Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Launch Dreams

I'm launching my book, Calm Things: Essays, tomorrow night, October 28, at Audrey's Books in Edmonton. I've talked a bit about readings, being a shy reader, before on the blog. I've read from the essays a couple of times now and found that it's somehow easier to read from essays than poetry. Perhaps it's the effect of having written a book with the word 'calm' in the title, but I haven't melted into my usual bowl of jello, yet. Nor did I melt last week when I read to a lovely group in Red Deer.

Maybe my new found reading serenity can be attributed to the goofy anxiety dream I had shortly after receiving the book in the mail from Palimpsest, my publisher. I was thrilled with the book, of course, but when faced with a real, physical, book-shaped example of what you've written, there will be anxieties, right? So, here's the dream. I'm at Audrey's in front of a wonderful audience, all the seats are filled. But I'm buried in a huge mound of sand, not unlike Beckett's Winnie in Happy Days. I begin reading, unphased by this predicament. A big old black telephone rings. It's passed to me. A reference question. (I've most often worked in bookstores, libraries, or worked waiting tables). It's okay though, because I've had this question before in real life, I know I can answer it pretty quickly. Can you tell me the titles of P.D. James's novels in the order they were written? Sure, no problem. There's a laptop on my mound. I have google. All is well. I resume my reading. The phone rings again, rather piercingly. Can you help me discern which would be the best translation of Beowulf for me? Again, what a coincidence, I've had that question as well. After some discussion, the caller decides upon the Heaney translation. My reading resumes. In my dream, I relive dozens of reference questions, some easy (who wrote The BFG), some difficult (I'm looking for a book I read in childhood in which the main character's name was Wanda, and that's all I remember). Meanwhile, the audience smiles at me, a large and warm collective beaming smile. Someone phones in an order for a couple of cafe lattes. The smiling, (more encouraging now), miraculously, continues. The entire reading is punctuated by phone calls, ringing, questions.

Crazy dream, but it's really alleviated my anxieties rather than heightening them. And I've decided that I'm referring all questions about still life to Rob. Should be a stress-free night.

Speaking of readings, did you catch the article in Maisonneuve by Michael Carbert titled, Why are Literary Readings So Excrutiatingly Bad? I like what he says about the ideal reading being a celebration.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Colour Classification

When working at the public library and before that, a bookstore, the colour of a book in question would often come up. Someone comes in and is looking for a book they read in childhood, or one they had browsed in the stacks and then a month later want to revisit it. A person once came in looking for a particular history book and remembered little else about it other than it was red. And we found it! That was fun.

A summer job I had ages ago was to take a small library that had been classified according to some cleverly invented colour coding and convert it into LC. After seeing the above photos I have half a mind to rearrange my bookshelves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Red Deer College Reading - Thursday October 23

Calm Things will be hitting the road tomorrow evening. I read a few years back at the college with Nina Berkhout and remember it as a great space with a welcoming and attentive crowd.

For more details, check out the RDC website. I'll try and post a few photos post-event.

October 23, 2008
7:30 PM
Red Deer College Library "North Nook"

Better Materialists

I read about Richard Todd's book, The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity in Oprah's magazine, while I was sitting in one dental office or another waiting for my daughter. Todd has a few amusing things to say about books that Oprah has plugged, I learned reading the last few chapters this afternoon. I'm glad the O. reviewer didn't hold this against him, or I may not have found the book.

It's an intelligent, elegantly written book, timely cultural criticism.

A few quotations: "That's the nasty secret behind the shoddiness of so much that we buy. We hate it. We want it to break and get dirty and wear out. We want to throw it away. and then, alas, we want to buy some more. We are like the uneasy smokers these days who, I notice, often throw their cigarettes to the ground after a few puffs. It is the lighting up that gives the pleasure."

From the chapter most interesting to me, Objets d'Art: "Art is to objects as sainthood is to people. Most people can't be saints, and most objects can't be art, but in each case the extent to which they are marked by an impulse toward grace is a measure of their worth." He goes on, " art we face the inescapability, the irreducibility, of the tangible, perishable world. Art sends us back to that world with a renewed eye and sharpened appetite. Art justifies our hunger for the real thing. We need to be better materialists."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Affection for Bags, by Heather Simeney MacLeod

Heather was kind of enough to allow me to post her poem "Affection for Bags" which is from her incredible collection, Burden of Snow. Thanks Heather!


Friendship at its fullest comes like a big bag,
green, yellow and red-striped with sturdy handles
made of twine like rope, which you fill
with all your expectations and all your experiences.
All the room for drunken nights with weeping,
laughing and the early morning brattle;
room for mistakes, space to lose misdeeds,
miscalculations, the regret of words long ago spoken.

