A life roiling with verse, visible and otherwise

Let there be confusion and terror, bleached bones in the closet, crows soaring into the chimney. Here I sit, sweating in the dead of winter, mind and guts roiling. My new collection, Three Blocks West of Wonderland, is out, I’m feeling fabulous and working hard at workin’ it. That’s actually the cover of Gabrielle Everall’s remarkable verse novel Dona Juanita and the love of boys but there is so much life within this one life! My life. Such as it is. Still, precious.

This frenzied phase began about a month ago, in Gibsons of all places. Brian Palmu kindly invited me to read my poetry along with my dear friend Peter Trower. I had reassured Pete that I would go up there to help clear out the 40-year long residence he was vacating. Small house, big job. So, I thought I would kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, keep my promise and do the reading.

Pete grovelled, grateful for my well-honed organizational skills. I walked in, opened cupboards and drawers, asking, “What’s this? You keeping it? Giving it away?” Then I made piles, one for the Salvation Army, one for Stuff To Keep and one for The Dump. This town still has a town dump! Bear Watching we called it in Salmo, cheap entertainment, featuring the best in local talent. Voila! The packing took a while, we had to retrieve boxes and tape, but the work was accomplished with a minimum of fuss.

The next day, Brian and his girlfriend Verna graciously hosted Pete and I along with highly esteemed poet, journalist, essayist and raconteur Lyle Neff. Triple bill. Triple threat. I first met Lyle about thirteen years ago when I hosted Telepoetics linkups and Edgewise ElectroLit Centre readings out of a horrid flat on First Avenue in East Vancouver, near the Drive. I can’t recall who introduced us—Michael Turner maybe—but I invited Lyle to participate. I do recall a tall, swaggeringly handsome and fiercely intelligent young man. I was even more floored by his poetry. Still floored three books later though he claims Bizarre Winery Tragedy is failed. Pshaw, it’s as singularly deft and brilliant as all his work which I hadn’t had the pleasure of hearing in thirteen years; a rare treat. We got to hang out for a bit post-reading as feted authors at Gramma’s Marine Pub. Pete was feeling rather emotional as it most likely is his farewell to Gibsons. Lyle heads a seemingly one-man campaign to restore smokers’ rights. “Move to Europe.” Ultra Canuck-right-wing nationalist Neff Man apparently did not find much appeal in my suggestion.

On November 19th I hosted SEE THE VOICE: Visible Verse 09, a fantastic programme even if I do say so myself. A very appreciative crowd including artists Fiona Lam, Joe Boyce Burgess, Katrin Bowen and two pioneers of the genre, our own Tom Konyves and Kurt Heintz, visiting from Chicago received the show with much enthusiasm. Tom was a member of the seminal Vehicule poets in Montreal, teaches screenwriting and Word & Image 165 at the Fraser Valley University; a good guy to have in our corner and he was impressed. e-poets director Kurt Heintz was one of the founders of Chicago’s Guild Poetry Video Festival and has produced and directed many outstanding and innovative works. I have to wing it in my mind, when programming, imagining what a selection will look and sound like on the big screen so it’s very exciting to see it all come together so well. Gabrielle Everall journeyed all the way from Australia and bowled everyone over with her performance. Pacific Cinémathèque staff was helpful and friendly and many cherished friends were in attendance. We all wound up at some bordering-on-skanky Russian nite club afterwards, trying to converse above a lot of icky, tragically loud trance muzak. What a town; you can’t even find a decent bar at 11 pm on a Thursday night. Anyway, I’ll eschew my Vancouver-is-an-outpost, like-an-awkward-adolescent-girl soapbox, spare everyone.

Gabrielle came over to Bowen Island with us the next day to visit and share her work along with Kurt at one of our Visiting Poets salons. Kurt is another scribe whose poetry I haven’t heard in too long. Comrades in media poetry from way back in the early 90s, I was grateful for the opportunity to benefit from his vast experience, wisdom and verse. Yeah, he would blush. My friend, film producer Fitch Cady remarked that his conversation with Kurt was “like an astonishingly intense count of angels on the head of a pin” and that Kurt possesses a great parochial American voice. I agree. Fitch is an expatriate, from Connecticut I think. Lots of Americans and Brits on this island.

Then Gabrielle again blew the roof off with her deadpan delivery of the most excruciatingly primal, erotic and droll bits from Dona Juanita and the love of boys. One John Kinsella said, “it makes pornography out of love and love out of pornography. It is a new Song of Songs, it is a revelation of the false notions of the libertine. The only work I can compare it to is François Villon’s great Le Testament. And it goes further. The body as it rejects the implant. The body as object cyborgs into receptor and giver. It invades and receives. It grows holes. It fertilizes itself. It lusts and hides in chastity.” Indeed. Gabby is a charming, incongruous mix of guilelessness and shrewd perception. We were able to spend a few days together walking and talking in the woods. Gabby loved Canada, astonished by our omnipresent mountains and ocean. She proclaimed me an Über woman and wouldn’t stop complimenting or thanking me. I am fortunate to live a life with so many extraordinary artists!

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