Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poetry Thursday

This week's assignment was to bring poetry into the every day. Instead, I'm publishing poems which bring the everyday into poetry...

Bonne Bell - Cafe Latte
Net Wt. 12oz./3.4g*

I've finally found the perfect shade
of lipstick. You say it's nice,
'cause it don't slap your face red.

I leave you with coffee
in five-o-clock shadows.

* from the label on coffee-flavoured lipstick


Rubbermaid Dreams

Now I know:

there isn't a Tupperware big enough
to seal you in
and keep our memories
from going stale.



Sunday, June 25, 2006

Interview outfit - wardrobe poll

I'm finding myself utterly undecided about what to wear for a 'view this week. To that end, I'm polling you, dear blog reader: which outfit do you think would be best suited to a third 'view with a non-advocacy environmental organization?

Option A) White blouse, grey pants, white pointy shoes

Option B) White blouse, grey pants, black pointy shoes

Option C) White blouse, tan pants, white pointy shoes

Yes, the white blouse must be worn. I spent far too much on it not to wear it!

Why am I polling you? Because I polled my parents and my dad said Option B. Mom said "wear whatever". So now I'm at a loss...

Interview's this Tuesday, so please vote by Monday night!

Thanks all!


Failing utterly

Well it's the end fo SRC Challenge Week 4, and I am failing utterly. I am 1/4 of the way through Wuthering Heights, and loving it, but there is no way I'm going to complete this on time. I'd need an extra three hours in my day and there's just no way I'm going to find that...I consider myself a fast reader, but I must say that I'm finding it hard to keep up!


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poetry Thursday

Here's something that I was inspired to write from something my mom told me not long ago. It's still in its infancy, but I thought I'd post it here and see how you all respond... (I'm reposting it because for some reason if you save a draft and then publish it, it publishes back on the date you saved the draft, not the date you are publishing!)

in my mother's garden
of a saturday afternoon
come face to face
with a ghost

she tells me
she's received a letter

what would you do
if he wanted to come back
she asks

leaning back,
dig palms into earth
to ground me
grab handfulls of grass
else my heart will run
far from here
away from the memory of a time when "I" was "we"

blink back tears
a grounded goldfish
gulping air
step into a flowerbed
waist high in grasses and wildflowers
among lazy lady bugs,
creamy butterfly eggs
shimmering on flowerheads

stubborn weeds
pulling up large clumps of earth
dirt raining onto sandal-clad toes
lazy bumble bees bumble by
weed the garden into order

until my heart stills

this is where I come when I am lonely she says
and I finally understand what she means

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Procrastination, or work???

Here's a book review that was forwarded to me through a freelancers' group I belong to. A lot of it certainly rings true for me, and now I have an excuse to procrastinate when I should be working on a story, because I'm actually working!

doing nothing
"... The hard part of writing is not the typing part, but the thinking part," writes Dave Barry in the New York Times (6/5/06). "If you were to come into my office," Dave continues, "you would most likely see me engaged in some activity that did not appear, to your untrained eye, to be work." Dave might be clipping his toenails, surfing the web or "thrashing around" with his electric guitar in a "futile but ongoing (for nearly four decades) attempt to learn the guitar part to "Paperback Writer." What you'd be missing is that while Dave "was engaged in these seemingly pointless activities" he was "thinking about a critical writing issue, such as: Which is the funnier-sounding mineral name, feldspar or potash? It takes hours of grueling mental effort to solve that kind of problem, but you, the reader, see only the finished product (feldspar).

