Thursday, December 31, 2020

Dungeness Shingle

Yesterday's post refers to what happens to Sartre's protagonist on February 2, 1938, 5:30 p.m. Fifty years later, on March 6, 1989, on the other side of the Channel, Derek Jarman filed this in his journal:

"Weeded the back garden, wired over the fennel the rabbits keep cutting back, planted two new irises and montbretsia. At 5:30 I sat on the old wicker chair facing the setting sun and read the newspapers. A slight chill descended; a choir of gnats floated by, golden sparks catching the last rays of the sun. The wind got up, bringing the smell of the sea; a russet kestrel flew by. Extraordinary peacefulness." (30)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Nausea (1938)

The last time I read like I have been reading since April was in the midst of my high school career when, near the end of Grade 10, I relaxed my Grade 9 habits and dove headlong into a spring break-up of books, most of them from Wednesday night buying sprees at Oakridge with my mom. 

There was a little bookstore next to Kelly's Records, back when the mall was open-aired, and it was there that I chose books by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Herman Hesse, Erma Bombeck, Andre Gide and Jean-Paul Sartre. None of these were authors who came up in any of my high school classes, though I remember Mr. Brooks cocking an eyebrow when he walked into our English 11 Fiction class and noticed me reading Richard Howard's 1970 translation of Gide's The Immoralist (1902).

One book I never got around to reading but knew of through numerous mentions in Forewords and Afterwords was Sartre's first novel, Nausea (1938). Nor had I ever come upon a copy that didn't look like it had been a road pillow for Neal Cassady, or someone inspired by him. Only recently did I happen upon an uncracked copy at Tanglewood, and so I snapped it up! 

The most oft-quoted line in Nausea comes on Page 14 of Lloyd Alexander's New Directions translation, where Sartre writes: "Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do." But the turning point, as it were, comes four pages later -- at "5:30" of the same day:

"Things are bad! Things are very bad: I have it, the filth, the Nausea. And this time it is new: it caught me in a cafe. Until now cafes were my only refuge because they were full of people and well lighted: now there won't even be that any more; when I am run to earth in my room, I shan't know where to go."

Three pages later, in an effort to break the spell, the protagonist asks cafe server Madeline if she could put on that "rag-time" song he likes, the one he "heard American soldiers whistle ... in 1917." After consulting with the card players nearby (who don't like music while they are playing), she cranks up the phonograph and the protagonist begins to "grow warm ... feel happy." 

Shortly after that, Sartre writes:

"A few more seconds and the Negress will sing. It seems inevitable, so strong is the necessity of this music: nothing can interrupt it, nothing which comes from this time in which the world has fallen; it will stop of itself, as if by order. If I love this beautiful voice it is especially because of that: it is neither for its fulness nor its sadness, rather because it is the event for which so many notes have been preparing, from so far away, dying that it might be born."

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Dungeness, Kent, UK

Dungeness, at the southeastern tip of Kent, England. A shingled landscape shaped by wind and ocean tides, over which the sun and moon preside. Not sure where exactly Jarman's Prospect Cottage is in this picture, but it's there, like Jarman's spirit is there.

Last night I read the final pages of Jarman's February 1989 journal entries, and oh my if his book doesn't suddenly lift off like Dorothy's house and give us a Toto run of prose. Fitting too that Jarman should mention The Wizard of Oz ("As the black twister hurled the little house in Kansas through the raging clouds to Oz ..."), beginning on "February 24" when he introduces us to the wind and its travelling presence, sharing with us all manner of things, from his periodic ambivalence for film to his increasingly certain future ("I live in borrowed time").

Reading these fine pages brought to mind another film that features a tornado as an agent of change: Harmony Korine's Gummo (1997). A couple years ago I found the DVD in a thrift store and, though I was mesmerized when I saw it in the theatre, found it too insistent the second time around. Funny how that happens. At what point between now and then did a tornado pass through me?

photo: Kim Traynor

Monday, December 28, 2020

Wizard of Oz (1939)

Had to pause the Wizard of Oz to take a phone call. When I came back -- huh, what's Donald Trump doing as the Wizard?

Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Lexicon

It makes sense in our age of extremes that absolutely is a common reply. Absolutely in the affirmative, just the adverb, without the exclamation (yes). Question: Do you believe in social justice? Answer: Absolutely.

