On being ravished, or why the Iceland Writers Retreat is simply perfect

11 04 2017

IMG_1475And now for the other side of the story, and why it is so likely that I will be going to the IWR again.

It’s hard to encapsulate this event. To say it was life-changing sounds trite and overblown, but it was so for me. When I went, it was with a mind set of failure, wondering why I had spent so much money (again) on the writing I never seem to get done properly.  It was, I thought to myself, the final kick at the can, the Y in the road. If I couldn’t tolerate the conference with my MS brain, then I knew all was lost and crafts would have me forever (not that that is a bad thing, precisely, but…).

And then I entered the vortex that is the IWR.

IMG_1443It is set perfectly in Iceland, an island. A place sufficiently different to make the visitor feel vaguely alien, set apart, unreachable by real life. Nature like the surface of the moon, isolating us together. A place where both other human beings and that nature are reachable and attractive, in the way that magnets are attractive. You are inevitably drawn to the poetry here – the visual, musical, otherworldly poetry.

It rains here. Rain is so much better for writing than any other weather. Mists swirled.

And Eliza Reid and Erica Green have pulled together those trailing mists and created magic.

The Iceland Writers Retreat is a big conference these days. On the last day, I saw people I hadn’t seen all week. Yet, it feels intimate, safe, friendly, warm, and oh so supportive. The group of fellow writers, from the professionals to the new, were to a person kind and willing to share.

Usually, at a conference, you will meet the designated asshole, the one 130902_a17742_g2048-600who dominates everything, who is filled with nothing but complaints. I didn’t meet that person. (unless it was me – gasp!)

The classes were small, with an overwhelmingly spectacular faculty: Meg WolitzerClaudia Casper, Chris Cleave, Esi Edugyan, Carsten Jansen, Bret Anthony Johnston, David Lebovitz, Paula McLean, Nadifa Mohamed, Paul Murray, Madeleine Thien, Hallgrimur Helgason, Viborg Davidosdottir, and many more Icelandic writers I didn’t have the pleasure to meet. They were so approachable they likely needed a long space in utter silence after they left.

IMG_1402

Paula with mini-Bob

 

I am presently in love (in an acceptable way) with David L. as he offered me such reassurance and good cheer I feel ready to write on for months purely on that. Of course, some of my time will have to be spent on reading his lovely cookbooks. Bret was a no- nonsense writer and dropped pearls of wisdom threw rocks of wisdom, each veined with marble, each ready for use. Meg gave us our Wonder Woman bracelets of fiction writing. Claudia spoke wisdom about the publishing world and promoted Canadian writers, gods bless her. Paula gave us the idea of mapping out our character’s world, and using that to highlight what was important to them, and to us. All of them shared books they loved, useful books, ideas and stories. Suffice to say my reading list has grown another five feet tall!

IMG_1456All were hilarious and excellent teachers. Writing well does not necessarily equal teaching well, but however the two E.’s selected this group, the faaculty were masters of both. I never felt tired, or feared dozing, in their classes. All of us were deeply involved in every one. That is truly rare, especially in jet-lagged, well-fed folks. And we were very very well-fed. Yum. If I could have an Icelandic breakfast every morning, I could take over the world. But I digress…

I learned so much, from them and from other writers – like my fellow Dorothy from Australia, who spoke to me of how to work the trauma in my YA book and my cookbook class who told me to write the damn MS book and pull in the royalties.

I am smiling thinking of it all. Even our tour guide, the charming Sigurlin Bjarney Gisladottir, aka Bjarney, was a writer, a multiply published poet. Who can also cook eggs in a hot spring.

We were taken to meet the President of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, a charming man who coincidently has translated several books by Stephen King! I pressed two felted mice on him for his daughters. I fear he thought them an unacceptable gift, but it was all I had to say humble thanks for the warmth and kindness of his country’s welcome.

