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Les Semaines

01.10.28

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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Turmoil in a Teacup

A busy week again, this time spent getting ready for the trip, trying to tie up loose ends, tidy up, wrap up, complete. Oh, and vacuum and dust and pack. And wear Sophia out because I won't be seeing her for two weeks. Two weeks without Sophia! Two weeks without Zach! Jim's coming for the first part of the trip so I won't be away from him quite so long, but well be going separate ways after a couple of days and will just miss each other midway through--he leaves Ottawa in the morning to come home and I get back in the afternoon. Busy busy busy. At least the first part we'll be together. And he can pick me up from the airport--the best of both worlds!

Work was horrible this week. On Tuesday I had a difficult miscommunication with someone and in working that out discovered that a very bad thing may be happening to the programs I run (not that they're going to be cut, but a reorganization that will harm them) and because of the course of that conversation I haven't been able to tell the people who might be able to do something about it. Basically I was told that if I did that it would harm my relationship with this person and I can't do that. It was awful--I felt that my hands were tied and I did what I could to squiggle around that but I don't know what's going to happen and now I'll be gone for two weeks. I would hate so much to come back and find that it's a fait accompli and bad decisions have been made. It would be so much better to be able to avert such a decision by discussion but discussion has been ruled out. This is not a good thing, no not at all. And it's stupid. Argh!

I was so upset by the whole conversation that it really gave the whole week a bad flavour. I spent Tuesday horribly upset. Wrote a long explanatory email which I feel will fall on deaf ears. Smoothed the personal ruffled feathers but couldn't do anything about the larger issue. And staying up very late to see the Halou concert was agony (well listening to Halou wasn't but the rest of it was) as I haven't been sleeping well. It all added up to an eye infection just in time for the trip. Quite annoying, but at least I was able to see the doctor before I left like a good girl (I think my coworkers wouldn't be speaking to me if I hadn't--they pretty much ordered me to call, so I did!) And it actually started clearing up quickly even before my appointment--hooray. It probably would be torturing me now if I hadn't gone to see the doctor. At least that's the way it works for me.

So tomorrow we fly out. It will be interesting to see if things really feel like they've changed at the airport. We'll be getting there in plenty of time--the shuttle van is picking us up sometime around 5:45 - 6:15 a.m. and our flight doesn't leave until 10:00. I shudder to think what time people whose flights leave at 6:00 a.m. are being picked up.

Canada, here I come. My home and native land.

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Listening

Wednesday night we saw Halou, an obscure electronica band. They were mighty fine. I was cranky and tired, and dozed through opener Heather Duby's set. I like her recordings well enough but last night she just seemed like any random rock band. She's got a nice voice, but it was way low in the mix and the songwriting didn't seem to be up to that much. It made me realize how much of the sound of hers I liked may have came from Steve Fisk in the studio.

After her was a string trio, the People's Bizarre, which was interesting enough to anyone who wasn't cranky and tired. When Halou came on they played with them. Until Halou started to play I wondered why on earth I was putting myself through the agony of a late night smokey scenester club show. But the moment they started I remembered why.

Halou has that rare and wonderful knack of writing memorable songs, doing interesting atmospheric background stuff (which actually I couldn't hear too well last night due to the crowd noise and noise from the band in the upstairs restaurant), and having a creative and good lead singer (whom happily I could hear well). She was also good on stage--dramatic, without being over the top. And it was great to see a singer not wearing jeans--she was in a floor-length, black taffeta strapless evening gown with elbow-length gloves. That was fun.

Their new album was released Tuesday on Nettwerk and is quite wonderful. It contains a couple of the best songs from their first album which is currently out of print.

See them if they come to your town.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

As I was reading Ursula LeGuin's The Other Wind I was a little sad that I wasn't quite as caught up in the novel as I had been in the stories in Tales from Earthsea (see my August 5th entry for my comments on that). It felt odd, because I nearly always love novels better than short stories. The reason could have to do with the crankiness and tiredness mentioned above, or it could have some other source and I definitely suspect it was something about me rather than something about it, because when I reached the end of the novel it was a wow. This is a gentle kind of non-driven (it felt to me) story about a young magician whose wife has died. In his grief he visits her, approaching the world of the dead in his dreams. Everyone there asks him to save them. It's haunting, painful, and he gets so he dreads sleep. Eventually he comes to see Ged to ask for help. And it's the start of the change of everything.