Social justice in the extreme, to the letter of the law. But whose law?

Justice for the family of the murdered is the execution of the murderer. That's the law of the Old Testament, but is Allah more merciful? In Sharia law, murderers are executed along with adulterers, apostates, homosexuals, pirates, rapists ...

Now there's a new word in town, a new affirmative: correct. Yet where all of absolutely's four syllables are relished, correct comes out as one syllable: crecked.

What accounts for the rise of this word, a word that brings to mind cops and courtrooms? Judge: Can the court take that as a confirmation -- that you saw the accused at the Wing Sang Building on the night in question? Police Officer: Crecked, Your Honour.

Last year's word fatigue included the word obviously, often used more than once in interviews with media-uneasy hockey players. Next year it might be crecked. So far this year it is absolutely.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Birds and the Beavers

After breakfast, presents, then the winter skeleton that is Lost Lagoon.

Beavers made this:

Near the tennis courts, the synaptic architecture of nesting herons:

Friday, December 25, 2020

Modern Nature (1991)

A present I wasn't expecting and a book I have always wanted to read. The cover photo was shot by Howard Sooley, who first visited Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, Kent to photograph Derek Jarman in 1989. 

Here is a short film Sooley made based on what he learned from Jarman and his garden during subsequent visits.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Cheryl Siegel's Seasonal Tree

This time last year was a Tuesday. On that day I posted a picture I took of the "seasonal tree" Cheryl Siegel made and displayed over many Decembers as Vancouver Art Gallery librarian.

Rather than cut down a tree and decorate it, my seasonal tree ritual is to cut Cheryl's tree from the previous year's post and paste it into a new post, with new writing presented beneath it. 

As much as I would like this new writing to announce that Cheryl's tree is the inspiration for the VAG's not-yet-announced, build-to-budget design, I can't -- not even in fun. The VAG has been the butt of too many jokes over the years, and that's not where Cheryl's tree belongs.

Season's Greetings, Cheryl! My best to you and your family!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Good Shepherd (2006)

A couple days ago a friend wrote of her interest in Cockney rhyming slang. Coincidence, I wrote back, because I had just seen an example of it in the remake of Ocean's 11 (2001). "We're in Barney. Barney Rubble. Trouble" says explosives expert Basher Tarr to his colleagues after something besides his shaky Cockney accent goes awry. 

Yesterday afternoon I did some googling and found evidence that Cockney rhyming slang is rooted in the coded language of 19th century East London stallholders and criminals, a way of communicating openly without drawing the attention of eavesdropping bobbies.

Last night's DVD, The Good Shepherd (2006), is the story of a U.S. English Lit major, Edward Wilson, who is recruited by the newly-formed Office of Strategic Services (OSS) shortly after his country enters the Second World War. Deployed to London, Wilson meets the former Yale poetry professor whom he had turned-in after U.S. security officials asked Wilson to find any evidence he could of the professor's Nazi sympathies. Wilson went through the professor's satchel, found a list and submitted it.

As it turns out, the professor is, and always had been, a British spy, an expert in counter-intelligence and now an ally of Wilson and his country. Pictured up top is a scene where the professor explains to Wilson the finer points of counter-intelligence. Cockney rhyming slang is not dissimilar, for the focus is not on the words you are seeing and hearing, but on what is going on behind them. No wonder British spies like David Cornwell were so good at it: they had the poetry of their people to draw on.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007)

The moment Walter Raleigh convinces Queen Elizabeth I that he is more than just a pretty face, more than a "discoverer" of potatoes, tobacco and Croatans Manteo and Wanchese, is the moment he presents to her the "New World" through imagery:

At first it's no more than a haze on the horizon. So you watch, you watch, then it's a smudge, a shadow on the far water. For a day, for another day, the stain slowly spreads along the horizon taking form, until on the third day you let yourself believe, you dare to whisper the word: land.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Enemy of the State (1998)

Yesterday afternoon the CBC aired a 2010 interview with the late John Le Carré. As always when listening to John Le Carré, I hang on every word. 

During the interview Le Carré told a story (the same story that ends his memoir The Pigeon Tunnel, 2016) of a locked safe that he and his MI6 colleagues believed might hold the answer to every security question ever pondered. When the day finally came for the safe to be opened, all it contained were the pants of Adolph Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess -- who, in 1941, is said to have flown solo to Scotland to meet with the British monarchy to negotiate a separate peace and, after crashing his plane, was captured and held in detention until his suicide in 1987 (at the age of 93!).

