amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Sunday Thots

The wash is in the laundry cycle. I woke up at 2:30 and didn’t fall back to sleep until after 5, friends. I have coffee. It is almost 7. We have the makings of a general elevator trifecta, having taken #3 down, followed by 1. The 2 was occupied by a man with two pups, Siberian huskies maybe? They barked at us. They hadn’t had their coffee either.

This week I have been thinking about my privilege, privileges in the plural. I’m a white settler, I have food and shelter and enough financial support to be fairly secure in my life. All of these privileges make a difference to the way I see the world and the way I approach my life and my presence here. It is important that I am mindful of these privileges in my dealings with others. Things that are easy for me to do are not necessarily easy for those without those privileges.

This month Cindy Deachman’s newsletter Matter contemplates attachment to things and places. She shows great photos of books, objects, music, while talking about those who have lost their homes due to flooding, and the homeless locally. Her newsletter combines mindful and thoughtful meandering with beautiful photos, many of them by photographer spouse Tony Fouhse. You can subscribe by contacting Cindy directly at cdeachman at gmail dot com.

I am playing the soundtrack to the HBO film Oslo, which I haven’t even heard of, but Cellist Zoe Keating sends news of it in her newsletter this week. I love her music. The score has been nominated for an Emmy. Nice to hear that Keating is working on a new album again. Her tour schedule is set up for 2022 and she’s going to be in Toronto in January. I know it is hard for musicians and other performers who want to be able to perform in front of live audiences again.

We have now had elevator 2 for the ride back down to change the laundry over, with a brief stop to do our recycling and a climb down the stairs to the 2nd basement where the laundry room is, then the 2 again for the upward ride from the laundry room to our apartment. So we have a general trifecta, not ascending or descending.

Nadia Bolz-Weber’s weekly newsletter, the Corners this week is entitled “If you can't take in anymore, there's a reason - an essay on circuit breakers, empty buckets, and the shame-show of social media” NBW is an interesting person) she says obviously, otherwise why subscribe to the newsletter). She’s a Lutheran minister and a straight-on foul-mouthed tell it like it is speaker and author. Her books are on my to read list, especially, Pastrix, the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint

In this issue she likens the times we are living in to an overloaded fusebox. For those of you who are feeling guilty about not doing enough in these times to help with social injustice, climate change, etc, this week’s newsletter is a comfort. “It’s ok to focus on one fire.” I needed to hear that. Maybe you did too.

I admit that there are newsletters that I sometimes skip completely. The Paris Review newsletter is something I sign up for and then unsub from because I often just skip it. There’s only so much I can read and take in. This week I’m drawn to the interview with Kaveh Akbar entitled “Poetry is doing great.” I’m intrigued by this because I loved Calling A Wolf A Wolf, his first poetry book and I’ve heard through social media he has a second one out, Pilgrim Bell, and also because the idea of poetry doing great makes me think of it as a person, with needs for nurturing and care.

 This is the bit that spoke to me, “Were you ever a kid who would hold your shirt out like—I don’t know if you can see it—like this, and you would fill it with stones or shells or whatever? I feel like I’m just moving through the world with my shirt out in front of me, filling it with language and images.”

 I don’t read the whole interview, I’m content with that. I’ve been working on some poems for my current WIP and I’ve been filling a box with these too of late.

 I adored  Golden, The Toronto Ink Company’s newsletter this week on the move out of the attic studio. He takes us back to objects again as Cindy’s newsletter started this blog entry. In this case, a bottle of Eve’s Klein blue on the sill evokes a memory, as do the stains and old seeds on the floor.

 This time of year is always so full of the possibilities for change. A new school season begins in a few weeks. It’s complicated with the pandemic still raging on and endlessly on, but somewhere there are little kids with school supplies and new autumn clothes and I remember that feeling – both excited and afraid of what was to come. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Sunday Thots

 No laundry today. A deluge of awful – Haitian earthquake, Covid 19 case rates, Conservative attack ads sends me to my weekly newsletters. I find the need for poetry increasingly during these heartbreaking times, and I often learn about poems and poets new to me, along with other great stuff through newsletters.

 In this week’s issue of his newsletter, the Colour, sent out every Saturday, Jason Logan is discussing midnight blue. He opens with “There should be a word for when blue goes from powder to midnight. From sea to vein. From origin to eclipse.” — Scherezade Siobhan from “Radius.“

 I can’t help myself, I have to go read this poem, and it sets my mind on various tangents as well. Another line from this poem, “How should we confirm the missingness of everything we haven’t ever been allowed to speak into a shape?” feels right for the times. I keep the quote in my label maker’s address book, along with other quotes that help me get through. I save these quotes for epigraphs, but also for letters to friends and to stick in my red moleskine journals.

