…It’s a thing of beauty, this multi-fragment queen pheromone, an elixir of elegant function, reminiscent of the elusive perfection captured in the best poetry, where snippets of language weave together into a whole much more compelling than its individual parts.
I imagine writing poetry is like that, a mental image of Renee at work in her writing laboratory, testing combinations of words together, rejecting innumerable linguistic dead ends until the etymological data tell her the poem is done.”
This first day of March and outside my office window, intimation of blossom, a set of cherry trees, the park below. Yes, it’s raining, again, in torrents—and I’m inside working on volume two of thecanadaproject, a long poem, The Heart of The Journey Bears All Patterns, commonly known as Thot-j-Bap, excerpts of which will appear in chapbooks this spring, published by two micro-presses I admire: Nous-Zot (U.S.) and above/ground (Ottawa). I’m deep into my manuscript, first begun in 2008 and still continuing, a massive journey poem, with a vast amalgam of characters. Nothing like torrential rain to help seed the work inside—”
…I’m late and sit at the back of a large room where up at the front, M.G. Vassanji delivers his address. He’s won two Giller prizes, the Governor General’s Prize for non-fiction and a Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts, so his soft-spoken examination of resistance to main stream “pressure” to conform grabs my interest. Vassanji asks a question that animates my life-long work: “what do we mean by Canadian?” He explores potential linkages between “The Other” in Canadian literature and suburbia, and shares thoughts on how “mainstream/establishment” ideas of quality in literature can be seen in juxtaposition to what might be thought of as “margin/al” and I’m reminded of that old Italian political slogan, the margins are at the centre…”
My official task will be to serve as a ‘kind of ambassador for the City of Surrey while advocating for literacy and the literary arts’, and my passion is to imbue that role with a poet’s obsession: place, language, longing; how to connect youth to seniors, settled communities and cultures to new arrivals. Might poetry find connections in this city of contrasts—farming land, vast tracts of green, fens and the Fraser river juxtaposed against high rises, housing developments, beautiful new architecture (Surrey City Centre Library, my ‘office hours’ base), rambling shacks and San Francisco style bungalows, sophisticated cultural offerings (the Surrey Art Centre is spectacular), stunning South Surrey vistas of ocean and mountains, and yes, long lines of strip malls, of highways. Might poetry find connections in every twist and turn of this city, where I sense—emanating—a call: come find us!”
My colleague and friend, Dr. Laurie Anderson, writes this essay for thecanadaproject regarding Scotland’s vote in the recent UK elections:
“For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
– From The Declaration of Arbroath 1320
The power shift that took place in Scottish politics last week was – insert your favourite superlative – seismic, epochal, tectonic, monumental, unprecedented. It was all of these things and more. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) – once dismissed as a fringe party for the heather-rooted naïve and nostalgic – ended the hegemony of the Scottish Labour Party, virtually wiping them off the electoral map. More people voted for the SNP than any party in the history of Scottish elections. The extent of the landslide apparently surprised even the most ambitious nationalists. So, what’s this all about?