But it was Le Carré's incredulity as to why Hess's pants were held that had me wondering if a) expressions of incredulity were part of Le Carré's training (one of his super powers) and, if true, b) whether the smokescreen that his incredulity contributed to remains part of a larger mission to have us believe that Hess's mission was not in fact a defection.

After dinner I sat down to watch another of my recent DVDs, this one from a box passed on to me from a friend. The film was Enemy of the State (1998), the story of a DC lawyer caught up in overlapping intrigues that have him on the run, and eventually under the care of an uncared for and self-exiled NSA agent. Heavy bugged by the current NSA regime, the lawyer, in an effort to get away, begins to shed his personal effects -- the last of them being his pants.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

A Vermeer moment, lit by the filmmakers and cropped by my camera. We are looking at Daisy the moment Benjamin leaves her, not because she is getting older, but because he is getting younger. This is the premise of the film adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (1922): a child born old (November 11, 1918), only to grow younger over his remaining 85 years. 

Benjamin gives his reasons for leaving Daisy: he wants their newly-born daughter to have a real father, which Benjamin didn't have (nor a mother, who died in childbirth) after his father took one look at him and left him on the steps of a New Orleans care home; but also, Benjamin doesn't want Daisy to have to look after him too, something she does eventually after a pre-teen Benjamin is brought to that same care home after he was found in an abandoned warehouse and displaying signs of dementia (Daisy's name and address were in Benjamin's diary, which Daisy had asked her daughter to read out to her, along with Benjamin's postcards, while Daisy is on her deathbed).

At 166 minutes, this is one of the longer films I have seen of late. Could it have been shorter? Of course. But it could have been longer too. If it were made today, it could have been commissioned by Netflix and shown over eight decade-themed episodes. Who knows -- it still might.

In 1980, when their daughter is twelve and Daisy is in her mid-50s and married to the man her daughter believes is her father, Benjamin, now T minus 23, returns from his world travels to visit Daisy at her dance school. Later that night she visits Benjamin at his hotel room and they make love. The last time we see Benjamin is in Daisy's arms some 23 years later, cradling him like the baby he now is -- this after Daisy had moved into the care home to look after him.  

Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey (1890) came to mind while watching Benjamin Button, but more so Charly (1968), the story of a intellectually-impaired young man who is given an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence, only to discover that the results are temporary (the doctors knew but never told him). Complicating Charly's return to his former self is his now romantic relationship with his former night school teacher, Alice, who looks on during the final scene (which is also the opening scene) as Charly frolics on a busy playground.

The short story that inspired Charly -- Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon" (1958) -- was banned in many schools for its negative view of what was then referred to as "mental retardation". In some ways The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a corrective. Something we have learned over the years, something that has made our species stronger: relationships don't end, they just change.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Seascape with Steamer and Sailboat (n.d.)

I continue to use paper calendars to store my important dates. For years I used the Famous Foods calendars, given out in early December, though I haven't been going to Famous of late due to its line-ups. This year's 2021 calendar is a Tonka Truck-themed production from the dollar store down the street.

Around five years ago, after reacquainting myself with the Langmann Family, I began to receive their company calendar. These are smaller calendars that I keep by the hook that holds my keys. The Langmann calendar features paintings from their collection; however, their 2021 calendar kicks off with an unattributed and undated (Meiji period) rosewood carving of three rikishi wrestlers.

Up top is the Langmann's June entry: a watercolour by Emil Nolde (1867-1956) called Seascape with Steamer and Sailboat. It too is undated. Nolde, like the Langmanns, was of Danish descent, and is notable historically for being among the first Expressionists. Although an early supporter of the National Socialist German Workers' Party and an anti-Semite, Nolde was nevertheless deemed a "degenerate" artist in 1941 and barred from painting. Over the next four years, until the overthrow of the ruling Nazis, Nolde secretly painted hundreds of watercolours, what he called his "Unpainted Pictures."

