Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Poetry in Transit's Anniversary Bash

It’s an odd sort of segue from my last entry, but on the schedule for the Vancouver Readers’ and Writers’ Festival, this turned out to be event #42.

Our emcee, Susan Musgrave, established how the evening would work – no mean feat when you have a line-up of 23 poets! Because we were celebrating the fact that poems have been riding around on Vancouver buses for ten years, Susan had asked us to all send bus-riding anecdotes. We’d also been asked to read ‘celebratory’ poems, so not everyone read the poem that had zoomed about on the buses.

The readers, with a tiny note for each – either a line from their poem or an item from their intro – were as follows:

Sandy Shreve, founder of (or certainly prime force behind) TransLink’s Poetry in Transit program. She spoke about the history of program, then read “Appalachian Spring” from her latest book, Suddenly, So Much .

Bill New, who described himself as ‘an ex-English teacher’– way too modest for someone of his accomplishments – proved to be one of the evening’s best readers, bringing a remarkable shape and sound to every word in his poem.

Susan McCaslin made us laugh with the twist of interpretation she offered regarding her poem. It followed a pattern of repetitition, with sections beginning with the word "Like..." She told us that her students had asked, “So, is this your valley girl poem?”

Crystal Hurdle read one of the night’s most beautiful pieces. I loved this wonderful line: “We should have had a school of children.”

Fiona Lam didn’t read from her book, Intimate Distances, dismissing it as ‘too depressing.’ The poem she did read, about taking the bus, included this: “We reach Oak Street / where there are no oaks.” One of those ongoing ironies about our world.

It’s worth a trip to Marilyn Bowering’s website, as this is too small a space to list all that she’s up to. She read a poem called “Night Talk.”

Jamie Reid, always a master of all things related to language at its purest, read a found poem – an alphabetized list of “Stop Words from Perseus”. Really, I say, who else could read a list so delightfully – “No, not now!”

Jenn Currin read a piece called “Usages.” Her transit tale was one of the evening’s funniest, relating her ‘olden days’ – riding the bus and drinking a mix of parental liquor cabinet dregs, then ‘mistaking’ the floor of the bus for a bed.

As if keeping in Jenn’s mode, Miranda Pearson’s transit confession saw her falling off a bus after drinking too much tequila. Her poem, “The Heron” included such treasures as describing the leaves as ‘irritable.’

Kate Braid’s transit story had to do with her days as a labourer, riding the bus, carrying her toolbox. Her poem, from her tribute to Emily Carr, To This Cedar Fountain, transcended toolboxes, lunch kits and buses.

Susan led us from Kate’s steel-toed workboots to a story from Brenda Brooks. A very large cockroach was riding her bus; she was grateful to the steel-toed worker who cleared a path for her. Brenda’s poem got us all going, with its “Honey, you are so….”

Billeh Nickerson closed out the first set with his wildly romantic rendition of “Driving in Adam’s Jeep” – lots and lots of desire: “kiss me, kiss me, kiss me.”

And then we took a break (so may you, O gentle reader).

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Poetry in Transit

Heather Haley opened the second set with her poem, “Remain” – advice on eating would be one way to describe it. Her story about guns on the SF transit system made all of us glad to be BC’ers.

After reminding us of the honesty of 13-year-old sons (“Mom, can’t you change the picture on the back of your book?”), Diane Tucker read the aptly-titled “Waiting for the Bus.”

Margo Button told a bittersweet story about schizophrenia – as always, she made us think. She went on to read a poem set in New Zealand. Made me almost smell the frangipani.

Leona Gom read “Our Mothers” – a piece she referred to as ‘an old poem’ – but one that held just as true today, with this: “embroidered pillowcases still accuse us on the shelves of our modern lives.”

Gena Thompson’s poem about the sign on East Hastings (“Is it nothing to you?”) ended with: “It’s so real, I don’t even have to take a picture.”

Not only did she read her poem, “Nun in Heaven” – about a nun who arrives to find heaven empty – Winona Baker told us she’s been included in Haiku Journey, a video game!

Terence Young is always so brainily entertaining. Here’s a bit of dialogue from the piece he read: “That’s terrible Latin. No wonder you have no friends!”

Because Marusya Bociurkiw was out of town, her friend and publisher, Penny Goldsmith, read on her behalf. Check out Marusya's website – ‘network'.

And lucky me, I got to close, with my funny little poem that rode around on the buses all through 2004.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


That number used to be one of my favourite numbers. Not just because of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And not even because that age was an especially good year for me. It was just one of those numbers that are pleasing to me - among my reasons the elegance of how its front equals twice its back.

But events of this past weekend have spoiled the number for me. Sgt. Darcy Tedford and Pte. Blake Williamson have become deaths #41 and #42, members of our Canadian Forces who have died in Afghanistan.

