Jane Eaton Hamilton

"This dish is best served published." -Yana Luchkovsky

“Adrienne Rich’s Poetic Transformations” by Claudia Rankine

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Adrienne Rich remains one of my favourite writer and a touchstone to me as a lesbian poet in the 1980s and beyond. Here is the astute Claudia Rankine in The New Yorker talking about her legacy. I, with my partners, dreamed of accessing this common language. That it remained a dream was as much our personal failures as the then pressures of patriarchy and homophobia.

“Lying is done with words, and also with silence.”
Adrienne Rich

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.”
Adrienne Rich

“No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.”
Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power. ”
Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

“That’s why I want to speak to you now.

To say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. (I make up this strange, angry packet for you, threaded with love.)

I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.”
Adrienne Rich, Sources

“That’s why I want to speak to you now.

To say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. (I make up this strange, angry packet for you, threaded with love.)

I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we are not to give ourselves away.”
Adrienne Rich, Sources

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.”
Adrienne Rich

Best Canadian Poetry

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Best Canadian Poetry, 2015

Great news! Just received word today that I’ll have a poem in the 2016 volume of Best Canadian Poetry! The poem is “Wish You Were Here” first published in CVII. The editor for this year is Helen Humphreys, and the series editors are Molly Peacock and Anita Lahey. Thanks, Helen, Molly and Anita.

Best Canadian Poetry

The Adequate Writer: A state of writing grace

JEHhand3
hand, Jane Eaton Hamilton, unknown date
There is a thing that comes over my brain when I can write well–a vacancy. It could be likened to Bev Daurio’s “round room without windows,” because it feels like a scallop of emptiness inside a clean, white, rounded bone, a beautiful meditation room with blowing cream drapes, but it’s sensate even in my limbs as an awareness of what I have to call clean energy, the shimmer of a mirage felt rather than seen. A meditation? A dream without a dream to fill it? I can juggle five or ten disparate things at the same time as one might, I’ve heard, in a manic state, when links between ideas/inputs/sensations are readily apparent and can be braided. It doesn’t matter how ordinarily jarring the information appearing is–it will in this rare capacity make a kind of fictional sense for what my characters are undertaking. The world opens its possibilities all at once. Yet this state of writing grace is as far from manic as anything could be; it’s calm and open and peaceful. Whatever difficulties were inherent in the manuscript previously will be unlocked.
Not the kind of unlocked where you come back the next morning and groan at all the ridiculous you’ve unleashed on the text, but the kind of unlocked that sends manuscripts out into their futures.
 
Outside disruptions can dispell this nimbleness. When I am getting a “write on” I will sense it for hours before it shows itself fully. I prefer to indulge it and not break away from it, because it’s not a usual occurence for me. I can toil weeks or months without it, even while regularly engaged in a project. I can’t will it to happen, but I do note that it’s always–always–preceded by frustrated hours or days of edging up to work with increasing levels of frustration, something I would once have called writer’s block, replete as those times are with self-castigation. Not just writing self-castigation but more wide castigations: Why won’t I do my taxes? A nap mid-day? I should call X. I could finish that drywall. I could paint that trim. Why didn’t I call TD? Why haven’t I been in touch with the pharmacy? Why didn’t I cut the plants back? I should have gone shopping. I should have worked on that article due on the first. Watching a movie in the middle of the afternoon? Why am I so useless? I could lift weights. I could go for a walk. Look alive! It’s Monday tomorrow! How can I just go to bed without accomplishing anything?
But now I see this unease/writer’s block/chastisement as just a prelude to my best work. It’s part of why I believe in my routine of sticking it out each day until some significant work occurs (though usually I write through without this suppleness to help me, somewhere in the middle of my two extremes, and make do). Batter myself against failure long enough and there will come a breakthrough.

“Fran Lebowitz, A Humorist at Work”

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From the Paris Review, Fran’s thoughts about the writing life.

“So I went to his studio several times while he was making the ballet. I saw the only job that was worse than writing. My idea of pure hell. The dancers sit there waiting for him to come up with something. It would be as if the letters were sitting there, or the words, smoking cigarettes, staring at you, as if to say, Well? OK, come on.”

