Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We are now a two-iPod family!

I suppose this could equally go in my other blog (not-so-shameless plug), but since it follows directly from my last blogpost, I figure the legions of FFTMC regulars will appreciate it more than the hoards of STA readers who have been filling my in-box clamouring for another post (patience, grasshopper(s)).

Yes, I'm back from sunny snowy Cleveland. I think it snowed every day I was there, and me, naively thinking that travelling somewhat south would translate to somewhat warmer weather. When I left this morning at 6 a.m., there was a good 18 inches of snow on the ground. Here in Montreal, it's bloody cold, but there's comparatively little snow. To put a positive spin on it all, at least I now know first hand what "lake effect" snow means.

The gig went well, though it simply dragged on forever--a gruelling week, what with the rehearsals, five concerts, four recording sessions, along with various and sundry translation projects squeezed in here and there while sipping at Starbucks (where, if you sat near the front window, you could pick up an open network nearby. Thankyou Mr. or Ms. linksys, whoever you are). Now I have to resume work on a big project that's supposed to be finished by Christmas. Any bets on whether I can translate 40,000+ words in two weeks?

But despite all the work in Cleveland (flog flog) I did manage to make my first trip ever to an Apple Store, where I picked up a sexy black iPod Nano for S.--a combined embarassingly late birthday present and compensation for being left alone for eight days. I figured she would like it--even if it did smack of Fred Flintstone buying Wilma a bowling ball for Christmas--but, to my great surprise (and perhaps somewhat to her own), she's absolutely thrilled. I have to admit, they're nice little units, but even if I wanted to, I doubt she'd let me use it much anyway.

The best thing about being home, aside from seeing S. again, is a home-cooked meal. I'm just not built for life on the road.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Road trip

I'm not sure how much blogging I'll do for the next week or so (not that I'm posting like a fiend anyway) since I'm off to Cleveland for 8 days tomorrow morning to play and record a Christmas Vespers program with Apollo's Fire. Hidden somewhere on the site is my bio, which I hope Rebecca Loudon doesn't feel is too long.

Anyway, my flight leaves at 6 AM, which means I have to leave for the airport by about 4 AM. Tonight's going to be an early night, so please don't try to call after 9.

With any luck, I'll be able to find some free wireless and maybe post an update on the gig. If not, à bientôt.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tropical flies in resin,
dead leaves frozen in ice,
escape is an Arctic dream:
Resolute drifting unmanned out
Lancaster Sound and into Davis Strait,
finding her way unmindful of berg,
rock or lee shore.

Chance finds you
reborn a year/century/age later:
lady's slipper,
presidential desk,
amber necklace.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Morning is the joy of crowing
the joy that crows
the crowing joy

Crowing is the joy of morning
the joy that mourns
the morning joy

Morning is the crow of joying
the crow that joys
the joying crow

Joy is the crow of morning
the crow that mourns
the morning crow

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Marriage of Art and Gaming

Just discovered a strange "game" that is as unsettling as it is addictive and intriguing. AND it's really hard. I have yet to crack it and I'm not sure I'll be able to. Have a go if you're bored and want to kill some time.

[Via The Robservatory]

Friday, November 18, 2005

100 books you should read (if you call yourself a real Canadian)

The Literary Review of Canada today released a list of what it feels are the one hundred most important books in Canada. In many ways, it's a surprising list, but I have to say that most of them are probably pretty good choices (and I've read 'em all, believe you me!).

Strangely enough, when I heard about the list, the first book to pop into my head was Neuromancer by William Gibson. I was doubtful that a science fiction novel would make it, so when I saw it there, at number 77 (the books are listed in chronological order), I was suitably impressed. Other books that should be there and are, are Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie and Leonard Cohen's The Spice-box of Earth (was that really written way back in 1961!). On the other hand, why was Howie Meeker's Hockey Basics there, rather than Ken Dryden's The Game? Do the editors really think that we have Howie Meeker to thank for the NHL's current crop of millionaires? (Actually, I'll admit that I haven't read either, but by all accounts, Dryden's book is a classic; a 20th anniversary edition was published a few years back, and its on my "to read" list.)

I was also a little surprised to see only one book by Pierre Berton. I’ve blogged about Berton before; he was one of Canada’s best and most prolific writers, and a masterful storyteller. More than any other writer I can think of, Berton taught Canadians about their own country. The Last Spike certainly deserves to be on the list, but so do a number of his other works, such as The Arctic Grail. The oversight is even more glaring when one considers that two other contemporary writers, Mordecai Richler and Margret Atwood, got two mentions each. I can see A Handmaiden's Tale and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, but Survival and Solomon Gurskey? Give me a break. If you ask me, Richler's best novel was Barney's Version, but obviously, they didn't (ask me, that is). Maybe Berton only got one spot because he didn't write novels. What a shame.