I don’t use the word casualties to describe their being killed. There is nothing casual about these deaths.

The last time I blogged about the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan was April 25. I realize now that the date was ANZAC Day, the day Australians remember their soldiers killed in action. Since that posting, the number of dead Canadian soldiers has nearly tripled.

Even back in April, when I tried to compile a list of the dead soldiers as a sidebar, the list wouldn’t fit. So here they are below, the names of the 42.

Sgt. Darcy Tedford
Pte. Blake Williamson
Trooper Mark Andrew Wilson
Sgt. Craig Gillam
Cpl. Robert Mitchell
Pte. Josh Klukie
Cpl. Glen Arnold
Pte. David Byers
Cpl. Shane Keating
Cpl. Keith Morley
Pte. Mark Anthony Graham
Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish
Warrant Officer Richard Francis Nolan
Sgt. Shane Stachnik
Pte. William Jonathan James Cushley
Cpl. David Braun
Cpl. Andrew Eykelenboom
Master Cpl. Jeffrey Scott Walsh
Master Cpl. Raymond Arndt
Cpl. Christopher Reid
Pte. Kevin Dallaire
Sgt. Vaughn Ingram
Cpl. Bryce Jeffrey Keller
Cpl. Francisco Gomez
Cpl. Jason Patrick Warren
Cpl. Anthony Boneca
Capt. Nichola Goddard
Cpl. Matthew Dinning
Bombardier Myles Mansell,
Lieut. William Turner
Cpl. Randy Payne
Pte. Robert Costall
Cpl. Paul Davis
Master-Cpl. Timothy Wilson
Pte. Braun Woodfield
Cpl. Jamie Murphy
Sgt. Robert Short
Cpl. Robbie Beerenfenger
Sgt. Marc D. Leger
Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer
Pte. Richard Green
Pte. Nathan Smith

That's an awful lot of dead human beings. Try making a list of 42 friends. It's a lot of people - too many to invite to a party unless you're Bill Gates.

I am ashamed to say that Russ Hiebert, the MP from my riding, is parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor. Among tasks involved in this position is serving as O’Connor’s stand-in during question period. I am left feeling queasy thinking he might be in a position to make an emergency decision if one were required.

If you’d like to write to Russ to let him know how you feel about this ‘mission’ (how’s that for ugly irony – a word with religious connotations as a euphemism for war?), here’s his email address: Hiebert.R@parl.qc.ca

Or better yet – remember, postage is still free to write to a Member of Parliament – why not write him a letter? His address is 311 Confederation Building, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bill Deverell at White Rock Library

On Thursday, October 12th, Bill Deverell read to an enthusiastic audience of 40. Although he was reading from his latest novel, April Fool, he offered far more than the usual book promo event.

He told stories and jokes, and thoroughly entertained us. But probably the best part was his willingness to answer the many questions that were put to him. He treated us with descriptions of his writing routine, and came across not only as the the gentleman-scholar he is, but also as just-plain-normal human being.

Here's hoping the powers-that-be at the local library recognize that we support this kind of event.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Thanksgiving saw us heading out to gather goodlets from the forest. I'm set, complete with whistle and even a bell to keep bears away. A sign near one of our stops put it well: heck, we were recreatin' -- and looking for food at the same time.

Although this mushroom wasn't one to eat, I couldn't resist taking a picture. Fierce-looking little guy, isn't he? All those 'teeth' grinning down at the moss.

Even when we're not finding shrooms, a day in the bush provides plenty to satisfy -- especially when it's another day of perfect weather. Who could help but feel content in surroundings like these? Postcard, anyone?

From the looks of things, we'll be having a few feasts. The mushrooms in this assortment, starting at '9 o'clock' and moving clockwise are: honey, chanterelle, cauliflower, bolete -- rounded out with a mix of angel wings and oysters. Yum!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Party at the Arm!

We sure crammed a lot of fun into our visit up Indian Arm. As soon as we arrived, George had to test out his driver. And no, he swore to us, he wasn't aiming at the seals.

But he wasn't the only one who got to have fun.
We girls headed out to explore the ravine. The view there was fantastic -- one of the rewards of living in B.C.

As soon as I fell and banged my ankle, we decided to head for the water. Nothing like rowing up the Arm toward Silver Falls. Ah, and once you reach your goal, you have to celebrate!

Of course, no weekend at the cabin could be complete without a bonfire.
Still, this whole excursion was supposed to be all about a birthday. So what did we do? [to be continued...]

More Party at the Arm!

We had a party, complete with home-made birthday hats.

But come Sunday morning,
it's time to pack up and head for home.

One more goodbye,
and then we're off

-- until next year!