Transcendence

The Toni Morrison bio-documentary/interview A Life In Pieces is amazing. One reviewer was quoted as saying something like ‘she has transcended race in this latest book’ – the implication being that this is a good thing that makes her an even better writer. You know I’ve never read a review of novel/books by authors such as Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King that says that they transcended race, or gender.

One of the things that Morrison said was that she decided not to explain issues in her characters lives but to merely present them because she felt her black readers would already understand & she felt no need to tell them the why of what they already knew. This resonated with me as I often felt need to give my queer characters backstories that explained their coming out – something I still find in movies & novels about the queer experience – explaining things for the heterosexual gaze. There is more to my life than my coming-out experience.

As my poetry became less concerned with explanations or making emotions universal I did get some negative feed back for being too insular – very similar to critical response to some of Morrison’s work that was too race oriented to be ‘quality’ literature. That is until she transcended race. Which I don’t think she really did, or had to do, it’s just that the culture around her became more educated & caught up to her.

I have a few of her novel on my shelf that I may reread. I did download her book of essays ‘The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations’ & have bumped it up to the front of the read next on my Kindle. I’m in the middle of two other books on it now & can’t start yet another one until one of them is finished. Emile Zola’s “La joie de vivre” & Koji Suzuki’s Edge – both amazing & highly recommended.

(from July 2007)

Racking Up Bonus Miles

more never leads to enough 

satisfaction is a sigh of defeat

too much stuff is a nice beginning

the constant scratch seeking struggle 

doesn’t matter if it fulfills a need

or even a want

it’s just stuff

lots and lots of stuff

fill every nook & cranny

empty is a sign of defeat

bare space isn’t spare simplicity

it is need poverty

only the rich can afford empty space

which they fill with their satisfaction

satisfaction is defeat

more is better than equality

<>

life is a pointless staring glazed at TVs

that aren’t big enough

too much empty space

between the neutrons 

making up picture 

it’s too easy to fall between the cracks

in the waiting glazed fumble

give me stuff or give me breath mints

<>

bursting at the seams is a start

time to look for bigger seams

to get more stuff in

stuff the up the cracks

stuff up your ass

stuff stuff stuff

<>

how good it feels

to bring home bags of unopened books

the smell of the paper

the space between letters

waiting to be filled

new cds flash in the sunset

as I peel plastic skin off them

new shoes not laced yet

new helicopters new tanks

to keep our boys safe in war

war that never gets enough

there is no such thing as enough death

no quenching that hunger

<>

that smokey smell

is life burning away the past 

to make space for the future

why learn lessons

there are new mistakes to be made

mistakes like forgetting 

that more never leads to enough

satisfaction is a sigh of defeat

too much is surrender

will that be cash or visa

you get more bonus miles with visa

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

On my Kindle 02

The Works of Hall Craine (1853-1931) contains all 15 of his novels. Never heard of him? Neither had I until he was mentioned in Something in The Blood, the Bram Stoker biography by David J. Skal (an excellent book). Craine’s popularity during his lifetime was unprecedented. He was an international literary celebrity, and sold a total of ten million books & was the most highly paid novelist of his day. I’ve only read the first of the novels in this collection & it was an effort to push through a plot that hinged on incest or is it incest. But I’ll read more of them. None of his novels have been discovered by Masterpiece Theatre 🙂

The Complete Poems – Walt Whitman. Whitman is one of my inspirations. I have, in paper, a great biography & also a paperback edition of Leaves of Grass. This massive collection has everything including revised versions. I’m not crazy about Kindle for poetry as enjambment & page layout suffers. 

The fact that I have the Complete Works of Emile Zola should come as no surprise. This was one of the first set of works I downloaded to my Kindle. I’ve blogged about Zola a few times now. He is one of my prime fiction inspirations. I got red up with searching book stores for novels other than the big hits: Thérèse Raquin, Nana, Germinal. I’m always happy when this collection rotates to the next to read on my rotating e.book shelf.

