Les Semaines


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


In Vancouver with Veda

An extremely busy week at work, with more student reviews and then our college's awards ceremony, both of which required much preparation and attendance. So I felt free to take off early on Thursday to pick up our friend Neal at the airport. We went and had delicious sushi for lunch at Musashi's, which I frequently don't get to because it's so busy for dinner and I'm not usually in the area at lunchtime. Fun, and a good welcome for Neal, who lives in New Mexico, where sushi is not so common.

After dinner, we went to see Sherman Alexei's new movie, The Business of Fancy Dancing, based on his novel of the same name. It was extremely well done, the acting was great, and I loved the story (could I resist something about a poet?) It was also fun to see friends and places I knew on-screen (look! there are Christine and John! There's Arthur!) It was a wonderful movie even without that.

On Friday we left for Vancouver about noon, just caught up in an hour-long wait at the border, and checked into our hotel, there drove over to East Van to meet our friends Art and Jan for dinner at a great Indonesian restaurant. Then we went to the first of Veda's concerts. Wow.

The next morning we got up gradually, went out for brunch and coffee, visited friends, went used disc shopping at Zulu Records, where I talked Neal into buying way too many discs and bought a few myself, and then picked up our friends and went to dinner at a vegetarian Turkish restaurant. Our experience in Turkey was that the people there didn't really understand what being vegetarian means, but this restaurant was good. And after that was another Veda concert. Another Wow.

Sunday morning we got up slowly, check out of the hotel, went for breakfast, then drove on home, where we lazed around mostly. Sloth hit us strongly, and stayed throughout Monday, though we finally roused ourselves to go to another movie, Insomnia, which was quite good but not exactly as strong as Following or Memento.

And that was my week. In a nutshell.

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This weekend we attended an amazing events: two night of live concerts by Veda Hille and her band (plus horns!) where she taped the shows for a future live album. This is the second time we have attended shows that Veda has taped, and it is so much fun feeling a part of the event (last time we had to be extremely quiet while she taped. This time we could cheer and applaud, make bird sounds (which I can't do) and sing along with the "Tuktoyaktuk Hymn". It was transcendent. Really, Veda is amazing and her band was smoking and the songs the horns were on got an extra punch and power. A wonderful event!

last week's listening § next week's listening


John Crowley's The Translator is a beautifully written, powerful, mysterious book. It's the story of a young woman who has given up poetry, but when she goes to attend university in the early 1960s finds herself asking to be in the class of an intriguing Russian emigre poet. Their relationship develops and he asks her to translate his work--all this against the background of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I found this fascinating. The characters could have been revealed just a little more, but their stories were wonderful, and there was much to think about here.

Eleanor Arnason's Ring of Swords is a space opera about humanity's contact with a quite foreign-thinking humanoid species--it's not too far beyond the realm of human experience, but takes it to a strange level where the warlike men patrol the periphery and the women and children hold the hearth at the center and have limited contact. The story focuses on a woman researching creatures on a planet where the two races meet to see if they can negotiate a treaty. She gets caught up in the negotiations when she meets a man who has joined the aliens. This is an interesting story but I found myself impatient with it at time, and not certain I believed the way events unfolded.

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No time time time.

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Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

May 1983

1330. Woman in Bath
May 22, 1983

Only in water is the disease,
my skin, relieved; like Marat
water releases me. I can
remove my bandages.
Water lines my skin like
the satin of a coffin, here
I float at ease, removed
simplified, a simple leviathan
in a pool, or perhaps an embryo
picked in a jar of a certain foreign
fluid. It doesn't matter--water
is what here unites birth, life,
and death, and of course
Marat's bath is emptied
of pus and blood and the oily
leakage from his skin
and its disease death putrefaction.
Charlotte Corday must see this
if ever she relaxes her mind
in the bath. [1]

1331. Lakeside Inventory
May 31, 1983

           (after Günter Eich)
This is my pack, a bud that closes
over around everything I own. At the centre,
its heart, there is my life. I pull
the petals, force it open, my hands taste
the warmth that rushes from it in waves.
This is what I pack: my towel which is
sandpaper to strip the damp from
my skin; sandals, insect skins to guard
my feet from gravel & heat, scars of the lake's
shifting. A tin cup so I can later
swallow the water that has swallowed
me. My notebook to fan the air so it
may can chase the lake's rain from my face.
My steel pen to scraetch my name on
the cup and in the pages of my book.
This is my pack which my pillow against the world
This is my book, which my blanket.
Now I can leave them open
to soak in the air, and peel my clothes
[from skin to the opening water] [later addition: from me
I carry myself to the water
which will be a new skin to my
body, the boat for my soul.
These are my arms, oars that begin to stitch
the air to the water. [2]

1332. Short
June 10, 1983

It is so beautiful no one will ever know it's not perfect. [3]

1333. Merwin Quote
July 13, 1983

[Omitted for the sake of copyright. It's all about the muse and poetry, from Iowa Review 13 (Winter 1982)]

1334. Control
July 21, 1983

Time to begin to greet the world again--to approach something elsewhere. Jim and I are now thoroughly married and settled in our new home, have rested and celebrated and read a lot, got all or most of the nothing over with. So now it's time to do something--rewrite and struggle, maybe find something new. Jon and Greg will be over in an hour, and the four of us will go over poems, or at least talk about what we're doing. I have to get over this way of writing only about what I can completely control. [4]

1335. Midnight
August 2, 1983

At last midnight, and the urge to being to write again, to re-name myself, and what is inside and outside. Sandra Alcosser read tonight, and her new work is very good--made me start thinking. I haven't though enough. I have been so removed I have doubted everything. Now I'm coming back. One of these formal predictions.

1336. Insert?
August 2, 1983

We've walked too far
not to know the pace where
we shatter, the harsh breath
we turn into [5]

1337. Almost writing
August 3, 1983

I've lain on the altarstone
feeling (at best) cold and nervous,
knowing there are many ways
to sleep, but this is not among
the first. THere was wind that day
and as I eased myself prone
there I felt I was falling
back into age and turf, the stone
upside down and me still with
it. It was enough to make me
jump away, but I didn't. I
held on there, even if it tried
to frighten me away. That broken
feeling of déjà vu, of all I've ever
known about my race coming back
to me, making me shed my dreams
and see my real small self lying there
open to the wind and the rain
that followed. [6]


1. This, rearranged, edited, and without the Charlotte Corday lines was published under this title in Blood Memory.

2. This, edited and tidied was published in Spells for Clear Vision.

3. This became the end of the poem "Hero At the Gates of Hell" in Spells for Clear Vision.

4. Greg Glazner and Jon Davis, both now widely published poets whose work has won several prizes, who attended the University of Montana with us.

5. I did use this, adjusted, in the poem "Crow Girls Decorating Graves at Custer Battlefield..." (part of Five Crow Photographs) in Spells for Clear Vision. 6. This is me trying to write about a real even, years earlier, when I visited Stonehenge back in the days when you could like on the stones, and I did. This poem never went anywhere.

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