Les Semaines

October 14, 2007

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


Busy Like The Bee

Monday I turned 49 for the first (and last?) time. (I have no idea if hitting 50 is going to bother me, so I reserve all kinds of rights to decide to stay whatever age I am--and in any case I'm 8 and 28 and 58 and 80, all at once, right now.) Had a lovely family sushi dinner with Devin, Tamar, Karen, and Barry, and Jim made me my favourite lemon poppyseed cheesecake. Perfect.

The rest of the week felt really compressed, trying to get ready to go up to Victoria on the Thursday morning Clipper. I was getting so stressed out about work and everything else I have to do that it made me feel like I might have a stroke or something. Argh. Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths.

Of course, once I was on the Clipper there was nothing I could do about anything at work or at work, so I just let go of it all. Hooray.

The weekend was wonderful. It was a series of events organized by our friend John Barton to celebrate the 40th anniversay of The Malahat Review and the tenth anniversary of the death of Malahat co-founder (and John's and my poetry mentor, Robin Skelton). There were parties and gallery shows of Robin's art and pieces he donated to galleries, a lecture by Robert Bringhurst about the West Coast Renaissance that Robin and Charles Lillard posited was beginning in the mid-80s, a Gala Reading that I participated in, and a half-hour CBC radio piece with John and Harold Rhenisch (our friend and editor of Robin's recent selected poems) interviewed about him.

It really was a wonderful and moving and happy and sad time. Great to see so many people who loved Robin together again. Great to spend time with my parents and John and Harold and to see people I haven't seen in years. Dennis Reid! Louise Longo, whom I haven't seen since our poetry workshop in 1979-1980; Margaret Blackwood, whom Robin collaborated with; Margaret Bowering, a wonderful poet in her own right (I was on the Lowther jury when she very deservedly won that prize); Rhonda Bachelor Lillard, writer and friend who was in our 1978-1979 workshop with Robin; Derk Wynand; Diane and Leandra, Harold's wife and daughter; Bringhurst, whose poetry I love so much; Robin's two daughters, Alison and Brigid and their husbands; Carol and Richard from Exstasis Editions...I know I'm forgetting people, but it was wonderful.

I was delighted to be invited to participate in the Gala Reading at the Art Gallery. We all read at least one poem by Robin and then a couple of our own. I read my all-time favourite poem of Robin's, "Burning Sticks, Mallorca" and since I have a recording of him reading it, I could hear his voice the entire time I read it. An eerie, beautiful moment.

Poems should be timeless
and be love.
         They prove
little but movements
of the hearts they move,
concerned to celebrate
not spell the truth.
The love that puts this message in my mouth
may be my own
but is not mine alone.
Yes, Robin, Thank you.

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


New, very strange and intriguing PJ Harvey disc from Devin for my birthday. It's very cool.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Connie Willis' novella, Inside Job was a fun, quick read. It's the story of a professional debunker of New-Age charlatans who finds his skepticism challenged when his beautiful assistant brings him to see a channeler whose act is being interrupted by a voice debunking it.

Kenneth Oppel's young adult SF novel Dead Water Zone tells of an athletic older brother who has always looked after his genius, physically fragile younger brother. When his brother calls him from the dangerous slum area built over the lake, Watertown, he feels compelled to rescue him. However, his brother isn't at their appointed meeting place, and he finds himself in way over his head in Watertown. A fun thriller, but not on the level of Oppel's later work.

Robin McKinley's young adult fantasy novel Dragonhaven was an utter delight. The protagonist, a teenage boy, has such a strong voice it immediately captivated me. You know from the start that he has gone through life-changing, world-changing events and is struggling to find a way to make a shape out of the tale, so I felt immediate sympathy with him. He has grown up in an isolated dragon sanctuary. His mother dies mysteriously and then his dog and his father is caught up in sanctuary administration and research--and grief. There's a community that lives in the sanctuary but most of them are caught up looking after the tourists who come to see dragons and have to be satisfied with the dragon-like lizards they keep in a zoo, as dargons keep their distance from humans. Even Jake himself has never seen a dragon. That is, until he's on his first solo in the depths of the park and discovers a poacher has managed to break through their sanctuary's security and kill a pregnant dragon. One of the dragonlets is still alive. Except it's illegal to help a dragon survive. This is a wonderful and humane story, full of wonder. One of McKinley's best, and that's saying a lot. She's one of my favourite authors.

Interesting that Christopher Barzak's One for Sorrow isn't being marketed as a young adult novel, while McKinley's is, but so go the vagueries of marketing. One for Sorrow is the story of Adam, a high school student from a mixed up family, whose almost-friend Jamie is found murdered in the woods. This is all complicated by Adam's mother getting paralyzed in a car accident caused by a women who moves in with his family, a rebellious girl Gracie who finds Jamie's body and becomes Adam's almost-girlfriend, Adam befriending Jamie's ghost, and his fey grandmother's warnings about getting caught up in the supernatural world. Adam's journey is a surprisingly smooth read for such a tangled emotional web.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I played writer this weekend. And my poem "Sky and Egg Skye and Eigg" came out in the 40th anniversary issue of The Malahat Review.

A short story rejection, though.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

June 13, 1994
Edinburgh → Pitlochry

Jim's Journal

Used by permission; Neile doesn't seem to have kept a journal this week.

Woke up tired and a little nauseous from dinner last night. Had breakfast of egg/toast/cereal/tea/O.J.

Packed and got to train station by 10:30 am. Waited there to meet up with Jens. Train took from 11:00 till after 1:00 p.m. Hauled luggage up from Pitlochry station to B&B, checking in, went out again. Couldn't decide where to go since didn't have car--went to info center. Found out about Pictish stone outside of town. Walked to supsension bridge and had lunch of chicken paté, cheese and crackers on rocks. Hikes over bridge and along road to stone which was in farmer's field, up a hill and next to graveyard and also behind glass. Couldn't get good picture of stone, called Dunfallandy which sure was up high. We decided to wait until sun went down enough to get top half. Stone was in great condition. Had on back man on horse, hammer, tongs, crescent andv-rod, seated figures of man and woman above middle and all of it wrapped in two-snake figures curling around side of stone. A beautiful setting on a very warm, sunny day.

Walked back to B&B by 6:30 p.m. Went out for fish & chips after 8:00 p.m. In bed and asleep (very tired) by 10:00 p.m.

The little black & white bird we saw on road back from Dunfallandy was called a Pied Wagtail.

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