Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dance it out

This is a Tajik Pamir dance.  Although it may share similarities with certain other familiar ethnic folk dances I have never seen this particular sequence before. Even the woman's dress dances!

Badakhshan (Persian: ببدخشان, Tajik: Бадахшон) is an historic region comprising parts of what is now northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan.

Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs live there, as well as speakers of several Pamir languages of the Eastern Iranian language group. . .   The people of this province have a rich cultural heritage and they have preserved unique ancient forms of music, poetry and dance. [Source]

Sometimes, to calm oneself down--or fire oneself up--or just to express one's sadness, happiness, or amazement at being alive--dance is the perfect vehicle. It has the capacity to induce euphoria, make one forget, for a time, the pain or weariness that existence sometimes brings. And--it costs nothing. You can lose yourself in the music, put your whole being into it. For a brief time, you go somewhere "else".

I sometimes wonder if we are born with certain rhythms carried forth, to which we seem inherently drawn.  They may or may not be from the culture we were born into   but when we hear them--the beat of an African drum, the haunting urgency of that gypsy violin, the call of an Andean flute, the teasing beckon of a Greek bazouki, the vibrations of distant ancestral voices, something awakens in us, a kind of re-cognition, and we stop to listen.

Feet with a Mind of Their Own:

Sometimes, in a public gathering, when a selection of lively music is being played, I sometimes notice people's feet. People who are sitting down, for example, engaged in conversation, half-listening to the music playing in the background. Some toes start tapping automatically, like unleashed puppies, unable to contain themselves. Other feet remain firmly planted, their owners' arms crossed, like stationed Observers (as opposed to TTIIPs (Toe-Tapping Involuntary Inadvertent Participants).

Then, there are some who just simply cannot stay seated; they immediately jump up and start dancing, oblivious to whether adequate space exists to perform such impulsive rhythmic gyrations. No matter. They compensate by what's known as standing there and dancing-in-place. We all know someone who fits this category. And the worst of it is, they try to get you to join them! (That they invite you in the first place means they think you're one of them. You should consider that a compliment. It means you understand how rhythm operates.) Never refuse to dance with this person, for fear of looking foolish.  This ultimate display of courage could open you up to a connection with openness (and fun) you never imagined possible.  Don't laugh.  Maybe you hear it, too, not just as background noise but a melodic reminder of states of feeling lately absent.
Not only feet respond sometimes without your consciously telling them to -- how many times have you listened to a particular loved classical recording and find your hands sweepingly "directing" along with the conductor, or find yourself humming along when a particular favorite aria flows out from a radio opera, or whistling a decades' old  rock tune.   All are spontaneous physical responses to rhythmic prompts or periodic replayings of mentally archived sounds whose which acts of engagement nurtures the spirit.   The perfect pill for what ails you! Stressed out? It calms you. Stuck in mental inertia? It energizes you. Need to be reminded of something? Its nostalgic recall helps preserve fond memories (or lets you deal with the bittersweet, regretful ones). In short, it's therapeutic.

So anyway, I stumbled on this Pamirian dance this morning, and right away saw a parallel in the graceful sweep of certain of the arm movements to reminiscent of certain Chi Gong positions.  Though I practice Tai Chi in silence, I feel its music.   Seeing this Pamirian dance reminded me of those forms.

Should we fear dilution?
People who study, teach or choreograph certain traditional dance forms are careful to preserve  "authenticity".  For example, in some cultures, although everyone does the same basic folk-step, the men are traditionally allowed to be more flamboyant; the women's foot movements, in contrast, are more contained, less pronounced. People learning or doing these dances sometimes append their own personal variations (e.g.,  you can always tell which ones have had ballet training).  As with language or tradition, a nation's dances evolve without compromising their essential character.  Its performers may not be native, nor the costumes always "authentic", but one still recognizes that distinctive heartbeat, so to speak.   What's fascinating is what each peoples and generation have done with this universal pastime we all share.

Though I enjoy occasional staged performances, I moreso love witnessing little spontaneous eruptions from random people in rhythmic response to "sudden music": Someone in the group pulls out a guitar, and everybody starts singing; one of the older kids plays a Bob Marley song and a younger one begins reggae-ing down the hall; people get together for coffee and music unexpectedly "breaks out". It's a language we all understand, without knowing the words.

