2013-01-12 13.06.42

The act of moving back, withdrawal. I’m sitting in a ship named Elsie on a mountain in the Rockies. Elsie’s a modified fishing boat (thanks to architect Richard Henriquez’s  redesign and generous donation) where I’ve withdrawn from “normal” society to immerse myself in a world of the arts (retreat seems a bit of an oxymoron, as I’ve not withdrawn so much as entered a liminal (it always amuses me that the spell check doesn’t recognize the word liminal) space).

It was cold when I arrived on the tail of a storm that left winter enthusiasts extremely happy. I drove my little red car onto a parking lot behind Lloyd Hall one week ago today and have not had to get back in it since. My days are spent at the computer, my feet resting on the side bench, and I research various items and ideas for the poems. I’ve set the goal of a poem a day. So far I’ve managed to fulfill my goals.

The wind is up today, but it’s plus 3 outside, with sun and snow dropping through the trees outside my window. My studio space is secluded from campus, nestled among the evergreens, the elk, the deer, and the chickadees, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to pull away from the daily activities that make it so hard to focus on the creative process. I see my fellow artists occasionally, often at lunch and dinner, and we converse about our progress. It’s inspiring to discuss how we work, and how we work in different mediums. How we proceed and how it is we do what we do. We’re making connections that may often last a lifetime. We’re reflecting daily on art in an environment that encourages and promotes artists and art.

Of course, there are distractions such as mountain hiking, hot springs, musical rehearsals and concerts, even shopping if I were to let myself be so distracted (me, shop, how absurd), but these are not so much distractions but part of the retreating process. Food for the mind. Energy for the words. It’s all part of the experience of my retreat at Banff Centre.


This is one of the great views from the house on the prairie where I recently enjoyed three weeks of writing time. While the wind howled relentlessly, I created enough work to keep me editing until I can get away again! According to the owner of the property, this little shack never used to be underwater, but with all the rain and snow of the past few years, a small slough grew behind the barn. I prefer to think of it as the drowning house.

Wolverine No. 340-20120916-00060


…okay, actually the postcard doesn’t ring at all, but it does take about two weeks to arrive. I’ve always loved old cards, everything from postcards, to valentine’s, to birthday greetings. When I was young, I would play with the saved cards my mom and dad received from their school days. There was something remarkable about the artwork, the paper, maybe even the sentiment. Every so often I will stock up on old postcards to use as writing prompts, or just to put up in my space. I love the quality of the old sepia tones, the intriguing sentiments on the back. Today as I was reading about the Lost Art of Postcard Writing I was remembering the Robert Olen Butler book Had a Good Time:Stories From American Postcards and how fascinating the stories became when fully explored.

A friend of mine, Annette Bower, another Regina author, understands the thrill of the postcard, and although she might not always send me one in the mail, she’ll often give me one out-of-the blue, with a picture on it that relates to something I’m doing or writing. Another writer friend  Kris Brandhagen sent numerous postcards while in Europe all addressed to the house on the corner of the street and avenue but no house number, and I received all of the postcards, albeit very late. One card spawned a poem, which in turn spawned a manuscript, which in turn… .

Perhaps the internet is our postal service and our blogs/social media work like the postcards now. Instant pictures, instant text. But although I have the tactile sense by writing my blog, it’s not nearly as exciting as getting a postcard in the mail. I still love going to the paper store, touching all of the different papers, notebooks, and cards (I often wonder if I’ll get tossed out of a store for touching the paper in inappropriate ways (is that possible?)). I still buy paper and cards and mail them every now and then. I don’t think writing postcards or any card is a lost art, but appreciating the time and slowness and the excitement of the physical object is lost in a world of instant media.

Lost: unable to be found.

Found: having been discovered.

Postcards: a card for sending a message by mail without an envelope.

Consider this your message.  In turning the post over, perhaps you’ll see the picture.

PANIC! AT THE KEYBOARD: Nine words and counting

…(insert sound of whip here). So far so good. I’m writing a steady stream of words, my music is set to Mumford and Sons (still waiting for a new album from these guys). I’m not feeling any sort of panic, yet. Earlier this week, I read an article about writing and began to worry that my FB removal has not been as productive as I’ve wanted it to be. I’m not writing to a word count, and in fact, have only revised a few poems (though brilliantly, I might add). It seems that writing, like everything else these days, has entered the great digital era of apps and downloads, and even these are just aimed at getting us to write more. Right. (Sound of whip). Maybe there’s something to the pressure. I remember as a student that I needed the pressure of a deadline to finish an essay, or the regularity of a poetry contest to inspire me to write a new poem, and even at the retreats when I was the coordinator, I would try to write so many poems a week.

I’d like to think I’m creating my own app by using a blog to get me going. I’m gearing up for more writing by attending the Festival of Words, and the great poetry workshop with Phil Hall. I’ve edited a poem for the occasion (what is that sound?), which took more than a few hours and it’ll need far more work to get it to where it should be, but it’s words and words, according to the great guru group the BeeGees, are all we have.


…has me pondering. Yeah. That’s about all I have to say about it. Well, actually it has me wondering a bit about thematic restructuring within my own poetry but first, let me say that when I read the article written by A.S. Byatt I was immediately reminded of this video. Byatt’s article made me believe that Munch would probably have enjoyed the video in a way his critics probably wouldn’t have. Then it also reminded me a recent show by Regina artist Donna Kriekle. Her miniatures, while not reproductions, reproduce paintings in a new way. I was struck by “Not Again” and was pleased to learn how Donna had come to title the work ( I won’t steal her thunder by telling you and if you want to hear it, you’ll have to contact her); suffice it to say, I was intrigued by reproduction of art and theme.

I began to wonder how many poets become fixated on rebuilding the same theme in a poem. How many carry forward these themes from book to book? Does this make the poet write the same poem over and over? Can one have twelve different versions of a poem, and would they then be twelve different poems? How different would each version of the poem have to be in order to be a new poem?

I thought about having a dozen links in this post. What would that do to the post?


…does not lead anywhere glam, sometimes includes planes, trains and automobiles, sometimes includes an audience, sometimes includes a festival, but for me, it’s never included LA. How about New York? Now I don’t really have any worries; it seems literary tours are pretty much the same wherever you go. Except San Francisco.