"Upon this premise, Dave reviews "Doing Nothing," by Tom Lutz, which addresses questions such as "What is work? Why do we work? Is it a moral duty, or do we do it only because we have to? Is it O.K. not to work if we can get away with it? Do we resent those who are able to slack? Or do we envy them?" Tom wrote the book apparently out of anger at his slacker son, who was taking a year off before college to watch television. What bugged Tom was that his son's behavior pretty much reminded him of his own youth, when "he spent a fair number of years engaged in countercultural activities not widely considered productive." The book traces "the history of society's attitudes toward working and slacking," starting with "two 18th-century giants ... Benjamin Franklin, creator or the archetypal workaholic, Poor Richard" and "Samuel Johnson, creator of the 'Idler' who believes the only value of work is to enable leisure, and the highest calling is to do as little as possible."The Franklin view is the dominant one in America, but what Tom Lutz discovers "over and over (and over) is that slackers and workaholics aren't always as different as they appear." Ben Franklin liked to party, for example, and Samuel Johnson was a prolific writer. "We scorn the lazy... but we long to hit the lottery ... We criticize our kids for doing exactly what we did when we were their age." Ultimately, says Tom, we need slackers "as a goad to examining our relations to work, as a critique of our culture's twisty relation to work and to leisure, and as a celebration of the same." Dave says that "Doing Nothing" left him with "a deeper appreciation of the value of not working ... In fact," he concludes, "I wish I could do more of it," adding: "Alas, I cannot: these toenails aren't going to clip themselves."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Poetry Thursday

Not quite a poem, but here's something I've been working on over the years. It's actually a photo essay that's accompanied by some photos from my Japan trip, which I may post along with this when I have the time.

Anyways, here's my Thursday submission:


At the end of the rails, I am swept up in a river of umbrellas that seem too large, on sidewalks too narrow — a canopy of brightly coloured fabric. I buy a floppy hat to shade my face; somehow, the sun seems closer here.

In moss gardens, draped over stone lanterns and wooden beams, lazy temple cats watch me wearily, tails drooping over crumbling gods. Wooden wishes on red strings twirl and clack together in the heavy breeze, waiting to be offered up in fire.

I have come here to be nameless.

Here where sacred sites are squashed between concrete walls and neon lights, I wander from vending machine to vending machine, seeking the refreshment of cold green tea. Swim between islands of shade, where leaf shadows ripple over me.

Waves of song spill across dusty gravel paths, out open doors and over polished wood, to the rhythmic gong of an iron bell. Holy men point me the way up teapot lane, while off in the treetops, schoolchildren chatter and laugh, chasing each other around winding pathways. I've taken so many photos of laughing fat men with red bibs, scalloped temple roofs, dragons and gods.

In the stone garden on the final day of wandering, I contemplate the stillness of rock. The patience of the gardener who has daily raked a landscape clean in the knowledge that it will never grow green. Sun angles across lines of gravel and sand, softening the harshness of rock and stone. In the evenings, the neon lights flash bright through my curtains, to the pling pling pling of pachinko parlours and the shouting of store owners.

I now know what it is to be without words. To be alone, even when I am swept up in a sea of people. To be in a land where I am immune to the cry of merchants and the lure of bright lights. I could lose myself here, and no one would know. I've gone three days without speaking, except to ask for toilet directions and a hamburger at the golden arches.

In the morning, the bullet train pulls me away from this land where I have found wordlessness. Whips by stooped women with broad straw hats in silver rice fields. So many lives continue in quiet perseverance as we race by.

I am returning home to a newly painted door, where a new bath towel hangs alone on the rail. To a single bed with crisp sheets torn from plastic wrappers.

I know I will be all right, because I believe in the promise of Yume.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

SRC Book of the Week: An Obsession With Butterflies

Well, it's not on my SRC list but I'm cheating. I've been obsessed with butterflies for ever - they are a sign of hope and change for me. I even painted a butterfly on the back of my canoe to symbolize hope for the future.

So, I'm reading An Obsession With Butterflies. It was in the sale bin at Indigo, but who knows? The first page has a quote that struck me right away:

"Adding butterflies to your life is like adding another dimension. The air trembles with the movement of wings....All this existed before, has always existed, but you were unaware. You didn't see. At various times and places, in winter or on a busy street, the air is still and butterflies are impossible. Yet their presence remains, like one of those other ten dimensions. You've added this to your life."

And another one, a quote from Taoist master Chuang Tze, that my dad has quoted for ever but I didn't know where it was from: "I dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither. I was conscious only of following my fancies s a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly I awoke and there I lay myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man."