All movement is a kind of dance. Kind of like life: Whether you move in lines, or circles, embedded in groups, or off in a corner, alone, we all hear its rhythm, and even when you don't actually hear it, it still plays out in your memory.  This can be a definition, for some, of joy.

Once a dancer, always a dancer, I think--even if your ancient feet no longer work and you can't keep up with the pace for fear of passing out.  I once saw a paralyzed ex-dancer in a wheelchair, watching, in rapture, a dance performance, her hand poised on her lap, executing the remembered steps with the second and third fingers of her right hand.  Like little miniaturized feet, they stepped, kicked, ran, jumped, and swirled.  Can you still sing if you've lost your voice? Can you "write" when you can no longer hold a pen? Can you play piano without a piano? Of course it's not the same.  (What is anymore?)  And yet ...

What a magnificent invention, dancing. It's like a gift.

Speaking of foot tapping:   :)

French Canadian/Metis-style foot tapping (taper du pieds) to accompany the fiddle.

If you have ever wanted to learn how to do this, you can get an introductory lesson here.  Just watch and imitate.  At some point you won't have to count; your feet will just automatically take over.  Or so they tell me.  :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

poeming the winter solstice

Winter solstice time again, the shortest day of the year, which means night comes sooner.

Blogger Sandy Brown Jensen, a writing teacher in Eugene, Oregon has restarted a personal tradition this year to write a poem about the winter solstice, because, she says, "It reminds me to be conscious of the season, the coming and going of the light."  Her poem was accompanied by an image of a V-shaped line of geese sailing past a crescent moon.

I miss those geese.  Kind of like old friends who only show up twice a year, honkily announce their presence, then speed on.  A funny kind of visit, so brief, yet looked forward to with such heightened expectation and delight.  It never gets old.

Jensen's remark about "the coming and going of the light" came to mind when I read teacher/writer Paul Martin's review yesterday of Joan Didion's new book, Blue Nights, about the death of Didion's daughter, Quintana.   "The Buddhists tell us that pain, suffering and loss are part of life, and must be accepted as such," he wrote.  "Still humans go on and on, raging against the dying of the light, reaching out to hold on for just one more second, the blue light of memory."

Consciousness of light and darkness (physical, emotional, perceived)--their (and our) arrivals, departures; memory; loss; renewal; and seeming constants, like the twice-annual crossing of those geese traversing the sky.   The conjunction resonated.

An excerpt from Sandy Brown Jensen's poem:

Now, in the dawn dark, I hear them high
up over the bike path cottonwoods,
coming my way. I imagine
what I cannot see–twenty four wings
beating tip to tip, veed out
like talkative angels. . . .

And I am only afraid when the honkers fly on silent,
intent wings, quieted by some collective
thought too large or moving for even geese
to talk about, even to each other,
in those black hours before the earth creaks
again toward the light, and we can breathe, and speak.

(A reader commented that those "geese inspire my wings to quiver, too."  Add me to the list, it inspires me as well, that graceful journey of barky "sky-voicers", sad to see them go in autumn  (because that signifies a kind of end); happy to see them return come spring (another beginning). 

I don't know if it was the image of that V-shaped crossing under the crescent moon, an awakened consciousness of the comings and goings of light (and darkness), or the reminder of the Sisyphus-like predilection of humankind to "go on and on"-- alternately celebrating--or raging against--life's coming, life's going.    If I were to attempt to poem it, it might come out something like:

 Solstice Whisperings

'Tis the season we commemorate
light's contract with the world; 
mid groans at start of winter's Dark
(here blanketed in white).
For some, a time of inner fire  -
peak yin, the muse awakened, lo
behold its quickening.
Illumination reborn, freeing our
quiet, unheard voicings.
Cycles repeating ... ad lucem, 
ad opscurum
Retreat, contract, 
be re-lit inside.
Cradled in life's fragile,
invisible hold, we
become its eternal

Hmmm....  seems less to do with solstice & ends up being a cryptic pseudo-meditation on cycles.  Or existential weaving.  And poem is not a verb, last time I checked.  No, I have not hit the eggnog a tad early.  Am on Day 8 of an annoyingly debilitative seasonal malady, kind of a cross between laryngitis, cold & flu (it can't seem to make up its mind) (flucolarnge? larngclflu?   sounds positively Lovecraftian) .

