27 September, 2006


In dreams, my poet-self borrows the face of a long-ago lover. He appears always on the periphery, maddeningly aloof. Like a wild thing on the edge of the wood. Lupine.

I have learned over time, over hundreds and hundreds of these dreams, not to startle him away by coming on too strong, too eager, too desperate. This takes real exertion, because whenever he appears on the scene, or I sense he is near, my heart nearly bursts with longing and everything in me wants to run headlong at him. But it is best to remain oblique; self-contained. Sometimes, then, he will linger.

I have known him just shy of forever, was in love with him as a little girl. I went for him too soon. I was willful. I was reckless. I was indiscreet. I had no notion of self-protection or restraint. I was a child who wanted what she wanted and wanted it now. I was barely a young woman who hadn't begun to understand what she wanted.

I wanted to be adored. I wanted to be powerful. I wanted to be near my father.

I looked to my father to see what it was that I should love.

So I loved the poet and I made poetry. Always for others. See what I wrote for you. I gave it all away. I gave myself away.

Now he keeps to the edge of the dream, wary of me and my intentions. My elusive sauvage, my familiar. Come nearer. Stay longer.

20 September, 2006


This is the very first poem I ever wrote, and my first published poem. It appeared in the poetry section of the Newfoundland Herald, a tv guide, where my father submitted it. It was 1979, and I was living in my grandmother's house in southern New Brunswick with my mother and sister because my parents had separated.

I clearly remember the decision to write this poem. I remember the import of that moment, not just in retrospect, but as it was happening. It was a very deliberate and conscious act, as if until that moment, poetry was just one of an infinite number of possibilities swirling formlessly around me until I called it out of the void. I remember being very quiet and focused and excited. I knew three things. One, I was going to write a poem. Two, my poem would not be a rhyming poem. Three, it was going to please my father, a poet.

I'm not sure why I chose artist Gerry Squires as the subject of my first composition, or why that particular image of the lighthouse he used to keep on the Ferryland Downs, where we visited and where I played with his daughters years before. Maybe it was a bit of foreshadowing or alchemy. Maybe I was unconsciously drawing down some of the qualities in Gerry, as a person and as an artist, that I would later come to identify with.

Gerry is a painter and sculptor in whom spirituality and mysticism seem to co-habitate very naturally with his art. He is not religious himself, but I think of him as belonging to the tribe of priests. That archetype is very strong in him. It is in me and my father too, but Dad's was a house divided against itself. Both men grew up in very fundamentalist expressions of Christianity, but Gerry's must have been filtered through a softer lens, or he is by nature more elastic. He gets the connective-- relagare--aspect of religion; the relating between heaven and earth. Somewhere along the line that ligament had been torn in my father.

Or maybe I analyze too much. Maybe it was simply a nine-year old's nostalgia and longing for a sleep where the grown ups kept watch and the ship sailed on through the night unwrecked.

Who knows where any of the poems come from.

It is Wednesday, and I have a vast, glorious, expanse of uninterrupted time in which to write, and a nearly full pot of coffee.

I have so much more I want to say about that first poem, and about the tangling and untangling of my poetry with my father's life, "through dooms of love." And about spirit and art. And about the manuscript I am gestating.

But I have 1,159 more days, so some of it can wait.

14 September, 2006


Well, my bathroom is clean and the upstairs is vacuumed.

This is how it often goes with me. I sit down to write a poem, and suddenly the bookshelf must be alphabetized. I mean, how the hell is anybody supposed to get any work done with the book spines all helter-skelter? I have to be on guard against this tendency. Yesterday, after I had already spent way too much time trying to get my blog masthead just so, I thought, is this simply an elaborate avoidance manuever? Shouldn't I be writing the poems, instead of writing about writing them? (Don't answer that).

