Les Semaines


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


Down To The Wire

After work on Monday, I wrote four poems. Not quite from scratch, but I sure went from nothing resembling a poem to four things that looked very much like poems to me and that fit beautifully into the new manuscript. I got the manuscript mailed out on Tuesday morning, stopping off at the post office on my way to work. Wow. From 0 to 100 (nothing much but scraps to a full manuscript) in a month. I can hardly believe it. I knew the scraps had potential but I didn't know I could realize it so quickly. That is, trusting of course that I did realize it. At least I feel good about it now; I'm not going to try to re-read it for a while. I don't want to get depressed about it or anything. I just want to be patient and see what happens with it. It's a possibility out there. It's out in the world.

Busy week at work. I did two orientation sessions, Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Tomorrow is both the first day of classes and orientation for Urban Planning, so I expect to be very busy tomorrow. Lots of students have been coming in. I know that both Architecture and Urban Planning are fuller than they expected to be as more students came to start the programs than normally they do statistically--I suppose because of the economy. They always accept a certain percentage of students over what they can handle trusting that a number of them will go to other universities or will otherwise not come--but this year more of them came. That means many required classes are full and is causing all kinds of registration problems, which means that we're all busier than normal trying to deal with it. It's hectic and stressful.

Because of this and because I am who I am I found writing my Canada Council grant application hard. I suppose too it was because I'm applying this year for a new project, having gotten far enough in the one I've applied for in the last couple of years not to need to apply for help with it. Or maybe I should as I'm not as far along with it as I should be, but anyway, it's time to apply for the next thing. I had a shock when I realized that what I was applying for was help with my sixth book. How could that be? It took me a moment to add it up: I already have three published, re/inventory, the one I just mailed off makes four, and then there's the Scotland poems, five. So the next thing is six. It never occurred to me that I could be a person who could be working on my sixth book of poems.

I hope to soon feel that surprise at finding myself working on my sixth novel.

But right now I'm working on a new story that I want to submit to an anthology coming up soon.

And so I'm signing off for the week.

But first I'll give you a quick heads up. My birthday is a week Tuesday. Yes, Jim, this reminder is for you.

I'll be 44. I remember when that seemed old.

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


Listening to everything. Still more discs are arriving in the mail. Not many this week, though.

Edie is an artist that I came across by chance while browsing CDStreet.com (her disc is also available at cdbaby.com), looking for another disc to order with Emaline Delapaix's second ep (for some reason I hate buying only one disc when I can get a second for very little more in shipping & handling).
     Edie is from The Netherlands, though has travelled a lot and now is living in LA. That's about all I know about her biography.
     I find her disc, Shades, quite entrancing. It reminds me very much of Sinead O'Connor's The Lion and The Cobra in overall sound and the way Edie uses her voice. She got a nice range and uses it to project shades of emotion within the scope of her songs. Though I'm comparing it to a disc that is--egad!--15 years old now, I don't mean by this that it sounds dated--it doesn't to me. This similarity is a flavour. She's dramatic like Sinead, too, though perhaps a little less, as there is no "Troy" on Shades. Her songs are not quite as focused as Sinead's but they sound so lovely and strong that I highly, highly recommend this disc. Download the sample tracks and her website at http://www.ediemusic.com and see what I mean. She has about 4 tracks available there and a couple of very homemade videos. I really like what she's accomplished in this disc and think she shows a heap of promise.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Gregory Macguire's Lost is the tale of an author who thinks she may be a descendent of the model for Scrooge. She is at loose ends, maybe on the trail of a new book, and goes to England to do research. When she gets to her cousin's house, she finds he has mysteriously disappeared, and workmen tearing down a wall in the apartment say the place is haunted, and things are very strange. What an odd book! I was half-caught up in it and half annoyed by it because the point of view character is obviously unreliable and hiding things from herself and from us. And she's so rude! Anyway, hard to know whether to recommend this. Maguire gets great press and the books look wonderful and there are great patches in this one. Maybe if you're not going to be annoyed by an annoying character? Hmm.

Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris was a little hard for me to read. Not because it was painful or anything, but I had this weird relationship with it. While I was interested in it intellectually, I never got caught up in it. I think it took me six weeks to read, and it's only a little over 200 pages. For me it was like reading most nonfiction: I enjoyed thinking about it, but I never had a sense of wonder, nor (at least until the final story) did the characters or events fully engage my interest. This is a collection of stories about a strange fictional world. Perhaps I would have liked it stranger, I don't know. The collection has been widely praised, and one (not my favourite) even won the World Fantasy Award. It was on the slightly self-conscious postmodern side of things, which might explain some of my lack of engagement. Vivid description doesn't engage me, particularly, at least for any length of time. Anyway, I loved the last story ("The Strange Case of X") and it had an ending I truly should have seen coming, but didn't. It was also far more emotionally involving--and vivid--for me.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Done. Done done done done done DONE. DONE! re/inventory is out in the mail. I can't believe I did it. Monday night I was frantically finishing four poems. Four! And I finished them.

