Archive for April, 2013

Well, normally I’d be all poetic, but I’ve been swept away by my own life this past week or so. There are no clever poetic links, just the awareness of a sea change in my life. (Ah, surely, Kim, there must be a sea change poem that will link nicely, you say in your quiet corner of the world, far away from Northern Ontario!)

First, my oldest dog, Sable, the wonder shih tzu, has been sporting bald patches on her back. The vet took skin and hair samples, charged me an astronomical amount, all to check for ringworm. This little dog has had a rough year; in the fall, she had a bout of pancreatitis that nearly killed her. I was a bit of a basket case. Now, she needs a thyroid test. It’s a bit of a worry. It may mean changing vets which, for me, is a big decision. I know…why I’m telling you this, on my poetry blog, stymies even me!

Second, speaking of big decisions, I bought a house last week. The closing is sometime in June, likely the 20th, and I am very excited. You see, the thing is that I don’t very easily make decisions. I ponder, re-ponder, question, debate the consequences of a decision over and over again, to the point of making myself nearly mad with worry. For no reason. Seriously. I’m famous for this. It’s not at all healthy, and I’m aware of that. It’s an area I have to work on. I rise, I spiral downward, and then I pull myself out. (Before, I wasn’t so good at pulling up and out, but now I can do so beautifully!)

So, the new house is lovely and small. I’m living, right now, in my parents’ house, the house I grew up in. It’s too big for just me and two shih tzus. My mum died in December 2008 and my dad died in December 2011. Talk about parallelism. Leave it to my parents to decide to vacate the planet, this plane of existence, at what is meant to be the most joyful time of the year. It’s been a bit tainted since 2008, as a result, but I’m hopeful that this year’s shift in physical spaces will herald (perhaps) some more happy events. In any case, the new house represents a place where I can hopefully write my first novel. That’s the plan, Stan. We’ll see. At least, in any case, it will gestate and likely give birth to the next book of poems. There are already quite a few gathered up….waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting reading public.

The thing is….well….the packing. It’s a bit overwhelming. There are things my parents collected that my sister and I must now go through together and sort out in terms of which pieces to keep, divide, sell, or give away. It’s been an ongoing process, over two and a half years now, of occasional spurts of clearing out. Now, given the mid-June move, the decluttering has taken on a new intensity. Well, better to pull off the BandAid quickly, bravely, than to doddle about it. 🙂

On the weekend, I found old love letters, a couple from a boy I had forgotten I once fancied while at university. I re-read them, but off they went. I haven’t seen him in twenty-five years, so I’m sure he’s not holding on to remnants of things I might have written to him. If I’m not mistaken, I will creatively conjure up a potential life for him: Married, 2.5 kids, living in the suburbs of Toronto, or maybe St. John’s. He was lovely….but he’s from the past. And now, well, the past is being jettisoned with increasing intensity.

I do think of sea changes these days and of how I am shifting my own sea, causing my own evolution, skipping pebbles in my own pond as it were. Some days, I hardly recognize myself, shaking my head when I realize all that I’m undertaking. It’s like I’m trying to make up for all the time I was a dutiful daughter, willing to subvert spirit for the good of others. I’m no longer a ‘pleaser,’ but am a more selfish (and much more outspoken) after such a long time of erasure.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I become this year….each day a new page turns, a new stanza is written, and a new poem begins to evolve.

This time, finally, after such a long time, it’s the poem that is me….


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So, many of you have been asking how my reading at Harbourfront went on Wednesday night. It was divine, to be honest. I felt, listening to my fellow poets read, and reading my own work, that heaven must be a place where ten or more poets are gathered. I always feel energized when I’m around other poets; they are my people. It’s hard to explain, really, but if you’re a poet, and you’re reading this, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about….

Who else, but a poet, can write about road kill and make it sound alive with imagery? Not the best example, perhaps, but the wonder with which we hear poems read, when everyone around is silent, listening. . .somehow that same room is full of electricity and creativity, is shimmering with possibility. I know I’m in love with someone’s work when I forget that my hands are attached to my arms. I usually lace my fingers together, tilt my head and listen intently when someone else is reading. I’m one who, when struck by an idea or image that speaks to me, will make small humming noises of appreciation. (This also occurs in meetings, when I’m intrigued by an idea or comment….or when I’m in a night class with colleagues. It can be a problem, but I guess my brain is vocally admiring the move of someone else’s brainwaves. 🙂 If a poem resonates with me, I feel it throughout my body. I sometimes find myself distracted by my interlaced fingers and think “oh, those belong to me?” For me, listening to good poetry being read by fellow poets is truly an out of body experience.