"There comes a time in your life when you must look at what you love and think: Yes, I was right. People who love butterflies have it easy."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

SRC book of the week: The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

I'm only halfway through this book (not even really halfway) and SRC week two is over! Thus begins the slippery slope where instead of completing one book a week, I complete one every week and a bit!!! Argh! I am enjoying this book quite a bit though. I'm not overly familiar with the Old Testament but I'm enjoying this herstory of the Bible quite a lot. I imagine Diamant must have done an incredible amount of anthropological research to fit in so many details about women's daily lives so many centuries ago... Anyways, it's a nice tie-in to Midwives, since there is so much about birthiing and midwifery in it. Hopefully it will be done by the end of the weekend.

This is a new one for me...

Was just browsing through DB Scott's Canadian Magazines blog, and came across a post on the Interrobang: apparently Microsoft is starting to include it in its Clear Type fonts and it may be gaining more widespread usage soon. It's a combination of a question mark and exclamation mark all in one... Meant to convey an excited or surprised question...

Click here to read what Wikipedia has to say about it...


(Back to Saturday afternoon procrastination).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday's poem of the week

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won't
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall,
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Again we'll need bridges
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
Someone listens
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.

From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
rust-eaten arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown
reasons and causes,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

~ Wislawa Szymborska (trans. Joanna Maria Trzeciak)
Edit: I've just joined Poetry Thursday, having started my Thursday Poem of the Week without realizing that this blogging movement existed. I'm excited about being inspired by others' writing and inspiring the lyrical voice inside of me once again...

Poetry Thursday's assignment for last week was to write a poem from overheard conversation. Here's something that was said to me yesterday that has stuck with me:

I knew a man
He studied English for his BA
English for his MA
English for his PhD
When he spoke,
It was like opening a book

You could hear his apostrophes
Hear his commas
His voice was a story to listen to

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I've been unoficially tagged by Heather, so here's my A to Z meme:

Accent: Southern Ontario Canadian, because I've been told I say "about" differently than Northern Ontarioers.
Booze: Red wine , green apple martini, or bellini
Chore I hate: Cleaning up after my kitties after they have been sick from licking off their fur (apparently one of them does this because she is either bored or anxious. She's pretty laid back so I think it's the former).
Dogs/Cats: Cats! Two of them!
Essential Electronics: Ipod (pink), computer, flat-iron
Favorite Perfume: Not sure if it's really a perfume, but So Pink body from GAP
Gold/Silver: Depends on the outfit...
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Insomnia: Sometimes for weeks, and then not for months.
Job title: Graduate Recruitment and Liaison Officer. Not sure if it feels more or less exciting than it is.
Kids: With the right guy, yes.
Living Arrangement: My two kitties let me share their condo with them.
Most Admired Trait: um um...passion and quirky sense of humour?
Number of sexual partners: That's for me to know, and me to find out...
Overnight hospital stays: Never (knock on wood).
Phobias: Heights (I was a gymnast so this is a bad one to have!)
Quote: Can't think of one right now...
Religion: Agnostic
Siblings: 1 younger brother
(Combo) UnusualTalent: I have no idea, since I can't even curl my tongue into interesting shapes :)
Vegetable I refuse to eat: None, really.
Worst habit: Senseless worrying.
X-rays: Just regular dental x-rays.
Yummy food I make: Banana bread, pasta puttanesca, blue cheese fondue, peanut butter cookies...
Zodiac Sign: Aries (supposedly we are passionate and hard-headed)

Whoever makes it to the end of this post: tag, you're it! If you do the A-Z meme, please let me know so I can read yours!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian

Well, I was right. Bohjalian was hinting at witch hunts in Midwives. Here's an interesting quote:

"To some p[eople, they're witches--or, these days, strange and somehow dangerous throwbacks to another era. But in the eyes of other people, they're healers. Not surprisingly, it always seems to be the women who see them as healers, and the men who are quick to cry witch. Or shaman. Or meddler. Midwives, by their very nature and profession, have always challenged authority; they've always been a bit too independent--in the eyes of men, anyway." (p273)

Not sure I entirely agree with his whole male-female dichotomy, but I do think again that it's an interesting reflection on the whole reason-intuition dichotomy.

