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Les Semaines

02.02.03

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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ETHEREAL POETESS HARBOURS LASCIVIOUS THOUGHTS

Story at 11:00. Well, 10:20. Close. (But close only counts in horseshoes, which I've never played and dancing, which I have.)

So the facts are:

  • I never particularly thought of myself as ethereal
  • I hate the word "poetess" because it sounds so prissy and diminutive and makes me think of Theodore Roethke (whose poetry I actually enjoy) who made a nasty comment about female poets, saying they were just stamping their little feets at God
  • as for harbouring I'm not sure I do that, I mean harbouring is what foolish people do to the criminals they're fond of...hmm...I have to reassess this one...hmm...maybe I think perhaps I may have harboured an outlaw or two in my time
  • isn't lascivious a wonderful word? Aay it a few times--not too quickly, though. Slowly
  • and I admit I do have thoughts. Multitudes. Frequently.
So anyway Dixielynn said this about me, all in caps and everything and in my great offense at it I thought I had to share it. So there you go. Think what you will. I surely do.

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Tonight it's more bits. Some quibbling there. Not many quibbles in the previous week, really, no matter what title I gave it.

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So it has been a week. Not very eventful. Monday was Clarion West's Annual General Meeting and despite snow surrounding us and serious cold in town, we had a good meeting and a good turnout for the general part of the meeting and Greg Bear read a section from his just-published novel. I went to the Clarion West office one afternoon, the post office another, the library, and work of course every work day. We had dinner out with friends two nights in a row, which was very pleasant. We've had two nights at home (at least I have--Jim had to go out last night to a launch party for the magazine he works for which is now going on hiatus). Yesterday and today we got to sleep in and I had a lovely nap all bundled up in the living room with sun streaming in the window. I've read several stories by friends. Talked to Christina phoning from Istanbul who is writing up a storm. So that was my week. That's all really.

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One being Jill: One day riding home on the bus, because I was visibly carrying a campus mail envelope addressed to someone named Jill, I became Jill. How very odd to be a Jill instead of myself. I mutated, automatically felt blond and slim and forthright and straightforward, which have to do with the essence of Jill-ness.

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After I put the envelope away the feeling quickly faded.

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I wish that yesterday had been my Les Semaines day, because then the date would be 02.02.02. Dammit, I missed it!

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I'm sure a weirdo. I like even number better than odd number. They seem more complete, somehow, so I even like even-numbered years better than odd-numbered years. I can't help it. The same way I can't help thinking that "r" and "5" have a special similarity.

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Well, anyway, so now I am practicing being an ethereal poetess with lascivious thoughts. I must say, it's rather entertaining. More entertaining than being Jill.

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

Listening

Today I am rather obsessively listening to the demos for a new album by Astrid, which she has kindly made available to fans, because she is between labels and who knows when it might actually be released. I love her scratchy-sweet pop voice. Her love poems that almost fall in cliché but fall into quirkiness instead. I like the whole set of songs but absolutely love two of them: "tumbling into blue", which has a kind of yearning that is so lovely with that raspy voice, and "call for beauty", which plays her prettiest, smoothest vocals against jangly guitar and a back beat.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter is a memoir about growing up as the American-born child of Japanese immigrants to Seattle. She writes clearly and evocatively about growing up in the Japanese community of the 1930s--about her Americanization and the Japanese culture she inherits, and about the discrimination she and her family suffered, particularly after the start of World War II. The book follows her as the Japanese community is forced off the West Coast of North America (this happened in Canada as well as in the U.S.) through her family's internment in a camp in Idaho, and as towards the end of the War she goes east to university. This is a memoir well worth reading and it illuminates a little-known piece of history. (There is also a wonderful novel about the same events north of the border, Obasan by Joy Kogawa, which I read many years ago.

After seeing the movie twice and re-reading The Hobbit, I had to re-read Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. Unfortunately, this re-reading was probably too coloured by the movies, as I couldn't get those images out of my head. I was amazed, however, at how close Jackson was able to keep to the book, especially as I would have considered this book unfilmable. The movie is very very close and good at evoking the feel of the book. I did enjoy re-living the movie more slowly and being able enjoy the details of the tale, and of course the things that they weren't able to include in the movie. I fear, though, that movie images overshadow the images from my own imagination. I'm not sure how much of a loss that is.