 Scherezade is “the creator and curator of The Mira Project, a global, cross-cultural dialogue which uses expressive art and storytelling to dismantle gendered violence and street harassment.” The Mira Project is now five years old. Today I go to visit the Twitter account where I find a pinned tweet of a great list of books on women’s mental health. I am once more down the rabbit hole!

 Logan’s newsletter thrills me every week. It threads from colour to the earth to history to contemporary artists and more. I have a difficult time saving it for Sundays when it comes in, but on Sunday, I have more time to think, to read and to dream.

 Sign of a good newsletter? It gets me hopping online to seek out the various folk and works mentioned. He even talks about combining words and lines from Dionne Brand’s the Blue Clerk and then meeting her for coffee and giving her the sketchbook he’s made. Gosh. He says Brand is Canada’s greatest poetic voice. He’s not wrong. Her work reverberates.

 By the time I reach the end of this week’s newsletter, I have several tabs open on my browser about artists, books, crayons. I need this.

 I also read writer newsletters such as Kathryn Mockler’s Send My Love to Anyone, which comes out twice a month. It is jam packed this week with great advice about how to avoid writer’s block, and recommendations. She was kind enough to include my recommendation for Judith: Women Making Visual Poetry this time around. It’s a very mindful and community minded newsletter, pointing out articles on decolonializing writing, events and videos. It’s free but you can support it with a donation.

 Soon Charles will be putting the bacon on the grill, who we have named Georgina, and we will have a breakfast of bacon and eggs, we’ll order our groceries and meal kit, do a few domestic chores, then settle down to continue our binge watch of this old Australian reality tv series called the Block.

 It’s not quite 8 a.m. yet. It’s quiet. Just the sound of the a/c, and my occasional clicking on the keyboard. I hope to have a quiet week, some time with a dear friend at DripHouse on Somerset, which is becoming my regular cafĂ© where I meet friends, still something I am taking very careful and tentative steps toward. I am not doing group gatherings at all, and I’m keeping my eye on case counts still. Charles reads me stats and we talk about it. I wonder when reading about case counts and deaths won’t be a daily thing anymore. I’m still rattled and worried. So binge-watches of reality tv: cooking, renovation, fashion…some days that’s about all I can handle.

 If you want to read my monthly newsletter on my writing and publishing activities, along with the occasional tip and a lot of musing, you can sign up on my site.

 A retweet from @poetrytarot via the Mira Project

 

"I wish for a season

that does not begin with quick tides

of ache."

 

— Meg Day, from 'Last Psalm at Sea Level'

 

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Sunday Thots

 Another Sunday, another laundry day. I woke up with my mind full of ideas for my work as always. Four loads of laundry, including one for masks. Summer means less laundry, fewer and lighter clothes. So far we have taken elevators 2, 1, 2, 2 and we have two more rides to go to pick up the drying and bring it home.

 While waiting, I have been reading a few of the newsletters I subscribe to. This week’s the Colour by inkmaker Jason Logan was particularly interesting, as he talks about his correspondence with a fellow inkmaker and the red of a 4000 year-old Turkish carpet, among other things that just fill me with wonder.  

 Another newsletter I love to read is Katrina Rodabaugh’s Make Thrift Mend. I learned of her sewing work when I was doing research for Judith: Women Making Visual Poetry. The newsletter is partly autobiographical about being a mother of young children while also working as an artist, writer and teacher.  She works “at the intersection of fiber arts, slow fashion, and sustainability.” Of particular interest to me is her work with natural dyes and also mending. She includes links to her books and to other artists’ work, along with some of the lovely things she has available through Etsy. This time around she mentions “Mystical Stitches: Embroidery for Personal Empowerment and Magical Embellishment” by Christi Johnson, and I admit I’m fascinated. I can’t sew but I can write and such things often work their way into my writing. Also I have a lot of friends who sew and many of them make visual poetry and stuff like this is right up their alley.

 This has been a weekend of cuddling down with Charles and watching old films like Back to the Future and Pretty Woman, dozing a bit during the films, which is totally fine. I love the peaceful cocoon that Charles and I have here. We both need it more than ever.

 Creatively I’m leading a very enriching life. I am very grateful for my life full of love and whimsy and wonder.

 

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Sunday Thots

 No laundry today. The benefits of living in an apartment building with a large laundry room that is open twenty-four hours means being able to do a bunch of laundry early and all at once—which is my preference. I have had my own washer/dryer and never liked having to keep doing laundry constantly or dealing with whatever repairs were needed when it broke down.

 Charles is making our breakfast bacon and we are listening to the recently released album, The Devil’s Share by writer, Steven Heighton. I’m enjoying it. Makes me think it would be fun to do an album of Canadian writer musicians. Ottawa has a large share of those. Another idea for the list.

