SEA SONGS

Rough night but not as rough as the night before. Is anything in life more vexing than matters of the heart? Took some melatonin which might have helped provide a slightly better-quality sleep. Certainly I am weary. Aren’t we all? Finally cried watching a poignant and fascinating Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher, about Craig Foster, a South African filmmaker who burned out, took a year off to dive into the cold Atlantic each day, sans wet suit to commune with the colossal kelp forest and a vast array of aquatic creatures. Such a lovely antidote to reality and quite the lesson in marine biology.

I forget that I live by the ocean though I can smell it on some days and almost see English Bay from my East Van balcony. Then, randomly I came upon the Wallace Stevens poem, The Idea of Order at Key West.

The sea is calling! As is song.

THE IDEA OF ORDER AT KEY WEST

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting

BIG SMOKE CREATION

 

Verse. It’s all I’m able to write lately and it’s saving my ass, my sanity, as annus horribilis 2020 barrels on, though I can identify with poet Alice Oswald in the New Yorker article, Streaming Device. “…she defined her art as a form of dissidence. ‘I think it’s often assumed that the role of poetry is to comfort,’ she wrote, ‘but for me, poetry is the great unsettler. It questions the established order of the mind. It is radical, by which I don’t mean that it is either leftwing or rightwing, but that it works at the roots of thinking.’ I know I depend on poetry to incite.

BIG SMOKE CREATION

As un-germinating or misproducing
As the city may be,
I dazzle myself,
Compose in a tweedy, eyeletted coat,

Follow insectian leads;
Gut-slide à la caterpillar,
Dig earwig-deep into a yellow rose,
Bee-imbibe hummingbird nectar.

By day I am girded
By a kaleidoscope of plumage,
By night bathe in coconut milk
In a most nonepicurean way.

With the power to prepave the future,
I eschew crapulence,
Pantomime to the blind
Despite my tiny apartment window.

 

HOPE thanks to Dickinson

Image by Rick McGrath

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

 

COMING SOON! “Skookum Raven”

There are some rough and wild birds around Howe Sound — West Coast avians like the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern harrier, and the whiskey-jack. Heather Haley, an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation, takes these feathered frenemies as her starting point in this assured third collection, Skookum Raven. Like her foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, Haley writes sophisticated free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind — but adds some proletarian ferocity with her bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys like Ed the Fence. These are astute, austere poems which at times take flight into optimistic beauty — this book is “pockmarked with luck.”

“Tart, taut and terse, Haley’s honed poems of lust and loss, wrath and remorse are imbued with hard-won insight and subversive wit.  Her wry x-ray eye cuts to the quick in an array of deftly drawn portraits that will make you grin with recognition.  Haley masterfully interweaves assonance, consonance and dissonance with flashes of a distilled lyricism.”  – Fiona Tinwei Lam

 Skookum Raven is a text for the tricksters within. With spondaic pow-bams of language, these lyrics harness neologistic energies to evoke punchy lust, back alley bravado, and coastal croonings on sex, the wild, music and time.-Catherine Owen

Heather Haley’s Skookum Raven honours the west coast with brilliant side-eye observations couched in words drawn from a wide palette, from Chinook trade language to Pussy Riot. She brings us on a stroll through the village, showing the underbelly of every house and garden, then deeper into domestic disharmonies and unease in relatedness, writing sharply from a woman’s point of view. If any reader has become lulled with the beauties of west coast living, she will shake you into more fulsome awareness of the “hard blessings” shared. “No lotus-eaters we…”-Joanne Arnott

Praise for Heather Haley:

“The modern poet must deal with our technological/consumer-driven/corporate reality and attempt to find a small space of peace in this world. In Three Blocks West of Wonderland, Heather Haley explores the beauty of nature through a grounded lens without ever ignoring the implications of consumerism and corporatization. These narrative-driven lyrical poems are emotionally raw and go down like a shot of whiskey.” -Daniel Zomparelli

“Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic.”-Vancouver Sun

 

 

 

WHITE BITCH

I simply cannot blog lately, compose prose. Oh well, no doubt the world will survive without another opinion. Verse it must be!