Taking 2 aspirin and going back to bed. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

More, less, & just enuff

Took Chekhov on the trip down to the States last week but no time to read; this rarely happens but on this trip it somehow did. My rideshare driver reminded me it was my ninth trek in the luxurious Phillipemobile (twelfth for Don, aged 77, up in the front seat regaling us with tales of his many travels and unusual adventures). Some border officials, believe it or not, have never heard of rideshare or craigslist, finding it difficult to understand why six or seven unrelated people would all be coming into the country together in the same vehicle, none heading to exactly the same destination, all returning on different dates. But you get there twice as fast at half the cost; a smooth, comfortable ride with interesting people, lively conversations, good music, what more could one ask.

It was wonderful to see the l'il grandbubs again.  While there, one night, on our way back from the grocery store, we drove through this quiet neighborhood of gigantic houses with enormous manicured lawns, when this light display suddenly shrieked out in brightness:

My daughter said it had won some kind of local competition. Between the "ohhhhhhs" and "ahhhhhhhs"of passersby, one also heard:  "Wonder what their electric bill will look like ..."

And for all those large, overly decorated Christmas trees, real or fake, there're also those scraggly, marked-down leftovers bargained for on Christmas eve, before the tree lot closes, by those who find the only thing they can afford this year is a Charlie Brown special or its scrawny equivalent. Less decoration, more spirit - that'll work!

"Christmas" has become so commercialized, it's sometimes met with dread instead of joy.  Joy, joyous, joyful - words we say or sing or write on a card this month that roll out as effortlessly as "Have a nice day.

For some, these holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, winter solstice), are a time of sadness, stress, or  creeping indifference.  What is there to celebrate? Some parents can't afford to put food on the table, as TV ads remind you how great it would be to be gifted with a diamond, expensive  appliance or spiffy new car with a big red ribbon tied 'round it. One is expected to honor family traditions even when it may be impossible to do so. Whatever cheer you might muster could suddenly wash right out of you by the proliferation of political correctness: saying "Happy Holidays", for example, you risk being lectured for not saying "Merry Christmas").

And yet . . . despite all the hype, and angst, and commercial shlock, families try to get together, spirits are lifted, people who wouldn't ordinarily, give. And there's the Peace-on-Earth thing. Which is another way of saying No More War, only quieter.

My dad was Smokey the Bear when I was in high school.  He used to go around to local elementary schools dressed as Smokey the Bear to teach kids about safety in the forest.  At Christmas time he'd make loaves and loaves of raisin-nut bread (the only thing he enjoyed cooking) and deliver them to certain families in the neighborhood.  I remember being impressed by his sheer enthusiasm -- none of my friends' fathers did these things--and regret that I never told him so while he was still alive.

What I like about the end of the year is that it's an End and you can imagine the new, coming year as an opportunity to correct/resolve/expand, whatever -- do things differently, or "better".  Which feeling sometimes evaporates as quickly as one's unmet New Year's resolutions, but at no other time of the year does that particular urge seem quite as strong. The older I get, the more inclined I am to just let some things go--habits, for example, that have run their course, worries that are not worth worrying over; and concentrate on those things that are important, or should be moreso.  Energy and focus squandered, a depletion you sometimes don't notice till it's too late. I have to remind myself to stop looking at some things as insurmountable obstacles; view them as challenges instead; think of creative ways to arrive at a solution, be more proactive, etc. Yeah, I know, buzzwords (like "Joyous"), but somehow simply waiting, and hoping for the best -- seems too lethargic.

So, onward and otherward 2012.  My grandson told me he watched a documentary on the Discovery channel last month which discussed the prediction that the world, as we know it, will end on December 21, 2012, when some catastrophic event will occur and "we'll all disappear".   Or not.  Living moment by moment begins to take on a whole new meaning, in light of that possibility, though. 

