Les Semaines


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


Damn Time Change

Home again home again jiggity jig (well, Victoria Clipper-ty clip) on Monday afternoon/evening, and the week was immediately absorbed by Clarion for me. I mean, aside from the necessities of sleep and my job, which was also busy. And of course I had a heck of a time adjusting to the time change. This one always makes me crazy (getting up never agrees with me, and getting up earlier is just agony) and I was hyper because of all the Clarion work, and stayed up late fussing with things and so got very little sleep. By Friday evening I had obvious dark circles under my eyes.

So we got home Monday night. Tamar kindly picked us up at the Clipper terminal, and then we grabbed sandwiches and went home to eat them. Chatted for a while, then Tamar went home and we unpacked a bit, then crashed.

Tuesday morning wasn't too bad for me, because it was my late morning at work when I don't have to be in until 9:30, but Wednesday and Friday killed me, because I had to be there at 7:30, which my body told me was 6:30. I was so glad when the weekend came...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I spent Tuesday compiling and double checking the last of the reader's ratings for the Clarion West applications, then sorting them in various ways that I thought would be useful for our information. Leslie and I met on Wednesday after her work, and went over everything, sorting out who the final students to invite to join the class were, who should be on the waiting list, and all that. It's a complex process, as we're working with readers trying to quantify qualitative judgments about talent, promise, enthusiasm, and all that. At the end of it there are always far more people that we want to invite than there are places in the class. We don't say how many applicants we get, but we could run the class several times over and still not run out of people who would benefit from the workshop. Anyway, after that we were exhausted, and still had phone calls to make and handouts to sort through and the scholarship money to allocate. After numerous long phone conversations and various email messages, we finally finalized that today, and to our delight--thanks to a generous donation from a former student freeing up funds that had been raised for scholarships this year--were able to offer slightly larger scholarships than we've been able to in the past. My blessings on that former student!

Other than Clarion work, I had to get my car tested for emissions, and it failed due to an exhaust leak, so I had to get that fixed and get the car re-tested. Happily, after a couple of hundred dollars' work, it passed. This car has been so low-maintenance over the years I have nothing to complain about, but it was one more thing in a busy week. I'm so glad it passed the second time, and that the line-ups at the testing station were short. I love my little car!

Also had to finalize our tax forms and write the nasty checks/cheques. I'd done the forms a couple of weeks ago, but Jim was going to check my math and hadn't had time, and then I found a couple of receipts, and then someone warned me about a worksheet that had to do with the weird tax refund we got last summer (it didn't change anything, but it still was good to fill out the worksheet and make certain of that). Anyway, added the receipts, refigured it all, did the worksheet, Jim checked my math, I wrote out the clean copy, wrote a check to the U.S. Treasurer, a cheque to Revenue Canada, and with any luck we're done with that for another year.

Jim's work was horrible this week, of course, but there is light at the end of the tunnel for him, as the second job he has been doing is now for certain going to be handled by an outside company, and things are getting in line for them to collect everything and take over. It just has been a long, hard, busy, tiring haul.

Aside from all this, we did have some fun times this week. The dinner when Tamar picked us up, dinner and a movie at Tamar's last night, and then a bubble tea party at Dixielynn's this afternoon for me. Hooray for wonderful friends!

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


Denali is an interesting new band, which reminds me a lot of the band Sarina Simoom. Indie rock/flowing sound with high strong female vocals. Must listen more.

And I just can't get tired of Rachel Smith's The Clearing. I'm guessing Jim can't either, as he seems to play it about once a day.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is a military SF novel about a human soldier fighting a high-tech war against aliens, the Taurans, believed to have attacked humans in space. Written in the early 70s, the story supposedly begins in the 1990s, when Mandella is drafted. Once they have defeated the Taurans in a sortie out on an encounter on a far planet, Mandella returns to find himself a hero, but his mother is in her 80s, his brother is an adult, and the world has changed enough that he has nothing to do but sign on for another stint. I find this an interesting read--military SF isn't my thing but the ideas in this novel were interesting and the problems of space travel and space war seemed complexly related. Recommended for anyone who wants a taste of a classic military SF novel. I'm glad I read it.

While in Victoria, we picked up a copy of Richard Wright's Giller and Governor General's award-winning novel, Clara Callan. This is the story of two sisters who grew up in a small Ontario town, and is told in diary entries written by the older sister, Clara, as well as letters between the two sisters, and occasionally by their friends and lovers. It begins in the early 30s, when Clara continues her quiet life teaching school and keeping house after the death of their father, while the younger sister, Nora, moves to New York City and lands a job in a radio serial. The novel follows the next few years of their complicated emotional lives. I found this a really smooth read, the characters engaging, interesting, and sympathetic, and enjoyed this quite a lot.

Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon is set in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century. It is about an upper-class woman, surely considered a spinster, who volunteers as a treasurer for a foundling home who gets involved with a strange family of complex emotions and connections. It's hard to describe better than that. While I wouldn't say I disliked this novel, it left me feeling perplexed, as though there were something I didn't quite understand about it. Something hazy I should have picked up, but didn't. I must confess that I always feel that way after reading Fowler's novels. I'm getting the feeling that while I like aspects of them, they're mostly just not for me.

last week's reading § next week's reading


A story is lurking in the back of my head. I wonder if I'll have time to let it take shape and then let it out?

