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Les Semaines

00.07.30

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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Rewards

With the real true publication of my book (it hasn't shown up in any bookstores that I know of yet, even online ones but I've got multiple copies now, so it must be true) to some friends I said "picture me sitting on the floor, surrounded by books, grinning and gloating". That's how I feel. This is one of the biggest rewards of the work. There's the thrill of first draft rush sometimes, and the thrill of getting a line, a poem, a group of poems, a manuscript, finally right, of accomplishment when you actually print something out to send it out in the mail, but there's nothing like seeing your work in print, and once you've seen it in magazines, there's nothing like seeing your own collection. Each book represents years of work, and there are few things that actually give you something physical to hold in your hand as a reward for that kind of work.

It makes me recognize the word Robin Skelton introduced me to, makar, maker, as a word for poets. It's hard to see that word in connection with writing except in the form of a book.

That's one of the reasons by publishing online seems not as rewarding to me, whatever Stephen King may think of it or may do. It might also be because I love books so much: the ink-smell and feel and shape and heft of them, shuffling the pages, feeling the physical progress as I read the words and open to a new page deeper and deeper into the book.

I've been slowly reading a book about the stars of silent film--it's fascinating to read about their films, their lives, and their success and the fantastic rewards they received while they worked, and equally fascinating to think of how little regarded they are now. Sure, some are icons--nearly everyone has heard of Valentino, and immediately get an image of him as the sheik or in some other dangerously suave overposed stance when they hear his name, but who can pull up an image of Pickford or Fairbanks who were giants in their time? And so few of the films they made still even exist or are viewable. The things they made have faded out of use. And few have interest in them anymore. They were makers and their work is disappearing as the medium they were made on disappears from fashion and physically degrades.

We've been watching some silent films, and they're charming and fascinating and far more sophisticated than most people think. They're not all melodramas, though plenty are: we saw The It Girl where the shopgirl, charming Clara Bow, gets the rich storeowner, which is the same old tangled tale (with various twists) told in more recent films (not so much different from Pretty Woman is it?) We saw a Harold Lloyd comedy, Safety Last, which at first I dreaded watching because I hate slapstick, but the physical comedy was so clever I was delighted with the film. (We laughed crazily as Lloyd and his roommate hid from their landlady coming for the rent by hiding in their overcoats hanging on the wall.)

Because styles and interest and technology has changed few people watch The It Girl and in years to come fewer and fewer people will watch Pretty Woman. Styles and tastes will change, and new technology will replace the kind of movies we make and watch now.

Books have lasted for hundreds of years with mostly only the technology needed to make them changing over the years. Books in the form they exist now have been the same pretty much since the invention of the press (and actually even before, with illustrated books being bound similarly to the way we bind books now). It breaks my heart to think that books won't exist in the future. Or perhaps they will be something that only the rich or libraries have and collect as they were in the beginning. Or maybe people will just be stubborn and keep on liking lightweight pages to turn, whether they're made of paper or we find something more sustainable to make them from.

Long live books!

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

Listening

Well, I'm finally pretty much through all that listening to discs to decide whether or not to keep them. so far the list of discs for sale stands at over 200. They're mostly pretty obscure things that I hope will be of interest to people on the ecto list, and I'm pricing them very low and including postage in the price. I don't think I'll be able to handle all the email and packaging and stuff involved in it for a while (and f course we're still adding to the sale pile, though far more slowly now), so I think I'll wait until September to make any kind of announcement on ecto or anywhere. If you're reading this, though, and you're interested, feel free to send me email and I'll mail you the list so far.

As part of this I have rediscovered Heather Nova. I didn't like her recent disc, and I have realized it is entirely due to the production on it, because when I was going through our collection of her I listened to a bunch of her live performances and loved them, and listened to acoustic versions of the songs that are on the album I dislike so much and love them. What a waste! Well, at least I have that live material and acoustic stuff to listen to, and I hear she has a new live disc out in Europe. What is it about her? The power of her voice and expressiveness. Really wonderful.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Margaret Peters Haddox's Just Ella starts at the happily ever after ending of the Cinderella story. In this there was no magic, just a resourceful girl trying to create a new life for herself and rebelling against the restrictions her stepmother placed on her life. So now here she is, about to marry the prince and being taught court etiquette, and only visiting the gorgeous Prince Charming during chaperoned visits. Is this the life she wants to live? It's an interesting premise, and I did enjoy reading it, particularly the character of Ella, but it proved to be just a little too clichéd for a book purporting to break the stereotypes of the fairy tale. In fact it reads a little like a politically corrected fairy tale.