I'll end by mentioning two fantastic novels that did make the list: The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence, and Two Solitudes, by Hugh MacLennan. The former is one of the great Canadian novels of the 20th century; and if you've ever been to Quebec and wondered why it is the way it is, read the latter.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Big Country Continuum

Horses glide across a November
prairie: in their wake, dead
leaves roil like lost souls
across imaginary lines in books.

No one counts them, relegated
as they are to mere seasonhood,
and though each bears a face—

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Putain que c'est bon!

Now that winter is fast approaching, it's time to make a batch of one of my favourite pasta sauces: puttanesca. I'm told that the name for this sauce comes from the Italian word for "whore": puttana, and I assume this name comes from the fact that the sauce is "quick and easy". (Maybe my Italian friend Paula can tell me If this etymology is correct.)

Allusions to prostitutes aside, it's true that a quicker or easier sauce to prepare would be hard to find. Eight ingredients that you basically throw together, let simmer and voilà, you've got a VERY tasty sauce that's perfect for those cool autumn evenings. A word of warning: a little of this sauce goes a long way. Enjoy it over your favourite pasta with a glass of robust red wine. You can also freeze it and reheat it later, and you'll find that it's even better the second time around. Here's the recipe I use. It's a tripling of a recipe a friend gave me so it makes quite a bit.

Olive oil
2 onions (sautéd)
1 large jar of capres (drained)
3 tins of anchovy fillets (rinced and chopped)
1 can of chopped black olives (drained)
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of red wine.
basil (to taste)

buon appetito

Monday, November 07, 2005

Glad THAT's over

Well, avid FFTMC readers will be happy to know that the "Tuba Mirum" solo in the Requiem went pretty well. These things are never perfect, but I'm reasonably satisfied, especially given the circumstances. To tell the truth, I'm just happy I didn't crap all over it (to use a brass-player's turn of phrase).

I have to say, however, that life's getting a bit too short for this, or I'm getting too old--or both. This gig didn't pay nearly enough and/or the conductor was entirely too clueless for it to be truly enjoyable.

And next time, I'm taking real beta blockers. The bananas had no discernable effect.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Bananas about Mozart

Tomorrow afternoon, I perform in the Mozart Requiem with a local ensemble. It has probably been 8 or 9 years since I last played it; maybe more. It's a challenging piece for trombones: lots of technical playing, lots of delicate playing--lots of playing period. Oh, and it has a major tenor trombone solo, probably one of the hardest in the orchestral repertoire for tromone. The reason it is hard is not that it's high or technical. No, it's hard because it's so unlike what trombones usually play. We, the trombone section, usually play a supporting role and are rarely in the limelight, and that's the way we like it. But the "Tuba Mirum" solo is a melodic, legato obligato part over a bass solo--the kind of part that oboists play in their sleep. But for trombone players, it's really tough.

On top of all this, we're playing at "Classical" pitch of A=430, and we're playing sackbuts (which, incidentally, is rather dubious performance practice, since trombones, though smaller than the modern instrument, had definitely evolved beyond the sackbut by Mozart's time). As my grandfather was wont to say, "everything for your inconvenience."

The first rehearsal was not pretty. I was so nervous for the solo it's a wonder I was able to keep the mouthpiece on my face. It's been a long time since I felt that shaky. It didn't help that the bass soloist was not there. But the second rehearsal went better, and today, at the dress, it went pretty well, so I'm feeling pretty good for tomorrow.

I'm told bananas have natural beta blockers in them, so I'll be making out like a monkey tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Write like Jane AustinAusten (Jeez... how embarassing)

Fellow blogger portuguesa nova (aka, The Anchored Nomad) pointed me to the site of Pia Frauss, who has created a free font resembling Jane Austen's handwriting. (Unfortunately, it doesn't come with a built-in spell checker.) From reading her description, it sounds like she put a fair amount of thought and work into it, and I must say it's kind of cool. On the other hand, if you're going to write like Jane Austen, you should probably use a fountain pen instead of a keyboard (BTW, Aish, we're still waiting for that poem that's a very cool poem). Or perhaps a real quill (I hope they get this site up and running soon).

Anyway, more discussion about the Jane Austen font on that other blog.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

New Blog

I just created a sister blog to FFTMC called Singing the Apple. As you might have guessed, it's a blog about computers (can you hear the groans?). I guess I didn't want to sully this one. Check it out. Or not. Ha!

PS. You may also have noticed that I have come out of hiding. Yes, I am now using my un-anagramed pseudonym, along with a self-portrait cum death mask I made out of clay a while back; think of it as a step toward sincerity (or insanity--take your pick).

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cloud 42

I just spent the day listening to Level 42. If you listened to popular music in the 80s, you might remember what I'm talking about. The band had a few hits in North America, including "Something About You" and "Lessons in Love." But apparently they were HUGE in Europe. I was doing my bachelor of music degree from 83 to 87, and I remember these tunes as good, but not outstanding. I was mostly interested in playing my trombone back then, including in the U of C jazz band. My jazz buddies in the band all raved about how good Level 42 was, but I didn't really get it.

