Friday, September 22, 2017

"POCKETS" ~ A TINY BIG NOVEL DELIGHTS

§


It's not even noon and I've just read Pockets, Cobourg, Ontario's Stuart Ross' latest published oeuvre. At least, I think it's his latest, but I could be wrong given the rate at which this guy publishes stuff. Something new may have been released in the hour since I closed the book and poured myself another cup of coffee. What was that? Oh, just another Stuartwork in the works: a poem dribbling off the edge of the table; a short story clinging for its life to the overhead fan, where even the fan is a fan, or perhaps a tale of what it's like to survive and survive and survive in an industry that sometimes behaves like a huckster at a country fair, you know the kind, step right up and fire a dart at a balloon and if you pop it you win a prize that is worth less than the cost of admission.

(I know. I don't usually write like this, but you try spending some time in the wonderful world of Stuart and see if it doesn't change your way of looking at and writing down the world.)

Pockets might be called a micro-novel. To begin with, the book itself is small. Hand-friendly, you might say. Perfect, in fact, for a pocket or a purse. 

See?
It's only eighty pages long, and every page contains enough white space to make my poetheart sing. Because it's so small in size every word on each of those pages has to do a lot of heavy-lifting. 

The shortest page


The longest page

So if it's a novel, it tells a story, right? Pockets is a memento mori that's loaded with moments of magic realism, a genre made popular by Latin American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Canadian ones like Thomas Wharton. It opens with the narrator's brother observed to be floating outside a window and ends with the narrator walking off set, as it were, and into the clouds. In between we're treated to a kaleidoscope of snapshots; Archie and Cowsills comic books, Danny Kaye movies, The Flintstones, Herman's Hermits, the JFK assassination and more all warrant a mention. 

The overall sense I'm left with from the story is one of great tenderness. A mother's hand gentle on a forehead. The narrator and his friend, Marky, playing when they were kids. All the trials and joys that make up a life. And through it all there are observant little gems like, "Back on earth, some people didn't have houses. Meanwhile, some houses didn't have people."

I'm glad there's a house in Cobourg that has a Stuart in it.

Stuart Ross
Pockets is published by ECW Press out of Toronto. ECW stands for Entertainment, Culture and Writing, which pretty much sums up what you'll find in this lovely little book.

§

Monday, September 18, 2017

POSTCARD POEM MONTH 2017 COMES TO AN END

§

2017 Postcard Poems Received
plus this one (Ted just came in with today's mail)


2017 marks eleven years I've been writing poems on cards to strangers. Strangers who have become less (and yes, occasionally more) strange because at the same time I'm on the receiving end. The idea is to write directly onto the card, which I now do without giving it much of a thought. While I'm rarely pleased with the resulting blurt, of the thirty-plus cards I write usually one or two have something worth salvaging. 

I keep track of all these cards, both incoming and outgoing so I know for a fact this is the best year yet for receiving cards from almost everyone on the list—twenty-eight—out of thirty (all but two of which were signed) plus seven or eight  "bonus" cards from people I've been exchanging cards with for years now as well as some of the folk I interact with online (of course there's a Facebook group). 





This year I had to scrounge a bit to find cards to send. I knew for a fact I had hundreds—yes, it's come to that—as I have friends who give me cards and I stop in at The Postcard Place on Granville Island in Vancouver every chance I get (that's where I found the box of Nancy Drew covers I used in 2011 and one of my poems wound up in an anthology


and I culled scores of them from my late aunt's photo albums after she died (she used to both take photos and buy cards when she traveled, and boy, did she travel). But do you think I could find the damn things when August rolled around? Nope. So I drew one



and collaged a couple




and even painstakingly coloured one, which was a lot of fun but took forever, although as my friend and fellow August PoPo person, Judy Wapp (Group 4), pointed out, I could just mail those ones and let the recipient colour them if they wished.


 I bought half-a-dozen or so new ones from Cartolina, a nifty little paper and stuff store in Nelson, BC and the rest I had lying around. 

No sooner had September rolled around when I found my big stash, including more stamps and last-year's list, so I'm definitely all set for next year. 

If you sign up you might get one of these next year!



Soon, very very soon, there's going to be a tenth anniversary anthology of postcard poems called 56 Days of August. Soon as I get my hands on my copy I'll be posting about it here.