 I enjoyed a coffee chat with a friend on a patio recently, my first since the Before Times. I am gently and slowly coming out of isolation, but one step forward and one step back seems to be my method. After hearing that the CDC in the States has found that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant, I am not in any hurry to move into full scale group gatherings or to be around those with kids, who are unvaccinated and therefore vulnerable. I will continue to mask up in indoor public settings and practice physical distancing etc. The fourth wave is likely coming this autumn.

 I am confused by those who are attending group gatherings, visiting the elderly and the young or planning in person large events this year. None of that makes sense to me at all. I was in ICU with respiratory failure. I feel panic at the very thought of the loosening of restrictions meant to protect people from that experience, from death. I have to repeat over and over again my version of the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer as a mantra: allow me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

 I am working on the Welcome to Upper Zygonia manuscript, thinking about utopias and dystopias.

 It’s the third day of a four-day-weekend for Charles and me. I’m adoring our cocooning and focus on the small things that bring comfort. We spend a lot of time cuddled up in bed, watching some tv show or movie and just being close. That’s what I need now, not any kind of group gathering or loud outdoor brouhaha. We have our time together, I do my work, I interact with dear friends, that’s all I want.

 Now we are listening to Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s the Theory of Ice, exactly what I need on a rainy and peaceful day. I hope you are finding peace and joy somehow.

 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday Thots

Another Sunday, another laundry day. We don’t do it every week but last week was our linens loads, rather than main laundry. This week it’s five loads for two weeks of clothes plus masks. Since Charles goes to work at an external office four days a week, that’s a lot of masks, plus my own and the ones we have to wear when we are in the public areas of our apartment buildings. This morning I was musing about how we all believed the first lockdown was a temporary experience. I remember going to the grocery store because we were told to have enough supplies for two weeks. It felt so weird. And everyone panic bought toilet paper. Odd things were not available: flour, beans. People were hunkering down.

 It became clear that the experience was not going to be temporary. I think it was when we saw what was going on in Italy, hospitals overflowing with Covid-19 patients, so many deaths. Harrowing, frightening. That sense of doom hasn’t left me. Sadness for those who’ve lost people dear to them. Frustration for the politicization of what should be just basic health advice: stay away from others, wear masks, get vaccinated.

On the CBC News a few weeks ago, they showed an American woman in ICU. She was lying upright in her bed with a ventilator. She looked frail and tiny in the bed. A reporter asked her why she didn’t get vaccinated, and she answered, “I was afraid.” At that point I didn’t feel mad at her for not getting vaccinated, I felt so very sad. She was on her death bed. I hope with all my heart that she was made comfortable and I thought of the unbearable grief of her loved ones, if she had any. I wondered if she had anyone. If she died alone. This didn't have to happen. 

 Last week, continuing to hear that cases are on the rise in areas where people are not vaccinated, and with the image of the dying woman in my heart and mind, it became unbearable for me. After Charles left for work in the morning, I went back to bed and I couldn’t get up until very late. If it wasn’t for having to go to the bathroom, I don’t know if I would have. It just became too much.  Covid 19 and all the dysfunction associated with it, the crazy climate nightmares causing people to lose their homes, people they care about, the insanity of the ultra right and their selfishness. It just felt  impossible. I was weighed down by it all.

If this is happening to you, please know you are not alone. I have no answers. I just wanted to say, I did manage to get up and even to venture outside on a particularly tough day. I wore my favourite little pink skirt and my new Gap Riot Press t-shirt, plus poetry socks from Post Ghost Press. I had my headphones on and listened to music. The light was beautiful. There were big puffy white clouds in the sky and puddles that reflected everything upside down. I took photos and I felt a little joy. This is a fucked up time. Figuring out ways to cope and get through it is so fucking hard. 








 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Sunday Thots

Sunday Thots

Sunday, July 18, 2021

It’s quiet this morning. Charles and I are doing three loads of linens (towels and sheets). Sunday is our laundry day. We go early to the 24-hour laundry room in our building. I have a daydream about finding a dead baby in the dryer. I tell Charles. I’m always thinking things like this. I wouldn’t want to be a horror writer. Then I’d have to pursue the thoughts. I just ask Charles if we would call 911. He says we would.

 

We play elevator bingo. There are three elevators. Getting them in order is a trifecta, either ascending or descending. We’ve had those. Usually in the early mornings, one elevator doesn’t come at all, possibly still sleeping.

 

This morning as we locked our apartment door, we heard the sound of the elevator ding as it arrived. We couldn’t see whether anyone was waiting from our vantage point. The doors opened, there was light. I told Charles as we rode down on elevator 3 that ghosts ride the elevators at night because they get tired of taking the stairs.

