Sunday, November 05, 2017



Friday night an all but standing room only crowd gathered at Nelson BC's Oxygen Art Centre to bid a fond farewell to Ernest Hekkanen's and Margrith Schraner's lit mag, The New Orphic Review. The NOR began in 1998 in Vancouver. After Ernest and Margrith moved to Nelson three years later, they continued to publish it out of their home/gallery on Mill Street. Two issues a year for twenty years. Scores of writers. So very many words. Writing in the NOR has appeared in a Best American Mystery Stories anthology and twice in Journey Prize anthologies.

I've blogged about the NOR and/or Ernest, it's Editor-in-Chief, quite a few times. Unfortunately I wasn't blogging yet when I attended a Federation of BC Writers' workshop in Kaslo one year when Ernest showed attendees how to construct a book. He was well suited to present the workshop as text blocks of early editions of the NOR were hand sewn and the covers glued on, by Ernest. I was just starting to delve into the ins and outs of bookmaking myself, and that workshop was invaluable to me.

In 2011 I blogged about one of his book launches, in May of 2013 I wrote about the NOR's 16th Birthday party where nine of us read, and in August of 2016 there was another gathering of writers, this time to support the NOR after Ernest's computer got hacked.

Here are a few photos from Friday.

Bobbie Ogletree and Susan Andrews Grace with the big smiles. Verna Relkoff is there, too, and Jude Schmitz and others. Margrith's red hair is a beacon at the book table.
Over the years I've been published in the NOR four times. I am forever grateful as it's always nice to read out of something resembling a book and my poems that have wound up in the NOR are ones I enjoy reading. In the spring of 2012 I was the featured poet. Several poems were published in that issue, as well as a short essay about my relationship with poetry. 
The man of the hour was sporting a medal of distinction he'd just received from Finland!  
As well as being published in the NOR, Margrith Schraner was its Associate and Copy editor. She read from her essay about the NOR's history that was published in the last issue. And now I'm agonizing now over whether "She read from her essay published in the last issue about the NOR's history" would be better. Or "She read about the history of the NOR from her essay that was published in the last issue". And you wonder why I don't blog much!
Bobbie Ogletree read from her creative non-fiction piece that explores her experience as a Jewish woman going to Germany to see her grandchildren.
Jude Schmitz read a mesmerizing braided essay that compared her experience of getting lost in an airport and winding up where she wasn't supposed to be with that of Robert DziekaƄski who essentially did the same thing and wound up dead.
The last reader was Barbara Curry Mulcahy. She read a delightful selection of poems about people at a cocktail party. 
In addition to his prowess as a writer, Ernest paints and carves. One year, at another Fed event, he donated as a door prize a gorgeous walking stick he'd carved. All (I think all; I don't actually have ALL of them to check) of the covers of the NOR sport images of paintings or collages he's done. Walls in the home he shares with Margrith are covered with his art. Will Johnson, a reporter for the Nelson News, posted several photos of Ernest's art here. (Will's article on the NOR can be found here.)

As always, there was a book table. As always, it did a brisk business.

Margrith got flowers from MC Tom Wayman.
Ernest Hekkanen
Thanks for everything, Ernest and Margrith, but it's not goodbye. I know we'll keep running into each other at all the readings and other literary events this area is famous for. Until then, keep your metaphorical pens moving and those keys tapping. I know you've both got lots more to say.


Friday, September 22, 2017



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. 

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



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



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


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!