Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Victoria Visit

Tonight Jim and I gave a reading at the James Bay Inn Pub in Victoria, my home and native land, supported by a group of my parents' friends, a friend from high school and her husband, and a friend from the Victoria writing community.

After dealing with the recalcitrant mike, Jim read poems from his forthcoming book and a couple new ones from the manuscript he's putting together now. Then I read poems from all over--starting with a poem about my mom then one about my dad from Spells, then one about Victoria from Seven Robins, a few from Blood Memory, then three poems from the current project, my idiosyncratic travelogue of Scotland. We were followed by a local fiction writer, Andrew Struthers.

It was fun being in Victoria, which has changed enough over the years I've been gone that it doesn't feel like home anymore, though I like sometimes to say it still is. That has a lot to do with my parents no longer living in the same neighbourhood I grew up in, and the city, like all cities, having changed a lot, especially as I haven't lived there for more than a couple of months at a time since I left for graduate school in 1981. And me, I'm not still in my 20s and restless. I sometimes fantasize about moving back to Victoria. There are certainly some things about it I really love--forest and ocean everywhere, present in a way they're not in Seattle. My parents live in a lovely area, a mix of some of the oldest houses in Victoria and many new, and they're only a short block from the water, and within walking distance of downtown. I envy them that location. I think I might find Victoria's writing community a little too small and unsupportive, but I can't be sure of that--I do remember it being a little insular when I was here before, and hear rumours that it hasn't changed and has, in fact, become even a little more hierarchical. And we know where we are in Seattle--not that we have a particular presence there, but we do know most of the people we want to, and have our friends. I think it's natural for us to be a little out of the writerly mainstream, and I think it might be more comfortable to be in that position in Seattle, a bigger pond, than in a place like Victoria. I remember all too well how impossible the situation became in Missoula after we were no longer students and yet not quite accepted as grown-up writers. Still, sometime I'd like to live back in Canada again. With the economy the way it is, this just isn't a good time for that.

We had a lovely visit with my parents, and went out to my high school friend's new house out in Brentwood Bay, a lovely place backing onto a park that leads to the water. Her husband is a landscape designer, and their yard already shows signs of loveliness--ponds and beds shaped in stone.

Lots of sitting around, talking, lots of meals spent with family. Chatting by the computer, scratching the dogs who could tolerate being scratched forever.

We did the traditional things, like went book shopping (at a store where the writing friend works, so we also got to have coffee with her) and had a dinner from the White Spot restaurant (take-out mushroom burgers).

We rode the Victoria Clipper catamaran there and back, which is a two-and-a-half-hour trip each way. A nice time out of time, especially for Jim during the hell time with his job. He left a nasty busy time and unfortunately has to go back to it. They are clearing out over a thousand boxes for shredding and dealing with all the record keeping to do with that, while his library has been moved into a new space and he hasn't had a chance to even look at the unpacking and mail that awaits him there--he's in the dusty warehouse shuffling boxes, wearing dust masks and gloves.

All I have to deal with is the second week of a new quarter (a busy time, but not too bad) and the final selection of students for this year's Clarion West class. Earlier this week we had a our instructor selection meeting for 2003 and have a plan and a list of people to ask, which will be announced this summer at the last evening of our reading series. It's an exciting line-up.

In the meantime it's time to focus on this year's excellent instructors and this year's students.

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


We won't talk about the soft rock station my mother listens to. Oh no, we won't.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Eileen Dunlop's Elizabeth Elizabeth is a young adult novel about a teenager who reluctantly goes to stay with her scholarly aunt who is staying at an old house in the Scottish border country, researching a member of the family. Bored and restless, Elizabeth discovers a hand mirror that had been given to an 18th-century Elizabeth, daughter of the man her aunt is studying. When Elizabeth looks in the mirror she is transported into the other Elizabeth's life. At first she finds it a welcome escape from her boring summer, but gradually she finds slipping into the 18th century has become an obsession and she begins to lose track of her 20th-century life. While this book didn't quite have the magic that some other time travel books have had for me, it had a deeper look at the ramifications of such travel, and the effects it had on the young girl's life, and thus I highly recommend it.

