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Les Semaines

01.4.22

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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Clarion Head Clearing

Well, at last the class is set: as of late this week we've contacted all the students and they have all said they're coming, and I can breathe this big sigh of relief and relax and try to catch up on everything I've been letting slip while I obsessed over the Clarion stuff. Not that I'm done with everything, of course, but the major stuff is over. All the rejections have been printed and only three still remain to be mailed, the student information packets are made and labelled and mailed, the class members are busy online introducing themselves to each other on their listserve and I now have a semi-quiet two months before the workshop begins to get everything ready.

It feels very strange.

In fact, it has been rather a strange week. Leslie and I were in almost constant contact for most of it and then suddenly didn't need to be, and don't quite know how not to be.

And on Friday I was on strike. I even showed up and walked the picket lines for about 90 minutes before I got too cold and my back started to hurt from walking on concrete. We're striking because we've had lousy raises for the last ten years and they keep eroding whatever gains we get by raising the amounts we have to put in ourselves for our health insurance. Working for the state/university has some nice benefits--mostly working in the academic environment for me--but the raises are embarrassing, especially given that in the same time period rents in Seattle have doubled. I really don't know how most people get by, and I can't imagine being a single parent trying to make it on our pay scale. Graduate students get much more than us per hour. But of course we're wasting our time because the legislature isn't going to seriously consider raises for state employees. Not for a minute. They're just going to re-emphasize that it's illegal for us to go on strike in the first place.

I've been so busy and obsessed that I actually forgot that I was part of a group reading for the Pontoon anthology on Thursday night. It was bad because it was scheduled opposite Tamar's first gig in a long time, opening for a band at the Rendezvous. Jim went there to be our family emissary, while I went to the reading. It was at the Frye Art Museum, which is one of my favourite spaces to read in. They have good acoustics and a nice microphone. But partway through my second poem I started having a horrible tickle in my throat and had a coughing fit. Sigh. A reader's nightmare, which I hope guarantees that I don't have any such event in the reading tour in the fall, which is starting to get itself organized in the in-between moments.

As well as the chapbook we're trying to put together for the League of Canadian Poets.

As well as everything else.

What an odd, head-swimming week.

I'm very tired. And grateful for this quiet weekend. I could use another one before I have to go to work tomorrow.

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

Listening

Second verse same as the first. In other words, last week's comments are the same as this. Repetition of music is a great source of pleasure in my life as albums come more and more into focus. Especially adored ones.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

This week, unable to concentrate on much of anything, I continued to re-read Lloyd Alexander's tales of the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his friends in The Chronicles of Prydain. I read The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, and Taran Wanderer. They remain light and fun but the undercurrents get a little more interesting as they go on, and they remain wonderfully readable, for adults as well as kids. Imaginative, fun, and meaningful. They don't have any Alan Garner type depth but they're charming and entertaining and not at all flip. Oh, and I remembered the journal that prompted me to pull these back off my shelves: check out Words Diminish.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I'm working on a new poem! Hallelujah! I just got so tired of the damn "Auchindrain" thing clogging my mind. It can just stay unfinished for a while. The new poem won't be quite so ambitious, but I like it so far.

Only had time to tinker with Bryony's Needle chapter 2, though, as far as working on the fiction goes. I just have to remember that as long as I keep going during hectic times like these I'm doing okay.

I remain terrified of stalling out again.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

November - December 1979

1053. After
November 30, 1979

Christina, I'm coming to you with my afterwards: after a profitable evening last night, ad a profitable hour and half long conversation with K.C. [1] First: evening...
     drinks with Ann York & Rhonda Batchelor [2] during which time I learned to avoid certain poetry consequences--strange romantic involvements that cause gossip even years after wards. An important piece of advice--never fall in love with another poet (goodbye to all those potential lovers!) [3]. Then we went to find a cheap dinner (slowly and talking). All right. Then we went to a workshop, during which I learned a fair amount and had my ego boosted people care about my opinion! [Wow!] <-- a massive interjection of surprise and awe. There are people who are interesting and whose lives have some direction.
     K.C. Was ego boosting also in that he thought my poem was the best in From an Island (a compliment from him!!) [4]. We just talked, and it was good to hear real conversation again, and to partake in it. I read part of one of his essays and was quite taken with his style --> intelligent, and clear, good use of language. I wish I could write like that (sigh). It is positive to know that a man can exist with that kind of intelligence and still have emotional and spiritual sensitivity. If it sounds like I'm raving, I am. I want to find his twin to keep for my very own.

