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Les Semaines

00.05.21

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Recovery Zone

Trying to get back on track after my last few crazy weeks, but events aren't really cooperating. We haven't been very social recently, which has helped but I still manage to spend a lot of time not catching up on things, not working, and my e-mail inbox has reached unprecedented mass. Very embarrassing. I shudder to think what's hidden in there.

I haven't heard from my publisher since early in the week, so I'm thinking that the book really has gone to press. I hope so. It's funny, I'm scared to e-mail or phone and ask just in case it hasn't and there has been some delay. I believe it has gone to press. I want it to have gone to press. It will definitely be June before I see it, though. Maybe July. That means it's time for me to start setting up some readings. Argh. I hate this part of it all--the self-promotion part. The inviting myself places part. I'm used to it, but still don't like it. I really had better get started. I wish I had the money to do a real book tour of some kind, but I haven't and I'm not good at contacting people I don't know to do this, though I'd better gear myself up to get started.

This is me. This is my book. Here, world, take it. But I have to. I'm ambitious for this book; it's an ambitious book. I like to think it's visceral enough to capture any audience and intellectual enough to capture those who want to delve deeper, to study the mysteries. And that it's mysterious enough for those who don't like things laid out but clear enough so that it's not simply vague. I know audiences at my readings have responded well to the poems, it's just a matter of how well they work together on the printed page in this particular organization.

I should be making lists of people to contact, but I'm not yet. I really am still recovering from the pressure of recent weeks, trying not to let myself focus on the pressure of things I should be doing too much--just enough to help me not procrastinate so much but not enough so that I feel that the pressure never did let up.

Working on this poem has been instructive, as I'm watched the words not quite come to my fingers. I'm rusty. I can envision and revise but creating new work is hard right now, the gears aren't turning, I'm out of steam somehow, and it makes me frustrated and angry at myself, which locks up the gears even more tightly.

Listening to angry music feeds into it, so I'm trying to listen to things that aren't quite so unforgiving. Really the hardest we are is to ourselves. We know exactly what we should be capable of, and when we're not we know the both edges of the gap entirely too well. Here is where I failed. And it's right beneath our eyes, under our fingertips, toes curling over the edges. So sharp I can cut myself on it. The edge of the abyss. Razorwire.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

Jim and I both continue to enjoy Jorane. It's a really wonderfully evocative disc, truly beautiful and fierce, though gentle at times, too.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Guy Gavriel Kay's Lord of Emperors is the second in a duo of books with the overall title The Sarantine Mosaic. As is more easily guessed from the title of the first, Sailing to Sarantium, (commented on in my January 10, 1999 entry) this is a re-imagined Byzantine Empire, with touches of W.B. Yeats' vision of "Sailing to Byzantium". The image of the mosaic is the key to the way the books are structured--the focus shifts between characters and events, all of which add up to a composite picture in the way a mosaic does--if you look closely they are bits of glass which catch light or don't, and it's only when you step back to look that the overall picture is clear. Kay doesn't overplay this--the bits aren't so small that the novels don't flow and as always his lucid prose shines. I have a couple of quibbles in that characters who are important in the early novel get short shrift in the second and there are a few two many perfectly beautiful and deviously political women, but I would still recommend this one.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Sister of My Heart isn't as magical as the first novel hers I read, Mistress of Spices (commented on in my May 30, 1999 entry) but is still a charming novel and her prose is a joy to read. This is about two Indian girls who are brought up in Calcutta in an old but now nearly impoverished family, and is told in first person, alternating between the two. Anju is impetuous, intelligent, and ambitious; Sudha is startling beautiful, more practical, and obedient. They are closer than sisters and this leads them not to be able to see each other too clearly as they grow up and their lives become complicated by early marriages for financial reasons. I really enjoyed this tale, which seems both modern and exotic because of its fully realized setting. Highly recommended.

Also read a mystery by Minette Walters called The Scold's Bridle because my mother had loaned it to me. She'd been led to do that by the idea of the scold's bridle, as several years ago when we were all travelling in Scotland together we'd seen one in the Royal Museum in Edinburgh. The novel seemed a pretty standard murder mystery with the usual charming characters and the underlying sordid reality. Ho hum, but a fine quick read, except the resolution, which seemed lame. Plot? Oh, a woman is found dead in her bathtub with her wrists slit and wearing a scold's bridle that was a family heirloom stuffed around with flowers. Suicide? No, murder.

