georgia o’keefe

I always felt as though I walked the edge of a knife, afraid to fall off. So what? What if you do fall? I would rather be doing something I really wanted to do.”
Georgia O’Keefe

To the Vancouver Art Gallery yesterday to see the O’Keefe exhibit. Anyone hoping to see her flowers would be disappointed as there are only a few of the smaller ones. But what is there of her early landscapes, some middle year pieces and some late, are brilliant – in particular, an early desert landscape, her use of paint/light.

The word I take away from the exhibit is courage. Looking at her pieces, I read a truth that is rare. Something we as writers, painters, dancers, dream of. And whether or not one actually admires O’Keefe, I think it is clear, after viewing her work in person, why she is iconic.

Oh yes, the photos of O’Keefe by Steiglitz and Webb are equally compelling. Somehow they open her and yet she isn’t yielding, she holds her ground.


I spent the weekend recording two new pieces I’m working on. It just dawned on me that this new (and working!) MacBook has recording software so I decided to use it.

My first efforts were crap because the built-in mike records not only my voice, but the built in fan too – don’t you think they’d have figured that one out??? hmmm

so F. set me up with a pre-amp, a cute little box from TCHelicon called a VoiceTone Correct, Firewire and a mike, and boom, I was in business. Well it’s been a few years since I recorded anything (I’ve done backup vocals and had my voice used for product demos and for engineers to work on – there are more than a few engineers that loathe Centrepiece thanks to me) so it took a few takes to get used to the setup, but it was an amazing way to find out if a piece works or not… and I’m happy to say, the two poems I’ve worked on all week, are really starting to cook.

Keep your eyes on this space and I’ll post something in the next while.

meanwhile, if anyone wants to check out TCHelicon… here they are… they specialize in voice stuff (I think)

Vancouver International Writers and Readers Fest.

okay, so I took the ferry over on Sat. a.m. and caught the Poets Laureates (what’s the plural of that anyway?), George Bowering (whom a CBC producer friend of mine has always called George Boring), our first PL of the Canadian Parliament, Carla Funk, Victoria’s 1st PL, George McWhirter, Vancouver’s 1st PL, and Agnes Walsh of St. John’s Nfld.

as the unofficial poet laureate of my community (I read here and there, different occasions e.g. I’ll be reading at the Remembrance Day ceremony…) I thought it was an intriguing idea to gather four together, too bad the poets didn’t live up to its promise… maybe it’s me, but I had the distinct impression that they were all slightly embarrassed at being PLs – especially Bowering who seemed to want it made clear that he hadn’t sold out and bragged that he had been given a beautiful office overlooking Parliament, with access to a secretary etc. but he couldn’t find a use for it and subsequently only used it once. He did say that he enjoyed the travel and was pleased about an anthology he created.

The PLs were all asked by the moderator about the perks and pitfalls. Carla Funk spoke of free parking while on official PL business, and of the request to write a poem for a children’s water feature and have the poem literally carved in stone the concept of which to most poets is terrifying – I know writers who change their words in their books. She also spoke of receiving unsolicited manuscripts from poets wanting her help and how unpleasant that was. Agnes Walsh spoke of her 5K per year and was quite envious of the free parking. George McWhirter spoke of getting a new suit and of the poetry map of Vancouver he’s working on.

The PLs read a few times. GB did his piece slamming slam poetry. CF read Bundling and the Blue Spruce Cafe. AW read from her St John’s Bachelors, and GM read… I didn’t catch the names of the pieces.

Maybe it’s because I lived in Edinburgh, where the Makar is really honoured, and it is considered a great honour to be named Makar, but I felt the PLs hadn’t really embraced and honoured what their respective cities had bestowed upon them. But then again, Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, loves words and writers.

I could be wrong in my impressions, after all, what can these PLs possibly say in 1 1/2 hours especially with GB droning on… still, it was a disappointment.

Later that night I went to the poetry bash, heard a handful of poets and left at half time. With the exception of Nils Hav, a Danish poet, all the poets were either Canadian or American, and I was hoping for a more international take on poetry. Nils was absolutely hilarious and made it worthwhile coming down to the event.

The next day I caught Tim Bowling’s, The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture, an interview with Mark Forsyth of CBC about Tim’s memoir of growing up fishing on the west coast. I know Tim from Banff Writers Studio – he, Don MacKay and Anne Simpson were our editors that year. It was wonderful hearing Tim’s prose – beautiful, poetic, an undertow of sadness/melancholy/rage running throughout. Tim says he tries to give some hope, but overall, I anticipate the book might be more of an elegy for the Fraser River than anything else. I look forward to reading it.

