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Les Semaines

02.04.21

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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Da Bird is Da Word

Ye gods, a busy week that disappeared/flitted/flew while I was trying to Get Things Done. I thought it would be quieter by now, but I spent the week having trouble sleeping because there was so much going on, staying up late on email and the phone, winding down only slowly, watching the bags under my eyes get bigger and darker as the week went on. It has been ages since I've felt like this--all buzzing and hyped up and a little anxious, but the worst of the problems are getting resolved and it's a waiting game now to sort through to the solutions. It's all work and Clarion busy stuff.

Part of my problem is that when things come up I have to talk talk talk my way through them. In talking I include email, so I also type type type. Sometimes I wish I'd just shut up.

The same at night when it's time to sleep. It's like my brain is an annoying upstairs neighbour, talking loudly and pacing all the time my body, downstairs, is pulling the blankets over its head and moaning about keeping it down up there.

Those 6:00 mornings came early. And hurt. Coffee was my friend.

But there was some wonderful socializing in the midst of it. Karen and Barry had a dinner for several of us with Connie Willis. Jim made a blackberry pie in honour of Connie, because she lives in Colorado and we thought blackberry would be a good west coast-ish offering. Barry is a wonderful chef (a talent I wasn't aware of before) and made a delicious shrimp creole. The food was excellent and the company very amusing. Too bad the next day was a work day!

On Saturday Tamar and I went shopping because I (well, mostly me) needed to pick up a few things at Target and because I am shopping impaired and someone was coming to view the condo that Tamar rents that's up for sale she decided to come and look after me. So we wandered and shopped and I got a new lamp for the office because the other one I brought in keeps flaking out and I got hairbands so I could see and hair elastics so Jim could and I didn't find a cat litter pail because the kids beach pails were either teeny or HUGE, but I did get the folders we wanted for the Clarion West class.

Then we had lunch and came home and I was surprised to see that Jim was still out working in the yard because we had to leave in about 15 minutes to get to a barbecue at a Clarion friend's over on the other side of the lake. Oops. So Jim had his shower and he had to go to two grocery stores to get the things we wanted to bring, and so we wound up really late and so didn't get to Connie Willis's reading that night. Darn. But we had a great time talking. John was in my Clarion West class and he got hired by Microsoft and he and his wife and daughter moved up here, but this is the first chance we've had to get together. It was great to see John and Rose again, and to meet their lovely four-year-old daughter, and to see Elizabeth, a fellow classmate that I used to see much more of, again.

Come to think of it, I was a shopping monster this week, as I went into downtown Ballard (the district of Seattle we live in) and bought a bunch of birthday presents. I'd only meant to get my car registration renewed and a toy for Sophia because the pet shop was only a couple of blocks away, but I stepped into the folk art store and got totally carried away thinking of things for Mom and for Christina and for Tamar and for Jan, all of whom have birthdays coming up soon.

Oh, and I got the toy for Sophia and she loves it to bits. Even Zach, who has never been much for toys, will play with it. I highly recommend it--it's called Da Bird. It's a simple thing of feathers on a string on a thin whippy stick but they both think it's the cat's whiskers. Sophia will play with it until she's totally worn out.

 

So the good news is that Jim's work stuff is starting to wind down and get done. The cover of his book is done, and it looks like this:

 Gorgeous, eh?

 

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

Listening

A new Rasputina! Except for a stupid listen-once-then-skip-it-forever bit of performance art about a doubledate between rock personalities, Cabin Fever is a wonderful, lively, bizarre (as usual) album. Yay! New Rasputina! Strange quirky grrls with cellos rewl!

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

David Mitchell's Number9Dream is an odd book, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. It's the story of a country boy come to Tokyo to find the father he'd never met (his mother had been his father's mistress and they broke up not long after he and his twin sister were born). As he hunts for his father, staking out his father's lawyer's office, he meets a waitress with a beautiful neck, is befriended by his video store owner landlord, gets various jobs, a rich boy who gets him in trouble with the mob that just gets deeper and deeper. He's an innocent, a real boy in a land of the surreal. I really enjoyed it, though it might not be something for everyone. I found his search and the things he found on the way, quite fascinating, but I'm not sure yet whether the end worked for me--I think not. (See my comments about Mitchell's previous novel, Ghostwritten, in my April 15, 2001 entry.)

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

I read over a bunch of old stories I forgot I'd written. Much to my surprise, they all had a certain spark, enough so I couldn't put them immediately in my "Trunk 'em!" folder.

Oh, and I also got the check for my Confederation Poets Prize. I are a winner. Money proves it, doesn't it?