Weekend is out! A real, physical objet!

JEH Weekend is here!

JEH with the artifact itself… May 2016

launch, Vancouver, June 6 Historic Joy Kogawa House 7 pm

A Challenge to Canada’s Writers and Artists

In this difficult week of MAU (Misogyny As Usual), when Jian Ghomeshi has signed a peace bond after already being acquitted of sexual assault and one count of choking, I’ve read many heartbreaking, raw accounts of women’s* encounters of violence at the hands of men. There is an outpouring of rage in response to the verdicts, and why wouldn’t there be?

Some solutions have been suggested: working to bring our justice system into alignment with the more functional and respectful sexual assault courts of the UK; thinking about alternative justice as a kinder, gentler way to mediate these cases. Personally, I like my idea of victims of this kind of treatment suing the feds over the abridgement of their women’s Charter equality rights, and this is an idea that could go wider and include women whose equality rights are abridged every day by Canada’s hatred of women.

What we need, it seems to me, besides, urgently, an inquiry on misogyny, is our creative people to put their best minds to work at developing solutions. We can’t leave systemic change up to the legal system, where things are hidebound. Lawyers have had misogynistic legal regimes drilled into them like fillings. 

So this is my challenge to Canada’s writers, artists, musicians: come up with ideas and get them out into the public sphere.

I guess what I fear is what I saw after the case itself was complete–women stopped demanding change. We are exhausted, demoralized, literally and figurately beaten back by violence and fear and compassion. We go back to our lives. We think it’s impossible. The system is broken; the system never changes. We realize how little has been altered there over the years and how impossible it is to enact change inside a system that’s functioned as a male-bastion since its beginning.

None of us know what to do, exactly.

But what I’m telling you from my activist days is this: DO SOMETHING.

 

*I note as always that women also suffer violence at the hands of people besides men, and that ciswomen are not the only victims of violence.

Mapping Alice Munro

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Elizabeth Polinar over at Lit Hub talks about how mapping Alice Munro’s stories helped her rework her own.

Give Us Science!

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Why Fiction Need More Women Scientists. Ellen Pollack over at LitHub talks about how science enhances fiction.

Poets You Should Read!

Read Amber Dawn in the smoking “Where the Words End and My Body Begins:”

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Read Ali Blythe in the hatchet-strong “Twoism:”

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Share Elizabeth Bachinsky’s yearning in “The Hottest Summer in Recorded History:”

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Pith frogs with Anne Fleming in “poemw.”

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Hallucinate with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in “Body Map:”

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Torque time with Tanis MacDonald’s “Rue the Day:”

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Hear Tanis reading “Looking Into” here.

Make a parachute lure with Shannon Macguire‘s “fur(l) parachute:”

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Transform with Lydia Kwa’s “Sinuous:”

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Take wing with Brenda Schmidt‘s “Flight Calls: An Apprentice on the Art of Listening:”

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Splice intimacy with Maleea Ackers “Air-Proof Green:”

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Speak words with spoken-word poet Jillian Christmas, here.

Jian Ghomeshi … A Raped Canadian Woman is Worth 1/328th of a Man

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There are an estimated 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. That is 1,260 rapes every day, 8,821 rapes every week, 35, 287 rapes every month.*

Count them. 460, 000 Canadian rapes a year.

Imagine that. Imagine your day. You wake, you rise, you shower, you eat breakfast, you go to work, you run errands, you pick up kids, you have dinner, you recreate, you fold laundry, you watch a movie, you check the baby, you go to bed, you sleep. 24 average hours. During that time, one thousand, two hundred and sixty Canadian women are sexually violated. Not in the US. Here. In your own country. Some of them, statistically-speaking, in your own town. Some of them, statistically-speaking, on your own street.

And when you have another day like that tomorrow, the kind of day that roles by without exclamation, a new set of 1260 women will be sexually aggressed upon, and mostly by a new set of men, or by repeaters who excaped punishment the last time.