I appreciate Nolde's Seascape because the harbour where I live has always been shared by freighters (work) and sailboats (play). As for its colours, although they are not those I associate with Vancouver, I am nevertheless accepting of them, for this is, after all, a work of artistic expression.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Twilight (2008)

In which the blogger returns to the place of his raising to peruse French stationary, Scottish baked goods and thrift store DVDs, of which five were purchased: The Wizard of Oz (1939), American Graffiti (1973), Ocean's Eleven (2001), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and Twilight (2008). Last night I watched Twilight

Twilight is another of the many teen films since Rebel Without a Cause (1955) where the protagonist arrives at a new school and is immediately defined through difference. But whereas the students at Jim Stark's Dawson High (Rebel Without a Cause) are divided between "good" kids (conforming) and "bad" kids (delinquent), the kids at Forks High (Twilight) are all "good" and are altogether supportive of each other, with a kind of shimmering weirdness taking the place of those we once called "bad".

Protagonist Bella Swan is immediately drawn to the shimmering Cullen kids, particularly her fellow junior Edward, whom every girl desires but of whom Edward apparently wants no part. Sure enough, when Bella is assigned a seat in her biology class, it is next to Edward (see picture). Nothing is said between them, apart from their movements (flaring nostrils, furrowed brows, parting lips and high-speed seat re-positionings), a dance that looked to this old man like agitated attraction -- but to those for whom this film was designed, a dance they know so well.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Vanguard Magazine

Vanguard (1972-1989) was a much-lauded visual arts periodical that emerged from the Vancouver Art Gallery Bulletin (1931-1971) "to cover all the arts and give space to cultural events of interest in British Columbia." After Luke Rombout replaced VAG director Tony Emery in 1975, the magazine, like the exhibition program, placed greater emphasis on what Rombout called "the visual arts" over Emery's "larger cultural milieu." This shift intensified in 1979 when the magazine expanded to 56 glossy, perfect-bound pages and featured some of the densest art criticism this side of the Seine.

Something that is rarely talked about in Vanguard's history is the "rogue year" of 1976, when editorial met with representatives of the British garment industry to produce an issue devoted entirely to cable knits. Some saw the gesture as conceptual, while others saw it in reaction to a rising regional interest in Cowichan or "Indian" sweaters (whether this reaction was in fear of a burgeoning Indigenous clothing industry or to issues of cultural appropriation is uncertain). In any event, after a single issue (see picture) the magazine returned to visual art exhibitions, lectures and publications, leaving the business of culture to future generations.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020


That last long walk -- to Gene at 7th, south on Main to 23rd, east to Clark Dr, then north to where I started. At 20th I am about to cross when I hear a voice call out "Hey, look both ways!" Paul Wong and Anastasia McDonald, one-quarter of that self-described "art gang" known as Mainstreeters, who, though not self-consciously, extended the intermedial dream of Roy Kiyooka in advance of the relational turn that gave us Vancouver's social practice variants (Intermission, et al.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Still Life Subject Bank

Nothing breaks down like a lemon.

Monday, December 14, 2020

My Life (1928)

I found my copy of Isadora Duncan's autobiography My Life (1928) on the two dollar shelf outside Carson Books last week. Had to look twice to see that it was what it was, and not a Harold Robbins romance. The cover of this edition is the movie tie-in for Isadora (1968), starring one of the leading actors of her day, Vanessa Redgrave.

Although I am only on Page 60, it is apparent that Duncan (1878-1927) was a highly motivated individual who, like another Bay Area raised self-starter, Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), believed in her genius, and fuck off if you didn't. At this point in the book (1900), Duncan, her mother and her brother Raymond are in Paris, after leaving San Francisco for Chicago, New York and London, all at under Isadora's command.

Here are a couple of paragraphs early in the Duncans' time in London, after they are taken up by yet another society woman, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who saw Isadora and her brother Raymond dancing within the gates of Kensington Square and, based on Mrs.Campbell's impressions ("Where on earth did you people come from?"), referred Isadora to Mrs. George Wyndham, in whose home she danced and, at the end of the evening, met New Gallery director Charles Hallé, with whom she formed an attachment:

There is something about an open fire, bread and butter sandwiches, very strong tea, a yellow fog without, and the cultural drawl of English voices which make London very attractive, and, if I had been fascinated before, from that moment I loved it dearly. There was in this house a magic atmosphere of security and comfort, of culture and ease, and I must say I felt very much at home as a fish that has found the water to which it belongs. The beautiful library, too, attracted me very much.