NOW I get it. What I didn't know back then was that the tunes making the chart were a watered down version of Level 42--tunes written and produced for the pop charts. But the band was originally more of a jazz/funk band. Yesterday, a friend of mine played a Level 42 song that somehow found its way onto his computer (better not to ask), and I was blown away by what I'd been missing out on for the last 20 years! So I went downtown yesterday and bought a couple of their early CDs, and it was like an epiphany.

The band leader, Mark King, is an unbelievable bass player--up there with Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller to my mind. And the band just grooves, song after song. I even downloaded one of their albums from the iTunes Music Store, something I have never done before. So, in two days, the number of Level 42 songs on my iPod goes from 1 to 38. Talk about an infatuation. But I suspect the love affair will last a good long time.

Anyway, I was just bouncing around the house today. If this music doesn't move you, then you might want to check yourself into the morgue. Level 42 completely lifted me out of the blues that have been drifing around the floorboards since the rain started falling 10 days ago. Take THAT nasty weather. I'm on cloud 42.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Laundry Day

“the still unfolded laundry warm as fresh bread in its basket.” -- Rebecca Loudon
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir ;
Valse mélancolique et langoureux vertige !
-- Baudelaire “Harmonie du soir”

Chopin appears in the room,
conjured leisurely out of steam and ether—
languid waltz, melancholy vertigo,
sound and perfume rise in the evening air.

Conjured leisurely out of steam and ether,
her reflection gleams in the dark window;
sound and perfume rise in the evening air
warm as fresh bread in its basket.

Her reflection gleams in the dark window,
sails away from the still unfolded laundry
warm as fresh bread in its basket,
sways back and forth over the keyboard.

Sailing away from the still unfolded laundry—
melancholy waltz, languid vertigo—
swaying back and forth over the keyboard,
Chopin appears in the room.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I've been living with this poem for a while, trying to get a handle on it through translation. It's so funny, you see pictures of Hébert, and she's always smiling--looks like she was a cute little thing. But man oh man, she wrote some weird, funky stuff. I tried to read her novel Les fous de bassin but I couldn't finish it. I like her poetry though. Dark and strange, but some amazing imagery.

The Tomb of the Kings
-Anne Hébert (Translated by yours truly)

My heart is at my hand.
Like a blind falcon.

The taciturn bird grips my fingers,
Lamp swollen with wine and blood,
I descend
Toward the tomb of the kings,
Only just born.

What thread of Ariadne leads me
Through soundless labyrinths?
Each step’s echo consumed as it sounds.

(In what dream
Was this child tied by the ankle
Like a spellbound slave?)

The dream maker
Grasps the thread,
And bare footsteps come
One by one
Like the first raindrops
At the well bottom.

Already, the smell moves in swollen storms
Oozes under doorsteps
To secret, round chambers
Where box beds lie.

Drawn by the reclining figures’ immobile desire,
I look with astonishment
Set into the black bones
Gleam encrusted blue stones.

A few tragedies patiently worked
Upon the breasts of the recumbent kings
In the form of jewels
Are offered to me
With neither tears nor regrets.

Arranged in a line:
Smoke of incense, rice cake
And my trembling flesh:
Ritual, submissive offering.

The gold mask on my absent face
violets for pupils
Love’s shadow disguises me with meticulous strokes
And this bird I have
And laments strangely

A long shiver,
Like a wind that catches from tree to tree,
Stirs seven great ebony pharaohs,
In their solemn, ornate sheaths.

What remains is merely the depths of death,
Simulating the last torment
Seeking its appeasement
Its eternity
In a light rattling of bracelets
Vain circles playthings of another place
Around the sacrificed flesh.

Eager for the brotherly source of evil within me
they lay me down and drink me;
Seven times I know the vise of bones
and the dry hand that seeks to rend the heart.

Pale and filled with the awful dream
Limbs untangled
And the dead gone from me, murdered,
What reflection of dawn strays here?
So whence comes this bird, who trembles
And turns towards morning
Its sightless eyes?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dust Jacket Photograph II (in memoriam J.K.)

Fossils of photons that touched you once then died
on film—a worthy sacrifice, now
captured in printer’s ink and hard stock.

Eyes that left a day dream to focus
on the camera, lids held open by dark
irises, the corners of your mouth
only just north of indifference.

What a presumption to read you,
though life is one long presumption,
the search for meaning in other faces.

Your head, heavy in your hands, the secret
bee ring on your finger climbing
toward the flower of a face
that never really opened into the sunlight.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Teapot saga (conclusion)

So about three weeks ago, I finally bought a new teapot. After hunting high and low for a Brown Betty I finally relented and got the teapot I had seen months ago at The Bay, even though it was only a 6-cupper. Functional and comfortable, but nothing too exciting.

Then, while S. and I were down in Cape Cod, we went into a shop in Chatham called Plymouth Tea and sure enough, they had a Brown Betty. I almost bought it, but the guy convinced me that if I was looking for a no-drip pot, I should go for a Japanese pot. He said the British pots were terrible for dripping, and that the Brown Betty was notorious for it.

