Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Inspiration is something that tends to sneak up on me suddenly. It arrives most often when I am already writing, and tries to get me to steer the car in a completely different direction. There's a bit of a zig zag as I try to go in the direction I was heading, but Inspiration threatens to disappear if I don't pay attention to it NOW. Then a rush of ideas and phrases fill up my brain; the risk, of course, to lose it all if I don't write everything down. I surrender, and am happy - but then am left with the burdensome feeling of having yet another project to nurture, that I can only hope will be finished in this lifetime.

I believe others have written about inspiration, describing it as a bolt of lightning. It is like that: a sudden explosion of electricity in the brain. I've stopped trying to reason with it. Stopped trying to say: But I'm in the middle of something here! I'm supposed to be finishing this one! Come back in five months. No. It's riskier to ignore and lose something that you can probably never re-collect, never phrase in a better way. But what it means for my dining room table, the floor by my bed, my huge catch-all purse...is massive disorder...but also the chance to read something later and think, "Wow. This is worth finishing." Because odds are that bolt from the place where the best art comes from is far superior to anything I could have laboured over...

And so this week, while working on a number of half finished projects, I've allowed myself to be sidelined again. The proposition, though, has its appeal. It means revisiting an interesting relationship with a quirky hook: re-reading letters that are 20 years old and responding to them, now, as the 38 year old version of me. Now that I'm 8 years older than the sender was at the time, I feel I can finally address questions I was too young to be able to answer well the summer and fall after I graduated high school.

The piece I'd like to write is also an exploration of a correspondence that truly swept me off my young feet. I remember receiving letter after letter and being filled with amazement and longing. The words of this man - a musician I'd written to after wanting to know more about the music he was making, 3000 km away and 12 years my senior - were a delicious secret, and a salve for a girl who was unformed, and due to the events of the previous year, a bit broken.

Ultimately this romantic friendship in letters, of course, ended. I believe it is true that you can't know the meaning of a person or event until you can stand back and look at it from a great distance; for this reason, the 20 year mark seems like the right place to reflect and appreciate the lasting virtues of a dialogue that centered on the sensual and the spiritual, the mystery of life and death - and also spent a lot of time bantering about art, film, literature and music. This written conversation in ten parts entertained me for months, but also moved me to greater expectations of myself and what I could do with my potential. It also gave me a surer sense of what I wanted, and should/could expect, from a relationship that would be physically present, and yes, carnal.

Thank you, A, for all of that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fire and Stars

The weeks keep flying by. I have been very busy at my day job, and my day and night gig as a parent, but have managed to keep moving forward with writing as well - always in tiny steps, tiny moments, tiny observations. I write for a half hour each way on the train every day, and usually an hour or two at night after my kids go to bed.

This week I submitted a poem I wasn't sure was finished to the Burnaby Writer's Society for their annual contest. I've sent the poem to my writer/reader mail list and have had more feedback than usual on it. Maybe it felt unfinished because I let it go without morphing it into something...expected? typical? familiar? It felt like a risk to set it free before it felt entirely done...but maybe it *is* done and I didn't overwork it because the deadline forced me to let it go. Another benefit of being squeezed by time, all the time.

While recently I've been focusing on paid writing gigs, this week demands on my time have prompted me toward the escapism of poetry writing. I am currently lounging in my pink Start a band shirt and green snowflake jammies, ready to work on the chapbook with a deadline of mid-August. Working on it tonight feels like a break; it means using a different part of the brain that will not be forced into corners. It's much more of a side step kind of dance. Surprising movements and moments. Surrender.

This morning I re-read the ten poems I have ready for the chapbook on the train, after setting it aside for a few weeks. I like them. Some of them are strong. They all stand alone, are very different, but are tied together by the theme. I have hope that in the end, when I have my twenty-to-twenty-three-ish poems ready to submit, they will come together into a package that amounts to more than the sum of their parts. I also hope they fill a niche that hasn't been filled, and never can be. The book is called I Can Make Life - a line swiped from an Ani Difranco song in which this phrase is not at all sung with irony. It asks to be read that way in my collection, though, which is about my personal struggle with a variety of reproductive crises over the course of several years.

This week I will be sending my mail list readers a new poem called Other Worlds, which was inspired by (and is basically a found poem lifted from) a book of that name by Paul Davies. The subject of the book is quantum theory. The subject of my poem is a string of biochemical pregnancies. I've always thought of the little ones, so near, so far, as "Star Babies", and was pleased with and surprised by how some of the phrases from Davies' book hit me in the gut...metaphysical, with a sense of longing and care one may not normally associate with scientific books. However, both the subject of my poem and this book deal with searching, striving for understanding, for reality - what is the real world? Certainly Mr. Davies didn't anticipate a woman many years later finding a poem in his words. Unless, of course, he found his way through space-time to June 2011.

If you'd like to read the poem, and any others that come along, please send me a message with your email address and I'll happily add you to the list.

If you're already with me, and you'd like to be on an informal committee to review my chapbook before the submission deadline in August, I'd be honoured to hear from you as well. I'm looking for three to five readers who would like to comment on the book overall, and provide more feedback on a handful of poems.