Anyway, glad to be back, though I wish I could have brought those Vermont mountains home with me. Seeing them again -- now that was pure heaven!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cat Photo Shoot

Part 1:  Choose subject 

"You want me to do WHAT?!!!"

Part 2: Consider asking Nikki
if this is how she wants to be portrayed.

I already know the answer.
What was I thinking?!

 She  prefers this one.
[The beach ball was unintended.
Not a prop.
It was just there.]

"Okay, enough. 
I'm done ..."
she heads back upstairs to snooze again.

Photoshoot Final Report:

1. Never attempt a contrived pose.
2.  What's a hug for one, may be a choke for others.
3.  Posing should always be voluntary.  Ask first.
4. Let sleeping cats be. They'll hear you if you try to sneak a
candid photo.  [If they want to be photo hams, of course --
well, that's a different story altogether.  Let 'em shine!]

Thanks, Nik, old girl.
You haven't aged a bit.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Song for the Moon

Courtesy of Eden Ink Photography

Mi Luna by David LaMotte on Grooveshark

Mi  Luna, written by the late Nicaraguan songwriter Salvador Cardenal Barquero.   Spanish guitar by Juan Benevides, sung by David LaMotte, harmony vocals by Tish Hinojosa (From David LaMotte's album "Change", which came out in 2006).

Mi luna
ha visto tanto
que cuando le canto su plata me acuna
como a los santos
y los prisioneros, los amantes
los locos errantes y los pordioseros
que amamantamos tu luz.

Cuando no hay amigos, pan ni dinero
solo la poesía que flota en el aire sincero
y en las bancas solas
que hay en los parques
que mueren de frío
esperando amores amanezqueros.

Ay mi luna llena, escucha la pena
cuando un hombre canta
al amor que quiere.
Ay mi luna llena, escucha la pena
cuando un hombre canta
al amor que espera.
Ay mi luna llena. . .

I know about five words in Spanish, and one of them is luna.  The music went straight to my heart but I wanted to know what the words meant - so I used the Google Translator.  That translation - literal, and lacking - didn't illuminate. How words miscommunicate and how we struggle to make sense of them, even when awkwardly expressed!  What does it mean, for example, to "float through the air, sincere"?  [poetry, that is.] 

My personal interpretation, humbly offered, based on my sense of the verbatim Spanish, and what the feelings the music and that photographic image combined, evoked:

My moon
you've seen so much,
heard the outpourings of saints,
prisoners, lovers, beggars,
wandering madmen -
we're all nurtured by your light.

Friendless, hungry, destitute -
only poetry truly permeates.
Alone on park benches
one can die of the cold,
waiting for love.

Ah, my full moon,  hear our pain
when we sing of our yearning, of
love wanted,
love hoped for.

*Thanks to Abigail of Eden Ink Photography for her kind permission to share the above photo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Photo by John Levy

Announcing my new photoblog, Photopoesis, launched this past weekend, which will function as a photo sharehouse for interesting, unusual and/or compelling photography. 

The first installment features the photos of John Levy, poet/writer/lawyer of Tucson, AZ.  Special thanks to John for sharing these magnificent images and for his collaborative input that resulted in my finally tackling this photo project I'd often thought about but never quite got around to doing.

Which photos to select, how and in what order to place them, etc., was a fun and intriguing process where size, color, subject, 'theme', shape, texture, angle, shadow, humor, irony, and visual impact all came into play.  Each photo tells its own 'story'.  For example:

** A newly hatched life says hello to existence.
** A wilted oleander, attack and death in the insect world,
      a skeleton eyeing a passerby, all remind viewers of life's
      cycle of impermanence.
** A spontaneous gesture from a biker in traffic aligns with fence
      shubbery  to point in the same direction, in perfect symmetry.
** A wall shadow spreads forth on a sunlit pavement.
** Stains on top a garbage can resemble the map of a distant blue
** A turtle watches a discarded slice of watermelon float by.
** A hummingbird is immortalized suspended in mid-flight.

Camera-captured moments that beckon and hold us.

Pop by if you've time, and take a peek. They are really worth a look!

Click here to enter the site.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Show-time, share-time, again!!