So I ended up getting a Beehouse pot (we got the orange model). Part of me wishes I'd got the Brown Betty, but I must say, I love the new one. It's the end of an era, I guess.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Books I bought while on vacation

Evangeline, by Longfellow: A small volume of this "Tale of Acadie" in verse, with a 30-page introduction.

The search for the North West Passage, by Ann Savours: Though I consider Pierre Berton's The Arctic Grail to be the definitive one-volume description of the quest for the passage, this seemed like an interesting book, so I picked it up in a used book store. I've become wary about it's worth, however, after reading the introduction. At the end of it, she quotes the chorus of Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage but then cites it as "Seafarer's song, provenance unknown to me." I'm not sure how much faith I can put in a "researcher" who couldn't put a title and composer to what is probably the most famous song ever written about the Northwest Passage, and one of the most well-known Canadian folk songs of all time. Sheesh!

Constance, by Jane Kenyon. I've always wanted a volume of poetry by Kenyon. I've read some of her work on-line and have been drawn to it. This is a beautiful but haunting book of poems written shortly before her death from leukiemia.

Geography III, by Elisabeth Bishop. A poet I have always admired. Picked this up (along with the two books that follow) in a great used book store in Provincetown, MA (an otherwise tacky place). The poetry section was fantastic. I would have bought a dozen books if not for heroic self-restraint. Some part of me regrets not being weaker. In any case, what a great book this is; cost me all of $4.50. The neat thing was that right beside it, was a first-edition hardcover of the very same book, with a price tag of $95. Thanks, but no thanks.

One Art: Elizabeth Bishop--Letters, selected and edited by Robert Giroux. This is a huge tome I picked up for $10, and for that price, I couldn't pass it up, even though I'll probably never read a lot of it. But I'm a fan of Bishop's, and I'm looking forward to browsing through some of her correspondence, though it'll probably make me feel vaguely like a peeping tom.

Eugene Onegin, by Aleksandr Pushkin, translated by Nabokov. The most famous (and many say the best) translation of Onegin. Again, cheap cheap cheap and in good shape. Saw it new in Boston for four times the price. Too bad the companion volume of Nabokov's commentary wasn't there too. I've always thought it hillarious that the companion volume is more than twice the size of the translation itself. But I'm happy with the mere translation. The fact is, in this book of 334 pages, the translated poem itself only occupies about 220 pages; the rest is introduction and notes. Gotta love that Nabokov. Talk about obsessive!

And finally...

Birdsong: A Natural History, by Don Stap. Birdsong has always fascinated me, and this looks like a really cool book, part travellog, part popular science.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Yesterday, when no one was looking
a rainbow broke free of its arc,
spilt colours into summer sky
releasing clouds from white cages.

Birds swam in strange hues, beat wings
thickly against dripping ink, left
iridescent swirls in their wakes and sang,
mixing paint with music.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Sorry (Paula) I haven't been posting much of late. Very busy with real life. No time for the virtual world. Recent events include the installation of a patio door (a major operation--thankfully my father in-law is a serious handyman) and a canoe trip down the Jacques Cartier River. How I lived in Quebec for 18 years without seeing this truly astounding, breathtaking part of the world only 3 hours from my home, is beyond me. I'll be going back for sure, though some of the rapids will go un-run next time round :-)

Anyway, the following is for some friends who are getting married on Saturday. It needs a title, so any suggestions would be welcome.

[Edit: Thanks to some friends at a warm, welcoming poetry oasis in the virtual desert, I have it]

Epithalamion for M. and P.

The ghosts of our pasts have surely mingled
before our actual acquaintance

even now

our hospital ghosts translucently patrol
hospital corridors together, push along
see-through IV poles, discretely
peek in the room of the woman released
this morning to see the new arrival

in the Scottish fog, our vacation ghosts tramp
toward Loch Lomond, stop to listen to a piper
playing by the roadside, toss a transparent
pound coin into his dampening hat, hoist
a dram with Rob Roy at a pub in Luss

and on a lonely knoll in the St-Bruno hills
our walking ghosts no doubt arranged
for us to meet that day not long ago
as if deciding it was time to share
the collective wonder of our lives

even now

you are old friends we haven’t known for long
but for all the time we spend together

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Water makes its own music

the high hiss of light rain on lake
blood through veins
water striders’ dance on a windless day

shower of applause
for the splake that got away
winter wren laughing with the stream

and snow, piling up on a frozen pond
each flake landing with a cymbal crash

Saturday, June 18, 2005


for a week I was a bear running
running across thick blue
ice brain empty of all but blue
sky seals sleeping on
blue ice

after a week I lay on the ice
dreamt of red seas

Friday, June 10, 2005

Musical purgatory

I've long held the admittedly quirky view that there is something about music recording that is an abomination. I've participated in my fair share of recordings--the lure of lucre strong as it is--and have my favourite CDs like most people. But a part of me has always felt that something essential is lost when music is recorded. As if CDs are to music what zombies are to people: sure, they walk and talk, but whatever it is that made them who they were (and I deliberately avoid the word "soul" here) is missing. As if by capturing ephemeral sound waves and transferring them to a hard medium, whence they can be recreated at will, the music has been sent to a sort of purgatory, never to rise or fall as was its destiny. OK, maybe I'm pushing the metaphor here, but you get my point.