I have read several Peter Dickinson's young adult novels and while I liked them have not been truly drawn into any of them (see my comments about Eva in my February 18, 2001 entry and about The Blue Hawk in my June 17, 2001 entry, and so his new one, The Ropemaker, came as a delightful surprise. This is the story of a young girl who, along with her irascible grandmother and a young man and his blind grandfather have to leave their valley to find a magician who will help them protect their valley again from intruders. There had been magical boundaries, but after twenty generations the magic has been disturbed and they need help to re-establish it. And so they pass the boundaries of their valley, out into the dangerous world of the Empire and its Prince and his magicians. This is a wonderful, complex, magical quest and an interesting coming-of-age tale.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I've mostly been ditzing around this week with my writing rather than accomplishing anything solid.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

July - 1981

1240. Victoria Ferry                            July 25, 1981

Four weeks ago I was
dropped on a mountain
snowshoes and tripods
surveying the dry Yukon.

You and the German tourists,
brown and young, heading
to adventure (for me just
a returning home).

Hell, my half-hearted trying is worse than bad and more than useless. I've got to break out of this wooden language (stilted and broken words, wrong words) [1].

1241. Recipe                            July 31, 1981

The mug still warm
but empty. Light fading
back from the windows,
the wind is just beginning
to boil in the trees.

This is the setting--the time
of day, the situation.
You've left, will come back,
read this, then leave not
to return. There's something

in what I've written here
to send you away. A kind
of spell I would assume,
in the fire not yet lit,
the liquid drunk, and

the storm just ready
to brew again. Outside. [2]

1242. Rain (Toronto)[3]                            August 5, 1981

Hot rain in from the window
bring the thunder the beaks
of light, cracking the city

1243. (what could it be but) Night?                            August 21, 1981

You say you know a word:
say it. I can believe
that you can't hear me.
Do you read my lips
when I say speak?
In the distinct clarity
of language I know
only a word, and I dare
not say it to you. Speak.
Read my lips not moving
and tell me some kind
of story, a dream that
you have dreamed or a
lesson learned. Tell me
a story I can laugh to.
Or I'll tell you a word
and that work is my leaving
in the silence. [4]

1244. The Mermaids                            August 21, 1981

I have heard the mermaids sings each to each--I do not think that they will sing to me [5].
     Yet sing to me they have, with their seaweed hair drifting on the surface of the water. I want to know why they sing to each other, and why sometimes I catch pieces of their songs. It sometimes is like listening in on a private conversation, sometimes like hearing pronouncements of a god.


NOTES

1. I have never been on snowshoes, a photographer, or to the Yukon. That might have something to do with it.

2. This poem got reshaped into a syllabic form I invented of three five-line stanzas, each line in which has five syllables. I've used this form many times now. This poem appears in Seven Robins like this:

RECIPE

The mug still warm but
empty. Light pulling
from the windows, the
wind is just beginning
to boil in the trees.

When you come back to
this room, you'll sense it.
There is something in
what I've written here
to send you away,

a spell in the fire
not yet lit, in the
liquid drunk, and the
storm just ready to
brew again. Outside.

3. I was visiting Christina, who had recently moved there. It was the firs time I'd experienced thunderstorms in the humidity. The page is authentically spattered with rain, but the rest of the page is blank.

4. This is another one of those poems that never went anywhere.

5. T.S. Eliot lurks again. Well, no, not lurks. Makes a bold-faced appearance. The mermaids, the muses, were always a question to me and the whole story about their femaleness and the maleness of the poet was an interesting subject for me to gnaw on over the years. The stories go that the poet is always male and the muse always female. So what if you're female and write poetry? Do you have a male muse? Can a male be a muse? I read May Sarton's I heard the Mermaids Singing for the first time sometime around this time. In fact, I may even be commenting on it, here. In this novel she writes of a female poet, who finds the answer to this puzzle by becoming a Lesbian (as Sarton did). This option never seemed like an option for me, and so I continued to gnaw. The interesting thing is of course that my answer now seems to be that yes my muses are female, and to hell with it. I mean, I just published a whole collection of poems about women. About being a woman. About being human.

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