Portrait of Karl Sakovsek 1910 by Egon Shiele
Today the remarkable Neue Gallery show of 125 drawings by Egon Shiele on 5th Avenue at 86th Street. As I wheeled myself around, the art project I plan to undertake in the new year came into focus. I want to draw/paint a Shiele a day for a period of time and write about what it is like for a lesbian feminist to artistically engage with this gifted artist/pedophile.
Congrats to all the GG winners, especially to Thomas King, who once came to Saltspring Island with Leon Rooke to take my photograph, and to Arleen Paré, with whom I wrote in April for NoPo Mo. (I also am interviewing Arleen for Brick Books about a poem in Lake of Two Mountains.) Big big congrats to you all, and I’ll see you at the awards!
Off to Toronto for a reading at Glad Day, New York for the Shiele exhibit, Ottawa for the GGs, and Saskatoon for two readings.
You know those form letters you get from periodicals you submit to? Ever wondered if they have different tiers of them (they do), or whether to feel encouraged when you get one that says “Please try us again?”
Here’s a site where you can search for a specific periodical and find out what their slips say, and whether you’ve moved up a notch.
As an example, here is the Alaska Quarterly Review:
We thank you for the opportunity to read your manuscript. Unfortunately, your work does not meet our needs at this time. Because we know how much effort went into this submission, we regret the use of this form. But the volume of manuscripts we receive makes a personal reply impossible. The Editors [with a hand-written “Many Thanks”]
Same text as standard, with a handwritten “Many thanks. Hope you’ll send more.”
Not sure if this is personal or form:
Thank you for the opportunity to consider your work. Although in the end we have decided that “The [Exploding] Arm” does not meet our needs at this time, please know your work was seriously considered. We sincerely hope you will continue to send more our way. Many Thanks, The Editors
We thank you for the opportunity to read your manuscript. Unfortunately, your work does not meet our needs at this time. Because we know how much effort went into this submission, we regret the use of this form. But the volume of manuscripts we receive makes a personal reply impossible. [Hand-written “Many Thanks”] The Editors
painting by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2013
The first few paragraphs of my short story “Acrobat.”
Giving me away for your mama was how it had to go, Jet, I couldn’t rock that cradle. (You said, Mama?) All of you a drum over blood, hot in a rocky shell, so protected you burned against asbestos, keeping your fires tight and banked.
That night coming into you from behind I wanted to hurt you. You thought it was later but it was that night, me inside you too hard and gritting my teeth, grinding myself up into you till you came from it like a tic, squeezing around me. In the place I was touching you were highly polished, a susceptible pink. I wanted to hurt you–I was in love with you.
Your mama would tell me leaving was clinical, a simple wound, a parting of skin, a small surgery. But your mama never stood with you under a piñata. You said, Mama? You told me to dream in colour, running the loops of my brain in blues and yellows.
Jet, I called it love and read all your bumps and valleys. I was willing. I took you in the bathtub, I took you up against the purple hallway wall. I said I was never tired. You were the one thing I had a story for. You weren’t pretty but I called you beautiful, Jet, you with the name that made me think of a vapour trails, that name you wore like jewellry, like the one earring in your ear of a lizard or a spider.
Everyone knows how hard it is to get by as an author. Income sources are cut back all the time. It’s been shocking for me to re-enter the field when readings are barely compensated and copyright is not protected by our government or educational institutions. Do you know the percentage of each sale that comes to the writer (many months later)? Deborah Dundas at the Toronto Star opines…
sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2013
49th Shelf has a list of queer Canadian books up. I can think of a whole heck of a lot of books that are queer and not on it (including 6 of mine), but it’s still a great resource for anyone looking for some sweet bedtime reading.
“If you don’t feel you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, or losing control of the whole thing, then what you’re writing probably isn’t very vital. If you don’t feel that you are writing over your head, why do it? If you don’t have some doubt of your authority to tell the story, then you’re not trying to tell enough.” John Irving
Yup, that would be me. Now. Every day. That feeling in my gut, my stomach, my esophagus, my chin. I am in so far over my head. Now, I am going to put this Irving quote up where I can see it and remind myself that this is how it is supposed to be.
Also, I will look at this photograph of a doorway which I took in the glow of Matisse’s water lilies at L’Orangerie, to still myself.
Excerpted from my collection, Body Rain. In 1989, a few blocks from where I now sit, on Laurel Street in Vancouver, my friend Diane was shot through her sliding glass doors near Hallowe’en night, when everyone mistook the noise of the gunshot for fireworks. Eventually (many years later) her brother’s husband was convicted of the crime. This is a solemn poem for Hallowe’en, and also a cautionary poem during this week in which we consider male violence.
What we left unsaid is jabbering—
I haven’t enough ears.
The man who killed you,
who was he
with his bullets, Diane?
You loved me.
Perhaps it is the promise
of love I feel,
the redemption of arousal,
a giddy comprehension.
I was stupified, then,
you know I was,
pregnant, foggy as milk.
It is late, now, to understand.
Will you forgive me
Saturday I stood on the shore
with daisies cascading from my fingers.
Diane, the ocean would not swallow them—
yellow was caught in her throat
Who knows this season
better than you?
Hunters rustle the undergrowth
In my yard the sumac
drops lit candles.
I would show you how to flee, Diane.
consider the pumpkin on the stooop,
the quick torture of its hide under my knife.
I have costumes in my closet
and we’ll go out like breath
this night, like perfect witch women
in our black hats. On broomsticks
our voices wake like bats.
darkest of hearts.
You wait outside the gate,
I take your shattered chest
against my own.
I heat you and melt you
with the force of the living,
with the love of the living
for living things.
Yesterday, three pieces of mine appeared. One of them was in Siècle 21, a publication out of Paris, in which a French reprint of my story “Bird Nights” called Nuits d’oiseaux, chosen by Marilyn Hacker and translated by Cécile Oumhani, appeared. I have not gotten my French to the state where I can read this yet, but I remain hopeful. Meantime, perhaps some of you can. And, if not, there is always the English version from Numéro Cinq, which is linked under the French one.
Many thanks to Marilyn and Cécile for their work in preparing this fall and winter issue, and to their colleagues.