A rubber ball…by American artists Lawrence Weiner:
Cookworthy, Body Sherds and Plymouth Rock, Alkalon, Pountney and St Vincent’s Rock(s) Ladies of Llangollen, Dillwyn and Cow Creamers Toxteth Park, Herculaneum, and Liver Birds
Contemporary Art Society, and a consortium of four museums: Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, National Museum of Wales at Cardiff, National Museums Liverpool, Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery
I’m sitting in a nice pub in Canada reading Dan Savage’s witty and touching book on adoption, “The Kid” in which he and his boyfriend Terry go for an open adoption. The book is about fifteen years old—that child is now part grown—but my daughter Isabel lent it to me and it is terrific.
I am truly minding my own business, eating fish stew, secure in my own gender presentation which I must currently define as “almost elderly classroom teacher.”
A couple at the next table turn to me. Is the book good? Is it funny? I give them a bland go away now smile, but the man comes over.
“What is the book about?”
“Famous sex advice columnist Dan Savage and his boyfriend—two gay guys,” I emphasize, “adopt a baby. It’s very sweet and honest.”
“TWO HOMOSEXUALS!?” the guy bellows.
“Yes,” I beam. “So nice.” He retreats. His wife flutters. I feel smeared, slimed, and disgusted. Why are they in my space? With their evil prejudice?
I write my daughter an e-mail note complaining about them. Well, she writes back, didn’t you feel close to Dan? Yes, I did. Now I want to defend all writers I like in pubs.
My last thought—I hope that couple were Americans so as to not ruin my good impression of Canada.
Writing about missing out on things, I decided I’d make a list. But there were only two things on it. By “missed” I’m not counting things I was never truly interested in (punk scene) or too crippled to do (mountain climbing) or had no budget for (Japan). I won’t boast about all the peak experiences I have had–quite a few. Rather, things I ALMOST experienced.
The first was seeing Jimi Hendrix collapse on stage at Madison Square Garden at a huge anti-war rally. My mother made us go home around 1 am, and she was driving. We left, Jimi came on stage, collapsed, and died soon after. This is truly my big regret.
The second was going into the Blue Mosque in Akko, called Acre by the Crusaders, in Israel. It was the mid-1970’s, and in retrospect I was very fortune to have been in the Dome of the Rock, and its silver domed neighborhood. But the bus stopped, I got out, it was Friday and the Blue Mosque locked for prayer. Young as I was, I was assaulted by that raw sensation–I’ll never pass this way again.
And I never did.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed a lot at The Haiku Canada weekend has been the freebie table. Here, I found a little chapbook by Sandra Fuhringer (whose work I didn’t know, I think she is deceased), THE TREE IT WAS from Kings Road Press.
Her haiku: morphine mothwing
Folks were talking about it in a workshop–it really does deliver a haiku punch.
Terry Ann Carter gave me a lovely book mark with some of Kerouac’s haiku. I love his haiku, and she is also a fan, as well as author of a haibun memoir ON THE ROAD TO NAROPA: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH JACK KEROUAC which I’m hoping to read.
Grain elevators, waiting
for the road
To approach them
And an honorable mention in The Betty Devniok Award:
a young buck takes the moon
on its antlers
by Judit Katalin Hollos of Hungary.
So why am I wondering what I’ve missed out on? I went to almost every single thing in the conference until I got too tired (or my legs wore out–I’m admitting that all these days). I’ve eaten fish stew, 2 kinds of chowder, pancakes, eggs florentine, and drunk strong tea. Walked a lot in the neighborhood, been to Emily Carr’s house and garden, met people, and also lain about in a hotel room (My fave). I’ve had a picnic of bread and cheese by the Parliament building with its flower gardens and totem poles. I’ve written a one line haiku there:
pretty girl takes a selfie by monument for the glorious dead
And yet–my husband Rich would be sightseeing now. Someone more sociable would be networking at a late lunch or seeing friends between planes in Seattle. I’m just…watching the breeze in gauze curtains. Feeling pleasantly homesick and pleasantly not yet at home.
Making a list of things I’ve missed in my life.
I like to have a theme or mantra from birthday to birthday. Age 59-60 was “no criticism.” This was just about my creative process (I’m not naive enough to try it with other people!). And I enjoyed it. 60-61 was a difficult year. Miriam Bobkoff came back to Santa Fe to go into hospice and die, and my father died in January in Boston. Maybe the theme was survive, or more like my husband Rich’s approach–let’s squeeze some fun out of life and death whenever possible. I did put a poem on sand in Miami and hung one in the woods in upstate New York, win a few prizes, and see Madame Butterfly from box seats. And my daughter Isabel married her wonderful Tim. So not bad. But no theme.
This April, I set my theme of 61-62 as “educate, appreciate.” It just came to me. But who? I’ve been teaching community college for twenty years now. I’ve educated my students, they me. I’ve prayed in my car (a New Mexican practice, I believe)–let me understand what they are asking for. I don’t want to offer tutoring and then find out someone is homeless. I want to understand what is needed, then see if I can provide.
Appreciate is good, necessary, somewhat familiar. But educate myself? That hasn’t recently been my path. I hate being in poetry workshops, and when confronted with something I’m of the fake it till you make it school…although I did eventually have to read up on menopause and raising teenagers. And taught myself to purl using YouTube.
But I take my intentions seriously. I joined a book arts group. I went to archeology lectures. I–gasp–went to a meeting of investors. Today, I learned inadvertently. At Haiku Canada weekend, Naomi Beth Wakan (considered a treasure in Victoria-or as we would say in Santa Fe a living treasure) taught haiku and tanka.
She gave us the prompt–Poets together. Write a haiku!
the living and the dead
Then, she said, add two lines to make it a tanka.
the living and the dead
an arrangement of driftwood,
my lost thoughts
I’ve been writing these forms for decades, but the differences came very clear. Tanka so much more emotional and expansive; haiku so precise. I’ve tended to strip tanka into haiku in terms of process (as is historical). It didn’t occur to me to add, although of course that makes renga.
We then wrote tanka responding to the person’s on our left. I got something i was pleased with–that I hadn’t been able to write at the time it happened:
we saw the tanager
by the running ditch
you still loved me
Emily Carr, the extraordinary modernist, lived in a house just catty corner from where I am staying at the James Bay Inn. In fact, she actually died in this very building, but I was reassured that her room was in what is now the pub, so I am unlikely to see her ghost on the second floor. (photograph from the house’s website).
Carr dominates this terrain the way O’Keeffe does New Mexico–her images are everywhere. Last night I enjoyed a presentation on her work by Jacqueline Pearce, who has written two children’s books about the artist. We’ll be touring the house today, but I couldn’t resist a preview visit to the garden.
red peonies take
“no one else’s approach”
in this garden
totem poles decay
at the edge of sleep
square pretty house, vertical