All this was brought to the forefront of my mind again after reading Alex Ross's fascinating New Yorker article entitled "The Record Effect", in which he discusses the many and various ways recording has affected not only how we listen to music, but also how it is performed and composed. That article garnered a fair bit of attention, especially regarding the parts where he talks about recording's influence on vibrato. One of those who found the article food for thought was none other than David Byrne.

Byrne, judging by his long and thoughtful response, is a pretty smart guy. His blog post is almost as interesting as Ross's article (though not as well written). But I wanted to cite here a passage that struck a chord with me.

Byrne writes: Probably as a musician I find music either one or the other — completely invisible, inaudible — even sometimes when it’s playing loud — or completely intrusive — impossible to ignore. As a musician there are times when even quiet background music in a bar or restaurant is completely distracting and impossible to ignore. It’s like the effect of having a TV on in room is for most people — it tends to demand attention. All conversation either stops or has to deal with the TV program. Music is like that for musicians.

He also says: "Music is now everywhere. It’s not a special event to hear music as it once was." Which brings me back to the title of this post. Music is everywhere because it's recorded, zombie music. Music has in many ways become merely a soundtrack, creating or enhancing a mood. Most of the time, people don't really listen to it for its own sake. I think part of the reason is that it's zombie music. Yes, a jazz trio in the corner playing lounge music is still considered musique d'ambiance, but I think that's because we've gotten into the habit of not really listening to music. If somehow we woke up tomorrow and all the recordings were gone, I think music--live music, of course, since that's all there would be--would start to demand attention like a TV program does today, and everybody--not just musicians--would find it increasingly hard to tune out because music would be something special, something rare--something that could float up into the heavens, where it belongs.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Just one of those days...

...when I feel extraordinarily privileged. I'm sitting out on my back deck, "working." It's one of those summer days that you wish would last all summer, I'm listenening to the Eroica (up next: Cecilia Bartoli singing Mozart arias) on my iPod. The garden is just starting to bloom, and I know that when I start to sweat a little, I can take three steps and I'm in the pool. Sometimes it's hard to prevent guilt from spoiling the feeling...

Monday, May 30, 2005

GLG (gotta love google)

Though I don't get out that much, working from home and all, I wouldn't exactly say I lead a sheltered life. I mean I may be over 40, but I can still talk the jive with the kids, if you know what I mean. But today, in casual conversation with a buddy who is all of four years younger than me, the term "bitch slapping" arose (don't ask). Now, while it may be fairly self-explanatory to many of my dedicated, RSS-feed-junkie readers (you know who you are), and though I've heard the expression before, I--being the meticulous type--wanted a specific, OED-type definition, just in case I had to use it in one of my translations. One must sound like one speaks from authority in these situations.

Google to the rescue: bitch slap. Not exactly the OED, but now I know. I also now know the term "pimp slap," which I had never heard of before my quest for enlightenment. I suspect the young folk are using other new-fangled idioms that I'm not yet aware of, but two is enough for one night.

Teapot update: still nothing. Went to The Bay tonight with moderate hopes. Turns out, they have the same brand I had before--James Sadler--which I would have bought if the biggest model they carried hadn't been a measly six-cupper. I mean, what am I going to do with such a minuscule teapot when me Mum comes over for a cuppa? I ask you!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Don't listen to the weather forecast

It'll only get you down, and it's all LIES!

Anyway, today, despite the negative vibes put out by Environment Canada, was quite a beautiful day, and the first one in weeks (it seems). S. and I went for a walk in the park and, for all you birdwatchers out there, it was warbler city! Eleven species of warbler in all, including a blackpoll, which we hadn't seen since moving back from Winnipeg 14 years ago. All told, we tallied 38 species today. I guess the birds were as happy about the weather as we were.

In other news (albeit late news), last Friday, I broke the spout off the teapot I've owned since I moved to Montreal in 1987. I don't normally put much faith in such things, but my friend Aisha recently made a post on the Brown Betty teapot. I've always thought mine was a Brown Betty, but it says Stadler on the bottom. I guess I subconsciously wanted an authentic BB. Anyway, I'm off to see if I can find the most English of teapots in this most French of North American cities. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


With the mail this morning, along with International Musician (time to feed the recycling bin), was a very fat padded envelope with my two contributor's copies of In Fine Form, an anthology of Canadian formal poetry in which my pantoum "Lucy, Lucie" is published. This is my first (and so far, only) appearance in print. The book is published by Polestar, an imprint of Raincoast Books, which, incidentally, also publishes the Harry Potter books in Canada.

The book looks great, and I must say, has been worth the nearly two-year wait since I first submitted. It's pretty neat to be anthologized with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Irving Layton, and Al Purdy, to name a just few of the Canadian poetic all-stars that appear in this book.

Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with this cheque I got with the books. I'm thinking it might be better to just frame the darn thing. It's not like I can retire now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Thanks Aish!

My friend Aisha and I were chatting on AIM when she said, "give me a line break and I'll give you a poem." Well I did, and she did (it was pretty darn good too, considering it took her about 5 seconds). Then she challenged me to do the same. I'm not nearly as quick witted as she is, so I couldn't send her back a poem that instant, but I did take the challenge seriously. Here's what I had to work with: "straddling a fence Wednesday/ on". Yikes!

Well, here's the result:

A Week in Provence

Two wheels beneath me
since Saturday, I imagine myself
riding the Tour, try to empty
my mind of all but the Champs-Elysée.
But I can’t shake the feeling I’m merely sitting on
—or rather straddling—a fence. Wednesday,
on my way up Mont Ventoux, I
stopped once, not to catch my breath,
but to admire the Rhone flowing single-minded
to the Gulf of Lions. Now, pedalling
slowly through Carpantras, I admire pretty
provençale girls strolling narrow streets
and realize that Friday is almost gone;
tomorrow I fly back to a life pedestrian,
and still, I have decided nothing.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Your weight on the page
Your mass sitting on my eyes
Your immovable presence
forcing me to go around
and not straight
to where I want to go.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Lame five-minute pseudo-sonnet. Don't laugh too hard

I think I'm going to go back to my roots
start writing formal poetry, the stuff
that got me into print in the first place, boot
my butt back onto lyric land, huff and puff
my way back into the arms of Erato.
I've been away too long, poor Penelope
waiting on the strand, hoping to
glimpse my barque on the horizon. Me
I've been goofing off, having pretend adventures
"discovering" my cool new computer
but now I'm 40, I've got to wear my dentures
like a man. And if I want her
to stay, I'd better start living up to the hype—
I could lose a hand tomorrow and never again be able to type.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lunch weirdness

I must say that of late, the whole blogging thing is getting a bit old for me. It’s probably because I don’t get out much and so figure I have nothing much interesting to recount. For instance, since I work at home, my typical day consists of getting up, eating breakfast, doing some translation, making supper, fiddling around until bedtime, repeat. Occasionally, I go to a rehearsal in the evening, and a few times a year, I play an actual concert.

But this afternoon, I have something to report that might just interest my reader. (Disclaimer: if you have a sensitive stomach, stop reading here.) The larder is bare, so lunch today called for some serious scrounging. Here’s what I’m having (as I write this, in fact). Three pieces of pannetone sliced like bread, topped with mayo and smoked halibut on one slice and sardines in tomato sauce and cheese on the other two. Even I—he of the cast-iron stomach, Ranger the human vacuum—think that’s strange, and I’m pretty sure it is by just about any standard. But hey, if you’re hungry… Actually it’s not that bad; the sweetness of the bread and the smoke flavour are surprisingly good. I haven’t got to the sardines yet, so I may change my tune in a mouthful or two.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ranger, god of dreams


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??

Actually, I'm kind of happy about this. I usually hate the outcomes of these little schemes, but this is pretty close to me (especially the imaginative and smart bit ;-)
OK, I've been away for a bit. My grandfather's on his deathbed (again... he keeps surprising us, but I doubt it will be long now), so I had to fly out west to be with the family. But I'm back now, surfing a new machine, and ready to go. So let's start with the stick.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
OK, I still don't get this question, but I'm going to say Homer's Iliad the way it was meant to be--memorized (OK, maybe as an audiobook).

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Big time. Hardy's heroines Bathsheba and Tess. At least Bathsheba ended up with someone worthy (Gabriel Oak had the patience of a saint, though), but poor Tess.

The last book you bought is:
Running: Start to Finish, by John Stanton

The last book you read:
Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge. Not one of Hardy’s best, IMO.

What are you currently reading?
Running: Start to Finish (not the book I hoped it would be)
Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond (excellent read, really well written)
North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen (thanks, Aisha, for introducing me to this awsome poet)

Five books you would take to a deserted island:*
1- Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays (Library of America edition)
2- The Aubrey-Maturin series, by Patrick O'Brian (OK, this is 20 books. So sue me.)
3- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
4- Watership Down, by Richard Adams
5- Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

*Not necessarily in this order; I reserve the right to edit this list at any time.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why? --

I'm going to toss the sticks in the air and let them fall where they may. If you haven't had the stick passed to you, consider it done.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Stuck with the stick

I guess it was inevitable. Aisha has whacked me with this stick (I think they call it "passing" ;-). I usually don't respond to chain mail but I'll do my best with this because a) it isn't really chain mail, b) it's gets people thinking about books, which can't be that bad, and c) I'm caving under the weight of peer pressure.

But first, I need to think about a few things, especially that desert island question.