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

January - February 1983

[In which Jim and I move in with each other in a little yellow house at the mouth of the Hellgate Canyon. We are in the midst of the second year of our M.F.A. degrees]

1300. New Home

Though we've lived here six weeks (minus two), this is just becoming home, liveable, familiar. The cat asleep on the bed, the park bench in our living room, the rug that shows every spot of lint. I am not writing, which is a familiar state, but even this something is a beginning. Even nothing starts. I want to think of the coast, which is still green.

1301. Appearances
January 15, 1983

...have a reality of their own. The seen exists in a way that the unseen cannot--vision in a way the wholeness of what is behind the vision cannot. Note toward writing the poem.

1302. Gabriola [1]
January 18, 1983

That recurring dream about Gabriola, where I've never been, where the sand and rocks blend and alternate. Car driving on the beach, and stranded at high tide. And the boat before, not the ferry, but the ship we all sailed, where the captain warned us not to climb the rattlins except in an emergency. I remember climbing. The ocean is always in my dreams. But Gabriola, there's where the coast stranded me, made me leave my car and walk, tracing the coast as though redrawing the map--adding the spit for the ferry, new bays and a river--the one that begins here.

1303. Beard
January 24, 1983

Louise Glück [2] speaks calmly of gods--leaving them undefined, yet certain presences. Harold speaks of gods and they become nothing. A void in the poem. It has its uses.
It has its uses--the void
between one silence and the next
Enough of that. A two-line void. I am aching to write. To be enough to do that. I gather myself. I'm an open void, waiting for the muse. She is elsewhere, with a male lover. Singeing his beard.

1304. From that same journey
January 24, 1983

The woman is not mad, but
something else. She dreams
about winter, snow piercing
the windows of her house,
snow on the ground, tunneling
through the earth into her cellar,
the moist flakes already forming
on the sheets of her bed. The wind
surrounding the house like wolves
sinewy as the tree's naked branches
etched into her sleep. Not quite
the dream she expected, the four
white heads tucked beside her,
ash she turns to see them there, neatly
beside her, the blankets folded just
under their chins, the air warm
with the wool of their breathing. [3]

1305. Last night's line
February 4, 1983

I have been taking infusions of poetry, and am trying to write. Cat on my lap. Who is at the door? The usual no one, the wind. Cat bathing, eyeing, perhaps, the pen sliding down the blue almost vertical like of the page as it tries to keep its balance. The cat listens to the no one at the door, pretends to sleep. Someone whistles going down the street, and it is exactly midnight. My sadly purplish prose. Last night's line:
I walk like an old woman,
Echoed by hemlocks in the hunched rain.
The clock chimes in the tower, and the cat leaves. He's a midnight cat, a cat it's time to sleep cat. Worn from the out.
     I've time for the moment, and there is nothing but this frozen jumble going nowhere. I wish it might become a bear going nowhere, which became Swutlak. Lines which may become something. I, with my editorial eye, and all the old stories: trains in the distance. Now silence in the morning, waiting for Jim who will be drunk and a stranger, coming from a party. How the people you love become strangers, because you stop exploring them. I'm a long way from the ocean, a long way from what might be called home. Here I'm closer to tamaracks, ponderosas, trees which belong in poems. The streams which belong and the river, which owns poems--too many of which are called "Bitterroot". My headache's gone, and it's a gentle night. [Quote from W.S. Graham's poem "Nightfishing" omitted.] I am nightfishing tonight, and even carp will do, or a squawfish that won't die.

1306. Trees I've wanted to call my own
February 4, 1983

Sumacs and mountain ash.
Cottonwoods; tamaracks.
Hemlocks I'd like to name
in a poem. Cedars I've had
and fir. Oak are here, outside
my door, and weeping birches
line the streets. I'd like a poplar,
an elm, or the tree Odysseus
bent to make his bed.
Which reminds me of olive trees.
And timothy, I'd like to run
through fields of it, pick
alfalfa for tea, and dream
the dreams. Tamarack and pine.
All the alders that fall in my
dreams. The dogwoods perpetually
blooming. Arbutus, here called
madronas, I believe. What a rant,
what a useless rave, but I've been
naming something of my desire
for holding something of where I am.
Out with the bad, in with the good.
On with it. Another train still distant. [4]

1307. Hysteria Nightly
February 4, 1983

One turns the page to continue, to enter the poem that will not enter you. O blast and damn, why am I not made ready?


NOTES

1. One of the Gulf Islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island,

2. The poet, one whose work I still greatly admire.

3. This, only slightly revised, is the poem "Sleeping with Lambs" that appears in Blood Memory. Bits of the process of writing it appear in the previous two Phonosnout sections.

4. Another poem that never went anywhere.

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