetry. This is the poem we wrote together. It’s a little obtuse. It would have been nice to have more time to flesh it out but the doing was a good demonstration of the writing process.

ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM

Coyote season.
Silver grass people migrate
to a golden spaceship,
yellow sky unfolding before them.
Spiky roses grow blue fruit.
January blossoms.
Lattes are scarlet and flow in rivers.
Musical cookies.
Dragon boats glide across a violet ocean.
Pomegranate exploration.
They happen upon a road in triplet.
Suddenly a pink giraffe appears.
Who are you?
As he speaks emerald butterflies
flood the sky.
I don’t quite know myself.
We are life’s officials
hunting down floating bubbles
of rainbow
under the Bermuda sky.

I found a pleasant surprise in the post today, five Rockin’ Moms cds, featuring AURAL Heather and How To Remain. I knew they had selected us, wasn’t expecting copies. It’s run by a woman in California, Tiffany Petrossi, who also broadcasts the cds on a podcast. I wish we had these tools when I was 24. Young musicians are so lucky.

Oddly enough, then I spoke with my Luddite, neo-surrealist friend Jhim who is astounded at the number of FB friends I have. I reminded him that I’ve been on the net since 1994 so it shouldn’t be surprising but I wont’ text. I refuse to go there, have my limits, boundaries. I just have to watch my niece with her thumbs flying, then think I’m already susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, have a fucked up neck, and soon we’ll all be suffering from numb thumbs. Jhim and I also discussed an artist he was very familiar and impressed with, Unica Zürn, who began writing after World War II, short stories and radio plays. In 1953 she met surrealist painter Hans Bellmer in Berlin. She moved with him to Paris, becoming his partner and model. “Together with Hans Bellmer, Unica Zürn frequented surrealist circles and befriended people such as Man Ray, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Henri Michaux and Max Ernst. From 1957 onwards she suffered from depression and was treated at various clinics in France. One of her doctors was Gaston Ferdière, a friend of the surrealists, who was also psychiatrist to Antonin Artaud. Her illness inspired much of her writing, above all Der Mann im Jasmin, written between 1963 and 1965. She killed herself in 1970 by jumping out of the window of the apartment she shared with Bellmer.” Wow. That’s what I said. I suffer depression too, cannot imagine it taking on such epic proportions, in my life or anyone else’s, feel compelled to keep it in check. Of course, I have been close to that edge, can understand how we spiral out of control. Not surprisingly, spirals keep persisting in my writing. I remember ex-boyfriend Jeff Isaak, a brilliant artist who was obsessed with spirals, Tesla and his coil, and often depicted them in his work.

Just saw a raven near the bird feeder, for the first time. Do ravens mess with songbirds? I know they’re not predators in the same sense as an eagle, though an eagle is a scavenger as well as a predator. Bend both ways, work it both ways.

I am working on a poem for a CV2-Contemporary Verse 2 contest, something I rarely do but this one appealed to me because it involves using a list of random words, something I like to do often when composing verse. So it seemed a natural, a good fit for me to enter, plus they weren’t charging a lot of money. Here is the poem, I’ve emboldened the words I was given.

DIVERSIONS

Learn how to eat a kumquat.
Watch giant sink holes
chow down on suburban family homes,
or floods that force
a Fargo wedding party to improvise.
Giggity Giggity Giggity!
Bird dog with Glenn Quagmire,
noxious as hound’s-thistle
or do it yourself.
Right single-handedly
Dial-A-Lover.
Get a second life.
Come out.
All aboard
the tattoo parlour car.
Fly your freak flag
out the window.
Evolve by gradation,
colour or tone, your choice.
Master effervescent technology.
Ride a ride.
Tilt-A-Whirl,
tumult on the horizon
causing you to retch.

I was also relieved to hear that my niece who took off for California the other day arrived safely and is blithely toasting herself on the beach. We were all so worried though I admire her gumption, spirit. You go girl. I try to remind her that she has one hide and it has to last her a lifetime. She’s such a sun bunny. Yes, we are different. I take my sunshine, Vitamin D in small doses. With my red hair, I endured one too many brutal all-body sunburns as a child.

Here are the poems I am going to read, perform in tribute to Al Purdy, his and mine:

WHAT DO THE BIRDS THINK?

Are they exiles here from the rest of the world?
Deja vu past egg and atom
from the yelllow Sahara-ocean
or farmlands in Ontario
a witness    hanging    painted
in the rural blue
while a plowman half a mile down
in the dark field with a snoring tractor
moves in circular sleep?
Or exiles from the apple country
where Macs and Spies plop soft
on wet ground in slow autumn days
with the rotten tangy odour
of cider rising on moon-wept nights?
Have they lists and a summary
of things elsewhere and
remember the crimson racket
encountering tropic strangers
or nests of an old absence
lined with a downy part of themselves
far south?
And being south do they think sometimes
of the rain and mists of Baffin
and long migrations wingtip to wingtip
a mile high
and mate to mate in the lift and trembled
of windy muscles pushing them
pushing them where?
And do they ever
an arrow leader pointing the way
touch wearily down on ships passing?
–“Rest here a while and go on!”
(Forgotten in the hurry
of their streaming generations
another captain
called Noah
& Bjarni Herjolfsson
in hormed helmet
and the sweeps’ silver lifting
to a luring Hyperborean ocean
or whaling ships’ myopic stumbling
from dull wave to dull wave and the
paint of the bright over-the-horizon gazing
woman flaked with salt)
How are we kept here
by what bonds
are we always exiles
a chirping roar in the silences
of foxes and watery romp of walrus
in the long sea lands
or perched on rubbery musket
like blue teacups
or lost brown mittens
by what agency of restlessness
in the driftwood heart?
Until on a day the eggs hatch
and the young are trained to endurance
ice rattles the shroud of summer
the flight plans sent
the log book sand is scribbled on
“Goodbye-we are going-Hurry”
and mounting a shaft of sunlight
or the mizzen mast of the sky
they climb and go
And that is the way it is?
Except perhaps I wonder
do they ever
remember down there in the southland
Cumberland Sound
and the white places
of Baffin
that I will remember
soon?

Pangnitung

HABITAT

We plan, like architects
to bring the outdoors in,
parrot like realtors
the charms of a tree house,
for up on this hill,
birdsong is tangible.
We always get
what we want, camouflaged

within our mossy cabin, high
above the threshold
of discovery. Open sky.
360 degree views.
Proximity to water.
Reliable food sources. Plenty
of nesting material. Gravel flies
from under the foot of a rabbit

fleeing a resident eagle.
Ravens and stellar jays battle
over kibble, shit bomb the deck.
They want in,
past windowpanes that trick them.
Frenzied. Talons flashing,
they enter
through a door
in the firmament.

I guide them outside, stunned
at the feel of wing bones.
Banging hearts. A hummingbird goes
stillborn in the cup of my hands,
then, buzzers off, leaving a tang
in my throat, a ring
of ruby dust on my finger,
incriminating as pollen.

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