Les Semaines

February 22, 2004

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal


Not Always Invisible

To: <Poetry List I'm Part Of>
From: Neile Graham
Subject: Unmasked!

As a writer not part of the academy (no AWP for me), unless I'm 
actually giving a reading at the moment I mostly feel that my 
identity as a poet resides in my own head.  

Sometimes I'm surprised.  

Today while pushing admissions papers there was a knock at my office 
door.  A woman who had come to our department to interview one of the 
faculty stopped by to tell me that she and her daughter have long been 
readers and admirers of my work.  Now her daughter is attending the Iowa
Workshop, and my work has been part of shaping her as a writer.

Wow--and thanks, is all I think I said, but hope I was more gracious than

Now I feel both less anonymous, and elated.


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


I confess it, I am still obsessing on Jesca Hoop. I am listening to other stuff, but keep coming back to her mp3 samples.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Carol Shields' novel Unless is my favourite novel of hers of the three I've read. Or maybe I was just reading it at the right time for me. It's the story of a woman leading a pretty happy, comfortable life until her eldest daughter suddenly drops out of university, leaves her boyfriend and they next see her on the corner of a downtown street with a sign that says "goodness" around her neck. She doesn't respond when they or anyone try to talk to her. What made me enjoy this so much? Well, the reality of the main character, for a start. Her interesting letters that she never sent. Her friends and life and challenges. Her struggles as a writer. Her pain as she tries to understand her daughter. Her struggle with the whole idea of whether or not it's true that women can have "goodness but not greatness". Highly recommended.

Early Saturday afternoon a box from amazon.co.uk arrived. Despite being out most of the day, by the time I went to bed Saturday night I had finished one of the books that came in that order: Susan Price's The Sterkarm Kiss (see my January 7, 2001 entry for my comments about her The Sterkarm Handshake). This one is just as absorbing as the first. I found myself immediately caught up in it and its violence and intrigues. This one seemed to move almost too quickly for me--there were fewer times when I could just enjoy my fascination with the world depicted--a form of the 16th-century Scottish/English border country. That's probably my only quibble with it--that and the main character seemed not quite suspicious enough given what had happened in the previous book. But I throughly enjoyed it.

Gwyneth Jones' Bold As Love is a near future story when the world is suddenly beginning to suffer a crisis from environmental, technological, and societal changes. To try to control the masses' reactions to these, the government starts a counterculture task force, bringing in underground musicians to give them some credibility. And as things get worse it all goes bad--but three of the musicians rise to the challenge and start to help pull some kind of stability out of the mess: Fiorinda, a damaged but charismatic and beautiful teenager, Ax, a guitar player with messianic tendancies, and Sage an electronic musician with damaged hands who constantly wears an electronic skull mask over his face and hands. It's interesting, messy, pretty bleak, and a little fuzzy around the edges emotionally (the author just tells us about a couple of major incidents in the main romance between Fiorinda and Ax) but still entertaining.

last week's reading § next week's reading


Wrote a grant this week, asking for money to desconstruct then reconstruct the re/inventory poetry manuscript I put together in September 2002.

When I had lunch with my friend Karen and we were talking about writing and me not doing it, I ended by making a recurring date for us to meet Saturday mornings and write for a couple of hours in a coffee shop.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Trip to Scotland with Christina, July-August 1991

Edinburgh, Saturday, July 27

I have a stupid cold.

We got up, had brekkie, got organized and went up to Princes St. to the Information Center then to Thos. Cook for Christina to cash a chque, then to a shoe shop along the street. I got cold medicine at Boots. While Christina was shopping I sat on a bench and watched some sidewalk artists and got black dust all over. Then we went up and walked the Royal Mile, the side toward Holyrood, looking in the shops, Lady Stairs House (lots of stairs) with memorabilia from Scott, Burns, and apparently Stevenson. Saw parts of the children's museum--dolls, including one made from an old shoe, several made from bones, mechanical toys, bears--one like dad's, trains, games.

Went to see a 17th century house reconstructed--Gladstone's Land--furnished with pieces from the period. The kitchen was upstairs (downstairs was the metchants' area, an arcaded style). The kitchen was the room that caught me the most. It had a sense of lies lived in it. The next room, a later addition to the ouse, had a wonderful painted ceiling and walls. Made me wonder about whoever painted it. Stopped for tea further down the mile at St. Giles--photographed Thistle Chapel.

thistle beastClose up of one of the many carvings in the Thistle Chapel.


Went to a couple of other bookstores--Thins, etc. and Judith Glue store, more stores, stopped for tea again, then walked home through the park, a different way.

Looked at lots of closes along the way.

Inside a closeThe interior of one of the closes.


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