One other note. Tim said he’s loving touring with this book. After 5 (or is it 7 ?) collections of poems, 3 novels, he says a non-fiction book is an absolute delight to read/promote and one guesses, to write. One gets the feeling it’s a great relief for him…. hmmmmm

the westcoast/Sombrio Beach

through trees taller than imagination, dark, wet Pacific coast, surfers bobbing black rubber heads – it’s hard to tell which are the seals and which are the wet suits, the open Pacific, cougar scratches on tree trunks, giant mushrooms, then to the waterfall to eat apples, little triangle sandwiches and pumpkin cheesecake while sitting on top of the waterfall, listening to the surf boom below us so loud we thought it was Naval exercises and remembered the year the American Navy fired missles into the woods,

then back through the woods, the drive to Jordan River for the best cup of 50 cent (yes cents) coffee in the world (and poutine and oyster burgers and and and)

then home


writer ‘in situ’


so here is a picture of me where I work/how I work (sorry about the size of photo)…

books on my desk: John Thompson, Collected Poems and Translations (Anne Simpson told me I should write one of my characters in ghazal… I’m mystified, don’t know where to begin); Verlaine, Selected poems (a friend recommended); Alistair MacLeod, No Great Mischief (he supplied some gaelic for my ms.); Elizabeth Hay, Garbo Laughs (haven’t read it, my mother gave it to me); Amanda LaMarsh, The Clichest (she was at Banff with me, she’s brilliant); Ted Hughes collected poems (Tim Bowling and Don MacKay told me to read Hughs, said my work had something in common with his); Carla Funk, Head Full of Sand (haven’t read yet); Don MacKay, Strike/Slip (the master, the Don… hoping some brilliance will rub off on my words); U.A. Fanthorpe Collected Poems (feel kinship to U.A.); Anne Simpson Loop (I ponder her); Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil (friend recommendation); V. Sackville-West, The Land, Sissinghurst (The Land inspired the shape of The Year/Quintet); Federico Garcia Lorca, Poesies III (a gift waiting to be mailed); The 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology

…taped to my lamp, a quote from an email sent to me from the Scottish sculptor Frank Pottinger, after I wrote to him in discouragement…

“But we’re stuck with it Suzanne and we have to get on with it and take heart from past successes… and we’ve both had these! … in a materialistic society, good artists are those who ‘re-enchant’ ordinary things”

I read that quote to myself every day.

beside my desk
one beautiful fountain pen
books: Gregory Scofield, Love Medicine and Other Songs (love poems… just how does one write them and should one?); Ruth Padel, The Poem and the Journey (gift from Frank P); Lorca; Peter Abs, The Flowering of Flint (gift, inspiration); Helen Humphreys, Wild dogs;
Flamenco videos, files, Bescherelle, printer

beneath my desk
hatbox with The Year/Quintet ms., Letters from Edinburgh m.s. (much neglected)

ms., photos, bullfight posters from 2007 season, my Writing 11 report, first piece ever published (age 8)…


I love the little tracks left by visitors to this site… sometimes I recognize a bird or a fox…sometimes something mysterious, exotic… the traces remind me of chicka-dee-dee-dees, mid-winter Saint Pete’s, when one is dive-bombed by the monks’ indulged birds while snowshowing out to the Quinzee, or wading through snow drifts for an afternoon in the cozy hermitage…

more on duende

Last year, I gave a sculptor friend in Edinburgh, a copy of Lorca’s In Search of Duende, lectures Lorca gave on the subject in 1933, while visiting Buenos Aires. My friend says he’s struggling with the concept so I’m going to send him this article by Edward Hirsch in American Poetry Review. I think it’s worth reading.

The Duende

When we dance flamenco, this is the state we hope to reach… that “intersecting point of contact between… inner and outer worlds”. It’s very, very tough to find it, but when one does (and I have only for a brief second or two), it’s amazing.

vancouver redux

as an exercise, and for the CBC writing comp., I rewrote an earlier posting:


Here to visit. Decide to see Hastings and Main. Again.

As teens, we saw movies there – an old vaudeville/burlesque theatre – moth-eaten curtains, velvet seats that snapped like crocodiles. Maybe nostalgia, but I recall tarnished cherubs.

We sat in the balcony, smoked whatever, ate Nanaimo bars, laughed, necked. Saw the international/western film canon. Our philosophies forged in darkness. Afterwards, we’d head to the Joint- a jazz haven that poured “special darks” (rum) – to talk, talk, talk. We’d walk Hastings and Main – past drunks, junkies, prostitutes, sailors off ships, loggers out of camp, all hot to trade paychecks. No one bothered us – everybody left everybody alone back then.

Today, one word loops – shame, shame, shame.

Filth, the sharp knife of atmosphere; skeleton junkies, crack-heads fix, run like rats down alleyways when beat cops arrive; too many madmen within too small a radius; children sleep in garbage; crystal meth piss…

Only one light- the Carnaby Centre – outdoor tables, chairs, where people recreate humanity.

Buy a guy coffee. Apologize.

Want to march citizens through the damned blocks, as Allies walked townspeople through Buchenwald in 1945. Let them see what they turn heads from. Smell the air.