Some friendship fits in small, leather handbags
with embroidered floral designs,
a zip-up bag with a small inner pocket to keep
the heart of yourself away, some space
to meet on common ground.

Love will sometimes come in a leather daypack,
which rests comfortably against your hips and shoulders,
which fits all the parts, leaves no room for the extraneous
and you can carry your love and desire easily without losing
track of yourself and what it is you need.

Obsession comes like lust in the black shoulder bag
with numerous pockets, zippers, and pouches.
It’s the bag where you can’t find anything you’re looking
for, and frustrated you try to keep what you think important
in the front zipped-up pocket, but everything keeps escaping.

Family is always moved to the wallet. You want to keep them
slip them in, photo and all, to their slot. It is a comfort
knowing where they are, how they fit into your life,
how easily you think they can slip out.
Maybe it brings you peace to think you don’t need
them much at all. Maybe it brings you peace
to believe you need them so little you give them
one, slim, slot in your wallet and you
don’t realize how you keep them next to yourself.
Right next, sitting next to, your driver’s license,
your credit cards, your coin and your cash,
and more importantly you slip family next
to the fortune cookie piece of paper you don’t
want to part with; family rests next to your tickets
from the Bif Naked concert; your family nestles
next to one another. It begins with,
This is my boyfriend, moves to, This is my husband,
shifts over to, These are my children.
Who you love the most is kept
in the wallet in the heart of the bag.

Look and More Books - Mickey Smith

from the series: Collocations, by Mickey Smith

I've been waiting for an image by Mickey Smith to pop up on Jen Bekman's 20 x 200 for a while. Luckily I was hanging out in computer world when the email came in saying that "More Books" was up for grabs. I was able to snap up one of the $20 images and am now eagerly awaiting it in the mail. This edition of 200 apparently sold out in minutes. I can tell you I was typing in my information as quickly as possible! Check out the Jen Bekman story here.

I always buy myself a little something to commemorate the launching of a new book, and this is my purchase to celebrate Calm Things. More Books!

More Books by Mickey Smith

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Capacious Project - Heather Simeney MacLeod

Heather Simeney MacLeod’s first book of poems, My Flesh the Sound of Rain, was published in 1998 by Coteau Books; a chapbook, Shapes of Orion, was published in 2000 by Smoking Lung Press, and her second full-length poetry book, The Burden of Snow, with Turnstone Books was released in 2004. Heather’s poetry has appeared in most major Canadian literary journals as well as appearing in journals and reviews in the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Her plays have received honourable mentions from magazines and contests, and been performed at the Victoria Fringe Festival, the Belfrey, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She has lived throughout western and northern Canada, received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Victoria, her Masters from the University of Edinburgh and is currently enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Alberta.

I’m a bag girl. I really, really, really mean it. I am a bag girl. I love bags. I love wee purses, wallets, change purses, granny bags, over-the-shoulder bags, backpacks, leather bags, fabric bags, small zipper bags, big bags for groceries, canvas bags, and soft cotton bags. Yet, I am still on the look out for the perfect bag. I endlessly scan other people’s bags believing for a flash, “Got to have that,” for that one, “that bag, there, looks perfect.” I’ve no idea what I think the perfect bag ought to encompass or contain. Maybe I’m hoping I’ll find something in it. You know, some secret pocket that will reveal some intangible knowledge about the world and the way to navigate through it.

I also like to snoop through other people’s bags. I especially like to root around in wallets; there is so much to discover. The way we reveal ourselves to one another is, often, rather constructed. However, stumbling over a bent and faded photograph or a slip of worn paper from a fortune cookie is quite telling. I think, you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of bag they’re toting about. Not unlike recognizing various aspects about a person based upon their footwear. You know, honestly, can I really (really) be friends with that girl who has got a narrow clutch bag where she can fit only necessities within? I think, possibly quite incorrectly, that women who carry bags about like Russian dolls must have a grand sense of humour. You know? The backpack opens to reveal a purse; the purse in turn opens to reveal a clutch; the clutch bag in turn opens to reveal a wallet. By the time those types of women have paid for their café au lait I’ve got the giggles. Oh! What about the ladies who have the massive bag which gapes open to reveal far too much of themselves? You know, suddenly you’ve glimpsed yoga t-shirts, socks, bus pass is falling on the floor, loose change is rattling about, their cell phone is clattering, their car keys are jingling; it’s as if everything is vying for a sort-of escape.