It was in this house that I first noticed the extraordinary demeanour of good English servants, who move about with a sort of assured aristocratic manner of their own, and, far from objecting to being servants, or wishing to rise in the social scale as they do in America, are proud of working "for the best families." Their fathers did it before them, and their children will do it after them. This is the kind of thing that makes for the calm and security of existence. (48)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Saturday, December 12, 2020

I Got a Hundred Bucks for This!

a future obsessed

with its redecoration

of the past

Friday, December 11, 2020


We are mean to pigs because we are close to each other, evolutionarily. But that is not why we are mean to them. We are mean to pigs because that closeness has them thinking so. Pigs recognize and remember our meanness, and perhaps pathologize it. We have all heard stories of pigs setting traps for keepers who they kill in sophisticated and therefore terrifying ways. Pigs are mean to us in that way too.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Manny's Apartment

On Page 97 of her memoir The Odd Woman and the City (2015) Vivian Gornick returns to her life and times with Manny Rader:

It was then that I began to think about the lack of acquisitiveness in myself that I have earlier written of. When I saw Manny's apartment, I at once understood its meaning for both of us. He lived in one large room in a loft building in Brooklyn. The room was bright and clean and neat. In it he had one bed, one table, two chairs, and a lamp; in the kitchen, two pots and a frying pan, two dinner plates, two cups, two sets of flatware, three or four drinking glasses. Minimal, I thought dryly, very minimal ... and in that instant I saw myself plain.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Render (2020)

My review copy of Sachiko Murakami's Render (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020) arrived yesterday afternoon. As is my tendency when reviewing poetry books, I do a preliminary read-through, then a red-pen read-through, underlining, writing in the margins and ticking the titles of poems worth returning to. Lots of red pen in my copy of Render! I expect to have my review up on the Ormsby Review site sometime next week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Die Hard (1988)

Another of the DVDs hauled from the Victoria Drive Value Village is a Christmas movie, Die Hard (1988). I had never seen it before, and for that reason, not to mention a long-standing crush on Bonnie Bedelia, I jumped on it.

The picture up top was shot with my phone during the finale -- the police riot outside Fox Plaza and the explosive redistribution of $640 million in untraceable bearer bonds, as played by blank paper. Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Monday, December 7, 2020


From the entrance of the exhibition space at Catriona Jeffries Gallery are four of the six works in Liz Magor's Downer -- three on the floor (Shaved, Coiffed and Dressed, 2020), two hanging from the ceiling (Delivery [red] and Delivery [brown], 2018) and a wall work (Migros Shopper, 2020).

The floor works attract me, particularly the first one, Shaved. A "space" machine, as evidenced by its constituent parts: a skirted (curtained?) platform that brings to mind a bed, on which sits a "cast" of packaging materials (wrapping paper), a silicone rubber dog (pet?) on a faux fur blanket and the remains of someone's lunch (a cake box and a cardboard coffee holder). A "space" machine in the way a bed, not a dining table, becomes the surface on which a production (gift wrapping) is staged.

Our world is accelerating, though Covid has us slowing down. Our world is expanding through a de-centralization of symbolic power, yet shrinking because more and more of us are forced into economies where we can afford less and less room in which to live. That Covid has us spending more time at home has us experiencing this shrinking feeling in ways that allow certain of us to identify with a work that has one activity overlaying an object we associate with another -- rest. If there is an art work that best exemplifies Byung-Chul Han's concept of "auto-exhaustion", Shaved might just be it.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Odd Woman and the City (2015)

Two years ago I went Christmas shopping for a friend who writes well but who doesn't identify as a writer -- someone who was entering a program that required writing from her. I thought I would get her some books by non-fiction writers with whom she might identify, stylistically.

I had a couple books in mind, but I also thought to ask J.P., a bookseller I have come to know and trust, to recommend a book he had read recently that I could add to my pile. The book he recommended was Vivian Gornick's unfortunately titled The Odd Woman and the City: a Memoir (2015).

Turns out the books I gave my friend for Christmas were returned and exchanged for others. Which was fine, I didn't take it personally. But I remained curious about The Odd Woman and the City, so when I saw it at the Victoria Drive Value Village a couple weeks ago, for a tenth of what I paid for it, I added it to my latest haul of DVDs.