On the way down to Toronto on Wednesday morning, I spent time luxuriating in my friend Pippa Little’s newest collection of poems, Overwintering. It was as if the flight only took a few moments because I was so taken by her pieces. (Well, all right; I must admit, as always, that I feel the pull of my window seat to the view of Georgian Bay and the Canadian Shield from high above. There is nothing like a flight between Sudbury and Toronto because it proves the beauty of this northern landscape….and reminds you how small you actually are in the face of this great country.)

Arriving, I spent time with the three soul sisters I met when travelling in Ireland last summer. Maria, Angela and Laura are truly my kindred spirits. We have a riot every time we are together and I knew, from the first time I met them in Malahide, that we would get on famously. My sister also arrived to share the night with me, so now she’s met these wonderful friends, too. We had so much fun! I also saw Steve, an old writing friend from my days at Laurentian University. A friend’s daughter, Sara, also arrived to show her support, and my dear poet friend, Tanya, was also there. Then there was Judi, a woman I’ve met through my work at school…I haven’t known her for long, but always feel we’ve known each other for eons. It’s a nice feeling, to gather people from all walks of life, and feel that link of heart and soul. I value those friendships. They are steadfast.

The readings were wonderful. It was like a buffet of poetry! Nineteen poets read, for five minutes each, and let me tell you that the light was bright. I dislike not being able to see people in the audience when I read, for some reason. I want to feel a connection with my audience. I get that it’s important for the audience to see a reader clearly, and everyone looked wonderful up there, with spotlights creating angel auras and airbrushing flaws somehow, but I still missed the zing of seeing someone smile or nod when I read a certain poem or line. That makes it all worthwhile…to know the poems I’ve written have spoken to someone else just as strongly as they speak to me, in my head and heart.

One of the neatest things happened when a big, tall, white haired man came up to speak with me at intermission. He started speaking about Sudbury, and about Demorest Street in Gatchell. “Do you know Demorest Street? In the Gatch?” I grinned and said I did. “Did you know about the pit? Where it used to flood? We kids used to go up there all the time….” I didn’t know that, but now I’m planning a short trip to Gatchell to find that pit! 🙂 It seems, even when people move away, they are drawn to Sudbury. It has a magnetic core, somehow. We live up here….and maybe our hearts never really leave.

I didn’t win the competition, or even place in the honourable mention category, but I feel as if I won so much more. Every time I hang out with poets, I feel more myself, more alive, more connected. It’s a bit of a high, to be honest. It’s also a night, surrounded by friends and my sister, Stacy, that I will remember for the rest of my life. My only regret is that my parents aren’t around anymore. My dad, in particular, would have loved to have seen me read at Harbourfront. I’d like to think, as Stacy said later that night, that he and Mum were there, beaming down proudly from heaven.

Back to reality, and work, this morning, but with a lighter heart and step. I’m a poet. No doubt about it. 🙂
Am thinking, now, about forming a commune for ancient poets….so that, eventually, I’m surrounded by fellow wordsmiths when I am wearing dentures and looking back nostalgically to recall this week’s Battle of the Bards. I cannot think of a nicer way to wind down a life, in forty years or so, I hope, than to be with other poets….speaking words and sharing sound.


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You might be living under a rock if you haven’t yet had the experience of hearing Canadian performance poet Shane Koyczan’s piece, “To This Day.” It’s gone viral in recent weeks, for good reason. It speaks of what it feels like to be bullied, to have that pain follow you through the years, and how your own mental health can suffer from having had to deal with such bullying.

Take a peek at this amazing work of art and let it move through you, leaving behind something that resonates within your soul. Seriously. It’s that powerful.

When you teach kids, you hear stories of how they treat one another. It’s not always kindly, I’m sad to say. You remember how you encountered a bully while you were at school, either elementary or secondary. Those encounters can mark you years later. I still remember happenings, full conversations, of how “mean girls” treated me when I was in high school. It was not a kind time for me. I survived….and now, well, now I watch out for kids who are bullied in my classes…because I know how awful it can be and how it can haunt you for a very long time.

My favourite line is at the end, when he says “But our lives will only ever always continue to be a balancing act that has less to do with pain and more to do with beauty.” So true.


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