Lately, I’ve been carrying an over-the-shoulder, soft-green, cotton bag. I especially like it as the lining is camouflage. I’ve had it for a few years, but have just lately been taken with it. It tells me throughout my days, “Blend in, be quiet, everything will be all right.” I also love my Mulberry bag which I lusted after for several months whilst living in Scotland, and then around my birthday (spring time) a few years ago spontaneously bought it. I remember taking the train from London back to Edinburgh and running my hands over the soft leather. It is durable. It tells me every time I look at it, “Not to worry. I can handle anything.” My friend, Eleanor, from Liverpool gave me a floral handbag. I feel like this wee floral handbag greets me with, “I’m only up for biscuits and tea.” My friend, the writer, Rebecca Fredrickson gave me a gorgeous red velvet bag with a silkscreen of a wasp over the front flap. I feel like it says to me, “We’re lovely. You and I? We are lovely,” and sometimes it says, “Do something with your hair.” Katy E. Ellis Jr., an amazing poet from Seattle, gave me this wonderful orange bag (I’ve sewn a patch of the Virgin of Guadalupe on it) and I swear, swear, this bag says to me, “If we’re not going to have a good time … I don’t think we should go.”

Yet, out there, you know, somewhere out there —in the vastness of back alleys in Victoria; hidden streets in San Francisco; bargain basement thrift stores in Kamloops; street vendors in Laos; wee boutiques on Morningside Road; kiosks outside of Notre Dame in Paris —is the perfect bag. It will whisper the perfect comment and compliment. It will fit everything in it in an organized fashion. It will have a hidden compartment. It will carry all my secrets securely; it won’t be judgmental; it will love my hair; it will say, “It’s gonna be a mediocre evening, but I’m with you.”

Read more about the Capacious Project here.
To view all the contributions to the project go here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Capacious Project - Marita Dachsel

Marita Dachsel's poetry and fiction have been published widely in Canadian literary magazines and is featured in BC's Poetry in Transit for the 2008-2009 season. Her first book of poetry, All Things Said & Done (Caitlin Press, 2007), was shortlisted for the ReLit Awards. After living in Vancouver for twelve years (where she received an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC ) and BC her whole life (minus brief stints in France, New Zealand, and Yukon), she moved to Edmonton last year with her husband, playwright Kevin Kerr, and their two sons.

Dear Red Leather Purse,

I know this may seem strange, hearing from me after all these years. I bet you thought I had forgotten about you. Not at all, old friend. I think of you often, always fondly.

I will never forget our golden days together. Much more than just a fine looking accessory (your red so deep, your leather so soft), you were a perfect accomplice while my (now) husband and I were courting. You were small enough that I never felt weighed down, but large enough to carry what I needed—bus pass, change purse, toothbrush, clean underwear, trial-sized facial cream, Clinque’s Happy-scented skin cream, lipstick, sunglasses, keys.

That time seems so long ago now. Remember me being blonde? In my twenties? Living life in heels?

So much has changed. I’m none of those things anymore, although I’d like to think I could still be that girl, however impractical it might be.

But it’s true. My life is very different now. The courting life is much different from the married one, and now I have two boys under the age of three. You might remember after my eldest son was born, me taking you out with us on walks to the park a couple of times, but even then you and I both knew our time had come. It was awkward, embarrassing for both of us. And yes, it was I, not you, who had changed.

I now have a different hold-all in my life. She’s not sexy like you, but she’s comfortable. No, you couldn’t call her a purse. She’s a bag, but she holds what I need—change purse, keys, notebook, pen, handkerchiefs, toys, board books, snacks, sometimes even spare diapers. See? Could you imagine carrying a bag of dried cranberries? I didn’t think so.

Perhaps it’s being a mother now, but I now have a Matryoshka system of carrying what I need. My change purse fits into my clutch, my clutch fits into my bag and my bag fits into my stroller.

But my dear red leather purse, you are still on my mind. I am looking forward to the day when I will leave the house without mystery stains on my clothes, or smelling faintly like sour milk, my hair coifed, lips painted, and you fitting comfortably under my arm.

That day will come soon enough, perhaps even too soon in a forward-looking retrospect. In the meantime, please keep my pairs of three-inch heels company. I miss them too, but just between the two of us, I doubt there will be the same tender reunion.

Until then and with love,

Read more about the Capacious Project here.
To view all the contributions to the project go

Sunday, October 5, 2008

New Website

Robert Lemay, Moroccan Slippers, 12" x 24", 2008

Call it an experiment, but I got the idea in my head it would be instructive, fun, even, to try my hand at building a website. It's the cheater kind - no html required. A fake. I pulled a fair amount of hair out on this, so take a look, would you? I'm rather fond of the painting Rob did of my shoes and was glad to make it the feature image.