Spring Whirlwind, Summer Rambles, Fall Explorations

I had planned a less hectic spring than fall and winter, but the winter’s promotions of The Risks of Remembrance produced a flock of readings in tune with the first leaves and the bird’s spring migrations.

On April 16 I was honoured when my poem, “… the depths of my looking” from The Risks of Remembrance was read as a part of Allison Melville’s amazing We Fill the Wildest nights, exploring the ineffable, part of her on going Bird Project. I have always loved to be a part of mixed media presentations and this one took the art of this kind of performance to an entirely new level. I can hardly wait until the next one.

On May 12 John Rammell and I read Between the Lines, selected passages from Dorothy Rath’s book “An Unlikely Affair,” selected letters from her 30 year correspondence with Irving Layton. Inspired by John’s mellifluous voice I overcame  a spring flu and the reading was a resounding success.

John and I will reprise it on November 4th at the Arts and Letters Club. It was also a night of sadly mixed emotions. Dorothy, who was to have been there, had been ill for several months and died the day before the reading. She wanted us to do it even without her and so it was also a poignant celebration of her amazing life which some of her family generously shared with us.

The most recent issue of The Exile Quarterly which came out in the spring, printed 8 of the 11 poems from the section called “Generations” in The Risks of Remembrance. At their Book Launch on May 30th I read 5 poems about remembering a family story that was passed down through 3 generations of women through their attitudes and actions, not their words.

June 10 was the last of the spring readings at The League of Canadian Poets New Members Reading – an honour, and a rather daunting experience to read for so many of Canada’s fine poets. Even more so when I found I was to be the first to read. Capitalizing on, rather than ignoring, my usually being the oldest poet in the group I read poems about aspects of memory that I have explored over the years: how and what and why we remember—and forget.

I’m sure that the patient recipients of my eblasts were as relieved as I was when I got to Manitoulin Island. My daughter Meg drives me here and helps me unpack and get settled every year—what would I do without her?! We arrived on June 15th and I immediately sank into a state of semi-oblivion recuperating from the wonderfully fulfilling, but exhausting, spring round of readings and presentations.

After several weeks of looking out contentedly over Lake Mindemoya, sleeping, reading, catching up with Manitoulin friends – and wondering if I’d ever have the energy to write again (happens every year!) I roused myself to begin the revisions of We All Become Stories, Make Yours a Good One. John Parry, editor extraordinaire, as well as the publisher of Risks, and I worked away until almost the end of August and have produced what we think is “a polished ms.” It is now out there, ”under consideration” (code for looking for a publisher). We have already received good feedback and have high hopes.

Having promised my poetry muse most of the summer she sulked for a week but re-surfaced and we chose poems from Risks for the Manitoulin Art Tour on July 15/17, which I wrote about in my last blog. Then came a series of 6 poems for Salon 3×3, coming up on October 30: 3 poets and 3 painters riffing on each others’ work. (Two of my poems are quite long—seems as if the “trips down memory lane” poems are getting longer and longer. Wonder why?) The intersection of word and visual image continues to fascinate me and I look forward to presenting with artists Grethe Jensen, Tina Conlon and Patsy Berton, and poets Gianna Patriarca and Donna Langevin.

In between bursts of writing I visit local galleries like Edward’s Studios and the Perivale Gallery, and Blake Debassige’s fine paintings at his Kasheesh Gallery, as well as the Ojibway Cultural Centre. I am a Farmer’s Market junkie and go every Saturday to M’Chigeeng Market and the one in Mindemoya for fresh organic vegetables, as well as Christmas shopping at the craft stalls. Occasionally I will drive all the way to Gore Bay on Friday to their open market and drop into the island’s only health food store, as well as to M ‘Ol Blues which has the best collection of fleece outer wear any where.

I wouldn’t miss one of my favourite haunts, The Gore Bay Museum, which mounts several art shows every summer as well as wonderful Sunday concerts. Hiking the trails at Misery Bay, evening walks on the boardwalk at Providence Bay to watch the sunset, theatre productions by the Debajaymajig native theatre troupe at Wikwemikong, one of the seven native Pow Wow’s – this year at M’Chigeeng. A few dinners at one of the local restaurants with friends when I get tired of my own cooking round out a summer that is relaxing as well as surprisingly productive.

As summer wound down I was delighted to see my work featured in “Writing for Remembrance”, a column in Ellen Ryan’s September 3rd “Aging with Spirit,” her fascinating blog for the Writing Down Our Years series published by McMaster University. And I read there of books and poetry published by other older writers like Neenah Ellis, author of If I Live to be 100, Lessons from the Centenarians, and 99 year old Toyo Shibata whose self published anthology of poetry has sold 1.5 million copies in a market where 10,000 is a huge success.

Before leaving the island I will be reading at artist Linda Finn’s War Letters Project on September 11 at the Gore Bay Museum. For several years Linda has been creating paintings and collages that reflect her thoughts and feelings about letters her grandmother received during WWI and WWII. The members of The Manitoulin Writer’s Circle have been asked to respond to her work and I have written a prose piece, Coming of Age in WWII and Beyond. As I summoned my memories, and thought about them, I began to have that familiar feeling – part excitement, part dread – that signals another project bubbling away. A longer prose piece? A series of poems? Way too early to tell.

Before I can pay much attention to those bubblings and rumblings (although I know they will break the surface when I least expect them to) there are other events coming up:

  • At commffest (5th annual Global Commffest Community Film festival) on September 24 at 5.30 at Rainbow Market Square, two of my poems will begin and end the evenings’ films.
  • I am one of the three poets at Salon 3×3 on Oct 30, when three writers and three painters will engage each other in painting/poetry conversations.  2:30-5:00 PM at The Merchant’s of Green Coffee House and Cafe, 2 Matilda St, Toronto.
  • On November 4, at The Arts and Letters Club John Rammell and I will reprise “Between the Lines” readings of selected passages from Dorothy Rath’s book “An Unlikely Affair,” selected letters from her 30 year correspondence with Irving Layton.
  • Finally Donna Langevin and I will present a Poetic Duo at the University Women’s Club Lunch on November 23.

That will conclude a remarkable year for me. But there will be more about 2011 when I write about the fall and early winter events in later blogs.

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