The Complete Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a revelation. Not many get past Sherlock. Those that do find The Lost World & some of the other Professor Challenger work. But most don’t get as far as his historical romances or Napoleonic war short stories. The problem with these historical works is their lack of ‘puzzle’ – they are straight forward plots with solid but dull characterizations. Only a completist like myself gets this far 🙂

Moving On

a drink won’t bring you back

crack won’t bring you back

getting numb won’t 

take this pain away long enough

it will always return

gets worse after each black out relief

there’s always the restless sun

making it clear

there is no return to what once was

talking it out won’t change things

gone is gone

new shoes won’t bring you any closer

a new look 

is not what it will take

nothing is going to work

I feel you are there 

in the next room

sleeping or watching tv

that when I’m in my way home

you are going to be there

waiting

cooking a meal for me

another toke won’t bring you back

raging at your empty space

won’t change anything

can’t fill the room

cant fill the time it’s going to take

until I run of things

to try

none of which can never bring you back

can’t dig down into the earth 

to bring you back to life 

to resemble the scattered fragments

caught for a moment over the lake

sunshine grey

can’t wet them with 

plant them with enough fertilizer

to grow you again

bring you back to life

can’t give me life either

not enough bottles 

not enough rocks

not a sweet enough pipe

not enough sex

to bring you back

can’t sing loud enough

can’t be quiet enough

to hear you

can’t wash that memory 

out of my hair

can’t give your clothes away

yet

can’t fill them like you

can’t wear them myself

can’t stand to look at them

letting go

not wanting to hold

not know what to do

because nothing will bring you back

and I’m tried of doing nothing

apologies are too thin 

too late

food not filling enough

not enough cake 

to bring you back

not prayer

bargaining 

anger 

acceptance

forgetting you 

not acting as if I don’t miss you

won’t bring you back

won’t keep that song 

from bringing you to mind

bringing you to mind 

won’t bring you back

tears won’t do it

gifts won’t do it

joining you 

won’t bring you back

not wanting you back

won’t bring you back

sleep won’t bring you back

moving on

won’t bring you back

but it means

I won’t be here

when you do come back

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

every Tuesday 2019

September

17 – Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

22 – Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

Tuesday 24 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

https://www.facebook.com/events/504067323723768/

October

15 – Stratford Festival – The Crucible

November

7 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

December

The Secret Handshake Gallery – feature – date TBA

January

23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

March

March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April

April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies andBbad Times Theatre

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Cape Breton Reflections

My visit to Cape Breton had me living in many worlds – my memories, my sister’s memories, the present day & the fictional worlds of Emile Zola’s amazing Au Bonheur des Dames, & Aliette de Bodard’s Servant of the Underworld, set in the fifteenth-century Aztec Empire (which I was reading alternate chapters from on my Kindle.) Both of which I’d highly recommend.

The weather was perfect – hot, sunny & not overly humid. The Travelodge was the right distance from the downtown – I could walk where I wanted in 40-50 minutes – which is my usual daily walking routine so I certainly got my steps in. I deliberately didn’t use my iPod so that I was present for the walks. Only listened to my airmac iTunes when I was writing & even then I enjoyed working in ‘silence’ most of the time.

I did a couple of my school walks but retracing those steps wasn’t the point of this trip. The same with meeting up with a few old friends – it was more about today than reflecting on the times we spent together. Though the past did provide a few highlights in my sister’s house, which is the one we grew up in. The old dictionary was sweet to leaf through, the silver set was similarly sweet to see & handle. The chest it was in was enough at first then we opened it up! The Singer 🙂

Visiting the Fortress of Louisbourg is always fun, taking pictures was even more fun. Seeing the wind turbine farm at Lingan was a totally new memory. Finding a bunch of original Whitman YA novels on my last full day was a treat too. I can’t wait to read them 🙂

The flight back to Toronto was trouble free, as it should be right? There was a team of young athletes from the Ontario Track & Field association heading back on the flight – wearing red, white jackets. I had opted to wear the red hoodie I’d bought so I did get some interesting reactions as they wondered why they hadn’t seen this guy at their events.