 

Our apartment is at the end of the hall beside stairwell B. I like being close to an easy exit in case of trouble. I’ve always needed a quick getaway solution. I tell Charles that if we need to, we can pack our bags and go. Our last month’s rent is paid. Don’t collect too much stuff. Make it possible to leave at any point. That’s how I’ve always lived. I still remember packing my little suitcase when my family lived in a brick house in Wilfrid, Ontario. I hid with favourite little cars and my Raggedy Ann doll in the case. In front of the wrought iron and stone fence beside the tiger lilies.

 

Last week I spent a lot of time on Snapchat, showing my naked body to men. I love doing this. I’ve been thinking about meeting a few of the men I’ve been talking to, some since pre-pandemic times. I’m fully vaccinated, and I wouldn’t meet anyone who wasn’t.

 

I’m one of those folk who has managed to get a lot of writing and editing accomplished during the pandemic. I’m not bragging about it. The work has been a much-needed escape from anxiety and worry. And I have spent a lot of time in bed asleep or reading or wanking too.

 

I don’t think I’m ready to meet anyone for sex at this point. I thought I was, but I’m still nervous about any kind of activity that involves being around others. Since March 11, 2020, I have spent in person time only with Charles. I want to start slowly with friends in cafes and restaurants.

 

I’d also like to be more mindful of my time. I want to write, I want to work on the various projects that excite me, including all the stuff I do for AngelHousePress and Bywords.ca.

 

I get angry when people act as if the pandemic is over. It isn’t over. I don’t know if it will ever end as long as there are so many people in the world who remain unvaccinated, whether because the West continues to hoard vaccines or because of the anti-vax propaganda of ultra-right extremists. Mutations are developing. Variants might outpower the vaccines we’ve taken. California has started to mask up again after enthusiastically opening. The UK is seeing resurgence of the virus after reopening, thanks to the Delta variant. Countries like India and Venezuela, which have a low vaccination rate are doing badly with many deaths and increased hospitalization. It’s not over. Nowhere near.

 

This is a troubling time. We are witnessing the disastrous effects of climate change. Canadians can no longer ignore the genocide of Indigenous peoples. We Canadians are so nice. What that means is that we ignore what doesn’t seem nice. We don’t like conflict and confrontation. We pay lip service to real trauma. We believe the lies we’ve been told by governments and religiouns about the history of the land that our ancestors stole and the Indigenous populations they wiped out or abused in the name of Canada. We act smug when we talk about racism in the USA. As if we aren’t racists here.

 

Soon it will be time to pick up the towels and sheets and pillowcases from the dryers. We’ve had four elevator rides this morning: down on 3, up on 3, down on 3, up on 1. We have another two chances at bingo. If we get 2 down and 3 up, we’ll have an ascending trifecta. If we get another 3 or 1, we have a scratch game, but if we get 2 we’ll have an assorted trifecta. We don’t really have a name for that one. The game is a mix of bingo and poker maybe.

 

On CBC Radio’s Ontario Today show last Friday, the topic was falling. Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco, the acting host, spoke to former Olympian Perdita Felicien, a world-champion hurdler about her fall during the 2004 Olympics. One of the callers was a woman whose husband had died when she was 84. Shortly after he died, her leg had to be amputated. Several years later she talks about her life. How she just kept going. The Olympian talked about having fire in order to keep going, but the woman caller’s story resonated more with me. It isn’t about fire for me, it’s about just keeping going. That’s how I cope.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

I AM NOT A NICE WOMAN

 “A society that does not respect women’s anger is one that does not respect women, not as human beings, thinkers, knowers, active participants, or citizens. Women around the world are clearly angry and acting on that emotion. That means, inevitably, that a backlash is in full swing, most typically among “moderates” who are fond of disparaging angry women as dangerous and unhinged. It is easier to criticize the angry women than to ask the questions “What is making you so angry?” and “What can we do about it?” — the answers to which have disruptive and revolutionary implications.”

Soraya Chemaly, Why Women Don’t Get to Be Angry, Medium.com, 2018.

I get angry when having to deal with misogyny, ageism, ableism and fatphobia directed at me. I also get frustrated and angry at oppressors who cause racism, homophobia, transphobia and other injustices and acts of hate toward the marginalized.

I realized this morning that I am not a nice woman. A nice woman doesn’t let herself get angry and she doesn’t confront those who anger her or speak out against hate and injustice.

We’re in a fight against the systems of patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism and the hate, inequalities and injustices that are caused by them. So no, I’m not too concerned with my popularity or niceness. I am investing all my energies in finding ways to listen and learn from, support, and amplify the voices of women, LGBTQIA, BIPOC, and D/deaf and disabled people. That’s where my focus is. It means you may not like me very much. I’m ok with that. I don’t care about being liked, I just want things to be better.