Wednesday, 30 January 2013


I don't know why I'm so grumpy these days. (To my readers--that's you, Uncle John and Aunt Deere--quipping big surprise or something more original, pipe down.)
This afternoon I scolded a student for showing up to her first class two and a half weeks into the semester.
When someone in the office asked me how's Gerry today, I said why am I so grumpy. She showed me her plastic bracelet, which says Have a complaint free day. Without the hyphen.
I seem to need someone to grump at.
Maybe I made a mistake laying Best Canadian Poetry (in English) 2012 on my first-year students. I'm you-know-what about that too.
Tomorrow Connie Gault's visiting my creative writing class. That should be fun.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


I visited Old Fashion Foods this morning, looking for the C-complex 'n minerals caps I blame for keeping me healthy, healthy as a course, this semester and last.  I growled as I turned into the parking lot of the south Albert location. Where's the -ed, was my beef, one I'd had before.
I tried that idea on the woman behind the counter. Yes, she said, the what?
I tried it later on my creative writing students, who seemed less knotted about it than I. Don't buy your vitamins there, I told them. (They'd already sworn to buy coffee from Robin's instead of Tims, backing me up on the apostrophe issue.) (One student had checked for plural: There was only one Tim Horton, right?)
I've been healthy as a Horton all winter, as I was saying. He was a rock-solid #7 for the Leafs circa 1959-1969 or so, till he got in a spat with Imlach and played out his career in Buffalo, if I have the facts right, starting up the restaurant in the early 70s. Horton was my favourite player for a while, between Mahovlich and Keon--he wasn't just tough, he was slick, rare at the time for defencemen if you weren't Bobby Orr.
From south Albert they sent me to Vic and Edgar, where they'd set a bottle aside. When I got there I bought 2 and said nothing about the -ed.
Horton was killed in a car crash by '75 I think. He'd sold out to his partners.
I popped my first cap with an apple just now.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


A Skins curling game, Canadian Figure Skating championship, NFL football playoff game. Pick one.

I used my fingers to scrape cooked-on egg from a frying pan, and similar claims, as likely to be true as false, about how I keep house. I invited my grandson over to sit on my kitchen floor in absorbent pants.

Given a list of actions and images, which ones would you call burlesque and why.
Figure skating costumes, make-up, tall-man-tiny-woman Pairs teams, choreography, past champions, ends of routines. The return of NHL hockey, turntabling, cold wind on the coldest day, second piece of your daughter's pie, the relationship of the blade to the ice, witch as a verb on your writing, memory.

Nothing compares to that, they said on tv just now about the Dance champs' routine. Here's where we invent further burlesque. Every year it's a new lift.

Do you want your poem to tell us what we know or what we don't know?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Fan post: Vertigo

The camera tracks two cars driving left to right along Fort Point Road in San Francisco, a long shot. The front car pushes the right edge of the frame, the rear car pulls at the left. After a while, ten seconds or so, the camera lets the front car go and draws in on the rear, tracking its swing to the right where it stops beside the other car, the Golden Gate bridge towering in the background. Gorgeous sequence, one of about five hundred in this film.
Vertigo--and Hitchcock, its director--has been a favourite since I first saw it upon its re-release with four other Hitchcock films in about 1982. As years passed, I was delighted, puzzled at first, to see that my children enjoyed Hitchcock films too. Odd content maybe, but the precise story-telling--fabulous economy of story-telling motion--is what hooked us.
Yesterday's Vertigo came from the big screen at the Galaxy. For a while I was the only one in the theatre, a creepy thrill all its own. Finally about a dozen other fans trickled in. Despite a couple of howlers from moments that have not aged well, the film seemed more glorious than ever.
Never mind the plot, dig the camera movement and Bernard Herrman's score, just for starters.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Time to Think About First Day

The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012, ed. Carmine Starnino, Tightrope Books, will challenge me and my students, starting tomorrow (in their case, yesterday in mine).
"[S]aying something true about life" (from his Introduction) we will either look for or not, or find or not. Starnino offers that phrase as half of a shorthand--"a game" being the other half--in his sketch of the range of Canadian poetry, at least as surveyed via "54 print and on-line magazines", as Molly Peacock's Prologue has it. (Peacock is the Series Editor of the Best  series, now in its 5th outing.)
Like many of my students, I can buy in to versions of that range, which may change with every poem. These are first-year students, for whom a poem, any poem at all, offers an invitation to either quit before reading or smother with interpretations, used ones, worn out.
Of course I generalize here. One poem will generate fresh energy in the body and mind of one reader. "Also a twilight everything turns from:" (Susan Gillis, "Solstice Night"), for example, will take us from a conventional, if fresh enough, depiction of snow on a lone house on a winter evening to "We're burning / everything we have", from the last two lines, which I for one will read as a way to read.
And in other poems the games will make us play.