I didn’t get to do everything I set out to do, which is a good things – I’ll have stuff to do on my next visit.

Émile Zola

Nana was my introduction to Émile Zola. I bought a copy of it way back in the 70’s when I was living in Cape Breton. It floored me. I knew he was writing, publishing in France at the same time Dickens was publishing in England. Both wrote about class, labour, family but that’s where the resemblance ends. Zola wrote adult fiction full of drugs, druggies, adulterers, prostitution, social disease and nice people too.

Nana floored me with its frank sexuality. No classic novel I’d read by Scott, Stevenson, even Dostoyevsky approached this level of sexuality. At points he delves into the lesbian subculture of Paris that still amazes me today. It certainly wasn’t what I expected in a novel of that time & also showed me that there is a hidden gay history too. Nana uses her sexuality to move up and down the class ladder. In fact all the women in Zola novels are clearly sexual beings, not always in control of it, not always giving into it.

He has a great grasp of human psychology from a time when human psychology wasn’t even a field of study. I have, on my Kindle, the complete works – which I hope to finish before I die 🙂 He was prolific & as a result as popular as Dickens. I bought the complete works to get the novels that are out-of-print in translation. As a result I can’t commune ton his ability as a stylist – the translations are good enough for me. His plotting is solid. Went, or more of them, are a family saga that rivals any daytime soap. The family tree of his fictional family is impressive, as was his ability to keep it organized. He was a social commentator who spared no one.

If you are unfamiliar I would recommend Thérèse Raquin, (http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Cx) or Nana. Germinal is also amazing & inspired my novel Coal Dusters – good too are L’Assommoir and La Bête humaine.

 

Plus he was very handsome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Émile_Zola#/media/File:Émile_Zola_by_Carjat.jpg 

The Fault In My Chromosomes

there is a theory

that when the first atomic bomb 

was exploded

the molecular structure of life 

of our dna

as we know it 

was changed

 

there’s always some explanation

for what went wrong

the first match

the first man 

who looked at the moon

and thought 

that’s not god

why am I blood-letting goats

to make sure

the moon will rise again

to insure sure we get good crops

 

us assuming that there is 

some secret level of control

we can manifest 

if we find the right path

we can work down 

to the chromosomal level of life

get at the delicate tissue

to harness it 

or our our personal gratification

then everything would work out swell

 

no war

no struggle

no hunger disease

no TV – that’s going too far

what if the atomic structure of life 

was changed by the first TV broadcast

what if those beams

were controlling us humans

telling us what to say

what to wear 

what to eat

when to go out

how many layers of clothing we need

that would never happen

we can’t be manipulated

at the cellular level by a cell phone

electronic conveniences are our tools

we aren’t their tools

they do our bidding

they have no control over who we love

over how often we hook up

they don’t conspire against us

we are in control at all times

we can turn them off 

see I’ve set my cell phone to no ring 

I can leave it that way for hours

often I don’t even check for texts

some people can’t imagine that at all

somedays I don’t turn on my TV for hours

don’t check my email

I am always in control of my universe

 

when the first atomic bomb

was exploded

molecular structure was changed

so I am not responsible for my actions

nothing is ever my fault

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee on my trip to Cape Breton – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet 

Hey! Or you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

Kindle-ing

Émile Zola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Émile_Zola); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; John Addington Symonds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Addington_Symonds): Mark Twain. What do these writers have in common (besides being dead white males)? I have the Delphi Complete works of each on my Kindle.

whiteboard

the white panel

It may take me years to read all these Complete works but I’m up the challenge. I can’t recall how I got caught up by Zola but it was way back in the 1970’s; the first book of his I read was either the amazing Thérèse Raquin – one of the best crime novels I have ever read; or it was Nana: an astonishing look at theatrical life in Paris including the nature of queer life at the time. Germinal is still one of the most powerful books about coal mining I’ve ever read.