Thomas King's Truth & Bright Water is a novel set in twin reservation towns divided by a river that also separates the U.S. and Canada. The main character, Tecumseh, is 15 and he's absorbed with: his cousin, Lum, a runner who is beaten by his father; his dog, Soldier; whether or not his parents will get together; his Aunt who has come home again; making some money over the summer; a girl from another reservation. It's an odd story, and strangely enough for such a disparate tale so predictable that was surprised when what I had predicted actually happened. There are hints of magical things, most notably a trio of trickster dogs called the Cousins which appear and disappear and a painter's ability to make a whole building disappear, but this didn't particularly free like a magical book. Overall, I guess I was disappointed. See my February 17th entry for my comments on his previous novel.

last week's reading § next week's reading


A reading, but no writing.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

August - September 2002

1289. All the new poems are about uncertainty [1]
August 28, 1982

in this they resemble nothing
(nothing that is there, and the nothing
that is there [2]). Early island morning
with characters: the woman on the next
beach digging clams; the heron on the right
skimming from rock to rock, just before
shore; my friend inside, sleeping; the crows
that just led me on a walk, taunting
me farther; the sea itself, incoming;
the gulls; the terns; the river otters, conspicuous
by their absence and memory, we've seen
them playing in the water, rolling, climbing
over one another, then their heads bobbing
above the log at the edge of the climb until
they decided we were harmless, then their
dash past us, the last otter hesitant.
Now they're bumping under the
cabin where my friend is sleeping.
Objects: the feather the crows left me
to take me on; the shells you are certain
are yours, perfect and whole, yet still
inhabited; the stone whale, beached
on the shore, carved so long ago no one
remembers him; the plants on the rock in the
middle of the tidal flats, clinging certain
of soil and rain; the rock breakwater
just before me, like a path into the sea
and all the certainty. I have for myself
the feather, a pink shell broken for my
sleeping friend. [3]

1290. Enter the Body
August 28, 1982

The forest dissolves
and grows in the way
most fitting to the dream

last night of your hands
dissolving, reforming
your hands: the most familiar

shape of your body
that everyday reforms
reshapes itself to something

you recognize
as your own. The birds
in the forest, the male

standing guard
while the females east
standing guard as the limbs

turn to water
around them as the cedars
become rivers, hemlocks

the hunched streams. [4]

1291. First draft
August 28, 1982

This is not quite the dram
you expected, last night
as you took off your clothes
your hands on your just barely touching
your body, like your lover's words
you just heard from that distance,
the telephone pressed hard at against your ear.
Not quite the dream in anticipation
of him returning, the violence
you desire you push out of your mind

Not quite the dream you thought of
through your sleepy summer, when
dreams carried you. Quite the dream,
the four woolly white heads tucked beside you,
as you turn to see them there, nearly
beside you, the sheet folded just
under their chins, the air warm
with the wool of their breathing. [5]

1292. Note After Midnight
August 28, 1982

and the stars are clear, the sea so calm I'm certain it reflects the stars. Night, and I've tried to sleep for hours, accomplished only restlessness and remembrance. Home tomorrow into the depths of the things I need to do, sorting and discarding, preparations for leaving. It has been so perfect here, the time gentle and undemanding, the days slow but not dragging. It has readied me to return to Victoria, and to return to Missoula. Monday comes Jim, and a new challenge and distraction, with so many half-done things. Still time.

1293. Lady falls again
September 3, 1982

Yesterday, with Jim. The place itself is a strong memory with me (rare). Standing in the spray from the falls is quite wonderful, a strange experience, and being in the forest itself, too, is lovely. I feel welcome in the forest, settled and calm. The soil there is rich with rotted cedar, red and strong.
     I am making myself write. Today the forest again and the beach. Sand and wet shoes. Stones. Jim is really attracted to them, carrying them and throwing them. He sleeps now, and i have been impatient and somehow lost, though I love him. I'm cruel and uneasy. Today a thunder-shower.


1. This plays on a line by Robert Hass in his poem "Meditation at Lagunitas" in his book Praise, which really cracked my head open when I first read it the previous fall.

2. This plays on a line by Wallace Stevens, in his poem

3. This is obviously a poem about Saltspring. A quite revised version appears in Spells for Clear Vision.

4. Another scrap that went nowhere.

5. I used the very beginning end of this one in the poem, "Sleeping With Lambs" that appeared in Blood Memory.

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