                                                                        NEW  POEMS 
                                                                                                                      up on 
                                   <-- Joel E. Jacobson - Paul Pines  - Anna Swanson -->
                                                                       Meg Bateman 
                                                                       Zoe Skoulding     
                                                                      Alexei Tsvetkov
                                                              SedleRichard   Assonne
                                                                    t                         r
                                                                   t                            o
                                                                  o                              j
                                                                 n                                 a
                                                                K                                   M
                                                           Bill                                      Alice    

ART by   Bill Knott
                         Anthony Duce
                                   Jean-Michel Ripaud
                                                         Néle Azevedo

PHOTOGRAPHY by Jonathan of Beeps & Chirps


Enter HERE


Monday, October 31, 2011

"Let it snow ... "

"Once it starts snowing, they’ll be gone," I overheard someone predict last week about the Occupy Wall Street encampment.

Like a little snow will dampen spirits and cause cause-motivated occupy [insert name of city] campers to cease, desist and depart.

Check out the determination of the Occupy Albany group:

Power to the Peaceful and Persistent.

[Photos by  Sotto Voce]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stand Up for Tibet

From the time they get up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night, Tibetans live in fear.

All they are asking is to be able to freely practice their religion, keep their own culture and identity, and be accorded equality and justice in their homeland.

Instead they are:

-forbidden to be educated in their own language
- forbidden to have a photo of the Dalai Lama in their house
- Their women are sterilized without anesthetic.
- They are watched by cameras everywhere
- They are met with soldiers with guns at every crossroads
- They are imprisoned if they speak out about their Chinese occupiers
- They are not allowed to leave the country

Tibet has  been calling for freedom for over 50 years.  
Their continuous, strong, non-violent screams for help 
continue to be ignored by the West.

Tibetans simply want to remain who they are, in their own land.  

Last week, in India, Austria, France, England, Italy, Australia, Japan, the U.S and around the world, people stood up for Tibet. 

On  November 2nd, protests will be happening in 60 Cities in 26 Countries over 5 Continents
You are invited to join, to show support.

To express an opinion or write negatively about the Chinese government government in Tibet, you risk being beaten and imprisoned.  The crackdown on human rights has become so severe in Tibet that Tibetan monks and youths are sacrificing their lives rather than continue to live under Chinese rule, signifying a situation of deep desperation..

Tapey, age 20, self-immolated February 26, 2009, shot while being burned.
Phuntsok, age 21, self-immolated on March 16, 2011
Tswang Norbu, age 29, self-immolated on August 15, 2011
Lobsang Kelsang, age 18, self-immolated on Sept. 26, 2011
Lobsang Kunchok, age 18, self-immolated on Sept. 26, 2011
Kelsang Wangchuk, age 17, self-immolated on October 3, 2011
Choepel, age 19, self-immolated on October 7, 2011
Khayang, age 17, self-immolated on October 7, 2011
Norbu Dramdul, age 19, self-immolated on October 15, 2011, beaten & dragged away.
Tenzin Wangmo, age 20, self-immolated on October 20, 2011.
Dawa Tsering, age 38,  self-immolated on October 25, 2011.
[Details here]

People around the world last week expressing solidarity with Tibet in their struggle for freedom of religion, language, culture and human rights:

You are invited to sign the pledge here to show your support for global diplomatic intervention for the people of Tibet.

List of Planned Protests Around the World, here.


The Chinese government has sentenced Tashi Rabten to a 4-year prison term, following a closed-door trial, for writing poetry and essays and editing the banned literary magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain).

Choepa Lugyal (penname Meycheh), a young Tibetan writer working at the National Publication in Gansu province was arrested by the Public Security Bureau police in Lando (Chinese: Lanzhu) city, Gansu province on 19 October 2011.

100 Thousand Poets for Change is organizing a Global Action Day for Tibet to stand in solidarity with the Tibetan people against oppression from China. Local poets will be reading and passing out poems by Tibetan poets Tenzin Tsundue, Tsoltim N. Shakabpa, Jigme Dorjee DAGYAP, Woeser, and Tsering Dhompa, at the Chinese Consulate on Wednesday, November 2 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. [On Facebook here].