The translations in this collection are good, unexpurgated, for the most part. At one time I despaired at finding many of these in paperback & in English, so getting this massive edition was sweet & inexpensive too. Similar to Dickens in his complex plotting, his writing is more explicit & his endings rarely happy.

whitedoor

the white door

Doyle – who doesn’t know Sherlock – I haven’t read much Sherlock as an adult though, so felt it was time to get back to it. The stories aren’t as clever or as soundly written as I recalled & the use of language has certainly dated but they are great to re-read. Plus this collection includes the many many historical novels he wrote, which it seems only scholars read these days. Yes, he did write things that didn’t include Sherlock.

Symonds I picked up after reading so many mentions of his work & the role it played in queer literary history & theory. No fiction here but his very Victorian writing about his travels, art in Italy, literary criticism – this edition lacks illustrations which is a bit ‘sad’ when he lavishes such affection & attention on painters, architects & sculptors. But that’s what Google is for, right.

whitegrid

the white transit grid

Twain, like Doyle, has been reduced mainly to a couple of big hits but his works are extensive, funny, rambling and a delight to read. A riverboat ride through Americana. Huck & Tom were great favourites of mine as a boy & I’ve always longed for a boyfriend named Huckleberry – maybe I’ll re-purpose that name in one of own novels or is it too loaded with the Twain history to be used.

It’ll take a decade for me to work through all these, while keeping up with my other readings, but at least I won’t have to worry about their next blockbuster. Once these guys are done I’ll move to the Complete Jules Verne, Victor Hugo, George Elliot and maybe Scott.

soon

March 7 – Saturday – attending – 2015 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium – Round Venue, 152A Augusta Ave., Toronto

specfic

http://chiseries.ticketleap.com

March 26 – Thursday 8 pm – Judging – Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam – Supermarket – 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto

hot

April 26, 2015 – Sunday – 2-5 – Featuring – The Secret Handshake Gallery – 170 Baldwin Ave., 2nd floor, Toronto.

born

June 5-7 – attending – Capturing Fire – Washington DC

fire

http://www.thedccenter.org/capturingfire/

(2015 registration posted but details not posted yet. I’ve registered already 🙂 )

June 21-26 – attending – Rosemary Aubert’s Workshop: The Novelist’s Selfie – Loyalist – Belleville

loylab

Loyalist Workshop is the real deal

page 23 for details next page down for registration info

https://www.loyalistbanner.com/ceweb/doc/LoyalistSummerArts2015.pdf

June 27, Saturday – 7:00-  Feature: Hot Summer Nights at Hirut, Hirut Restaurant, 2050 Danforth Ave., Toronto

summer15

September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo

Expo15

http://fanexpocanada.com

October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice

noiroc15

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

sample

On The Beach

sand

an evening breeze brings

the first hint of night

the stiff bendable scruff grass dances

families pack   cars drive off

tires softly grind new sand

with each turn of the wheel

the waves continue

never impeded by the frolic

heedless of the left behind

the tattered towel

twig trapped since last fall

small cellophane wrappers rattle in the grass

the echo of the last footsteps

the still steady kiss of water across the sand

smooths away those last footsteps

washes away the echo

laughing crying restless children

children who want to be home

in front of the TV

watching the beach on TV

not to be here to poke at dry boring sand

with a dumb ass shovel

filling a dumb ass pail   dumping it on the food

on dad’s book

on mom’s suntan lotion

the water rolls in and out wets their dumb feet

wrinkles their dumb asses

the sea kelp floats just beneath the surface

waits 20 30 feet out from shore

kept them from swimming out to the horizon

kept the children at bay

kept their dumb asses

from really feeling the freeze of the sea

the still depth

where all hovers in continuous motion

the floating barrier that kept all safe

floats a bit closer to the empty shore

nudges up onto the sand

to enjoy the spell binding moon light

to enjoy the echo of those footsteps

takes a moment to get away from its usual distance

the tiring distance

where it was some how held

in abeyance by the restless roil of the sea

the under flow of currents relaxes as the sea swells

as the kelp darts on sand a moment

as the sea once again pulls it back to safety

to float    to mingle

a dog runs along the damp sand

a master somewhere whistles

the clouds over head slowly cover the moon

star reflections dance bravely around the kelp

a deeper dark settles on the dark of the sea

whitebear

white wedding

Three Intense Books

Thérèse Raquin; Something Happened; Hot Stuff – what do these books have in common? Authors Emile Zola, Joseph Heller, Alice Echols – capture vivid portraits of times, places and people in ways that were compelling, eye-opening & just out-right fun. Moreover they are three books I recently finished reading that were pixel/page turners.