Second, I don't get the first question (You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?). I mean, this is a book about book burning (I've never read it, but the plot sounds very similar to 1984). So I'm a book inside this book. But what is the question asking? If I'm a book and I want to be a martyr, which book do I want to be? Is my goal to create the longest-burning fire? Maybe the question has suffered from the telephone effect; maybe it should be "You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to read?" That would make more sense to me. Anyone out there in blogland care to help me out of this conundrum? While you're thinking about it, wingtips actually burned a book to make this image. Now that's dedication to art. Thanks Paula.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Letter A

I turn to face St. Helens, my back to the easel
balanced on one slope, frozen in time.
I have painted a year’s worth of sunsets,
all too red, gaudy and unnatural.

In a hundred years, no one will remember her
intact. Her presence,
goddess bent under the weight of rage,
wearing the grey mourning dress of her own ashes,
overpowers any two-dimensional remnants.

The easel, fallen silently to the floor behind me;
The mountain, collapsed before me;
My hands, powerless at my sides.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu : voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes :
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Golfes d'ombre ; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d'ombelles ;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes ;

U, cycles, vibrement divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d'animaux, paix des rides
Que l'alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux ;

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silences traversés des Mondes et des Anges :
- O l'Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux !

Arthur Rimbaud

Why would Rimbaud write a poem about vowels? Was he just stoned? Or was he up late one night talking with his lover and, drunk on absinthe, they began to discuass how vowels are different from the others--how they seem at first glance to exist happily within the alphabet family, but if you look a little closer, you see trouble, you see how they don't really fit in.

Vowels are always forcing the mouth open, while the other letters work hard to close it, forming consonants. In essence, language is a war between the consonants and the vastly outnumbered vowels, and the battle ground is your tongue.

Maybe Rimbaud gave the vowels a poem all their own because he felt that, like poets, vowels needed an advocate, needed someone to stick up for them. After all, they are gallant and valiant letters, managing to hold off the other twenty-one letters by themselves (though they sometimes get help from that sneaky double agent, "y"). And let's face it, without the vowels language would be nothing but clicks and hisses, not to mention song, which couldn't exist without them.

So let's give it up for the vowels, and Rimbaud, who gave them a poem. It's somehow fitting that a poet, a misfit of society, would write a poem about vowels, those misfits of the alphabet. And yet both are drivers of language. Rimbaud probably felt a secret affinity for them.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Embarassment of riches

Among the truly asounding and touching array of gifts I received for my birthday last week, a ghazal by my friend, the multi-talented artist Randy Adams.

hybrid ghazal #9

still a young'n though at 40
a distant memory for some

count our blessings one, two
and count our many losses

a poem for peter, blocked
for eons then this, go figure

there was no pen involved
this text exists only here

odd when you think about it
this aging in virtual space

Friday, March 04, 2005

A poem lovely as a sackbut

Never thought I'd ever see this, but someone (Ken Bolton, to be exact) has written a poem with a sackbut in it (who cares if he doesn't spell it correctly). Will wonders never cease.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Birthday present roundup

From sister and nephews:
Spiderman comic from November 1965 (not mint, but extremely touching)
Travel mug
Bicycling jersey
Bike speedometer

From mum:
Jar of marmelade, serving as a deposit on a bottle of scotch, to be delivered when sister et al. visit this summer.

From dad:
Complete 10-volume set of The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant (which has been in my family for almost as long as I have, and which I have coveted for years). Must have cost him a small fortune to send it!

From S.
Scandinavia: at war with trolls. A history from the Napoleonic era to the third millennium by Tony Griffiths
CD: Best of Bowie (including bonus DVD)
Nine Horses by Billy Collins.
And the folllowing poem (after "Soir d'hiver" by Émile Nelligan)

Ah! come le temps a passé
Ma vie est un jardin d'amour
Ah! comme la vie m'a gâtée
Qu'est-ce que la vie, mon amour
... l'amour que j'ai, que j'ai.

Monday, February 28, 2005

My last hours as thirty-something...

Can you hear this song
the notes rising and falling
with the strength of my breath?
Don't listen to the words,
hear the music of my voice
hear the Beethoven of my heart,
let the notes of my voice--
and now your voice, joining in
--rise and fall in unison
as we read the words from the page.

Perhaps the unison won't be perfect;
you have a country accent
handed down on your mother's side
(the way your vowels twang at the ends of words).
but our different timbres make a string
section, and we are richer for it, and the words
richer for our voices.

It doesn't matter what we say
as long as we say it together.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fringe Benefits

As both musician and translator, one of my favourite gigs is translating liner notes for the record label Analekta. I get to combine my two professions, the liner notes are always well-written and interesting, it's a real challenge (as opposed to translating, say annual reports...yawn), and--the best part--free CDs periodically appear in my mailbox.

Last week was particularly wonderful; I got a padded envelope with two discs. One, a recording of Alessandro Scarlatti cantatas by Les voix baroques and countertenor Matthew White, the other a recording of Bach sonatas by the amazing young violinist James Ehnes.