1400 rapists are convicted every year. So if we got to choose how to arrange those rapes and convictions, we could stack the women raped in one day up against the rapists convicted in one year and this is what we’d see.

1260 rapes/day

1400 convictions/year

So if crime and punishment worked here, all the rapists who rape women in the average Canadian day would be tossed in the slammer. Plus we’d put away 140 more from the next day’s rape burden, which would leave only 1120 unpunished rapes that second day. 1260 the day after that. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day.1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day. 1260 the next day.

Does this give you any idea why women are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore?

For every rape–and this is me just guessing here–I’m guessing there are 10,000 Canadian incidents of workplace harassment, street harassment, bus harrassment, harassment at home. Indulge me here. Rape and kidnap and murder are the worst manifestations of what’s going on for women in Canada. But lots of smaller aggressions happen to us all the time. Every day.

That’s called the patriarchy, aka “rape culture.” This is where it shows up what a self-sustaining system it really is. If institutions cut off our ability to respond to these aggressions at every step of the way, whether through mocking us, demeaning us, disbelieving us, telling us we’re crazy, calling us whores, saying we asked for them, saying our skirts were too short, we learn. Not to fight harder. But to give up.

Men have a choice about the patriarchy, at least about whether or not they participate and perpetuate it, but women have no such choice. It’s our birthright. The patriarchy is forced on us, force-fed to us with our Cheerios, and every girl and every Canadian woman has to figure out how to deal with it. Every day we teach ourselves how to get through the onslaught. Every day. When we’re 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70, we are still learning how to deal with it.

Think about this. For every rapist we put behind bars, we let 328 go free. Lawyers tell us that we do this in the pursuit of justice. They tell us that we do this because having one innocent man go to jail is worth … anything.

“Anything” is not just an idea. “Anything” here refers to real women with real bodies with real trauma. It’s been proven in study after study that only around 5-8% of accusations are false.

We should be convicting, at the least, 92% of all Canadian rapists.

We actually convict 0.03% of all Canadian rapists.

It’s not acceptable to this country to have a man slip through the cracks and be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit (nor should it be). But it is more than acceptable–in fact, it is the daily reality, the reality our system of justice seeks–that 458,600 women in this country every year get raped without recourse to justice.

Is sexual assault a crime in Canada or not?

I don’t think it is.

This get-out-of-jail-free card worked for the men who formed our justice system and it is obviously an equation that still works.

People say it’s not that simple.

But it is.

If this system didn’t work for men, it wouldn’t be in place.

Ask Jian Ghomeshi. I’ll bet you that tonight he’d tell you it works very well indeed.

Any way you play the numbers they still add up to this:

A raped Canadian woman or girl is worth precisely 1/328s of what a Canadian man is worth.

 

Reading Stats

*I’m using gendered language but acknowledge that men are raped by women, that women are raped by women, that many Canadians do not identify as either men or women, and that trans people are subjected to high rates of all kinds of violence.

 

 

 

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An interview with poet Sandy Shreve

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Waiting for the Albatross, Sandy Shreve

An Interview with Sandy Shreve, by Jane Eaton Hamilton

J: Congratulations on your new poetry collection “Waiting for the Albatross.” The book consists of found poems from bits of your father’s diary while he was a deck hand on a freighter in 1936. What was your impetus for writing “Waiting for the Albatross?” What can you tell us about the process of bringing these poems to life and this book to print?

S: The first thing that comes to mind is that it was a very long process. I had this diary of my Dad’s and after I first read it in 1993 I knew I wanted to get it into print somehow. My first attempt was to approach a publisher with excerpts from the diary. They asked to see the whole thing, but for various personal reasons I had to set that project aside. By the time I was able to get back to it, nearly 20 years later, the publishing world had changed and interest in publishing diaries had waned. On the bright side though, by then I’d been given some photo albums of my Dad’s, and it turned out they included all his pictures from his 1936 trip.