I got Jim hooked on China Miéville--he read King Rat and immediately launched into Perdido Street Station. He also came up with a great way to describe his writing: Bosch-like. Oh yes.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Trying to focus back on the novel. It's hard, though, but ideas are jelling. More ideas than words right now, I'm afraid.

And I'm working on finishing a poem up for a workshop tomorrow evening. Hope I manage it--this one is pretty sketchy so far.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

January 1977

686. Rob say something? (if even out of boredom) [1]

What does 686 mean? (P.S. This is embarrassing!)
Oh oh. 686 means that this is chapter 686 in The Phonosnout
Okay, but what is The Phonosnout???
[Quote of the poem the title comes from omitted] (In other words, 686 chapters of junk collection--thoughts, hopes, worries, and four-month periods of depression, three-minute periods of happiness.)
Did you make that up? ...whoops, Rankin just said we were advancing to the next page (after 3 days). I shall have to revert to my fanatical notetaking. [2] Can I read some of The Phonosnout sometime, or is it ultra-private?
Any Phono audience appreciated unless it bugs you to see inside someone (it's a warped view). The original poem was by a kid called Graham Falk who at one time existed somewhere in Victoria. I think he really was Rankin in disguise.
Note--we are still not proceeding. Is Rankin a gnome? Yes, that's it. You have arrived at the essence of Rankin's existence. (There must be at least so much reality in the course... etc., ad nauseum.
Are you enjoying yourself? (Fanatical notepassing.)
I've written more this class than I usually do when Rankin goes on for a full hour. Yes, I am enjoying myself. Bye!

687. Acquired an hour

I added an hour today. Passing out of boredom (English). Being absent from boredom. Cheers.

688. Sunday i tried

Sunday i tried and it was Thursday already. Here i can say anything and not worried about coherence. Or verb tenses. You don't have to understand; i don't understand it. Anyone can pass it along. I only share words and pass them around. If you let them jell they'll be true. (It's Thursday.)

689. No aardwolves

No aardwolves [3] lately, where have they all been? I wonder what has happened to them? Actually they've been hiding out in Lower Afganistan [sic], B.C. I've been sending them postcards. Their address is:
        Aardwolves
        Lower Afganistan, B.C.
                Canada
I wonder if they're coming home?

690. Woke up this morning

Woke up this morning to padding paw sounds. My bed surrounded. They were back. Gingerly i swung my legs to the floor. Wet noses pressed against them.
It must have been a long trek from Lower Afganistan, B.C.

691. What??

Looking at my baby but he wasn't there. Whatever that means, a line corrupted from a song (as all they all). And so it goes, while the songwriters scream, and children cry. Where can they play?

692. Nice we're having weather

If i hadn't started talking, i wouldn't have anything to say, but my pen scratched across the page. I wonder if anyone understands as Phono expands. Rob's reading old Phono now. I wonder if he understands. Maybe. Personality profile exists, my pancake batter Phono. Whatever. Anyway. Nice we're having weather.

693. Can't recapture

I can't recapture that sly humour Phono used to display. Not that i've tried. Whatever. I'm not worth trying, nothing pains me. My humour died with a four-month depression. Just as human time will perish.

694. Going nowhere

Hey, we're all going nowhere. No place i can understand. We're only heading here and now. There's no way to finish it or anything, while nothing's happening. Only the lonely would understand. I don't. (Is that true?) I wonder what this is really all about, if anything. Poor Phono. What's the buzz?

Blue are gone

Blues gone, but my shoes still refuse to dance [4]. My shoes are pale, fading blue, but reheeled. No one. Yeah? What's that? Them blue shoes hassling you again? Somewhere in the middle of five people, that's me, my five people are warring, straining at the me in the middle [5].


NOTES

1. This was written in our Philosophy 100 class. This is not the first time I had asked people to write in The Phonosnout as a way to flirt with them! And didn't I note a couple of weeks ago that Rob would appear again? Rankin was the professor

2. I had already teased Rob a couple of times about his fanatical notetaking.

3. I used to make up stories featuring aardwolves for fun about a year previous to this. I think it became a symbol of being lighthearted enough to make up silly stories like this.

4. Reference to Larry Norman's "Blue Shoes White" song, the song what uses shoes as a metaphor for spirit.

5. Can't quite make out the diagram I have after this statement. At the top there's "Rowdy C.[hristian]", bottom "Cool C.", left there's "R." [don't know what that stands for since rowdy is already there] and middle there's "me" then to the right there's Straight C. Somewhere to what would be southwest if these were directions is D.C., another abbreviation that I don't remember what it stands for.

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