Sunday, November 26, 2006


Glenairley: seventeen poets gather under the tutelage of Patrick Lane. One of the first to welcome me is Pamela Porter, whose poem/novel, Crazy Man, has recently won the Governor General's literary award. She is also the only one missing from the group shot I share with you: she had to depart immediately at noon on the day we completed our retreat. I call this photo, "missing Pam". There are many entries if you google her...I share the one from Coteau Books:

Porter, Pamela

Pamela Paige Porter is an award-winning poet and juvenile fiction author. Stones Call Out is her first poetry book publication. Her free-verse children's book The Crazy Man received the 2005 Governor General's Award for Children's Literature. Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Pamela Porter has also lived in Texas, Louisiana, Washington, and Montana. Her husband's family has also operated a family farm near Weyburn, Saskatchewan for generations. She obtained her undergraduate English degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. She currently lives in Sidney, British Columbia.

I want you to go and buy her is a poet whose words bring joy and tears, sometimes without turning a page. It was an honour to listen to her work. In fact, I found myself a member of one of the finest circles I have ever joined. Nevermind the natural beauty of the place (which was lovely and reminiscent of a summer school I used to attend in an old house in the Laurentians, known as Beaulac). Nevermind the convivial camaraderie of meals prepared for everyone by the irrepressible and audacious Wendy Morton, our hostess, Westjet's "Poet of the Skies" and the author of a variety of books well worth the reading...

Nevermind the running jokes about dogs, brought about via conversations with the warm and incredibly talented Dorothy Mahoney, nor the fun of listening to David Pimm's English accent (now there's a man who knows culture)...nor the pleasure of hearing young poet Andrea McKenzie (buy her book too!)...

Nevermind the warm fire in the living area, the endless cups of organic tea (did I really drink all that honey, she asks)...the photographs of moss and the small statue of the Buddha which oversaw my walk towards the water and the quiet of my cabin each day...

I found myself in a space with writers, all of us talking the same language, delighting in the sharing of works and words past and present (I chose a Jan Zwicky poem to read on the evening where we spoke poems we liked, but I could have chosen from others). It was very interesting having exercises (set by Patrick) and pursuing them and finding out, the next day, how each of us had taken the same concept and turned it into something of individual beauty. We found our voices again and again in a time capsule, away from the madding crowd indeed, and ate a lot of the best shortbread cookies (made by poet Grace Cockburn) that I've ever eaten.

I feel...very full. Watch for the chapbook which will come out, in the spring, edited by Patrick, from Leaf Press...and watch for the names of poets whom it has been my pleasure and honour to meet and to learn from. This was a very rich experience for me, gathering at Glenairley with many poets from B.C., a couple from Alberta, one from Ontario; I think they were glad to have me there, representing the Ottawa Valley (bienvenue à Québec) and I will share with you one poem which I wrote in the Victoria airport, en route.

duty free

moving from rain to snow
island to midland
ocean to prairie:
the same.

moving from November
to memory,
another gate after an initial spin:

a lineup forms beside
artificial trees, beneath fluorescents
and a tournament of glass.

alone, i take an aisle seat,
no need for a window,

nothing to declare.


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