The trouble is, I am very extroverted, meaning I am energized by interacting with others. For an introvert, like my husband, having to engage with others is an expenditure. It costs them energy. I don't know why anyone would want to go and be that way, but they claim they are born like it. I can be dead-ass tired at the end of the day, and if you put me in a group of people, I will be recharged and rearing to go in five minutes. Leave me alone too long with nowhere to go and no one to talk to and I quickly become depressed and lethargic. I wilt.

As far as poetry goes, extoversion is both help and hindrance. I would hazard to say that most poets tend toward introversion. They seem to tolerate long periods of solitude and inactivity. The public, interactive side of the craft appears painful and costly to some, often requiring chemical support to get through it. Me, I love the public part. That is where I shine.

I cut my teeth reading poetry during the heyday of the Poetry Slam movement, and while I was not a slam-style poet myself, I learned a lot watching the best of them, those really dynamic performers who were able to engage people, who didn't stand there hiding behind the paper expecting the audience to do all the work. I feel strongly that a writer who is asking people to sit and listen owes the audience as much professionalism in the reading as they put into the writing. Heart and soul. I love to get behind the mike and pour everything I've got into making a connection with the people in front of it. I am giving away too much of myself in this confession, but I love that audience, whatever the venue, whatever the size. I will make them love me back, supposing it kills us all.

The downside of that particular orientation is that it's very hard for me to settle down and do the work. I practically need a windowless cell block with nothing in it but a piece of paper and a pen. That is far less true of my prose writing, for some reason, perhaps because it is more conversational and extroverted by nature. Sitting with the poem, staying with it, unravelling it, that's another matter. This is where I need the chemical support. I used to do a lot of smoking. Now I do a lot of pacing.

I hope I will find my salvation in routine and self-discipline. Wednesday is my day to write, and I intend to set aside half my Wednesdays for writing poems. In between, I will be keeping up this and my other blog, writing new essays, sending out magazine submissions and trying to divert my alphabetizing urges toward something more relevant, like a filing system for the zillion scraps of paper depicted in the masthead above. Or learning to compose acrostics.

13 September, 2006


I am launching this journal eleven hundred and sixty seven days from my fortieth birthday.

I know, at face value forty is just a number, not inherently any more or less significant than 39 or 41. But it is a number charged with meaning all the same. In the story of the Great Flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert. Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness. In the Judeo-Christian culture, anyway, forty seems to mark the end of soujourn, a time of deliverance and re-emergence. It is the number of retrospection, and of looking ahead to the next epoch. A time to collect oneself.

It seems to be a liminal number. Like the bordertime between day and night, the turn of a season, or the edge of the woods. One of the thin places. Look at all the nervous energy it provokes in people. "Lordy, lordy, look who's forty!" We sense the magic in the number, the sheerness of it. We bring to the occasion the same air of mockery and bravado with which we approach Halloween, another of the bordertimes.

And there it is, flickering, on my not so distant horizon.

If I have acquired any wisdom at all in the thirty-seven years it has taken me to get this far across the wilderness, it is that there is no telling what life will throw at me in the next 1,167 days. But for a long time, I have been saying that I want to have a book of poems completed by the time I am forty, and it has lately been dawning on me that I might have to actively particpate in that process.

There are so many reasons not to. I have three children. A part time job. Numerous other interest and commitments. Poetry can be hard and lonely work. And it scares me. To me it feels like mining, or deep-sea fishing. Sometimes I go in, and I don't know if I will come back up to the light of day.

This blog is a way of tying a line on. Of digging in, without getting lost. It is intended as a way to set a specific goal: a manuscript-length collection in 1,167 days; 36 poems in a little more than three years. I also hope it will be a means of accountability for myself, like telling the world I am quitting smoking, or losing ten pounds. You are witness to the intent.

It's a measure against the loneliness and the long silence that comes with writing sometimes. A place to test-drive poems, and a sketchpad for fleshing out ideas. A place to talk about the creative process. And being as narcissistic and needy as the next poet, I also hope it might be a source of feedback and encouragement.

Who knows what it or I will wind up being or doing?

But the journey of 1,167 days begins with a single step, and this is that step.