I decided to see if I could create a dialogue between my father (who died when I was 14) and me by keeping a diary over the same five-month period as he kept his, but 75 years later. So on Feb. 11, 2011, I dove in. For a bunch of reasons the conversation I was hoping to create didn’t materialize, but I kept on with my diary anyway. Unlike my Dad, I’m not much of a diarist, but staying with it brought me closer to his stories and experiences. Each day I wrote, I also researched the references in his diary for that day in 1936: seafaring terms, shipping terms, geography, depression-era tidbits like the origins of paperbacks and stamp collecting, tourist attractions and restaurants and movies the crew went to while ashore in various ports, and so on. What I wound up with was an extensively annotated version of Dad’s diary, along with the photos from his trip. After getting feedback from a couple of friends who are also very good editors, I acknowledged that to interest a publisher in the work I would need to expand what I had into a history of the Canadian merchant marine. But much as I enjoy reading non-fiction, it isn’t a genre I want to write. Another editor and friend suggested using the material to develop a young adult novel about a teen stumbling across the diary and, in reading it, coming to terms with her father’s death. I love that idea and were I a novelist I would no doubt give it a go. In the end I decided that what I had done was something that would interest my family, so I added various anecdotes and photos from Dad’s life after 1936, printed it up and sent it out to them.

From the start of that prose project, I had the idea that it would be fun to open each chapter with a found poem I’d write using words and phrases from that section of Dad’s diary. At first my attempts were dire failures. When I told a friend I was abandoning the idea, her instant response was to urge me to keep at it. The next day I decided to give it one more try, came up with a new approach, and to my surprise the poems began to flow. In a few weeks I had 11 poems I could use as chapter headings so I included them in what I gave my family. I thought that was the end of it … but a few months later more poems came knocking at my door. By the time I finished writing those I had another 11. So I made a little chapbook for friends and family who’d supported me in various ways while I struggled with this project. I thought that was definitely the end of it… until some months later I found myself writing yet more poems. So I put those and the earlier ones together with my favourite photos from Dad’s trip, several prose vignettes taken word for word from his diary, and all the relevant annotations I’d done for the prose project – and sent the whole thing off to Randal Macnair at Oolichan. That was a stroke of luck, actually, as he’d told me when I met him at Word on the Street in Vancouver (now called Word Vancouver) that he was interested in publishing books combining poems and photographs and invited me to send him mine. He accepted the manuscript and a couple of years later – his press turned it into a beautiful book.

J: As a poet, you’ve been associated with the labour movement; you edited “Working for a Living”, a special double-issue of Room of One’s Own in 1988; can you tell us how this interest in labour is elucidated in your poetry?

S: In the early 1970s I closely followed what was then the new work-writing movement. Tom Wayman, Helen Potrebenko and others were big influences. A few years later when I decided to give my own writing some serious attention, the first-person world of work and union issues were the subject matter that got me started. Later on, I edited “Working for a Living” (the special issue of Room you mentioned) because I wanted to give more space to women’s work.

When my first book came out a couple of years later, about one-third of the poems had to do with clerical / secretarial work. That theme carried over to a number of poems in my next book, but after that I didn’t return to work-writing until “Waiting for the Albatross”. So in my own writing I’ve gone from contemporary & primarily female workplaces to a 1936 working environment that was entirely male. In both cases the jobs I’ve written about are at or near the bottom of the hierarchy they are part of. As such, the work and those who do it are usually underappreciated, even demeaned. I wanted to show what it’s like to be the people doing the work under those conditions.

J: You are the author of 4 previous collections. In them, we see a slow easing into form; what snagged your interest about form poetry?

S: In the late 1980s, when I was in the Vancouver Industrial Writers Union, Kirsten Emmott brought a pantoum she’d written to one of our meetings. That was my introduction to a whole new world of forms. Until then, I was aware of English and Italian sonnets, stanza poems, haiku… but not a lot else. (Like most people I was familiar with a few poems written in other forms but I’d never given a thought to what those forms were. I’m thinking, for example, of John McCrae’s rondeau, “In Flanders Fields” and Dylan Thomas’ villanelle, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”.) A couple of years later, I ran across a palindrome by Gudrun Wight in a chapbook published by some Pender Island poets. What hooked me in both these forms was their use of repetition – it became a fascinating and challenging device for my poetry toolbox. So I started looking for more forms featuring repetition. I found lots – triolets, sestinas, sonnet coronas, terzanelles…

This latest book is written almost entirely in forms that feature repetition. I did that intentionally, letting the various forms act as a kind of metaphor for the repetitive routines that dominate life on a freighter.

