Friday, January 27, 2012

In all things, balance

It might have been just the up-and-down weather, or maybe the approaching end-of-month (already?). Whatever the cause, it’s felt like a very mixed week.

Despite almost utter failure at making fortune cookies the other day (they turned out soggy and limp, hardly an inspiration for good fortune) and miserable news from nearly every part of the world, last night’s literary event in White Rock made up for a bunch of disappointments.

Cynthia Woodman Kerkham was the guest poet, reading from her wonderful new book, Good Holding Ground. For a few of those poems she was joined by local musician, Ron Bull.

I took this picture during their performance of a poem called “Ritual for the Winter Solstice.” The piece held special resonance for me as it focuses on a labyrinth that was built by men from William Head Institute on Vancouver Island.

The labyrinth is an image that works well to describe the way “We spiral into winter…”. And then consider then the fact that labyrinth walkers also turn around and retrace their steps round and round to make their exit. There it is, the hope of escape and movement again to the light. And yes, I love the fact that it was a group of prisoners who built the particular labyrinth she wrote about, the one at Victoria's First Unitarian Church.

Kerkham’s poems took us sailing off to thoughts of hope, of springtime and light. And Ron’s flute playing contributed so much, dancing around the words in a sparkling kind of counterpoint.

This morning, I didn’t attempt any complex recipes, but was delighted to find a poem pouring itself out onto the page. If only all readings could bring so much inspiration.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Too much hope

Apparently that’s what our group of ‘outmates’ brought to our fellow writers, the inmates at Matsqui Penitentiary.

The powers-that-be at the institution have decreed that our occasional retreat weekends, where insiders and outsiders get together to workshop samples of our current writing, have forthwith been cancelled.

This was a program that cost the institution almost nothing. Okay, the prison provided us with lunch on both Saturday and Sunday. But really, these meals could not have cost a lot, as they were usually grilled cheese or sloppy joes or hot dogs – the same fare given to the men for their midday meal. Further, we brought our own supplies for making coffee and tea. We even brought doughnuts for all (including a separate box of doughnuts for the guards).

Reasons for the program’s cancellation? Several petty-sounding issues have been cited, but it mainly seems yet another way to punish the inmates.

It sounds mostly as though the men were getting too much out of it. Especially too much in the way of self-respect.

Yet, if inmates don’t get the chance to develop self-respect while they’re incarcerated, how – when they’re released – can they be expected to reintegrate themselves back into society as self-respecting, law-abiding citizens?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


We've had some more snow, only this time it looks less like snow than some sort of packing material.

Not hard like hail (though that's what it looks like), just perfectly round 'flakes' (er, pellets?) that look like snowballs so G.I. Joe and Barbie could have themselves a party.

And no, Virginia, there's no such thing as climate change.

Friday, January 13, 2012

First snow

...of the year, first snow of the season.

After a successful evening in Vancouver, as part of SFU's TWS series, when I got off the bus at our local park 'n ride, a few flakes were just starting to fall.

By the time I drove home, it was really starting to fall, and I just had to walk outside and look around. The photo is a picture of our street. No tracks in the road yet, all fresh and white and new.

And no flash, just my trusty little Nikon Coolpix set on auto 'scene' and me holding my breath for the duration of the exposure. There aren't any streetlights on our road, only a few porch lights burning -- I guess for just such an occasion as this.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Dead Poets Come to Life

While that header looks a lot like the plotline for a zombie show -- think: The Walking Dead -- the event in question couldn't be further afield.

Every other month, a dedicated group of Vancouver poets host readings in which they celebrate the work of -- yes, dead poets. They call themselves the Dead Poets Reading Society, and should not be mistaken for the similarly-titled film with Robin Williams.

Yesterday's event had series founder David Zieroth reading from the poems of Thomas Hardy. I'd known Hardy as a novelist (Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, etc.), not a poet, and Zieroth offered just enough in the way of introduction and backnotes to really make the poems (if not the poet himself) come to life.

Diane Tucker then presented poems by Christina Rossetti. Again, I was surprised, especially by the underlying sexuality in the poems. As I said to Diane afterwards, 'I'd always pretty much dismissed Christina Rossetti as being kind of an old fart.' Hardly poetic, but that's what I'd thought.

Miranda Pearson then read poems by Stevie Smith. Pearson's lovely English accent made it almost seem as though Smith might be in the room. And yes, she read the most famous of her poems, "Not Waving but Drowning" -- the phrase Janet Frame picked up in her great(est?) novel, Faces in the Water.

Garry Thomas Morse (pictured above) did a similarly eerie reading of work by Jack Spicer. This wasn't too surprising a choice for Morse, as his 2010 collection, After Jack, is a kind of transformational homage to Spicer.

The event ended with John Donlan presenting examples of the lifework of Edward Thomas, a poet I'd never heard of. Like, duh. I'm supposed to know these things, aren't I? Thomas was killed in World War I, only three years after he'd turned to poetry. It's interesting to imagine what he might have written had he lived.

Several of the afternoon's presentations seemed almost like channeling -- but maybe I was just getting into the spirit of things.

The next reading in the series will celebrate the poetry of Irving Layton. The event will take place on March 11th, the day before what would have been Layton's 100th birthday. Maybe see you there.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Good intentions, at least

No, I don't take the plunge at the annual Polar Bear Swim, but I do my best to always attend, at least cheering on the crazies -- er, participants.

Still, this is part of my resolve to walk more this year. A walk along the promenade at White Rock beach is always a great way to start the new year. And a good way to put one resolution into practice.