I didn't mean to read Julia Hill Butterfly's book The Legacy of Luna. Jim brought it home from the library because he's written a poem about her and was curious, and I just picked it up idly and got caught up in it immediately. This is the book written by the woman who sat in a redwood (named Luna) for over two years trying to get a logging company to spare it and a surrounding group of trees. Her style (or her ghostwriters'--it's not clear how heavily this was edited or written by others) is clear and swift, and easy to read. I was done in a matter of a couple of hours at the most. Hers is a fascinating story--both her dedication to the cause, her knowledge (which grew over the whole tree-sitting event), how the whole story of her getting to the tree, staying there, and finally coming down unfolded. While some of her spirituality seemed a little flighty, I'm not sure that's her fault as I think spirituality is impossible to portray in this kind of breezy easily read style, and I don't think she would want to give that up for the sake of conveying the depths of her own relationship to the world. The point is that the book conveys the events that happened to her from her own point of view, and you cannot help but admire her for sticking with her beliefs and feel certain that those beliefs are deeply held, simply because of what she endured. Anyway, if you're interested at all in reading a focused story about one particular fight to better our planet, read this. Or if you're interested in the environmental movement and what one particular logging company is up to. Or just interested in what it takes to have the stamina to endure something like this. Or just interested in a good, quick read about an interesting personality. It works on all these levels.

Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children is indeed as interesting as the reviews I've seen of it make it sound. Here a young woman finds herself involved in a world of deep magic, both dark and light, when her family inherits a house whose previous owner unknowingly kept a magical talisman which holds the key to all the magic of Atlantis. It's an interesting story of a woman growing up, of interactions of magicians both "good" and "bad" and strong and weak, of a mixture of Celtic myth and tales of the lost kingdom of Atlantis, and of the movements of time itself. And it's a book where, despite the black and white nature of some of the magic, the magic in the real world feels real and the involvement of just regular folk with the magic feels real. I thought it was very well handled. My only immediately quibble with the book was especially early on I found the author's heavy-handed uses of similes awkward. Otherwise it was a fine read and an intriguing story. Obviously there's lots of room for other stories from this scenario, and I'll welcome them.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

It's amazing how when I'm writing I'm always in such a hugely better mood than I am when I'm not writing. The novel is progressing. Not quickly, but it's progressing, and actually more quickly than it has in a long while. It's also amazing how much more quickly it progresses when I actually sit down at the computer with the chapter I'm working on open in front of me than it does when I'm working on email or surfing the net. Well, the things you learn when you can stay at home and concentrate on learning how to work!

Actually, I'm embarrassed about how in my head I know that to write you need to apply your butt to the chair and write and how easily I let myself put other things in front of that. It's no good, and I know it. And this week, without even really, truly pushing myself, I wrote 20 pages. It makes me want to kick my own butt thinking about what I could do if I really truly pushed myself. And I so badly want to finish at least the first draft of this novel by the end of the summer. And now my mother is talking about coming to visit. And maybe bringing Dad, and maybe bringing her two dogs. This isn't a bad thing at all--I've been dying to see them, and I do need so badly to learn how to deal with distractions this big. I'm thinking right now that I will just shut myself in a room (probably not my study as mine is the guest room) for at least three hours a day. Afternoons are good as my mother usually naps then anyway for a while. It should be really easy to do as we have two semi-functional portable computers to begin with. I can put them anywhere, or I can work on Jim's computer or I can move mine into our basement bedroom temporarily. It will work, and I'll learn a little more self-discipline along the way. Jim's reading this, so I know he'll help hold me to it.

In other good news, I got a letter on Thursday to tell me that, pending official approval, I will be received a $2,500 grant from the King County Arts Council to work on a section of my poems from Scotland. This is a group of poems that link the west coast of the Pacific Northwest with the west coast of Scotland. Whoo!

I also got asked to have a poem appear in the first print anthology that will be put out by The Alsop Review.

And now I have boxes of Blood Memory so it seems so much more real. Whoo hoo!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

March 1977

782. No sensible things

I don't have any sensible things in my mind. All my thoughts are entirely nonsensical. I like aardwolves, wolverines, and wombats. I hate philosophy, plates and Caesar. (Lions 3, Christians 1.) Render unto Caesar all philosophy, let him get stuck with these sensible things. Liberation for aardwolves. They are finite spirits deserving of the infinite, as are we all. This room is lopsided. Everyone is sitting on the left.