J: Your second book, Bewildered Rituals, with a Claire Kujundzic cover, was followed by Belonging and Suddenly, So Much. How did each title deepen your poetic experience?

S: I’m not entirely sure anything I might say about this could accurately track what happened, and when, in this regard. So much seems to percolate away somewhere in the subconscious. Certainly with each book I’ve learned more of the craft – discovering various poetic devices and how they work so I can better use them, tweak them, even ignore them. My early poems were often anecdotal and focused on stories whereas later on I became more interested in, as Emily Dickinson would say, writing things “slant”; not to be obscure, but to allow for more ambiguity – which I think is one way we can approach complexity. I talked a bit about this process with respect to my poem “Crows” in a guest blog [insert link: http://ooligan.pdx.edu/sandy-shreve-guest-poet-post/%5D a few years ago. When I wrote that poem (which is in Suddenly, So Much) and, earlier, my poem “Leaving” (in Belonging) I quite consciously made a shift away from direct story and toward suggestion. With both, I began to figure out how to move past anecdote and into something perhaps a bit deeper. Which is not to say I never wrote another anecdotal poem – just that I learned how to do more than that. I think – hope – this kind of learning must be an ongoing process. In large part it’s what keeps writing interesting and challenging for me.

What hasn’t changed a lot for me is subject matter. Whether I’m writing about the historical or the contemporary, I continue to be interested in the everyday, the lives led by so-called ordinary people. And small-p politics: matters of ethics and justice. And nature – always, nature.

J: You started BC’s Poetry in Transit program in the 90s, a program that has made many poets and transit riders very happy. It’s a wonderful legacy that’s been recognized recently with a location on Alan Twigg’s Literary Map of BC [insert link: http://www.literarymapofbc.ca/]. What can you tell us about this project?

S: First of all, I’m deeply honoured and pleased about being included on that map. And I am especially proud that – unlike most (maybe all) other similar programs, BC’s is province-wide, rather than limited to just one major urban area. I’m also proud that ours has continued for so long. Really there are two reasons for its longevity. First is its popularity. People still come up and thank me for it – and not just the poets. People who use transit love to have something of substance to read instead of ads. There are lots of stories people tell about finding and reading the poems. One of my all-time favourites is a comment from a woman who said she knows a poem she saw on the bus by heart because she “wrote it down and memorized every word of it.” Another is one about two people who met by discussing one of the poems on a bus… and wound up marrying.

Equally important is the role of the co-sponsors. From the beginning, Margaret Reynolds brought the Association of BC Book Publishers on board (pardon the pun…) as a co-sponsor. And after the first three years when I decided it was time to pass the torch, Margaret and the other staff at the association enthusiastically took over administration of the project and have kept it going all these years. And of course we wouldn’t have the program at all without the ongoing support from BC Transit and Translink. I’d love it if more people would take a moment to let them all know how much having the poems on transit means to them. I think that is key to ensuring the program keeps going.

Anyone who’d like more information about the origins of and responses to Poetry in Transit can check out Fiona Lam’s 2010 article on it in The Tyee – recently re-published on the Brick Books Celebration of Canadian Poetry page (scroll down to #65). [insert link: http://www.brickbooks.ca/category/news/celebrate-canadian-poetry/%5D

J: You are the editor, with poet Kate Braid, of In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry. When you started to explore form poetry for this book, were you surprised by what you found? Is form poetry alive and well in Canada?

S: I wasn’t at all surprised that we found a great many very good form poems from the 1800s and early- to mid-1900s. Or even that a lot of contemporary Canadian poets were still including some form poems in their books. But I was surprised by the large number we received in response to our very limited call for submissions for the first edition. And I was pleasantly surprised by how creatively all Canadian poets – historically and today – approach traditional forms. Most are playful and willing to experiment with the rules to come up with wonderful variations.

