what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
In which John Barton and I do a Five Nights Five Cities Reading Tour of eastern and southwestern Ontario.
Monday morning John and I got up early for the train, which ran a little late, so it took us about five hours to get to Toronto. We arrived about 2:00, took the subway then a streetcar to the B&B John had booked for us. We had the door code and so could get inside the building with our suitcases, but there was no one there so we ditched our suitcases there and went to College Street for lunch at a funky bar called Sneeky Dee's or something like that (Mexican, quite good), then wandered a bit. I saw a used disc store and had to go in, of course, and even found a disc I thought I'd like. Then we went back to the B&B, where we checked in with the terse landlady, then went downtown clothes shopping for John and disc shopping for me the new Lamb album, which is available in Canada but not yet released in the U.S. Then back to the B&B for sherry and crackers and to prepare for the reading.
The reading venue was in easy walking distance from the B&B, so we wandered down there, arriving a little early but that enabled us to talk to some of the friends who had come down to see us, which was wonderful. The reading began with an open mike, then John read, then there was a little more open mike, then me, then more open mike, then another reader (young but quite promising). It was a little difficult situation to read in, given that the stage lighting was bright and angled in such a way that you had to hold your book just so or it would be in too dark a shadow to read from, and the mike was a little odd, but we had fun and I read the kinds of poems that go over okay in bars (except one longer one about Skye and Eigg that may have been a small mistake). But it was long and smoky-bar and by the time the reading was over it was 11:00 and we still hadn't had dinner but didn't have time to go to a restaurant, so we picked up sushi from a grocery store and ate it in the lounge of our B&B in the late late night.
Then to our rooms and sleep in ruffled comfort. The sleep of the smoky-lunged poets.
On Tuesday we had our B&B breakfast (French toast and sausages) then lugged our bags to a train station locker. Much lightened thereby, we went shopping. A little more discing, clothes shopping, then book shopping at Indigo, where we has lunch then back to the train station to get our luggage and the train to Kingston. We were met at the station by Eric Folsom, fellow poet and our host, who let us drop our luggage off at his house, then we went out for dinner at a local tapas restaurant (something about Windmills), then off to our reading at the Modern Cargo Gallery. Quite a change from the night before all white and clear instead of black and smoky. No sound system, just a lovely echo off the bare walls (there was a show ready to be hung but the pieces were still propped on the floor). A fun reading as some friends we hadn't seen for a long time showed up. I read first, as I would for the rest of the readings, which was especially good for this one as a couple of our friends had to leave early. I read artsy gallery poems (sort of) in lovely echo, and gave my Lockerbie poem its first outing. Afterwards we went for drinks at Chez Piggy, which apparently is famous because the wake for Tom Wayman was held there. Lovely chat, and they had my favourite scotch there. Lagvulin. Yum. Nice end to the day.
On Wednesday after breakfast we walked to the lake. I always forget how damn big the Great Lakes are. The city of Kingston is pretty and ordered and clean, and somehow reminded me very much of Victoria. Lovely brick Ontario houses of course, unlike Victoria. An old iron lion in the grass by the lake that John's mother has a picture of herself beside.
Then the train again, this time to Coburg. I slept for most of the short ride.
Betsy Struthers and Linda Manning were there waiting for us, Betsy and Linda taking the chance to meet for lunch. We stopped ourselves and had lunch at restaurant in train station, then Betsy drove us to her lovely house where we had tea and admired her cats and dog, then we dropped off our bags at rooms for the night (guest suites in the Trent University dorms). The faculty had a group dinner for us, then we gave our reading in the "Pit", a place that it rather like an expanded living room conversation pit. A decent-sized crowd. John and I each read plane crash poems (not knowing the future news). Afterwards it was opened up for questions, and one young man said he couldn't relate to my work and could to John's and asked if this was deliberate. Astonished, I replied that I didn't think my work was inaccessible, and he followed up with a comment that it was because he found it too feminist--wow. John responded about how it was important sometimes to make people uncomfortable, and about how the poem is somewhere between the writer and the reader's experience of it, and that sometimes the listener should examine just what it is that makes him/her uncomfortable about someone's work. Afterwards several people came up to me to tell me they appreciated what I was doing with my work but I still was disconcerted. Afterwards there was a brief reception, then back alone to my suite for the night, typing some of this out, and a cup of tea.
