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retrospective: old journal

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Les Semaines



For Example

Below is the start of a trip journal--for the first reading tour I ever did. That makes me think back. It's only 13 years ago now, but it feels a lifetime away. And a moment ago. I've done a lot of travelling since then--another two reading tours, four trips to Britain, one to Turkey, numerous to eastern Canada/U.S. Wow. It has been a busy 13 years.

This has actually been quite a restful weekend. Friday night we just rented a DVD and had Chinese food delivered. Yesterday Jim was busy being a famous poet down in Shelton, Washington at a writer's conference, talking about how to send your work out (sound familiar? Guess whose work he used as a basis for that. Heh.) and about applying for grants. So I was alone yesterday. I did things like cleaned the kitchen, made lasagna, worked on the mess that is my study and did bits and pieces of other work and play. Then Tamar can over to help us eat the lasagna and we watched Princess Mononoko which I had just bought. We're on a Studio Ghibli kick. Today I had to get myself out the door (late) for my fiction workshop. But it was a little shorter than usual as we only had three stories and three people of our group couldn't make the meeting so I got home at a reasonable time but haven't been able to bring myself to do much.

Jim also got to be a famous poet on Thursday night, which was his reading for his Jack Straw residency. He did really well, and it was an interesting reading overall. The cool thing is that the reading will be on the radio at some point--maybe as far in the future as next April when it's National Poetry Month again, but I hope before that.

I reading-coached him on Wednesday night. Actually, I tortured him on Wednesday night but every once in a while we all need that. But, wow, given the chance I can be a horrible nitpicking bitch. Just ask me to pick on you and I'll do a great job. Ask Jim.

So now I have to get everything ready for my trip, like buying traveller's checks and supplies and thinking about what to take and what not to take and oh the work I should (but won't) do first. Ay yi yi.


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



I'm still obsessing with Petracovich's blue cotton skin. Moody and quiet, yet driven. Understated yes rich. Good for the stressed amongst us to get lost in.

Also loving some Ultralash samples that I listened to online, enough that I've already ordered the album but keeping playing the samples over and over and over again. Jim says it reminds him of Kim Fox. Yes, a little. Speaking of which, the new Kim Fox has yet to grab me at all. Alas.

And we finally got a copy, just about an hour ago, of the new Broadcast ep, Pendulum. Yum.


last week's listening § next week's listening



Diana Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy is Jones at her best: characters whose problems and goals draw you in, with complicated relationships, a complex set of worlds and problems full of unexpected connections and shifts but enough familiar territory to ground the story. This is about a young girl on the verge of womanhood who is part of the king's progress around the land, when she realizes that things are awry. None of the adults believe her until it's too late for them to help her. Meanwhile, a young man finds himself on another world having the adventures he has always wished to have, but nothing is easy for him, and he finds himself forced to promise to help in a problem not his own and bigger than he thinks he can possibly affect. A fascinating story. Highly recommended.

Sheri Cobb South's The Weaver Takes a Wife is a froth of a Regency romance that I read in 1.5 hours. It's the unlikely story of child bought out of the workhouse who ends up by inheriting a mill and becoming hugely rich--enough to marry the daughter of an impoverished duke, whom he must woo.

I last read Mary Stewart's Touch Not The Cat when I was a teenager and it has remained in the back of my mind as a pleasant read. It's very romantic but in a practical, realistic way, like all of Mary Stewart's writing. This is the story of a young woman whose father was heir to the history-rich but cash-poor estate of one of England's oldest families. When he dies in an accident, the estate is entailed to her cousin. All her life she has had an psychic link with one of her cousins--but she doesn't know which one and he will not say, so she suspects it is one of the twins, the elder of which will inherit the estate. But now strange things are happening and she suspects her father's death wasn't an accident. An enjoyable re-read.


last week's reading § next week's reading



Sent out a submission of poems, made up of the rest of the group that "Westward Ever Dreaming" was bought out from, and another newish poem that I spent some time revising. This is its maiden voyage. Wish it luck.


last week's writing § next week's writing


Retrospective: old journal

February 1990

1590. Stellar's Jay
February 8, 1990

I was sitting at the computer and the jay that haunts the neighbourhood flew onto the windowsill outside for a moment. If the glass had not been there I would have been able to reach out and touch him. Note for a poem: my experiences around the Mustard Seed (after reading my old journals last week) [1].

1591. E.B. White
March 7, 1990

From E.B. White's interview in Writers At Work 8:
  • "writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life"
  • "The writer's role is...a custodian, a secretary"
  • "...charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost. But it is not easy to communicate anything of this nature"
  • "A writer must reflect and interpret his society; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge"
  • talking about angry writers, then "...I would hate to be nothing but mad: and I think I would lose what little value I may have as a writer if I were to refuse, as a matter of principal, to accept the warming rays of the sun, and to report them, whenever, and if ever, they happen to strike me. One role of the writer today is to sound the alarm. The environment is disintegrating..."
  • About his journals "in most respects they are disappointing. Where I would like to discover facts, I find fancy. Where I would like to learn what I did, I learn only what I was thinking. They are loaded with opinion, moral thoughts, quick evaluations, youthful hopes and cares and sorrow. Occasionally, they manage to report something in exquisite honesty and accuracy. This is why I have refrained from burning them."

