what I'm thinking and doing

what I'm listening to

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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



Another Week Just Like a Week

So on Monday I was rushing to get out the door to meet my carpool on time. Monday. Like I want to go to work anyway, right? But I was putting on my rings on the way to the door and suddenly there was a hollow kind of clatter. I often drop my rings when putting them on, especially when I'm in a rush. But not usually down the heating vent. Where, later, neither Jim nor I nor our powerful vacuum were able to bring it back to light. Wah! This is the ring that Jim bought for me in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I am very sad that the household gods demand such a sacrifice.

Also on Monday when I was once again complaining about work (despite the fact that I got a paycheck which reminded me why I do this that I do) Jim dug out an old tape and played the old X Ray Spex punk song, "Oh Bondage, Up Yours" which I immediately uploaded onto my harddrive and played incessantly, causing Jim to wonder if he was happy with what he had started. At least he likes the song. He still likes it, even.

Work on Tuesday was tough, too, including a phone call from the copy center after 5:00 at home, letting me know of a problem about which I could do nothing from home and nor was there time (nor was I inclined, frankly) for me to go back to work to deal with it. Argh. So Tuesday night I follow Jim down to bed but after a while I'm feeling weird. What is this? Oh, heartburn; I sort of vaguely remember that I've had it before. It will go away. But it doesn't go away, just doesn't, so I drag myself upstairs, read long enough to finish Perfume (comments below), watch Sophia entertain herself by zooming across the room and behind the blinds and over the furniture, then fall asleep on the chesterfield and don't wake up till Jim's coming upstairs to make his breakfast. On the upside for a change I remember a little of my dream--about being at the ocean in clear water and touching anemones. Christina was there in this very cool shack on stilts above the water.

So I think it's something I ate, though dinner was mild--baked chicken. Still. Everything's fine until I get to work and the guy from the copy center phones twice and the directors need this and that and boing heartburn again. Ah. Cause = stress. Sigh.

Finally when I got home after work (after going to the Clarion West office, etc., etc.) Wednesday was quiet. In the evening we had a fire and listened to the rain outside, while working at our separate tasks. I needed a quiet night

Thursday when the mail came I learned that once again I did not get the big Canada Council grant I have been dreaming of, and a story came home. And Jim was out being a poetry star at Jack Straw, so I didn't even have him to whine to. But I made of list of places I could send the story, and got it out by email.

And got it back the next day. Shit! Good comments, but still, no sale. This story has many good comments but no buyers. So this time I print it out and send it to a magazine that has the reputation of taking a while longer to respond. Less than 24 hours is too short a turnaround for me right now.

Friday was quieter at work, so I got more done. Went out for Pho with Jim and Chuck. Came home, sent out that story, and Jim and I had a quiet evening watching the Farscape we'd taped last weekend and this week's episode. I really love this show and am sad that it's ending. That next week is the last episode and that they only found out when they started to tape the show, with no time to wrap up any of the loose threads. It almost would have been better had they ended it with Friday's show.

Saturday Jim worked in a garden and I joined him a little out there. There was a conclave of neighbours hanging out, talking, mowing and pulling weeds. It was a lovely day. That night we went to hear The Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet, a quartet of recorder players who do Early Music. It was lovely overall and parts of it were brilliant.

Today was the writing workshop, and not much time for much else, it seems. Ate the leftover chicken, and so far no heartburn. So far so good. Maybe I can keep this up if I don't think about having to go back to work tomorrow.

cherry treesOur neighbour's cherry trees blazing in the setting sunlight.


clematisThe clematis along our side fence.


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



Lots of listening to the new Kristin Hersh, The Grotto. Less so of the new Throwing Muses. The Grotto is a really soulful album, and I guess that's what we're in the mood for, more than rocking out.

Also enjoying the new Massive Attack, 100th Window, all except the long piece at the end, which just goes on. Otherwise it's a good, inventive album, and the first thing that Sinead O'Connor has done in a long time that I've liked. It was interesting--one of the preservation students just did a paper on the bar, Parker's, where we first heard Sinead O'Connor. Her first album, The Lion and The Cobra (to my mind still her best album) had just come out and I bought it on spec and we loved it, so when she came to town we went. It was at this dinner-type bar and there she was, singing this powerful material with her strong, gutsy voice, looking like a nervous novice in a plain gray dress.

last week's listening § next week's listening



People have been recommending Patrick Suskind's Perfume for years and I finally borrowed it from the library. It's the story of a child whose mother's tosses him away as a newborn, and he becomes part of the world of charity in Paris in the 18th century. He has two odd qualities: he himself has no scent at all, but he has the most amazing sense of smell--can smell things miles away and can separate the melange of scents in Paris into each component part. He suffers through his childhood and is early on apprenticed to a tanner but later proves his talents to a perfumer. He murders to capture a scent. This is a weird phantasmagoric novel with a gritty, realist base. It reminds me in tone of Lagerkvist's The Dwarf: a tale told sympathetically of a monstrous human. Recommended for those who like such things. I read it without hesitation but it's not something I look back on with pleasure.