Both CDs are wonderful. I've toured with Matt White. His voice is really starting to blossom and I predict a bright future for this guy (not that he's begging for work as it is). He also happens to be a genuinely nice person. This CD is magnificent.

I've played with James Ehnes too. When I was with the Wiinipeg Symphony, this guy was a 16-year-old child prodigy. Being from just down the road in Brandon, he played with the WSO often back then, though I see that that orchestra isn't even mentioned in his bio nowadays--you've come a long way baby! He was great as a 16-year old. Now he must be around 30, and he blows me away. I'm no great judge of violinists, but this guy is certainly one of my favourite young fiddlers. The Bach CD is good, though I'm used to hearing a more period-specific style. But Ehnes is such a fine musician. I can't say much against it.

Analekta has been putting out some really good recordings lately (I'm not biased at all, mind you). I hope they continue to thrive, both because I love the gig and because they're doing a great job.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


So I was reading The Anchored Nomad this evening when S. got up and sat down beside me, complaining that she couldn't sleep. So I told her about portuguesa nova's blog and what a good writer I thought she was, mentioning how she referred to her husband as TPMIM (the Portugese Man I Married). Next thing I knew, S. was telling me she should refer to me as TRHMIL. I thought for a moment and smiled. "The Really Handsome Man I Love?" I said hopefully. Close, but no cigar. Merely "The Red-Headed Man I Love." Ah well, its the last part that counts anyway...

Monday, January 31, 2005

Lock up your computers!

I fear I'm turning into a computer geek. This happens whenever it's time to upgrade and I start hanging out at computer forums, trying to figure out what the right machine is for me. But it's getting out of hand this time. I think I'm starting to understand too much about how a computer works. The geeks' guild may have to seek me out and either force me to become a full-fledged member (OK, apprenctice really) or kill me if I refuse. I may have to go into hiding.

Part of the reason I'm learning more than I want to about my computer is that bad things keep happening to it or its periferals. Last fall my hard drive crashed and I learned how frighteningly hard it is to replace one in my iBook (surely it's a symptom of encroaching geekhood that I post a link to this). Luckily, I found a professional to do this job, so obviously I'm not completely corrupt, but I found the process strangely fascinating, and the fact that my hard drive is now twice its original size is much more interesting to me than it should be were I not infested with some geekiness.

Then the other day, my wireless router died quite abrubtly (I am now glomming off the neighbours' open network; that I feel a certain thrill and absolutely no guilt at this is, I'm certain, another sign of my impending demise). I've spend too many hours today fiddling with wires and settings, trying to get it to work--to no avail, alas (a ray of hope, perhaps?!). So I have packed it up and will be sending it back to D-Link for a replacement under warantee.

I'm trying very hard to imagine that there's a poem in all of this (can you say "grasping at straws"?); if there is, it's surely a lullaby. Heck, I'm putting myself to sleep with this post.... zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Recuerdo también

That morning, we swam in turquoise and swore
it wasn’t cold, though soon scampered up the rocks
to sit in the sun and swat the ruthless flies.

I saved you from a rattlesnake:
scolded it gently into the bushes
then ushered you calmly past.

We rented a boat and roared out into the lake
you stood up front, a breathing bowsprit
wind blowing your animal scent sternward.

At noon, we paddled into the park and found
a private beach, ate cheese and olives and almonds
then swam again in shallow green.

We ate supper on a battle-scared picnic table,
listened to Edna’s wavering voice read “Recuerdo,”
drank cheap wine until the summer sun finally set.

We went inside and talked of crazy neighbours,
the inside-outness of our different sides,
of ghost trains passing before us.

A bear stopped by the dumpster in the night.
When we came out, its eyes glowed from across
the road, waiting for us to go back to sleep.

As if that were possible, giddy as we were
with wine and words and the wonder
of being together again at last.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

After “Piano Lessons” by Billy Collins,

The piano stands in the darkened room,
hockey player grin daring you to bash it
in the face with Chopin or Liszt.

Instead, you tickle it with jazz
“It Might as Well Be Spring”
feel it tremble under your hand

Sunday, January 09, 2005

After “Le tombeau des rois” by Anne Hébert

This bird/cat, a falcon/panther,
flies/races out of the tomb
across the barren tundra/savannah
her eyes/ears instinctively
look/listen for something
they can no longer see/hear.

It swoops/dashes north/west toward the
pole/sea, another instinct takes over
leads it along lines of magnetism.

With every mile, the falcon/panther knows this way
is true, can feel the ancient forces guiding blindly.
She perches/sits in a crag above a ravine,
can see/hear the figure lying prone below,

hops/lopes down to the cadaver hanging desiccated
from the overturned car pecks/licks at the eyes,
which look like a cave in a cliff,
which beg her to peck/lick that she may see again.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I'm baaaaack

Sunday Snow

You walk among falling stars,
think of each one dying as it hits
earth's bulk, of all the wheres
this one might have buried itself, and marvel
that it chose this place and not some other to end the journey,
to ready itself, like a mayfly, for the day it will
emerge from the water to fly up and home again.