Monday, April 30, 2018

Free coffee!

That's the deal at a nearby coffee shop -- but only good during the month of April. To get your coffee, you need to 'pay' with a poem. A nice promo for National Poetry Month, and a great way to encourage customers who might not otherwise visit. The wall above shows some of the poems people have brought in as exchange for their hot drink.

I'm not sure what it is about poetry and coffee shops -- or, as they were once more commonly called, 'coffee houses' -- whatever their name, they come with a long history.

It seems they always appealed to a certain brand of people, often those with strong political views. Strong viewpoints, strong coffee. Who knows.

Then, in the middle of the 20th century, the term began to apply to a new kind of coffee house, one that was more of a celebratory event, often taking place in a church basement or other free or low-cost venue. These attracted musicians and writers, especially poets.

The coffee house as venue was strongly associated with Beatniks, themselves a kind of social phenomenon that grew out of the Beat Movement -- Kerouac, Ginsberg and company -- a movement that branched out into music (especially the lyrics) of groups like Jim Morrison and the Doors.  Today there's even a publishing house based on encouraging writers who work in coffee shops.

A simple cup of coffee. A poem on a page. Sometimes, a world opened.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A poetic Earth Day experience

Yesterday, Earth Day, I celebrated by taking the ferry to Victoria and participating with other writers who were reading poems for the planet. It felt nicely 'Earth Day ish' seeing the Recycling bins on the boat and watching to see how careful people were about looking, then thinking, before tossing their items into the appropriate bins. A small step, but an important one. Awareness.

The event was organized by Victoria's Poet Laureate, Yvonne Blomer, who's approaching the end of her four-year term.

Among her accomplishments is her legacy project, the anthology, Refugium: Poems for the Pacific.

The reading was held in the city's Centennial Square, where life-sized statues of Orcas hold court, so our poems about the ocean fit right in.

Each of the poets read and spoke to the situation facing us. There was even a scientist in our midst, a man doing research at U Vic's Department of Oceanography. He reminded us of Carl Sagan calling our planet "a pale blue dot" and called the image itself the most elaborate-ever selfie.

This time, the Orcas in the square were the only ones I saw, as I didn't see any whales on the ferry rides. But I did get slightly meditative (for lack of a better word) watching the gulls floating on the sea and feeding along the tideline. There was something about the way the surface of the water was constantly moving and shifting that made me consider the absurdity of us thinking we can lay claim to a patch of earth -- even if it (luckily) doesn't shift and move the way water does.

We can't own the planet. If there's any owning to be done, the planet owns us, and we owe -- not only our existence -- but our fealty and respect to it.

If you didn't get to see it, I hope you will track down the Google Doodle from yesterday -- Jane Goodall's life and lessons. She's gone beyond awareness and respect, by living her life in service to the planet, its animals and the environment. May we all learn from her, and act accordingly.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Celebrating the bright lights of poetry

This year's National Poetry Month is already more than half over, and oh, we better not be counting how many new poems have been churned out.

Some people observe this celebration by writing a poem every day. Though I'm not one of them, I've heard quite a few friends say they've signed on to NaPoWriMo, with the plan to write a poem every day for the whole month of April. You might want to follow that link in the sentence above, as it's a site that offers prompts, examples and lots of encouragement -- every day, all month long.

Like I said, I'm not that dedicated, especially as for me, poems mostly 'arrive' as words in the night, and then take more drafts than I might even want to admit.

There is, however, one organized poem-writing contest I always take part in -- the 2-Day Poetry Contest sponsored by CV2 Magazine. You get ten words on Friday night and have to use all of them in a poem by the always-too-soon deadline on Sunday night. And there's always at least one word in the list that's so obscure, pretty much no one has ever heard of it. This year's stumper was (for me, at least) roric. Somehow, I don't think it's going to catch on in any big way.

There's still time to find some way to celebrate this special month -- if you don't want to write a poem, you might at least read some poetry. Plenty of it is available online, with many sites offering suggestions, including the fun-sounding Poem in Your Pocket project.

Neon-bright and maybe even flashy, poetry really isn't the daunting subject your crabbiest English teacher managed to scare you with. Poke around and you might surprise yourself. Who knows, you might even write a poem.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Torn apart

That's a term I heard on this morning's news. Describing how the town of Humboldt, Saskatchewsn is reeling with grief  -- a feeling that is rippling across the country after a horrific bus crash. At this point, the count of the dead is 14. More than enough for two lines of players, plenty for a rousing match of shinny.

The term 'torn apart' may be resonating so deeply for me for two reasons. Primarily, because I know the town of Humboldt. I've spent time there, walked its streets, enjoyed the light of autumny days there. I understand the feeling of community and connectedness that resides in the people there.

The other reason is that I stayed up past midnight, needing to finish a book wouldn't let me go -- Timothy Taylor's The Rule of Stephens. One of its central ideas is that of being torn apart, whether physically, psychologically or emotionally.

So this morning when the news greeted me with this term, it connected on a deeper level than it might have yesterday, as that term -- with all of its levels of meaning -- keeps echoing.

There's a candle burning in the kitchen, but I am feeling helpless in this sadness.

As a sad update, yet another person has died -- this time the only woman on the bus, the team's athletic trainer, Dayna Brons. The total now has gone to 16.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A convergence of calendars

Two of my favourite calendars this year both have images of an odd-looking fish -- a creature I've learned is called a unicorn fish, for fairly obvious reasons.

But there's a more significant convergence today -- anniversaries of two people who made a big difference in speaking out for racial equality among the rest of us fish in the sea.

It's been fifty years since Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He is still held in great esteem and is now commemorated with a national holiday in the US. Although much has improved, his work certainly isn't done. But this leads me to think about the other significant person associated with this day.

It would have been the 90th birthday of the multi-talented writer, Maya Angelou. Perhaps best known for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she was commemorated today with a delightful Google doodle, that used animation, along with the voices of a range of writers and actors performing her poem, "Still I rise".

A link of somewhat-bizarre calendar images, a birth-and-death connection involving two people courageous enough to truly make a difference in the world. Magical as unicorns.