I am now on Page 53 of The Odd Woman (notice how I keep shortening the title?), and I have to say, this is one of the most honest and nicely-written books I have read in some time. Gornick, now 80, has lived a remarkable life, and yet it is by no means over. I expect Gornick continues to walk the city she has lived in all her life, commenting on what she sees, what has dogged her, and what of the future she is most interested in.

Here is a paragraph that comes early in the book, where Gornick writes of the bond between her and her walking mate, Leonard:

We share the politics of damage, Leonard and I. An impassioned sense of having been born into preordained social inequity burns brightly in each of us. Our subject is the unlived life. The question for each of us: Would we have manufactured the inequity had one not been there, ready-made -- he is gay, I am the Odd Woman -- for our grievances to make use of? To this question our friendship is devoted. The question, in fact, defines the friendship -- gives it its character and its idiom -- and has shed more light on the mysterious nature of ordinary human relations than any other intimacy I have known. (p. 4)

Saturday, December 5, 2020

"Like a Hurricane" (1975)

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer where the feeling stays

                                            -- Neil Young

Friday, December 4, 2020

I, Tonya (2017)

A recent haul of Value Village DVDs included I, Tonya (2017), a relatively recent film that, for some reason, was WITHDRAWN from the Burnaby Public Library. What accounts for a DVD, CD or book to be withdrawn from a public library? In the case of I, Tonya, it couldn't be the condition of the DVD, as it played perfectly.

Was it the content, then? You would think that the story of a poor kid from Portland, Oregon, who endured a lifetime of mental and physical abuse to achieve her dream as a figure skater, would be supported by Burnaby's librarians. Was the depiction of abuse in the context of a mockumentary too much for some borrowers, and one or more of them complained? If so, is there a mechanism for such complaints, or is the offending material simply (and quietly) withdrawn? 

Did I read somewhere that the placement of a comedic moment too close to a tragic moment scores poorly in movie test screenings? I never know what I know anymore, whether I lived it or dreamed it or read it on social media. One thing I do know is that the Tonya Harding story is complicated and, as with many stories where gender, class and race intersect, goes to the heart of the American experience.

I cannot say enough about I, Tonya. And yet I've said nothing, really. But if the availability of books, music, film and television is being overtaken by the interweb, might we expect libraries to function as places where controversial or "withdrawn" materials can be discussed in open forums? Some might see Value Village as the perfect place for anything to do with Tonya Harding, and leave it at that. I'm just glad to have seen it. 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Tuesday's Walk

Across the street and slightly further south than yesterday's picture is the official entrance to Clark Park. Those first steps from the street into the park are steep for a path with neither traction devices nor stairs. In winters past I have seen young and old slip on this asphalt path, which can get icy.

Funny how taking a picture of something can bring out something you might not otherwise notice. For example, the square made between the two trees and the ground at the centre of this picture. Something about the bouqueting branches of the tree southwest of the tree to the left that brings out that tree's hard edge.

When I see squares like these I think of doors, gateways, but to pass through this door is to leave its referent behind, and then where are we?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Buckling Sidewalk

Walking south on the east side of Commercial Drive, between 13th and 14th Avenues, just before it turns into Victoria.

The tree up top is about time. Ringed with years, it casts the hour of the day (1:03 p.m. when I took its picture). To determine its exact age, you'd have to cut it down.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Hastings-Sunrise (2015)

Another poetry collection I purchased recently at Pulp Fiction Books: Bren Simmers's Hastings-Sunrise (Gibsons: Nightwood Editions, 2015).

Named after an East Vancouver neighbourhood whose name was deemed too unfriendly by its BIA, Simmers's poet walks us past houses, parks and businesses, "[l]earning new streets by foot," mapping, logging, wondering aloud the difference between what is looked at and what is seen. 

Like so much of what was written pre-Covid, I check its imagery against our current moment. A trip to the race track -- imagine that!

Here's the opening stanza of a poem on Page 28:

Friday night at Hastings Park.
Our beer in plastic cups. Pre-race,
the announcer tells us to look for
     a big ass, a line of muscle along the abs
     as horses bounce and prance past
patio tables, retirees with circled stats,
hipsters in fedoras, weekend warriors,
families and first-timers craving novelty.