 

 

WHITE BITCH

Adored, coveted,
In certain quarters
Though snappy at times.
Biddable, at times.

Clairvoyant
Moon wailer,
Paws somehow armed
With a torch for the abyss.

Relentlessly peculiar,
Renowned for her ability to
Hunt, track, know, recover
And guide. Booked to transport

My sullied soul to the underworld
My bitch will indulge me
In our inside dope,
Guard against the induced coma

For my bitch knows
My wishes, follows
My instructions
So loyal and faithful is she.

Please,
Feed my bitch
A morsel of my corpse
As I depart.

My dog star. My white shepherd.
Alert, eager, fearless. Unlike me.
Dual natured. Exactly like me.
Are we the same critter?

Wait!
You’re not my white bitch,
You’re my white dog,
Bitch!

 

PANDEMIC HEALTH FOOD

Equals comfort food? A missive from my bubble to yours my pretties. Getting a little writing done, one silver lining of being shut in.

This is how my mind works; I’ve been wondering how the pandemic is affecting crime. How do burglars break in when so many people are working from home? I did some research and as suspected, those rates are generally down while domestic violence has spiked.

Also, have food on the brain; procuring it is more challenging of course, while trying to eat well. It’s tempting to over-indulge so I limit my purchases of sweets and junk food.

“Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

PANDEMIC HEALTH FOOD

Mumblecore semi-actors,
Gluten free master cleansers,
Gym goths and health rats
Of serious quinoa cred

Prefer kale chips,
Tofu marshmallows,
Twenty dollar tacos,
Good bugs by the billions

For their guts,
Fake beef, celery juice,
Low carb slow food,
Deep health the high prize.

Supermarkets equal minefields
So, take out, pick up, delivery or
Food truck pilgrimages.
Patios with barriers possibly

But picnics are the best.
Ah! All that ventilation.
Fresh air equals salvation
Minus the long queues.

CALAMITY JANES

Feeling embattled? Pour vous, a poem, a work-in-progress for what is there to do but document and reflect as we shelter-in-place? I lost it the other night. In the past I would have run away, though I am seriously considering moving to the Cariboo. “I hate this fucking place!” I feel so hemmed in by the constant racket of various types, the astronomical rent and cost of living. But perhaps it’s just urban life. I miss the woods. I need a vacation! The world needs a vacation. And we aren’t about to get one anytime soon. Again, hold fast my pretties. And as BC’s Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry says,” Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

CALAMITY JANES

We are the beleaguered,
The beleaguered are we.
Each one of us, beleaguered.
Each day, week, month, year;
Beleaguered with corona virus
Or tuberculosis or autism
Or leprosy or slipped disc
Or clubfoot or schizophrenia
Or acne or blindness
Or polio or chlamydia
Or angina or endometriosis or diabetes.
Plus, depression.
We beleaguered are beleaguered
By tornado, earthquake,
Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, forest fires,
40 days and 40 nights of flood.
Plus, anxiety.
We are beleaguered by riots, misogyny, poverty,
Racism, mass shootings or unwanted pregnancy.
Plus, oops.
We are beleaguered by sugar, tobacco,
Opioids and alcohol.
Plus, whatever gets you through.

2020 requires we delegate
Weeping, triage burials,
Battle over ventilators,
Battle over battles,
Sequester ourselves,
Sustain and administer strength,
Swabs, masks, compassion.
Silence disquietude.
Conquer enervation.
Woo fate.
Adapt or die
As Jane asks, “What else is new?”

For All My Tricksters

It’s been a long time coming but a new collection of verse, Skookum Raven, will be published by Ekstasis Editions in the fall, pandemic be damned. “There are some rough and wild birds around Howe Sound — West Coast avians like the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern harrier, and the whiskey-jack. Heather Haley, an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation, takes these feathered frenemies as her starting point in this assured third collection, Skookum Raven. Like her foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, Haley writes sophisticated free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind — but adds some proletarian ferocity with her bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys like Ed the Fence. These are astute, austere poems which sometimes take flight into optimistic beauty — this book is ‘pockmarked with luck.’ “

ONE LIFE

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.

BEFORE ZOOM-Telepoetics and The Edgewise ElectroLit Centre

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.