1593. Bryony's Needle
March 18, 1990

Finished BN on Friday, day before yesterday, or at least I reached the end, an end, of this. I think I could go on a lot longer with those characters, so maybe this will be a sequence. I don't want to think about that now, but I've already started thinking of what could happen next...imagine Bryer dreaming about her friends, or going to see them and getting caught up in something, Grenover coming back, or, or...
     Robin called this morning just to tell me how much he liked the novel so far...and wanted to see the end. Wonderful to hear that. He thinks, too, that I won't have too much rewriting to do. Encouraging.

Saturday, April 7, 1990

(An un-numbered entry from a supplementary journal from my first reading tour [4].)

I was reading the inflight magazine and casually glanced out the window and realized that I was missing our passage over the coastal range--a sea of mountains, still snow-topped and patches of snow on the lower levels. Mt. Baker rose above them all.
     On the flight between Seattle and Vancouver I caught a glimpse of Rainier above the fog, unrealistically clear above the mist.
     So many mountains that obviously many--most--nearly all?--will never have been explored and likely will never have a human foot at their peaks. I almost want to congratulate the earth for keeping a few of her places to herself. What a strange reaction. Or is it?
     I'm self-conscious writing in this beautiful book--especially while reading Our Private Lives, a collection of writer's diaries and journals that Jim bought after the Alice Munro reading March 29th and that I've been saving to read on this trip.
     The last few months have been so busy--the trip to Victoria in the sudden snowfall, finishing BN, writing the grant, arranging the recommendation letters, arranging this trip, the extra editing I've been doing, starting our taxes, the couple of readings and the many folk and early music concerts, the odd movie and Jim's writing. I feel as though I've hardly taken a breath since Christmas. I certainly have let my correspondence slide, which makes me feel guilty but I just have to let it go.
     In scraps of time I've put my poems together--got a 5 x 7 print of the photograph for the cover (I hope that works out) [2]. I realize I really do have enough poems for a new collection--and within the last few months I decided on a title--Airs and Graces, stealing from the several folk albums of that title [3].
     The collection will be, I think, of a better quality than Seven Robins, but equally as disparate in subject mater, and still uneven as to quality perhaps but definitely varying in tone. I hope when I work on arranging them I can work that to my advantage, rather than letting it be a drawback--we'll see.
     Last night I finally had the chance to work seriously on choosing the poems for the readings--with Jim's help--choosing the most accessible ones for the public library reading, some of those and some of the more difficult for the Tree reading, and the poems for Christina with a few additions for U of T. I've chosen way more poems than I think I can ever read so I'll have to do some cutting before the readings or maybe just as I go along, deciding by the time each takes, trying to remember to read slowly enough. (En route to Calgary.)
     Later (Calgary to Ottawa), crossing the prairies, all the land marked out in grids--no wilderness here. Even though the land is still ice-bound and looks deserted the lines run straight across the prairie for miles--broken by the odd pond or river valley, but continuing straight. Very strange--not at all what I thought I saw a year ago driving south of this route (we're flying north of Regina, north of Winnipeg, over Wawa)--now over cloud again that actually resembled the mountains east of Vancouver, only the shadows are valleys and the cloud tops that catch the sun are like the snow on the peaks. A pleasant fancy. I like getting a different view of the world and glad to have a window seat. It makes this less of a bus ride, more real. Is that a lake just south now? Yes, definitely--a clear demarcation from the land. It's still frozen and there are little clefts in it--marks on the ice--fissures? I don't know why I expected lake ice to appear smooth, especially this time of year (shore again now.)
     It reminds me of a year ago February (only fourteen months, but as distant to me now as though many more years--even fourteen years--my memory works like that) when Jim and I went to Grand Bend to see Lake Huron in winter (to see Lake Huron at all), and walked over the frost heaves--astonishingly like sand dunes--to look out over the flatness of the lake. It seemed to go on forever. I hadn't expect it to look like that at all. For one thing, so arctic.
     Over Winnipeg now, saying hi to everyone I know there.
     And now the lakes everywhere.
     Three stages (I noticed) to sunset (during dinner): first a diffuse light but then-blue sky, to green to yellow to orange to red to purple to dark blue land; later more diffuse; later dark entirely ahead of us, but behind a thin, intense, concentrated line that lasts even now. Colours very intense. At first I selfishly thought I was the only one to bother looking--somehow it was "mine"--but then heard, with a guilty surge of disappointment someone in the seat behind talking about it.
     During the first stage the setting sun shone orange on the wing just ahead of me, and the colour pulsated (pointed out by my neighbours to the left) and made it seem we could actually see the air over the winds as it moved.
     The thin line of colour grew darker and was gone behind us--strange to think the sun is probably just starting to set on Jim tonight. Saw Lake Superior in the dark with a ring of lights along this part of the shore. Dad and I drove along there ten months ago. The trip that took us six days now done in as many hours.


1. Never wrote that poem.

2. This is the photograph that was the frontispiece, rather than the cover, of Spells for Clear Vision.

3. This changed to Spells for Clear Vision after I'd sent the manuscript out at least once, maybe twice.

4. A lovely handbound book with a marble paper cover. A gift from Susan.

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