rackspiceless rack

I’ve read Thérèse Raquin several times now – this version (each translation is different) is part of the Complete Zola I have on my Kindle – bought for under $5. Zola is one of my writing muses. The story moves from pov easily & pulled me into this musty corner of Paris totally. By the end of the novel I knew these people and felt as trapped as each of them by their pursuit of ‘happiness.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thérèse_Raquin

 discardpop of color

I remember being amazed by the opening lines of Something Happen when I first read it back in the mid-70’s – that fear of closed doors made total sense to me – as I dare to open the closed door I was hiding behind. I wonder what my hardback edition is worth? A single pov that is ironic, unreliable and revealing. Heller knows how to write conversations and this is a text book example of how to that certainly informed my writing after I read it, without me being aware of its influence. It holds up today because I know people who are afraid of closed doors. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Something_Happened

greygrey on gray

Bringing things more to the present is Hot Stuff – which I have blogged about before. Echols non-fiction book is a revealing look at disco & its effect on world of the 70’s, 80’s as it morphed from disco to the somehow more acceptable dance music. Full of gossip, trivia and also insightful analysis of the role of music in general, disco in particular I found myself wishing the book was longer. I also found myself buying things on iTunes to round out my listening of the era, & not all disco. Honey Cone anyone?  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/books/review/Gavin-t.html?_r=0

Finger Dancing

I was feeling sort of flat – nothing of consequence to accomplish – an opportunity to practice the art of doing nothing – it would be easy to make work – there’s always something to clean – a drawer to tidy – laundry to do – money to be made – but with small effort I made myself do nothing –

I felt my sense of self shift as I did nothing – the urge to be at something anything – to be talking to someone – to be in some sort of action that would sustain my sense of self – but for a moment I did nothing – I was nobody –

just a man doing nothing – good for nothing – not relaxing from having done so much & therefore having earned this respite – not someone sick and tried of all the pulls and tugs of being alive – nope – just someone taking a rare opportunity to do nothing –

I let my mind drift where it wanted and saw the endlessness of so many of the trains of thought – things to do – there would always be things to do whether I thought of them at this moment or not – let them go – away – yeah – no need to even observe passing clouds – why bother – let them float –

let this sense of self float – that would be a neat trick for a few days to stop being aware of this sense of self – the person – the personality – the images and opinions one carries that bind them to a tread mill that becomes insidious and impossible to disengage from –

now there’s the challenge – to do that for a few minutes isn’t so hard but even then it becomes me doing nothing – the rest of me hovers – those quirks and cloaks don’t really fall away – they don’t disengage to let me float free for long – they remind me that I’m free of them – for now – that I will have to return to them and the very thought of return returns me to them –

to be free of all that – to travel without a sense of self – without the importance that all that holds because it is the importance cloak that holds me down – it becomes a barrier between me and experiencing so much of life – the choices that opinion make whittle things down – narrow the possibilities not enlarge them –

so I’m just sitting here for a while – drifting – well, at this moment I’m writing – let words drift and waft along in a loose mood of release – aware that I am writing is enough to hold me down – to direct the language just enough that I’m not totally dissolved – would that I could merely allow the casual drop of fingers hit the keys without looking for anything – just the happy click of rapid keys spinning a web of this and that –

fingers moving along to a music – a music that holds as much of my attention as the mind gives to the words – as close to release as I come many times – closer than most – knowing also that the words have meaning beyond my identity gives me greater freedom – they don’t belong to me – no more than the colors of the sky

no more than the pulse and spring of the music – the loop of quick scintillating instruments that bobs along freely and easily till my eyes close for fingers to dance

100_0569below the clouds