783. Harold's instructions

Good morning. Put on your black hood. Follow the instructions closely: a) Gurgle in your throat, b) Gush blood out of your ears, d) Make Rankin into a grapefruit rind, d) teach him how to fly. Got it? Great. Now stand back, get ill, bleed on the little wimpfruit. Then throw, hurl, etc., him at the wall. Either way you win: i) he cannot fly anyway so he will fall flat on his face and have to fig dirt out of his nose, ii) you will hurl him with such force that he bloodies up the wall. After all this has been done, rest. It is the seventh day. Justice has been done, mankind cleansed. Pat yourself on the back.

784. Rob on raised consciousness

Everyone is sitting on the left [1]. The room is not lopsided. Everyone has had their consciousness raised. How or where? Certainly not in this class, which commits the student to boredom, and crossing out schematic ideas that the prof mixes up, and writing [inserted] "things" three times. Philosophy students of Phil 100 unite! You have nothing lose but your existence. (If you exist.) Libby has just "come up for air." The rest of us are doomed to drown.

785. Bill's letter

                                        Students of Phil. 100
                                        Cor. 108, UVic
                                        Victoria, B.C.
                                        Mar. 23, 1977

Members of the Senate
UVic
Victoria, B.C.

Dear Senators,

We feel called upon the bring to your attentions, circumstances existing in our University which, we are sure you will agree, must be corrected immediately in the interests of sanity, psychic satisfaction, and prevention of suicide. Specifically, there is one Prof. Rankin (of questionable existence) who seems to be bent on utterly destroying any remaining traces of intellectual curiousity in the minds of those students he has been assigned to teach (to use the term very loosely). Beginning with a class of about fifty, he has succeeded in reducing this number to about fifteen, and of these, the collective I.Q. has been reduced to about 92. Put simply and rather graphically, Philosophy 100 consists of a head of cabbage spooning out fertilizer to a pumpkin patch.
     We trust that the Senate, in all its wisdom, can see its way clear to move to correct the situation, assassination being a completely acceptable solution.

                                        Yours in vegetation,
                                        The students of Phil 100
[and five of us signed] [2]

786. Boredom + inertia

A this time of year is there really so much boredom around that everyone can have such a large share? Inertia is a force and has overcome us all. We lie cluttered beneath its feet. We are too far from everything. Inertia is a wall and separates us from everything. It costs too much effort to come to class. But i do. All except English 121. I only go there once a week. All i can take. I do a lot of clockwatching.

787. Psychopaths

That's what we're talking about. Was/is Hitler psychotic? He had lots of neuroses, but probably wasn't psychotic. Personally i am psychotic, neurotic, paranoid, and generally mad/angry/crazy/out to lunch. You too? Phono too? Phono seems to go wherever i go. I wonder why.

788. Disorder

Behavioural/mental disorder. My room is in disorder. My house is in disorder. My mind is in disorder. Is that mental disorder? [Two quotes from different songs from Al Stewart's Modern Times omitted.] See? My mind is in clutter and disorder. I have trouble getting to sleep. Before i can sleep i have to anaesthetize my thoughts. They get too rambunctious at night. At night they turn into aardwolves and rasampi. Remember Shaun and the rasampus? So long ago. Everything is so long ago. I am so long ago.

789. A break

Phono, give me a break. I need one badly.
I need
one.
This third floor is getting monotonous, but i don't want to get that way. Today there are chemical changes inside me and i feel them like i should faint. I should feel sick but don't, and i search for pain.
There is none.
There is
none.

790. Philosophy class moved

Rankin moved our philosophy class into a smaller room. Now he can really watch me laugh. I guess i can't pass Phono around anymore. Why did he bother with only two more weeks to go? He is no more rational at close range--rather, he is harder to look at. How can i cope at close quarters? I'll never be able to. Help.

791. Two more weeks

Only two more weeks. Then exams, then freedom. Oh my. Can't go into her complicated condition. Nightly precautions. What's going on? [Long series of quotes from a Larry Norman song about loneliness omitted.]


NOTES

1. Rob is referring to the political discussions we had at the time. He was a socialist and I was argumentative and still shaped by my father's conservative leanings.

2. This letter never left The Phonosnout's pages

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