If you cannot be at any of the planned events around the world on this Global Day of Action for Tibet, you can support them by signing the petition, and perhaps mentioning it on your blog.  Spread the word!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A voice too good not to share


Singer, songwriter, composer Lokua Kanza, was born in 1958, the eldest of 8 children; his father was a Mongo from the Democratic Republic of Congo, his mother a Tutsi from the mountains of northern Ruwanda.  At the age of 13, he decided to become a singer, after hearing a performance by Miriam Makeba.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The Grammar of Lines

A line is a dot out for a walk.
—Paul Klee

Monday, October 24, 2011

Down the Memory Hole

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist – even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal – part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice – would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist."

[At Truthout  today.]

"Records?  What records?"

Not good news for researchers.  :(


Seems to be a trend:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Established by Congress to investigate and expose government waste, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan has decided to not reveal its volumes of materials to the public for another two decades.

After three years of work, the commission officially shut down last week, having concluded that the U.S. misspent between $31 billion and $60 billion in contracting for services in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But it won’t allow its records to be opened for public review at the National Archives until 2031, because some of the documents contain “sensitive information,” according to one official. [1]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lawsuit Seeks Arrest Against Bush in Canada Today

Amnesty International has also called on the Canadian government to arrest Bush and either prosecute or extradite him for the torture of prisoners in the so-called "war on terror." Meanwhile, four men who say they were tortured in U.S. prisons under the Bush administration will lodge a private prosecution today against the former president in a Canadian provincial court.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Canadian Center for International Justice have already submitted a 69-page draft indictment to Canada’s attorney general, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material, that set forth the case against Bush for torture.

Transcript on Democracy Now


Bush was not arrested.

500 business people paid $599 each to hear George Bush and Bill Clinton speak at the Surrey Regional Economic  Summit earlier today.[1] A crowd of about 200 stood outside chanting, "Arrest Bush", holding up signs saying "You are not welcome here."

Bush, who won the Plain English Campaign’s Foot in Mouth lifetime achievement award, has pulled in some $15 million in speaking fees since leaving the Oval Office, a former spokesman told iWatch.[2]

And so it goes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Neighborhood scenes

On my way back from tai chi this morning, ran into a pumpkin man, getting ready for Halloween I presume.  He had wires running out of him and there was a mini speaker hooked up to the porch roof.  I can only imagine what he has planned for little ghosties and goblins coming 'round for trick or treat next weekend. (That is a leaf blower, not a wood chipper at his side, right?)  A second before I clicked to take the photo, the black cat appeared out of nowhere and got caught in the scene.  [insert soundtrack from the Twilight Zone, ha ha]

How autumn leaves are like people -
Some go out in a blaze of glory, notably transformed.
Some stay the same as they ever were, unchanged.
All get scattered, equal.
Tree cycles, recycles, leaf cycles, life cycles
they, we

Speaking of scattered . . .

Last leaf, standing

This is Maurice, our baby (now pre-adolescent) yellow birch tree, originally the size of one of those twiggy limb sprouts.  As of yesterday there were 17 leaves left on him.  (I counted them.)  This morning -- one left.

It's not yet cold enough but I smell snow in the air.  We had snow before Halloween last year.  Out walking I took four deep, long breaths, as if trying to absorb a music sensed but not yet heard.  There is something life-enervating about the air in late Fall and winter.  Like gas to a car, or a window out of complacency, it's like energy rushing through again, can't explain it.

People here groan once the foliage passes and frost sets in. Quite a few head for Florida.  Five months of snow/cold/longing for spring, etc., something to escape from, complain about, endure. Once the geese leave (and they have already, weeks ago), the air changes. You can smell snow coming.  Even when the weatherman says it won't, you can tell when you breathe in outside, he's wrong.  Is this an inherited thing, or something you acquire through affinity?  In any case, it's always invigorating, that first felt hint of arrival.  Not the fact of it, but what it awakens, vis-a-vis consciousness. Hard to explain but without it, certain fires inside would just plumb go . . . out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chat with a Poet

Samuel Menashe (from Life is IMMENSE) from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

A short 2009 film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce.  Here Neil Astley visits Menashe in the tiny New York apartment where Menashe lived for 55 years, from age 31 to 84. He could still recite every one of his poems by heart.  He died on August 22 this year at the age of 85. [Obit/review].

