Where are the Songs of Fall?

I’m back! Day two of daily art blogging success *pats self on back.* Anyway… as I mentioned in my last post I’m trying to write a series of poems about fall to go with “Bloom & Martyr,” which is all about flowers, to make a book that would have been less than 50% published. Right. “Bloom & Martyr” just enveloped me when I wrote it. I completed 65 poems in like, no time at all (a week or something?). This fall poem thing, however, is turning out to be more of a labour for a few reasons. First, and foremost I think, I think I used all the good, foliage-related textural words I know up in “Bloom & Martyr” and every time I try to write a fall poem I think “hmm I’m pretty sure I used all that language in the flower poems so I shouldn’t be doing it here or it’ll get boring.” Both “Bloom & Martyr” and this thing I’m trying to work on now are written in a Steinian, a-grammatical style so that build up of mood based on odd juxtapositions of words, so this thing about running out of good words rather than say, good images or ideas is a thing, in this case. The other issue is a grief one - I’m trying to draw inspiration from a landscape that really makes me think about my dad and his art depicting the prairies and his love of that landscape and that makes it difficult to write about when I’m not wanting to write about those subjects. And finally, and this one does tie in with the grief issue a bit - is how strongly the metaphor between fall and human death is drawn. Walking in Nose Hill, and whenever I try to write about fall, the first thing that pops into my head is “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?” from Keats’ “To Autumn.” And then I feel sad about poor Keats dying at 25, and I then I get sadder thinking about death and loss more generally and specifically, etc. But this reaction to fall, I think, is rather manufactured for me. I really love fall - I mean Keats also has some lovely things to say about fall in his poem but he’s still equating it with death and decline. But there’s nothing dead about the sharpness of the light, the luminous and incredibly variety of colours, the dramatic clouds, and the cool breeze. Actually I like early winter too - the incredible freshness of the first snowfalls and the contrast of the white snow on the wet cement and evergreens is gorgeous. Indeed, in my case my father’s eyeSnowScape art project, which he started and which we later worked on together, depended on winter for its canvas, and that was and is a great wellspring of joy and life for us. My father also passed in July, the supposedly full-of-life time of the year. This layering of the phases of a human life on the cycle of the seasons isn’t really all that perfect a fit, and in a way I feel like it’s obstructing my ability to see and write about fall the way I really feel about it. Fall doesn’t truly feel like a time of decline and death to me. July of 2018 was a time of loss, followed by the horrible smoke that blanketed Alberta for weeks - that felt like a season of death, both personal and on a mass, planetary scale. But I find fall absolutely incredible and full of life. It has grief woven into it the way all things have grief woven into them, yes, but in the case of fall for me that’s done in a way that embraces and remembers and celebrates life rather than dwelling on its end. So if I haven’t really used the good words all up I would like to be able to get there, to write about it like that, without the metaphor of human death layered on it. Just the colours, just the change, just the beauty of it. I want to revel in it and celebrate it.


What am i doing?

I realized a little while ago that it has been YEARS since I’ve published anything with another press—be it a poem in a magazine, a chapbook, or a book. YEARS! How did that sneak up on me? Well, ?! Press has been more active than ever before these past few years so it’s not like I haven’t been sharing poetry with the world but… what have I been doing? This situation reminds me of when I was in undergrad, in a creative writing program, and would wonder at how some poets would take years upon years between books (Tool style). When turning in a big stack of new poems every few weeks is one of your main responsibilities it can tint your vision slightly in when it comes to the level of productivity you can except to function at in the long term, let’s say… But that aside… what have I been doing? Taking my time mostly, thinking, brainstorming, making and not sharing, or sharing with a small audience. My dad’s illness and passing in July 2018 was not at all a detriment to my creative process or output—just the opposite in fact. He was throughout our time together a profound, profound supporter of my work, and having the chance to create art together in the circumstances in which we found ourselves was a deep change in me as a writer and artist. Any feeling of fear or hesitancy or of being “blocked” fell away and has not returned. Putting on our annual Popsicle! art shows has been a fair amount of work that has made me produce a lot of work and that had been an incredible source of inspiration. So—that’s all good.

But still … I don’t have anything ready to send to a publisher today, or perhaps more rightly, nothing I want to share with people beyond the more intimate one to one of selling someone a chapbook for $5, or emailing a pal a poem.

I have been attempting to maintain a proper functioning Instagram but I feel I keep sliding into this feeling that I should only be showing finished things, or nearly finished, nearly ready for purchase things… and I don’t think that’s a great well of productivity. I think I can and should break out of that because I find a lot of value in Instagram. I don’t want to be too uncritical of it but I find the neat things the artists and writers I follow post inspiring. Right now I have a great big chunk of a manuscript that’s part of a still bigger project done, but I find myself thinking “well can’t share that until the book’s about to come out or everyone will already be sick of it and won’t buy it…”—I do a lot of that sort of thinking lately which is just a whole lotta nothing. So I’m gonna have to shake that up and stop feeling so contrived when it comes to the gram.

But I digress… writing for me right now is a slow burn, which I’m fine with, but I also want to direct my energy in the way that I’m going to find most satisfying, which includes finishing some long term projects and sharing them with the world. I was also writing a list of priorities out for myself (life stuff like “get sleep, exercise, eat at home more, make time for friends”) and “bring people together with art” slipped out without me thinking about it. I’m not totally sure why I wrote it, but it gave me the idea of blogging more.

I used to blog more regularly many years ago, but I laboured over those posts quite a bit—theory, reviews, research, etc. Rather than getting back into that kind of thing this time I’m just going to write about what I’m up to, the process I’m going through with the projects I’m working on, and when I’m not actively working on a poem what I’m doing that feeds into my writing and visual art making overall.

I think this will be fun and satisfying for me both to see “hey I didn’t write a poem today but I actually did do something to help me work on that project” and I hope it’ll be fun for you… either as a simple diversion or as a way to say “yup me too, I’ve got a full time job and responsibilities and other interests BUT I sill want to be an active writer.” Through all this will run a ribbon of grief and loss I’m sure. My dad’s passing is something I feel every day and it echoes in all aspects of my life, including in my art, especially in my art, even when that art isn’t about my dad. So if you’re grieving while also doing your art thing maybe this will appeal on that level.

Overall, I think doing a regular blog about writing and art will help me focus my efforts to finish some projects, and be a fun way to reach out from that quiet, solitary, creative space of making stuff alone at home.

So this is the first of these regular posts.

So what am I doing? Well our latest Popsicle! show was on the weekend, so I know I have some admin-y things to do there (photograph the new chapbook and put it on the website and such), and I also need to complete my report for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts on “Glass Clouds” the manuscript I recently finished (more about that to come). But the first writing goal I’ve set for myself is getting “Bloom & Martyr” out in the world in its entirety in book form. I was all set to send it out for consideration when I realized I published slightly more than half of it which I know can be bad news for publishers, so I’m now writing a long poem in the same style about fall to go with “Bloom & Martyr.” I didn’t do any writing today but I did go for a walk with the fam to take photos and soak up the almost intolerable beauty of autumn and get inspired. I do feel inspired.