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

September - November 1982

[In which we are back in Missoula, starting the second year of our MFA degrees. This was one of the most difficult times of my life.]

1294. At Jim's New Place [1]
September 28, 1982

...and he's sick, so I'm here playing nurse and mother. Played teacher this week, too [2], so I've had many roles. Jeremiah [3] doesn't know what to do with himself, Jim's sleeping, I'm writing and dreaming, feeling a little ill myself. 11:35. I' ve begun to write a poem in my head, called "October." About homes and places and walking and autumn and warmth. It is autumn here, and one needs warmth, and shelter from the rain we've had, constantly, for two days. Jeremiah wanders, as Jim wanders into sleep. Harvest is over and sleep has begun. Only apples are ripening (three outside my kitchen window). The sounds of the street outside. Night & forever.

1295. Jim's Again
October 21, 1982

Jim's gone for the second weekend in a row to North Carolina, this time to his mother's funeral.
     I'm here with Jeremiah watching TV and not catching up to my overload of work, but at least pretending I might. And I might. I've got until Sunday, when I pick up Jim at the airport at 3:30 again. I mostly need to write. I need to write so badly, to let some of what's building out, to shape it into something that will become something. I need to write a poem that will impress me. I want to impress myself. I've done so little for such a long time.

1296. What thou lovest well remains [4]
October 31, 1982

Dick's [5] memorial service today, in memory. The thread of the stories remains well, and whole, and remains. We are going on, maintaining our lives like gardeners, coping and weeding, fertilizing with manure. As it goes. It is almost evening, and only small things have been done. The weekend almost over, and so much to go in the week. Marking papers not done, French not done, midterm not prepared for, and I still haven't written in weeks. I've lost my favourite writing pen. I've spend two weeks mostly crying. Remains.

1297. Hot wind came from the marshes
November 16, 1982

This pen is just aching to write--its ink thick, darker than usual, like blood.

The air is thick with the stench
of what rots in the reeds.

We wade through air thick
with the stench rotting weeds,
fish from the spawning steam
in Indian summer, in red
leaved shrouds. Our legs are heavy
weigh us into the mud,
fleshy anchors that they are,
they barely carry us.

death-chill from the mountains
we reach the rock and begin
to climb an old stream-bed,
crevasse between mountains,
shale and scree that run past us
like water

a leaf in the current
that's what we are, pushing
ourselves the wrong direction,
leaving the marsh for these foreign
heights, our hands fall away
from each other. There it is,
the first clue that there's
two of us, that we may
be lovers. Wait, there's more.

but the eyes and stance between the eyes
Love, this is not beauty,
but trial. Here there is a place
we can turn and look,
distance spreads the air
before us, winter and summer
meet, exchange themselves, again

sky's clear / night's sea / green of the mountain pool
and now sky is water, but clear
and we breathe it to fill ourselves
with it and we are not each other,
not ourselves. What is beneath us
is no longer the mountain. [6]

Pull down thy vanity,
                        Paquin pull down.

1298. Night Wind Evening Wind

First the woman, her skin
tightening, her hands and leg
on the bed she's about to enter,
but she's turned, her hair barely
stirs in the wind that knocks the curtains
into the room. She's turned to look
through the bricks of the window past the brick frame,
into the blank light there, into
the wind that covers her skin.
In the emptiness she tells us
is night, cool air pushes in
from thousands of rooms from
the city around her, from the sea
beyond that. Across the sea, a shore
and a city, and a man naked
by the window, where the air
barely moves from his skin, and
outwards, back to where the woman
still has not moved into the bed,
the wind on her face chills her. [7]

1299. Death and others
November 17, 1982

Mother, each time we phone
we talk about death. Three times
now, which suggests the cycle
is complete. And we hope so.
How can we share these things?
How do I explain my lover's
mother's death, how I needed
to phone you right away?
His need made me need you.
How do I explain the death
of a man neither lover nor father
but teacher, how his harsh breath
protected me, how I knew he was
there. Now you phone to explain
the death of your friends, people
who were large in your life when
you were my age, who over distance
and years didn't fade, and now
they're gone. All of them. Mother,
we didn't explain [the rest of the page is blank] [8]


1. In an apartment building named "The Humble Apartments". Yes, really. Isn't that great? They were rather humble but nice.

2. I was teaching my first class of freshman composition.

3. Jim's cat.

4. A quote from Pound, which Richard Hugo quoted in his "What thou lovest well remains American".

5. Richard Hugo, the poet we came to Missoula to study with. Jim and I met outside his office. Jim's mother died, and he left to go to her funeral, and Dick died two days later. This was a rough fall.

6. This poem, much revised, became the "High Water" which appeared in Spells for Clear Vision. The italicized lines come from Ezra Pound's "Canto LXXXI."

7. This poem, revised, became the second section of the poem "The Lover's in Grey," which appears in Blood Memory. It is based on an etching (?), entitled "Evening Wind" by Edward Hopper.

8. This poem was a journal piece, and I never worked on it further.

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