1054. Getting up early
December 1, 1979

I began in a foul mood, because I'd only had five hours sleep. Home late & slightly under the influence from a strange creative writing party--quite an odd one...strange people acting strangely and draining me. It was a time. So this day I ache, and the day aches me, and I am unable to take any anything, unable to work, unable to answer even the phone--a dead loss full of sleep.
     So that is me, I am the person complaining and unpleasant, neurotic and fat, scratching madly at all my scars. What a way to live a weekend! I was so glad to get away from work, then I went to the Amity to hear Linda's Russ play [5]. I enjoyed the music, but was not fit for company, made an early night of it and blugged around home.
     This is a sad time of year and my life isn't smooth and happy. Neither is my job or even my skin. I can't write--essays or poems or even excuses. It is too much effort to move, or to exist.

1055. Same state
December 2nd

I think it's permanent. Being on early shift and having to move & make sense at 6:00 in the morning doesn't help matters at all. I wish this mood would lift and change--like this gray weather. But it's not the weather, I like wind and rain, it's the time of year; as bad as January to February--worse and worse, worser and worst. But this, writing, gives me perspective and keeps me sane.

1056. Whereupon Nancy confesses she has been remiss
December 4th

Yes, Christina, my sin has been remission (does that follow?--O well, it sounds good). I skipped a day writing. I will explain. Sunday after work picked up friend, John, poet in workshop [6], to work on an assignment together for another class. Hell of a job, I finally quit through exhaustion, and drove him home at 11:30. I had to work 7:00 - 1:45 (Got off early for a class--spoiled me!) Went to class, worked with John, went to a movie The end of the world in our usual bed in a night filled with rain--a very visual movie, fairly good for us romantics, and also fairly erotic. Of course had to walk outside to the heavy rain [7]. But did I have a chance to be heavy? O no, I went to John's and we finished off the assignment at quarter to three. I drove home, and dragged myself into bed. Slept the sleep I deserved--8 hours of uninterrupted sleep of the dead, to class, then shopping for a new dress for Robin's party (Thursday). The dress is dark green and goes nicely with my pale anemic-looking winter skin and brown hair. Nice dress, I got it at Baggins. It needs something, though. A colourful vest or something. No time for that, though. Now I have the frightful job of typing that assignment up so I can hand it in two weeks late.
     Did I tell you that the leaf you sent me is under the glass of my bedside table? ("the leaves chase me through the autumn..."). It is dark outside. It is 1:00 am, so this is really December 5th and Christmas is coming (and so are exams--only a week till my first--I just sneezed, I must be allergic to exams--have to get a doctor to give me a medical discharge, I don't like this war).
     a single tree spotlit
     by a shift in cloud...
     ...we are rarely together
     This is my dead, not yours
     All these violent children,
     tearing at each other
     belong to me (are mine?)
     See how they bleed.     (?)
     They bleed like I do,
     deeply, the blood pouring like tears.
     You asked me to present you
     with my dead: here they are
     (and still you cannot
     assume them) [8].


NOTES

1. A fellow English major (previously mentioned) I had a crush on.

2. Both poets. Ann York no longer seems to be writing and I understand has moved back to Australia, but Rhonda Batchelor still lives in Victoria and recently had a book appear.

3. Well, I followed that advice for less than two years.

4. My first publication: "Voices from a New World" appeared in the 1979 issue of From an Island. I'm sure it wasn't the best poem, but I liked it enough that it appeared in Seven Robins.

5. Linda was a friend I lives with for several weeks the previous year. Russ was her jazz-bass-playing boyfriend.

6. John Barton, well-published Canadian poet and still a dear friend.

7. I still remember that moment of walking out into the dark rain after seeing that movie.

8. These lines became:

     Lear Returns to the Empty Theatre

     You have watched it all,
     seen my children
     tear at each other and die,
     and still they bleed.
     You have told me to present you
     with my dead; they are here.
     You cannot carry them
     from the bare stage floor.

     Now what can you take from me?
     I am as exposed and transfigured
     as a single tree spotlit
     by a shift in cloud.
     Take what you can
     take my dead and my year.
     Leave me nothing. I fade
     as the clouds shift again.

Published in Seven Robins. It's a poem I'm still fond of.

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