Kay Kenyon's Tropic of Creation is a novel that takes place just after a great, horrific war that humans have had with another race. On their way to take a general's daughter and her husband and teenage daughter back to earth-controlled territory, the captain of their ship takes a side-trip to look for a ship lost during the war and they find it on a desert planet full of bones and fossils. Just before they are due to leave, the captain discovers there are tunnels deep under the planet surface, and their former enemies have left machines that dig down under the sand. The captain takes one and enters the tunnels--and is captured by the enemy. Meanwhile, on the surface, it begins to rain and strange, ravenous creatures arise from the blooming desert.... This is a well-told novel, gripping, inventive, and with good characters and an involving way of telling the story. Almost a prime example of a good genre novel.

last week's reading § next week's reading



  • I am building up a little momentum. Reading over the big chunk of manuscript a friend returned to me well over a month ago. Making small revisions on it. I have the next chapter I need to send her open, too.
  • I'd been avoiding asking because I knew that with the huge financial hit all the Canadian small presses took with General Distributing's bankruptcy that they weren't going to reprint but on Wednesday I got a message copied from my publisher to a bookstore looking for it that Spells for Clear Vision is officially out of print. I'm sad. I only have six copies left of it myself. I once sent it out to one local small press to see if they were interested in doing an American edition of it, but they weren't. I really, really, ought to keep trying.

  • As mentioned above, no Canada Council grant.

  • A story came back. A nice note, though, saying that they had already accepted a retelling of the same story for an upcoming issue, so even though he liked the story he couldn't take it. Hope I'd keep the publication in mind for future submissions. Etc. The story went out again, this time by email. And came back and went out again. Damn. I seem to be alternating email and snail mail with this one. The notes are good, so I haven't given up on it yet.

  • And after today's workshop, I think I know what to do with the story I brought in.

last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

December 1988

1550. Leaning to the end of the year
December 28, 1988

Wednesday after Christmas, the year strung out almost as far as a year can go.
     Lovely Christmas, already receding into memory, with Christina [1].
     From Charles Wright's Halflife:
     "...Poetry is just the shadow of the dog. It helps us know the dog is around, but it's not the dog. The dog is elsewhere, and constantly on the move.

"No better than she ought to be"
says the old woman in a novel
centuries later. Looking at your daughter
in her fifth year, thin hair straggling
over the torn velvet of her dress, what would you
have thought if you'd known she'd go out
chasing angels? You knew she was a wanderer
and certain of her own truth,
whether it involved lies to you or not
you know that she could ignore pain
as irrelevant--like the aching cold
of the stones and thorns beneath her feet
She knew what she wanted even then,
you might say, looking back the daughter
she'd bear to the man recaptured
from the faeries who'd help him so many years
and how she could hold on for what she
wanted...and how she would hold on.... [2]

1551. Readings
December 29, 1988

  1. "What is possible swiftly took hold." Graham
  2. "Sink me suddenly into bliss." Wright
  3. "My place in the world and what I would make of it." Wallace
  4. "...praying to die. Now I know those prayers were answered. That boy died..."
  5. "a dank ancestral song..." Stewart
  6. "I'm speaking of that terrible excess, not the edging back, but the overflowing..." Schultz
  7. "ghost step." Adcock
  8. "everyone who truly sings is beautiful." Kinnell
  9. "Bird calls and man calls and calls that are not." Kelly
  10. "So my father bend over the coffin for days." Wagoner
  11. "I, who looked at the drying leaves with my heart." Gregg
  12. "Each beautiful pore darkening." Bierds
  13. "...it was like finding at the shoulder blade on fire-light wing beginning to unfold." McBride
  14. "And the ground spinning beneath us goes on talking." Harjo
  15. "The dull self falling away." Voigt
I can't lie with my eyes closed any longer. Memory, postulation, creation, procreation and all the names of strangers. All those things someone else thinks are poems. How strange. Hoping for 1 - 15, especially 1 + 15. [3]

1552. Something to be made
December 30, 1988

Pushing at the very end of my free time, I feel I must produce something. Something to make this year seem to have mattered. Something to be made. My first and only winter in Ontario.
How life changes us
What changes us and what cannot
Making--that is what describes us
The things I cherish most are those that have been made
by hands that meant to be making
Real gifts
But what we make always comes undone,
meals eaten, clothing worn to rags
furniture broken rotted
and all that is misused
This is little humour in what I write, though I laugh frequently--I suppose I can be funny on paper--too busy thinking of what lasts and what doesn't and who cares
A small and perfect poem would be best
a short and well-shaped story
Bugger off, Jim--come to check up on me and speak loudly rather than discreetly but I won't let him stop me--even if all I write is this garbage thought that keeps pouring out uselessly but flowing nonetheless.
If only I had a subject that mattered enough to me. Something easier to handle at this moment than Mother's letters from The Charlottes. What matters
Heavy matters--subject matters.

1553. Choosing Your Life
December 30, 1988

for Catriona

Of all the things that made you
one is the sky: changeable, everything
it is, it also is not--cloud and clear
storm and moonlight and wherever
it stretches always hidden by the very
transparency of its blue.

Another thing is water: shapeless
and shaping, yielding and beautiful
yet it wore the valley into its shape
bores into stone, wears the river stones
into the cold shape you hold in your
hand, but which it is held by

Another, fire: sparks that fly high into
the night before they fade. It is companion
and power--not to be hidden lest it
cause more pain or choke and die. Fire
is what feeds your heart and teaches you
your own strength, your own love

Another, earth: that is made from
everything that dies--the deer, the cedars,
it is everything together in its last
moment making life. When you dig
your fingers into it, think of this--it shapes
itself into each pore of your skin like love itself

Child whom I love at a painful
distance, what I am trying to tell
you is this: your life is what you
make with your own hands,
shaping all these things that
you come from into the larger
shape you will be/of your life
And what I ask of you isn't small:
not to deny anything but to choose
who and what you will be, what
you will let break you, and what
you will let set you free. [4]


1. What I remember is watching a lot of Doctor Who and sewing.

2. This never came to anything, but I did eventually write a poem about the Tam Lin story that I do like, coming up next week.

3. These are all just quotes out of various poetry books I was reading. I assume I was hunting for inspiration.

4. This changed a lot over time, but appeared as "Alchemical Daughter" in Blood Memory.

last week's old journal § next week's old journal

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