Writing my Canada Council grant application was complicated, I think, not only by the busyness and craziness of my work week but also by the exhaustion after getting that manuscript done. It's been painful, but thanks to Jim's help I have it done and ready to get the right postmark on it.

Now I'm starting a short story. I'm working hard at trying to burn myself out this fall. I mean, not to. Heh.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

November - December 1985

1425. God without Thunder
November 5, 1985

"Love is the aesthetic and lust is the science of sex." John Crowe Ransom, God Without Thunder.

1426. November
November 17, 1985

I'm away from it all--the big mess of Jocelyn leaving Ed [1]. And Mom and Dad trying to cope with it.
     It will be a hard winter. Wind storms and ice and it's a windstorm this afternoon--one cat curled by the heater, the other on the bed. I'm wrapped up in the transition back into myself.
     worrying about it all. Sorry I can't be there. Not writing, but working on translations of Éluard.

1427. Hard Winter
November 29, 1985

Hard Winter already. Jocelyn having done what she did. Snow and wind having done what it did. And cold.
     My niece saying these are the socks that she wore when the men came. And vomiting.
     My nephew in his "airplane" box for hours and not coming out.BR>      Someday I'll know enough what this means to write about it. [2]

Or a marriage song for Brenda: red roses and him cleaning his glasses on your hem. It's the smell of smoke when he's working [3] and the warning of his kisses. Wanting to leave and never leaving. Fear leaving. Fearing to stay. Not knowing how much longer it will go on snowing. Know what he won't understand, what he cannot share. Wind in the high buildings. Undertow of rain. Riding it out.

They are sinless. They are sin's children caught in their parents' futile storming and the rock breakwaters of their own choice. Amateurs at the making of lives, they don't understand how the vortex created by their own spinning sucks these others in. [4]

1428. Dear Richard Hugo [5]
November 29, 1985

Dick, sometimes I can help waiting
for you to jump out of the cart [6] we keep
hauling over Skye saying, That's as
far as I go. We've pulled you from Skye back
to Montana, over the mountains as though
they were only so many waves on the calm
Atlantic. We eulogize you, only
we can't make it sound as though we can
raise you from the dead. Like Philipsburg [7]
You'd be glad to know we are still here
and waiting for that sudden ressurection,
for you to cheat all our grief and run away
flying. So we couldn't even pretend to hold
you anymore.

You anymore. So you think I sound a little
bitter. Well, we're all mad at you for leaving,
letting our lives go on without you. We all dream
you here, at least I know I do. We dream
you wheezing up the stairs and saying That's no poem not it. Denying it all. Saying no to all
the whining we let go on behind your back.

that the Rattlesnake Creek
can still meet the river without you, or
that the Hellgate winds still battle the city
for winter. They're still moving to the sea.
We make symbols of these things
because you knew them [8]. In the same way
we make symbols of ourselves and can't forgive
that we go on living without you.

We all so certain it's you who left us behind.

1429. Lines
November 29, 1985

I'm tired of looking into other people's ruined
lives. I'm darker inside than out.

1430. Bryony's Needle
November 29, 1985

Focus of story and wanderings. The girl's name: Bryer, who carries Bryony's needle, at first not knowing. Grows to understand. Succession of companions--woman with gift of talking to animals, earther (dwarf), water nymph, dryad, bird, wizard. Wanderings become more of journey--to mother's home (original?)
     These are for the story I need to work on. [9]

1431. December
December 15, 1985

It's heading toward Christmas, and it's been very cold, all through the latter half of November and until now. There's been snow for a long time.
     Last weekend we worked all Friday and Saturday and produced Nancy's manuscript [10]. Tuesday Wendell Berry read, and it was wonderful (won't mention what preceded him). I got a letter from Christina and wrote her back.
     Days I drift through, don't live enough.


1. My sister leaving her second husband, complicated by her two children (one from the previous marriage, one from that one).

2. I won't say more about this. You can infer what was going on. Or not.

3. Jim used to chainsmoke while writing. Happily, he managed to quit.

4. Though the pronouns are a little confused (the third sentence's "they" refers to the parents), I still think this is a good description of what goes on in these events sometimes.

5. Richard (Dick) Hugo was a famous poet, and still should be. He died three years before this writing, and had been our teacher for a year. I still miss him though I was never as close to him as I was to Robin Skelton. Losing Robin is still an ache in the heart. In fact, as I type this, I'm choking up.

6. In one of Dick's most wonderful poems, "The Right Madness on Skye" (from the book of the same title) he talks about his dead body being hauled away in a cart--and then he leaps up.

7. "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg" is another of Dick's most wonderful poems.

8. Stealing from W.S. Graham's eulogy poem "Dear Bryan Winter".

9. The novel that I did finish the first draft of but which sits unrevised. Thie first one. Not that one that I'm in the middle of, now.

10. Now there's a book that should have been published. That was a strong collection of poems.

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