Overall, this was a great book though. Some people say there are too many novels about women getting married or looking for love, but I've never read one about women giving birth or helping women give birth. The author does a really good job of portraying the anxieties and concerns of a teenage girl, which is impressive considering he's a man. Finally, there's a great twist to the plot at the end.

I recommend it, even if it is an Oprah book club book!


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Weekly SRC tally: Novels: 0.5; Government reports: 2

Do government reports count as literature? I've just finished reading the Site Management Options manual for the Spanish River Valley Signature Site, and am wading through the Background Information booklet. Since I'm only halfway through Midwives by Chris Bohjalian (an Oprah book, I must admit, and not on my original SRC list but I was four short anyways if I'm going to read one a week...), I thought I'd add these two reports since technically, they are reading (and in a way, they could be considered popular literature since they do in many ways shape the ways in which we view and experience the landscape...).

I guess this opens up the question: what counts as literature? Do government reports? For some people, maybe, if that's how they view the world. Does having an Oprah's book club sticker affect a book's classification as literature or does it bring it into it's own realm of genre fiction such as Chick Lit or Romance, just that it's called Oprah Lit?

Anyways, from what I can tell of the first half of Midwives , it's a fairly light read, but an interesting concept. Essentially, the protagonist, a young woman in her thirties, narrates the story of her mother's prosecution as a midwife, when she is charged with killing a mother to save a child. Some interesting tensions in this book are:
  • the suggestion of a modern-day witch hunt,
  • the battle between male-dominated science and female-dominated intuition (represented by the midwives) and finally,
  • the very fact that this story is being written by a male author.

What does it mean when a man tries to place himself in a woman's shoes, especially when the woman he is writing about is marginalized or discrimated? (to that end, if anyone's read The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke, what does it mean that he chose to write a post-Colonial narrative in a female voice about the experiences of a marginalized black woman?).

Anyways, these are things that are running through my head. Has anyone else read it or do any of you have responses to my questions? I'm off to finish the rest of the report and try to free up some space for my novel.


Friday, June 02, 2006

What a great week!

This week was Congress - the largest academic gathering of its kind in North America, bringing 8,000 academics from the social sciences and humanities to discuss their research. I was fortunate enough that not only was it held at York, but the Environmental Studies Association of Canada held its conference in our very building!

This meant that:

a) I got to spend some quality time with my friend Joanie, who I have known since undergrad but not seen in three years because she was in Northern Alberta and then moved to Saskatoon to begin her PhD (smarty pants). I also reconnected with a few faculty from my MES...who remembered me after all this time!; and

b) I got to rub shoulders with academics and familiarize myself with what's happening in the environmental studies field (in particular, ecocriticism...I was fortunate to attend the meeting of the Association for Literature, Environment, Culture and cool). Most of the presentations did go over my head, but it made me realize how lazy my brain has become in the working world and only fed my inspiration for item c) all that much more;

c) I have the beginnings of a topic for a SSHRC/PhD application, and some ideas as to where I might study!

It's true what they say: everything happens for a reason. This breakup really has opened up so many opportunities for me, including moving to another province. In addition, had I applied to an English department to do ecocrit six years ago, I don't think they would have considered me. But from what I gather, English programs are becoming more and more interdisciplinary and open to other forms of research and writing, including popular literature. So it is now possible for me to return to my home discipline yet bring with me my interests in magazines as well.

So exciting!

Now I have to buckle down and schedule my time, because I have an article to write, a journal to start editing and a PhD proposal to start researching! When am I going to find time for the Summer Reading Challenge??? I did buy a book today (a bit of an indulgence): This Elusive Land: women and the Canadian Environment. It looks quite good...I wonder if it will fit into my reading list?

More later...


Oh oh! I almost forgot: I also discovered Jan Zwicky today, a Canadian poet who won the Governor General's award in 2004 for her poetry book Robinson's Crossing and her literary theory book Wisdom and Metaphor. Her discussion of domestication and the continual search to return home seems like it could provide a theoretical framework for my work...Or at least provide interesting contrast to my MES thesis, which was about women searching to leave home-space in order to find a home-place....

I know, I am such a nerd...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thursday poem of the week

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesmal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

~ Pablo Neruda