Huge, heartfelt thanks to all you wonderful poets in Group 2 and to those who sent bonus cards and to Paul Nelson and Lana Hechtman Ayers for starting this movement. Once again, you made my August!

§



Saturday, August 26, 2017

THREE GENERATION HIKING IN THE WEST KOOTENAY

§

The day after the Culture Tour I mentioned in my last post was officially over I ploughed some things into my backpack so I could spend a couple of nights at Kokanee Glacier Cabin with thirteen family members and six friends of my cousin who last year said something like wouldn't it be neat to have a family reunion up there for Canada's 150th. 

Sure, I said. I'll get fit with tons of practice walks before August. Well, then there was getting ready for the studio tour and before that there was a trip to the Coast and oh yes, the smoke. BC is still in the throes of its worst fire season ever and there are days when you can almost taste it. Believe me, you don't want to exert yourself in it. 

We hiked in, just over nine km (about five and a half miles), mostly up with switchbacks. Keeners and younger, fitter folk can get to the cabin in two and a half hours, apparently; the website suggests three hours for the "approach". Took me four hours, which shaved about an hour and a half off the last time I did it which was five years ago. What a difference being twenty pounds lighter and having the right equipment makes. I invested in poles, good boots (I'd been using the ones my dad got me when I was fourteen!), and have a much better pack now. I'm one of those people who gets out of breath just climbing a flight of stairs, always have, so I puffed and panted my way up through the switchbacks, past the marmot that came sniffing at my heels, over the sketchy bit above Kokanee Lake where Michel Trudeau died in a November avalanche accident in 1998. It's impossible not to think of him being there, when you're there, and if one has to die long before their time (he was just twenty-three) it's a pretty spectacular last resting place (his body couldn't be recovered).

So here goes with a whole bunch of photos from a challenging, fun and deeply satisfying adventure.

A last-minute planning dinner the night before we left
Morning dawns and the group congregates 
At the parking lot by Gibson Lake, about to start off. Note the chicken wire fencing around the vehicles. Otherwise porcupines may eat your tires.

That's Lyra. Just turned six this month. She and older sister, Enid, ran back and forth on the trail which is basically up with switchbacks and talked while I lumbered, out of breath after the first thirty yards. 
Looking down on Gibson Lake. Not there yet.

The fireweed was gorgeous

At last we arrived at the cabin

Lizz and Jesse, related in one of those cousin ways I can never remember. Second? First, once removed, or twice? 
It's a very nice cabin. The kitchen is a joy to work in. 
Loading up. All food has to be brought in and all garbage relating to it taken out. 
Perhaps influenced by the ones he saw hiking in, Gareth Gaudin drew trees

Two little girls and their auntie 
The weather was just perfect

The views were spectacular 
Me and the troopers, Enid and Lyra
(photo by Lizz Moore)
Getting ready for the hike to Sapphire Lakes

Jesse Lee

Cousins and kids 
The other thing I have now is a good water delivery system. I can hike and drink at the same time. Don't try this at home!(photo by Lizz Moore)

An example of the boulder-scrambling part of the hike

Even found some snow(photo by Lizz Moore)

It's beautiful up there(photo by Lizz Moore)

Everybody was smiling a lot



We even had time for a brief rest (they were likely waiting for me to catch up!) 
We went down this!


One of the more interesting rock formations 
My boy the minstrel 
Cousins on dinner duty

Figuring out either where they were going or where they'd been
Thoughtful (or plotting something)
At least one of us is doing the recommended stretch. Go, Enid!

Gareth and Bronwyn 
Kyran, Cher and Jesse

Father and son

Lyra

Enid and Lyra

Keep in mind this lake still had ice on it at the beginning of July and no, I didn't.

I have to say, the lack of Internet was wonderful

Jesse and Cher, with the peak they climbed up to earlier in the day  lit by the last rays of the sun

Beautiful meadow with Kokanee Lake in the background




Can you see the path?

On the trail above Kokanee Lake
 Jesse brought his guitalele along and on the way back out some of our group (that comprised folk from six to seventy-nine) sang Edelweiss and The Happy Wanderer in the meadow by the lake.

And almost before it began it was over. We all made it back with minimal damage to feet, etc. I was stiff for a day but that was it. It was a fabulous time out of time and I'd love to think we'll figure out a way to do it again someday!

§