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Where are you, V – you hide from
me you make me look I can’t discern
if that is you it sounds like you but then
it’s not -  I can’t decide which you is which, of
course just when I stake my claim and take
the plunge you re-emerge, you mock and say
well looky that, a different tune but it won’t fit you
know it won’t so why don’t you come back, you just
can’t just leave me you’d be voiceless, so      said     V.

Side of Le Lupin resto, au centre ville last week

An Art-Official Flower

Their violetness drew me
such perfect alignment
that day – where the wind was wreaking havoc,
ripping fragile petals from pansy stems
sending street grit into my eyes.

I realize (they’re so discrete, these lavender gems –
peeking mavericks at play!)
I must rescind this counterfeit sign sent.
Their fakeness knew me.

Bled Dry, Oh My

Inkless pen :: wordrust

*V = voice

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ten Days of Poetry

The 27th annual International Festival of Poetry

Trois-Rivières, Sept. 30-Oct. 9, 2011

Ten days of poetry, all day, every day, from 9 a.m. to midnight.
       93 invited poets, from 5 continents
              320 separate events, taking place in
                     cafés, restaurants, theaters, schools, art galleries,
                            museums, libraries, bookstores, the park

Strung across from tree to tree, sheets of poems
from regional & national poets, school children, senior citizens.
[click on photos to enlarge]

Winner of the $15,000 Grand prix Quebecor this year was poet Louise Dupré ; a $1,000 top prize was given to a teacher for innovation in teaching poetry; $2,000 prize to an unpublished poet, $1,000 for best poem from a senior citizen, & other cash prizes. One is encouraged not just to come hear other poets but to participate and submit poems as well. A woman [not in the photo] looking for her poem among the hundreds hanging in the park, told me over 400 were submitted in her particular category alone.  I was especially moved by a 7-line poem from an unnamed 12-year old child, who wrote of realizing, for the first time . . . that "life is not eternal".

Park bench sitters commenting on one of the poems
 Parc Champlain, a veritable garden of words last week.  Each poem was encased in a transparent waterproof pouch, in case it rained, which it did the first few days.

Continuing on with the virtual tour -

If you visit downtown Trois-Rivières you will see these permanent little plaques all over the place - 300 of them to be exact, outside of restaurants, in walkways, on walls of buildings--even  the sides of houses--extracts of poems by Quebecois poets, as well as 100 poems in 21 languages on the Poetry Walk down near the port. 

This one, by poet Anne Hébert,  says:
"You and me, island in the city, 
under the rain, into the world . . ."

"Into the
world . . ."

as in:

 Four wall poems hanging out together, their only audience that day:  the three waiting bicycles [below].

A slim little 100-page booklet with details of all the reading events was available for free at local libraries, shops and restaurants. One poet told me, on Friday, that she'd given 26 readings so far and was having the time of her life meeting and spending time with other poets, townfolk and poetry lovers.  

With so many events going on simultaneously, it's sometimes the case where you'd go to a scheduled reading and find 5 poets lined up to read but only three people in the audience.  If you happened to be one of those three, you'd then have had a chance to sit and talk, individually, with each of the poets, from as far away as Russia or Japan or Argentina, whom you might've otherwise never gotten an opportunity to meet.

Muffins et poésie at Café Morgane inside the Clément Morin bookstore, a rainy Sunday morning at 11:00 - U.S. poet/translator/publisher Andrea Moorhead (seen here with Gérald Gaudet)  - reading and discussing all things poetry.  Especially interesting to me was the discourse on the difficulties (and joy of discovery vis-a-vis  nuance in language) encountered in the process of translating poetry.  Andrea publishes a journal called Osiris, out of Deerfield, Massachusetts, which features international poetry in original language and English translation.  

Wednesday morning poetry breakfast at resto Le Sacristain, with poets Marius Daniel Popescu (Romania/Switzerland); Nathalie Handal (Palestine/U.S.); Rei Berroa (Dominican Republic/U.S.) and  Sedley Richard Assonne (Mauritius Island). I will be posting some of their work at the cove in the near future.

