Les Semaines


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


Starting The Day

I'm still wrapped up in finishing the manuscript of re/inventory, so I confess I am slighting this journal--not slighting like castles used to get slighted into ruins, just giving it short shrift.

So I don't have much to say anyway. Spent a lovely day yesterday at the zoo with some friends. I shouldn't have gone but we had been trying to schedule this since the beginning of the summer, so I didn't want to cancel. Also this week we bought ourselves a DVD player. Friday night I saw Apocalypse Now (the redux version) for the first time. What an amazing movie! I'm kind of glad to see it on the small screen as otherwise the violence would be overwhelming but the film was still effective and not shrunk at all. And it's interesting to hear the sound going through the stereo. Not surround sound, but still crisp and good.

So given how much time I've wasted this weekend, you can imagine how panicked I am at having to mail this manuscript off this week. And finish my Canada Council grant application. Ki yi yi.

To entertain you briefly, in lieu of a fuller entry, here's my account of waking up Tuesday. This is how my days go.


  • It started with staying up into the wee hours to finish that damn book I was reading.
  • Then at 5:00, Jim started playing tricks with his alarm clock after it went off, pulling the control out so it would ring again, stopping it, then pulling it out again and letting it ring. He claims no responsibility for this as he says he wasn't awake. I call it deliberate torture. Especially as this is the morning I don't have to get up till 7:00.
  • Then after Jim left, the toilet kept making this weird shivery noise it does periodically, waking me up, making me think about going upstairs to try to shut it up but then it would stop for a while so I'd drift off again, only to have it start shivery-shuddering again and wake me up.
  • Then Sophia decided she was bored and a claw on my butt would be fun (at least that got Zach's weight off my side when I jumped).
  • Then my alarm went off. I went upstairs and couldn't help myself, I lay down on the bed in my study, and when Soph curled up behind my knees I had to stay there. I dreamt there was snow and Jim had been in a little fender bender and had to abandon the car and walk home.
  • Then I slept an hour and it was too late to exercise but I had a shower and got ready for work and checked my email and yes my friend who is nominating the new manuscript I put together just for this got my nomination in in time so all the work of the last two weeks hasn't been for nothing.
  • A HUGE vacuum truck arrived just before I left and was making noxious noises down the storm drain.
  • When I got to work the elevator wasn't working, so I got the brief but brisk walk up from the Pacific parking lot and then three flights of stairs so at least I wasn't totally exerciseless for the day.

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


Still in the midst of the great disc binge of 2002. Listening and sorting through them all in my head.

last week's listening § next week's listening


I really loved Regina McBride's The Nature of Water and Air while I was reading it; in retrospect I have more reservations about it, but there was something quite lightly charming about it. This is the story of a young girl born to a mother who was a tinker when a wealthy young man falls in love with her, and marries her. She never fits in with his family, and shortly after he died she finds herself pregnant and exiled to an empty rambling house on the other side of Ireland. She gives birth to twins, one of which is the protagonist of the story. The other twin is sickly, and dies at age 5. The young girl is obsessed with her mother and tries to get close to her but is rebuffed, and as she grows gets more and more estranged from her mother and haunted by her dead sister. And then her mother walks into the sea. Was her mother a selkie? Surely not, but she had a sealskin dress and a profound restlessness.... The title of the book is one of my main reservations about it--it's trying a little too hard to be mystical and ends by feeling abstract, though for the most part the book doesn't.

Katie Roiphe's Still She Haunts Me is a novel based on the relationship between Lewis Carroll (the mathematician Charles Dodgson) and Alice Liddell. It traces him meeting her, providing the psychological background for him and somewhat for Alice's family, and presents a possible version of what caused the schism between the family and himself. A novel that kept my interest throughout because o the subject more than for any other reason, though I presume the author knew that would be the case with most of her readers. Few people come at a novel like this to read it as a novel.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Still tinkering with the manuscript. Editing, swapping poems in and out. Shuffling. Fidgeting. Fussing. Angsting.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

September - October 1985

1417. Reading Straw
September 1, 1985

I'm reading Straw for the Fire tonight, having chased Jim out of his sory and myself into it. I need this time and this space to work and to work on working. I've done so little for so long. If anyone ever read these pages they would be tired of this lament. I surely am. Besides Roethke--Rilke, Celan, Bonnefoy, Elytis--and others--Bringhurst, Merwin, Hanson, W.S. Graham, and Gluck. The Cantos across in th shelves, should I need them. I've dipped in and out of them for years. They spark off something in me, something in the collective unconscious sort of area, though there's so much that I miss of them.

1418. Random lines tonight--saving them
September 1, 1985

"I practice at walking the void"--Roethke
wind weaves moss in the high branches
Birds shifting their wings before singing [1]
the flavour of stars: hidden, familiar [2]
curled and wintering [3]
as though flame could be an entrance
into something other than flame [4]
     back to this: your ring at the base of
     my finger, you hand at the base
of my thigh
And shall we leap the trees as light as birds?" Roethke
"The dark heart of some most ancient thing..." R

1419. Making something of it
September 1, 1985

Wind waves moss in the high old branches
of the alders. No story here, just the whish
of birds shifting their wings before
singing, the sigh of the night settling
into its vibrant bed, curled and
wintering. This is the beginninging
of the sun's slow crawl
across the mountains, till it finally
breaks over the valley and stands
amazed. [5]

1420. Thoughts on the line
September 2, 1985

After reading Field's symposium on the line and remembering Harold saying that I needed to think about the reasons for my lineation:
     I use linebreaks to open the poem.
The rest of the page is whiteness: I try to open the poem into that silence where it can reverberate. Sounds poeticized but is what I mean.

1421. Mallarmé
September 2, 1985

Mallarmé said poetry is made to "give the ribe's words back their full and the purest meaning, their true weight and all their freshness."

1422. Eich
September 4, 1985

"I write poems to orient myself in reality...Only through writing do things take on reality for me...Writing is not only a profession but a decision to see the world as language. Real language is a falling together of the word and the object. Our task is to translate from the language that is around us but not "given." We are translatiing without the original text. The most successful translation is one that gets closest to the original and reaches the highest degree of reality:

1423. Francis and Koch on Eluard
September 6, 1985

"...the poet does eveything he can to make words and meanings identical"
"I also like Paul Eluard very much, though it's difficult to be influence by him, he's so pure and cool."

1424. Murder Scene
October 19, 1985

No setting for a poet--
The father, shot in the back of the head,
mother and daughter shot on the
way to the door. Daughter
leaving so many people behind
her sister and brothers and
the three-year-old daughter sleeping
upstairs. How you will haunt her, haunt
your husband as he tries to raise her
alone. You face in the paper
haunting strangers. How your sister
will dream and dream of you
trying to share what it's like on the
other side, as you shared everything in this.
All your friends will never shake you
remember all you said and how
you must have fallen at the bottom
of the stairs, as though you planned it.


1. Those lines appeared later in "Fool's Gold on the Snow" in Spells for Clear Vision.

2. That line appears later in the title poem of Spells.

3. Back to "Fool's Gold on the Snow".

4. And back to "Spells".

5. And here is a stretch of "Fool's Gold on the Snow".

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