On Thursday Betsy picked us up in our different dorms and took us to breakfast at Maggie's Garden (I had french toast), then to bus station, where we hopped on the bus to Toronto. There we left our suitcases in another locker, and went to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and wandered around the Canadian section. Nice Emily Carr room, with a few I'd never seen before (the one of the inviting path in the forest, the other with the thinned w/ gasoline almost watercoloury tree-and-skyscape). More Group of Seven-ness, and the 19th C room with the Paul Peels and that silly little boy and how I got silly about the man who never got a date and the sculpted athlete who never wanted any (the dreamy woman above looking down at him), and the romantic-hero looking guy who had far too many. We had lunch at the AGO's very high-design Agora restaurant (a little upscale for me), where I had Still Life with Mushrooms and we looked out through the lovely view of ivy-covered buildings to the CN Tower, an old-fashioned view somehow with our very elegant cutlery and fashionable plates.
Then to the Henry Moore gallery, revisiting his strange evocative sculptures (and a few new ones) that I remembered from my visits there with Christina in the early days of her living in Toronto in the eighties.
Then we caught the bus to Hamilton which got caught in rush-hour traffic. Our bus came in well over an hour late and Linda Frank, our host had been waiting for hours. We dashed off to dinner where those waiting for us had already eaten and then to the Public Library for the reading after we caught our breaths. A good reading and a beautifully carved lectern.
Afterwards we went to Linda's house to sit in her sunroom and drink scotch and talk, then downstairs to the basement like children on a sleepover, John and I sleeping on nearby chesterfields, talking and giggling like kids on a sleepover till I fell sleep.
On Friday we woke up and abluted, then headed off for the bus back to Toronto (much quicker this time), a brief pause in the train station and then hopped on the train to Windsor. Strange taking the route I'd taken so many times when we lived in London, Ontario, but after 12 years I didn't really recognize any of that well-travelled track between Toronto and London, or London itself. In fact, I could hardly imagine myself living there.
We were met at the Windsor station by Susan Holbrook, herself a poet and a teacher at the U of Windsor. She drove us along the Detroit River past the huge glitzy casino and the rather pretty sight of Detroit across the river (I gather that behind the buildings are older, abandoned and gutted but beautiful but the riverfront just looks like a lovely city). She dropped us off at Di Brandt's house, where Daphne Marlatt greeted us, and Di served us all curried orange juice (yum!) and a thick broccoli soup and we chat about the tour and their plans for the evening--ballet and music in Ann Arbor. Both were travelling in the morning, too. Susan picked us back up round six with her partner, Lori (a drummer and in training to be an emergency response medic), and we had a delightful dinner with them at a Vietnamese restaurant. Then rushed again to the reading, which went well (great acoustics) and there were quite a few people there (about 35?) and a bookseller and some books disappeared and we signed some and exchanged books with Susan, then went to a bar for a beer and cider then home and a brief sleep.
On Saturday we got up for the 6:00 train which a sleepy Di (having come in then night before later even than us) drove us to and we were off on our way home. John came with me as far as Toronto, where I had to race onto the Ottawa train.
Then Blaine and his boyfriend Jamie picked me up at the train station, and went to Blaine's for exhausted chat and dinner, then Jamie dropped Blaine off at the ballet and me off at John's apartment, when I shower, and repack and doze and wait for John (who caught the next train from Toronto so he could see a close friend) and get ready for an early morning flight home.
And it's all over. All of my moments of fame. I do love giving readings and it was wonderful to hear so much of John reading. Everyone was so kind about hosting us. All in all it was a fine and wonderful time.
last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing
No time to listen to anything, except overheard noises from other people's headset and cellphones.
last week's listening § next week's listening
Ted van Lieshout's brothers is a YA novel about a teenage boy whose younger brother has died. Their mother plans to burn all of the brother's possessions on a bonfire as a way to work through her own mourning, and so the boy determines to save his brother's diary by writing in the blank pages himself so the diary will no longer be his brother's. Then he thinks that his mother will save the pages he wrote on and still burn the ones his brother wrote, and so he writes on those pages as well, which of course entails reading what his brother has written. And that makes him reassess everything, including himself. The voice of both writers is so clear it makes the characters come to vivid life. A lovely novel.