At noon, Diner-poèsie in the foyer of the Maison de la culture - with  Dmitry Legeza, Olga Khokhlova (Russia), Felipe Garcia Quintero (Colombia), and François Guerrette (Québec).  This was a "Bring-Your-Own-Lunch" affair.

On the way back to the terminal to catch a bus home I passed Le Lupin restaurant where yet another reading was taking place upstairs - and through the open windows on the top floor,  poetry floated out onto the street below. Ahead of me, a puzzled passerby stopped, looking up at the sky, searching for where that melodic voice was coming from.

Six poets reciting poèmes en langue anglaise at St. James Episcopal Church on Friday.  Left to right: Nela Rio (Argentina/New Brunswick), Christine De Luca (Scotland), David Musgrave (Australia), James Norcliffe (New Zealand), Alice Major (Alberta), and Anna Swanson (British Columbia).

Christine De Luca read poems in a Shetland Island dialect; one of Nela Rio's poems was an imagined dialogue with 16th-century poet Leonor de Ovando;  James Norcliffe entertained us with an animated recitation of Yippee!, about a bunch of escaped podiatrists who can teach one something about frustration/ irony/ scorn/    . . .  and hate.  Poems from Alice Major and Anna Swanson will appear in an upcoming Salamander Cove posting.

I also went to diner-poèsie at Le Manoir  and heard poets Coral Bracho (Mexico) and Jean-Phillippe Bergeron (Québec).  My only regret is that I did not have the time or opportunity to get to more events this time around.  Of course there is always next year, different poets but same times, same places, same ten whole days and nights of poetry; you just have to choose (and plan ahead!).

A small sampling:

Sedley Richard Assonne,
"Madame Eugene"  read/sung in Creole

Rei Berroa

Marius Daniel Popescu

François Guerrette

Some photos -   taken while walking from one poetry reading to another:

A sidewalk mural as part of a peace exhibit
at the Museum of Popular Culture

sign at top:   "Justice for All"

October leaves blown & scattered:
gathering, unnoticed

Water from the park fountain, bursting by

Alleyway graffiti

Up close and personal

Monument to the unknown poet, in homage to poets worldwide -
in the plaza outside Le Bibliothèque Gatien-Lapointe

Reaching to the sky

"Open - Prison".   There are no inmates incarcerated there--this refers to an historic building that once  housed Trois-Rivières' criminals in the 1960s and '70s.    The guides  who give the tours and answer visitors' questions are former inmates.   Originally built in 1822 to hold around 40 prisoners, it was sometimes  packed with over a hundred. When it closed in 1986, it was the oldest functional corrections establishment in Canada.

You are invited, should this be of interest,  to experience a one-night sentence  behind bars:  You get booked, spend a night in a cell, and receive  breakfast fit for a prisoner. (You can go in a group of 15 to 39 others  if you'd rather not do this alone.) 
La vielle prison de Trois-Rivieres

Before you leave, you get a discharge paper with your fingerprints and mug shot (to take as a souvenir).   At least that's what happened when I  took this tour some years ago (though I didn't do the overnight-behind-bars part of it).  I did, however, step into the dark and dismal dungeon, and hear some very harrowing tales about what it was like to  have been a prisoner back in the 1800s.  Just imagine, you could be sent  to prison then for inadvertent impious utterances or swearing on the street.

 rue des Ursulines

 A bit of house history
[for the white house in photo above]

Outside St. James, en route to yet another poetry reading

 Inside St. James church, at the baptismal font, this sculpted bird descends from the ceiling on a kind of pulley when the font is opened.  Erected in 1764,this Anglican church served as a garrison chapel, a hospital, a court and a prison.  Today services are conducted there in both French and English.  Across the street is an Ursuline convent built in the late 1600s. Down one street and over a hill takes you to the port.

Three minutes away by foot,
a shady grove with dancing sun shadows

Earlier, at Végétarien, autumn squashes!

Tree-limb Rorschach on pine needles

Scene from last year's poetry festival

A fine week, all in all.  [A belated happy birthday to Sedley A., we would have toasted you on the Friday at table had we known!]


*street photos © awyn photography