Reading the ground with a bear’s eye

Frantic week behind, hectic week ahead but I always make time for a walk in the woods. Josef opened up some of the deer trails on our property recently which has encouraged my bushwhacking—or our bushwhacking—the mutts and mine. I love it when they kick up layers of needles, lichen and loam. Is there any richer smell? It’s a fairly strenuous workout, with all the climbing up and down boulders green with moss and crumbling cedar logs. Like all the islands and the Sunshine Coast, Bowen was clear-cut about 100 years ago. Imagine how convenient it must have been tossing all that timber into the ocean. I’m kidding. Sort of.

I spotted this remnant lying on the ground and it brought to mind the cover of Robert Bringhurst’s A Story as Sharp as a Knife. I’m no anthropologist—though I harboured aspirations at one time—but it would appear the shape could have inspired west coast native artists. It’s an eye! See?

A bear’s eye. Bringhurst talks of reading as an “ancient, preliterate craft. We read the tracks and scat of animals, the depth and lustre of their coats, the set of their ears and the gait of their limbs. We read the horns of sheep, the teeth of horses. We read the weights and measures of the wind, the flight of birds, the surface of the sea, snow, fossils, broken rocks, the growth of shrubs and trees and lichens. We also read, of course, the voices that we hear.”

Speaking of voices, I’m still recovering after hosting Penn Kemp at a boisterous salon on Saturday. Is that an oxymoron? Well, our salons get pretty festive. Penn is droll and vivacious, possessing a singular voice, literally, figuratively. She was a big hit with the 35 or so die-hards who turned out despite a nearly constant downpour, including some of my favourite urbanites Kyle Hawke, Warren Dean Fulton, Shannon Rayne and Rhonda Milne who took pleasure in the food, poetry and water taxi experience from Horseshoe Bay to Snug Cove. Penn had Josef perform some of her poetry in German! Now that’s a first, I’m glad we got pictures. I participated in another piece called Poem for Peace in Two Voices. Soundings—what Penn calls her readings, and sublimely sonic they are. Later, we let our hair down, madly dancing and rockin’ out, then lolled about in the hot tub before finally conking out around four in the morning. “Thanks to you, Beauty, for your magnificent presence and hospitality. What a hoot and holler! Glorious to be with you. And I so know how much work went into the grace of the evening!” Penn’s right. It was a hoot.

Last Thursday, I attended Anvil Press’s launch for a deluxe edition of subTerrainVancouver’s Literary Landscape with my buddy Pete Trower, who was featured, naturally. We heard George Bowering, Trevor Carolyn, Cynthia Flood, George Stanley as well as Pete. I love the sound of his gravelly renderings. As reviewer John Moore said, “Peter Trower looms over Vancouver’s literary landscape like one of the old-growth giants he battled for twenty-two years in the gypsy logging camps of the Coast Mountains.” Good timing this, as the OG (original gangster, not old guy I told him) has been feeling rotten, low, felled in fact and was glad I took him out to carouse a bit with old friends Jamie (Reid) and Trevor, and a few new ones, Sean Cranbury of Books On The Radio and Anvilite Patrick Mackenzie, who was co-hosting with publishing machine, Brian Kaufman. At one point I found myself engaged in the requisite, heated debate on the current state of CanLit with Dennis E. Bolen, who usually ignores me. I visit. In fact, reading Canadian writers and poets, actually buying their books, is about all I can do. I’m no reviewer either. I haven’t mellowed exactly but neither am I the hothead of yore. I found the discourse tedious, left it to Sean and escaped to the Ladies Room. I’ve long admired Bolen’s work, look forward to reading his new novel Kaspoit!. I always make a distinction between the art and the artist. It was all good natured fun though. I think. I couldn’t drink too much, had to drive Pete home, who took my hand as we were leaving. Brian said, or maybe it was Patrick, “Don’t let her lead you astray Pete.” His reply, “I’d follow Heather anywhere.”

So back to the grind. I need to tutor Junior, get press releases out for the Visible Verse 10 year anniversary celebration and festival, update my website, plan two book launch parties for Three Block West of Wonderland—one in Vancouver, one on Bowen Island—and finish two videopoems by June 12, the deadline for Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin. I’m really hoping that either How To Remain or Bushwhack is selected and that we can attend this year. Tina, my Bushwhack collaborator is from Baden-Baden and Josef, a Munich native; two translators! And I’ve never had two entries in one year.

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