Kate and I have just finished a second edition under a slightly revised title: In Fine Form – A Contemporary Look at Canadian Form Poetry. It’s due out this fall with Caitlin Press [insert link: http://caitlin-press.com/]. We’d both been gathering form poems for the past decade and by the time we were ready to start work on this edition we had plenty. Enough that we didn’t put out a call for submissions this time around (though for some new sections, like spoken word, we did ask key people in the field to point us toward poets and poems we should consider). So I’d say form continues to be alive and well in this country.

We’re very excited about this new edition. As I said, it includes a section on spoken word, but there are other new sections, too – found poetry, prose poems, pas de deux and doublets… And this time around we even have a couple of children’s poems. We’ve also added poets and poems to bring the anthology up to date. But as always with anthologies, limited space meant we had to make a lot of painful decisions. We had to take out some of the poems that were in the first edition to make room for the new ones. And we had far more excellent new poems than we could possibly add in. Making these kinds of choices is always really hard.

J: I was thinking recently of Sex, Death and Madness, the group you and I founded with Kate Braid in the early 90s. We had a unique focus, in that instead of workshopping, we only discussed problems, issues and successes within our artistic communities, one month discussing, say, jealousy, and another our artistic legacies. Can you tell readers about this group? Who were the group members?

S: This seems like a question I should be putting to you, since, as I recall, you were the one with idea for the group. I remember we were at a Polestar Press party in the very early 90s. I think that’s where we first met, isn’t it? Anyway, we were talking about this and that, and then you said you wished there were someplace where women artists could talk about being artists. Not to workshop what they were doing, but to support each other in doing it. Kate joined our discussion at some point and said Claire Kujundzic knew a lot about co-counselling, that maybe it would be useful to look into that. So Kate got some information about it and the three of us went to a session run by a woman whose name I forget. But after, when we went for tea to debrief, it turned out it wasn’t quite what any of us wanted. Except it gave us some of the listening tools that we brought to the group we wound up forming. I wrote a brief history about us for ABC BookWorld [insert link: http://www.abcbookworld.com/view_essay.php?id=101%5D which talks about this in more detail.

At first there were just five members – we three along with Claire and Christine Hayvice. Together we decided to invite more women, so very soon Cynthia Flood, Joy Kogawa and Sheila Norgate joined us. Later on, Carmen Rodriguez, Margaret Hollingsworth, Bonnie Klein and Thuong Vuong-Riddick joined the group; then after that, Kath Curran and Tana Runyan.

Was it Joy who came up with our name? It seems to me she was the one who, at the end of one particularly free-wheeling discussion, commented that we’d covered it all: sex, death and madness. We’d been thinking for awhile that we wanted to give our group a name. After that comment, someone – I can’t recall who, can you? – suggested that’s what we should call ourselves. Everyone laughed; then we looked around at each other and I think we all thought, well, why not? So we did.

NB: I remember someone said it at Sheila Norgate’s studio on the corner of Abbott and Pender—and it may well have been Joy. I don’t remember who suggested taking it up, though. A photo collage that I made for Joy at that time is now hanging at Historic Kogawa House, so SDM lingers on with a photo on Kate’s back steps in Burnaby. –Jane Eaton Hamilton

 

Sandy Shreve

More of the Just

 

The mother who comforts the tearful child who bloodied her son’s nose.

The estranged friends who get over it.

The citizens of warring countries who refuse to take up arms.

 

The flash mob dancers.

The driver who screeches to a halt in the crosswalk and blanches.

The estranged friend who calls first and the one who gladly answers.

 

The teenager who shovels her elderly neighbour’s driveway, anonymously.

The publisher who chooses not to sell to the chains.

The driver who apologizes to the children he just missed.

 

The ham radio operator who keeps the Morse Code alive.

The husband who reads poetry to his ailing wife.

The publisher who sells, instead, to the staff and the staff, who form a co-op.

 

The sand artists.

The ones who walk down city streets smiling at strangers.