Lynn Flewelling's The Bone Doll's Twin is a fantasy novel set earlier in time than her previous Nightrunner series (see my July 25, 1999 entry for comments on her Traitor's Moon, the third book from that series). In this novel the royal succession has been decreed by the gods to be female for the health of the country, but a king has taken over the throne and is protecting it for himself and his son by killing any possible female successor, and so the land is suffering from plagues and raiders. A wizard and her young apprentice start having visions of a new queen, and the king's sister is pregnant with twins. When they are born, one of them is the promised daughter, but to protect her they must kill her male twin, and, with the help of a witch, use the male twin's body to give the young princess the semblance of a boy. The new princess grows up as a boy, haunted by the angry spirit of her sacrificed brother. Lynn Flewelling's work just gets better and better. An intriguing and magical book.
Elizabeth Hay's A Student of Weather is a mainstream novel about a young girl growing up in Saskatchewan during the dustbowl days of the Depression. Her twin brother and her mother have died, leaving her with her rather taciturn father and her beautiful, industrious older sister. When a young man comes to their farm to learn why it hasn't been struck as badly by the drought as neighbouring farms, both she and her sister fall for him. Even though she's only eight years old, Norma Joyce begins to fight for the man she loves, by chance following him to his hometown of Ottawa, then to New York City, then back to Ottawa. This is a story of rivalry and haunting love and the oddness of family relationships and how they shape us. An interesting read.
last week's reading § next week's reading
No writing, but lots of readings.
last week's writing § next week's writing
About the Phonosnout
September - October 1980
[in which I turn 22, post-B.A. and have my first full-time job as receptionist at an alcohol treatment centre]
1881. Leaving Vancouver September 23rd 1980
Nights ago I dreamt of the forest behind my house, and of myself, dressed in white, walking down into it for a man who was waiting. Today I am in Vancouver and have phoned an old friend and these facts are unconnected. The dreaming involved a poet I haven't met yet, but only seen and heard, and he and others were waiting for me in my white.
It was a dream of me turning into my name: Nancy is a girl who enters the forest; Neile is the woman you find there. It chokes me here and I am in the city dreaming of the forest, leaving Vancouver in a bus full of people.
1182. Old enough 26th September 1980
I am old enough now / not to think of days / but of their shapes. / And it is autumn / and the moon is full / while the clouds are patterned like / rippled sand / and the stars cannot be seen. / Walking for such a short time / in the woods today / I felt everything large / was there and I had woken / to find my hands against / the warm trunks of the cedars. / Tonight I am waiting / for the start to fall / but I cannot see them. / The moon is so large and bright / I cannot see the sky moving / and there is only me, still, and below. 
1183. Turning 27th September 1980
Trying to become myself when there is so much to do. I lose myself in things, then have to struggle out. I am becoming. Today the wind feels like fall, and the maples are turning colour. These things are large, and matter. For me September has been the turning, where things changed and turn and grew and shrank. I have seen so many things and again so few--done so much and so little. I am waiting for October, which is my month. I expect good things to happen then. These years now are becoming my years where things will be the best (and worst) and largest for me. So this, as the end o the last decade, is my clearing time. I have to clear myself, and sort things. I have to finish my first manuscript, work on my French, learn how to work full time without constantly losing myself, learn how to use time, which is most important. I know now I am happiest working, but I lack the impetus to begin. I need to find things that start me off, there are certain triggers already which I need to learn to use more readily. So days now I will learn to wake and sleep and not to confuse the two and I will learn the largest part of what I am. Things are in the present now, with an eye to the future, but things may turn a different way, and people are meaning new things (here I talk about my dreams).
1184. Another Journey Begun October 8, 1980
Today is a beginning of things, of a train where on car leads to another. I am twenty-two today, which is a good age to be. I am written myself a birthday poem:
It being my birthday
Things are no longer so forced. I am making up a booklet with Harold , and I think I will call my section "October". October is something of me, I come into being every year at about this time.
and a clear day, I
went down to have the ocean
celebrate for me, with the wind
passing through me and the time
scattered, me late for work
and saying: one more wave.
1185. Running together October 11, 1980
"St. Maudlin" is beginning to flow, as yet haltingly. Something is wrong with me, I am blocked, and nearly crumbling against the pressure of these poems, but nothing quite can start the rush coming. There is a rush there, I know. Break me down. i am ready to begin with time has run out, when I have to leave for work--there the wall is refortified. I am going home now--break me down.
1. This never became a poem, but I did mine lines from it for later poems.
2. This turned into my/our first chapbook, Travelling in Place.
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