Alastair MacLeod's No Great Mischief is the story of a man born into a large Cape Breton clan with quite a history of loss--from their participation at Culloden to the loss of his parents as they're crossing the ice from the mainland of the Cape to the island where they are lighthousekeepers. The novel is full of layers of tales and interweavings of time and lines that are almost refrains and several times we see unexpected linkages through time. It's a beautifully written novel, if a few of the repetitions become a little heavy-handed.

Candace Jane Dorsey's A Paradigm of Earth is as wonderful as her first novel, Black Wine, and that's saying a lot--Black Wine is one of my favourite novels ever, and one of the few that immediately on finishing it I wanted to start it again. This book is quite different from Black Wine, and rather than a dystopic fantasy is a near-future SF novel about first contact. Here an alien species has reached earth and sends a dozen aliens each like a tabula rasa to be imprinted with human culture. Here a woman, emptied and battered by a breakup and family deaths, has been chosen to look after him, and the alien chooses her to learn from. It's a fascinating story about human psychology, politics, and mostly about trust and love. Highly recommended and one of the best books I've read this year.

O.R. Melling's young adult fantasy, The Light-Bearer's Daughter, is the third in her The Chronicles of Faerie series (comments on the second, The Summer King, are in my January 14th entry). This is the story of an eleven-year-old Irish girl whose mother disappeared when she was three. She has since lived with her father, who has just accepted a job in his homeland, Canada and she doesn't want to leave Ireland. And suddenly faerie creatures contact her and tell her that she must carry a message to the High King for help, and if she does so, he will have to grant her a wish. She agrees, planning to ask for the return of her mother,and her adventures begin. This is a delightful story, where the young main character's maturation seems natural.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

An old poem of mine, "November Arrives on the Coast" has just been reprinted on the It's About Time website. And I actually sent out a poetry submission this week. I have another one ready to send but haven't yet decided where it goes, so it will be staying home until I get back.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

July - August 1980

[in which I am 21 and have a nice fresh B.A.]

1171. To write for sleep                           July 22, 1980

I have to write before I sleep--the line that is all I wrote last night, as if it were a duty, an obligation to be shunned. I feel awful and disappointed this morning--as if I had been promised something and it had not appeared. I don't know what to do. I want to sit and write and forget--and mostly forget.
     The summer is for forgetting--all the heat and the haze. My mind heats and hazes with it.

1172. In reference back                           July 23, 1980

Yesterday was a great day when I went home to find three poems accepted by The Fiddlehead--"Seven Robins", "Home Out of Place", and "How I'll Never Get Out" [1]. This amazes and excites me. Ran[dy] came over last night, which surprised me. He looked tan and fit, and better than I had seen him look in ages. I am scattered and there was a deep wind.
     This morning promises to lead into another day of heat. At this moment my desk is in the sun. I have to leave the pedantries behind. I have three poems taken, and a call from Christina, and plans and a million more poems to write--I have nothing left to send out now, and I must have everything to send.

1173. On having a new (expensive) pen                           July 24th 1980

Today, sunny and warm with a breeze, and this pen was made to slip into my hand and scratch across the page. I am still elated by The Fiddlehead buying my poems, but otherwise I am asleep. I thought summer would be an easier time to write, but I spend more time feeling tired and busy. Gillain absorbs me in a way that is new--beginning to drain me more mentally, though not yet because it demands of me.
     It is summer, and it seems the drought has begun. Somewhere back in the distance back in yesterday the volcano did its thing again, belching smoke and ash across Washington. I wonder if I can rescue my poem?
     What is there about summer (that leaves me without language)? It leaves me sleepy, and with a quiet mind, but suddenly with a poem like "Sky Dark." I need to write more poems like that. I need to fix up my other poems until they are something.
     It seems to me that I write about needing to write too often. I wish my mind weren't so blank, that I were more active mentally and physically. I cannot even follow my own train of thought as I write this.

1174. A progression                            July 25th, 1980

Last night I had a great session with John [2] about my manuscript, and got ideas for some of my poems that need rewriting, and he confirmed the demise of several others. It was a sparking night--on that sparked my enthusiasm about this manuscript. I am glad to take it apart now so that I may improve upon it.
     My rainshadow sequence had been stripped of its talky covering again, and deservedly, and so I must begin again and remember how I originally wanted it to go. It must be about the rainforest in a more general way, but not in that blugh way that it went. Some other poems are back to their bones and are out stalking and looking for flesh. They deserve more. These poems need the kind of strength that others have been given.


NOTES

1. This was my first "big" literary magazine acceptance.

2. Barton, whom I'm about to tour with. Yes, we've been friends this long.

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