The husband who doesn’t get the poems, but reads them anyway, beautifully.

 

The father who teaches the winter sky to his neighbour’s kids.

The mother who comforts her bloodied son without laying blame.

The ones who stop and talk with street people.

The citizens of countries at war who march arm in arm for peace.

 

after Steven Heighton’s “Some Other Just Ones” and Jorge Luis Borge’s “The Just”

A note about “More of the Just”

 

Steven Heighton issued a challenge of sorts to poets at a Vancouver reading in February 2011. He was promoting his two latest books – Every Lost Country (a novel) and Patient Frame (poetry). Introducing “Some Other Just Ones”, he explained that it was his response to Jorge Luis Borges’ poem “The Just”, in which Borges portrays a few ordinary people doing ordinary things and ends with the line “These people, without knowing it, are saving the world” (Heighton’s translation). Heighton casually remarked that he assumed all poets would probably want to add to what Borges started. When I got home that night, I re-read both poems and began to think about how I might contribute to the conversation.

Both Borges and Heighton wrote list poems, so I wanted to do the same – but rather than use free verse as they did, I decided on a terzanelle. Using (and slightly tweaking) the line repetition feature of this form, I could introduce some characters in one stanza, then revisit them later. Other characters would be interspersed throughout, appearing just once in the unrepeated lines. My hope is that the form helps create a sense of movement, an ongoing goodness.

Clematis

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 “Light breaks through cloud and catches the mist-balls of my clematis gone to seed, dense white beards stained purple at their root, thrusting themselves towards me from out of green faces. It’s one of those humoresques of nature, this weird seedpod the sparrows love to snatch as nesting material.” -Jane Eaton Hamilton

Publication Day!

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Always an exciting day for a writer–publication day when we first see our new book! WEEKEND is out! I’m so happy to be launching at Historic Joy Kogawa House, where I’ll be writer-in-residence, on June 6. My special guest is author Anne Fleming and, yes, their new poetry book POEMW and their banjo, which I hear will be plunking out some campfire songs. Sharpen your marshmallow sticks, kids. Price of admission is a ghost story. Here’s hoping somebody will tell one about the ghosts of frogs we pithed in high school!

WEEKEND, the launch! POEMW, the celebration!

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Bring your queer selves out to Historic Joy Kogawa House June 6, 2016, to help Jane Eaton Hamilton, the writer-in-residence, celebrate the launch of their first novel, WEEKEND, and Anne Fleming celebrate their first collection of poetry, POEMW!

All these firsts!

I’ve heard tell there might be s’mores on offer, and I know for sure Anne is going to take to her banjo for some campfire songs. Special MEC gift certificate draw for campers who buy books. Bring your guitars, banjos and a ghost story!

Brick Books, the sung heroes of Canpoetics

Celebrating Canadian Poets at the celebrated Brick Books is coming to an end, but I’ll bet if you wrote something about a Canadian poet–a line, a paragraph, a review, an anecdote–Kitty Lewis, the general manager, would still welcome it. You don’t have to be Canadian, but the poet you mention does.

brick.books@sympatico.ca

Brick Books

Right now, Brick Books is celebrating the release of Barry Dempster’s 15th book of poetry called DISTURBING THE BUDDHA. See an interview here.

“My Writing Day: Anne Enright”

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My Writing Day by Anne Enright at the Guardian.

Making Little Sense, In All the Good Ways

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Matthew Schuler’s look at the ways creative minds differ from run-of-the-mill minds is interesting and useful.

Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense

“To Write, Stop Thinking”

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An article on writing by Kathryn Harrison, author of “The Kiss,” at the Atlantic. Here is where we go to succumb.

To Write, Stop Thinking

First Novelists Get Better With Age

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Age-seasoned writers are up for this year’s Amazon.ca First Novel Award. Judith McCormack is 62 and a current year finalist, which means she’ll take home $4000, or $40,000 if she wins. Karim Alrawi, also a finalist, is 58. Elizabeth Phillips is 54. It is not a young crowd, but it is a celebrated one. The award-winner will be announced May 26.

Globe and Mail

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