IMG_1415We went to the home of Halldor Laxness, the Nobel Prize-winning author of Independent People. I’d read that book, and to see where he wrote it was beyond compare – to say nothing of his beautiful home itself, with its view of the mountains and its geothermal swimming pool, steaming gently in the frosty air. He walked every day, a pattern highly recommended by many of the other authors for jogging your brain into submission.

IMG_1419

In the Laxness dining room

 

I’m taking that idea on. We have fog here as well…in all senses of the word.

I missed much of the fun of the retreat, as I ran out of energy early in the day and skipped the evening events. Instead, I had time for in-depth discussions with fellow writers, many of whom I hope will remain friends.

We were discussing dating at the lunch table one day and in my usual inappropriate way, I told my tablemates that I simply wanted to be ravished. The literary definition of ravish is: (ignoring the more violent ancient definition…)

fill (someone) with intense delight; enrapture.
“ravished by a sunny afternoon, she had agreed without even thinking”
synonyms: enrapture, enchant, delight, charm, entrance, enthrall, captivate

“you will be ravished by this wine”

 

I have been ravished by the Iceland Writers Retreat. I remain enraptured.

I will go again. And possibly again.

 

IMG_1434

The Laxness walking forest…

 

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Playing with words

9 05 2014

And polishing the kitchen in an attempt to clear the mind. It’s amazing how ammonia and water can clean surfaces and sinuses and brain waves with equal efficiency.

One is somehow and oddly immediately in need of some Lewis Carroll.

399px-JabberwockyAnd so, herein:

“Jabberwocky”

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“”
from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).

Wishing for a Vorpal Blade! I’m writing and I am lost in the wabe already….

From Wikipedia, some suggested interpretations of words. Check out the full Jabberwocky article – well worth a read.
Possible interpretations of words
Bandersnatch: A swift moving creature with snapping jaws, capable of extending its neck.[18] A ‘bander’ was also an archaic word for a ‘leader’, suggesting that a ‘bandersnatch’ might be an animal that hunts the leader of a group.[16]
Beamish: Radiantly beaming, happy, cheerful. Although Carroll may have believed he had coined this word, it is cited in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1530.[19]
Borogove: Following the poem Humpty Dumpty says, ” ‘borogove’ is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round, something like a live mop.” In explanatory book notes Carroll describes it further as “an extinct kind of Parrot. They had no wings, beaks turned up, made their nests under sun-dials and lived on veal.”[16] In Hunting of the Snark, Carroll says that the initial syllable of borogove is pronounced as in borrow rather than as in worry.[18]
Brillig: Following the poem, the character of Humpty Dumpty comments: ” ‘Brillig’ means four o’clock in the afternoon, the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.”[15] According to Mischmasch, it is derived from the verb to bryl or broil.
Burbled: In a letter of December 1877, Carroll notes that “burble” could be a mixture of the three verbs ‘bleat’, ‘murmur’, and ‘warble’, although he didn’t remember creating it.[19][20]
Chortled: “Combination of ‘chuckle’ and ‘snort’.” (OED)
Frabjous: Possibly a blend of fair, fabulous, and joyous. Definition from Oxford English Dictionary, credited to Lewis Carroll.
Frumious: Combination of “fuming” and “furious”. In Hunting of the Snark Carroll comments, “[T]ake the two words ‘fuming’ and ‘furious’. Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards ‘fuming’, you will say ‘fuming-furious’; if they turn, by even a hair’s breadth, towards ‘furious’, you will say ‘furious-fuming’; but if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say ‘frumious’.”[18]
Galumphing: Perhaps used in the poem a blend of ‘gallop’ and ‘triumphant’.[19] Used later by Kipling, and cited by Webster as “To move with a clumsy and heavy tread”[21][22]
Gimble: Humpty comments that it means “to make holes like a gimlet.”[15] The setting for spinning objects such as gyroscopes. (OED)
Gyre: “To ‘gyre’ is to go round and round like a gyroscope.”[15] Gyre is entered in the OED from 1420, meaning a circular or spiral motion or form; especially a giant circular oceanic surface current. However, Carroll also wrote in Mischmasch that it meant to scratch like a dog.[16] The g is pronounced like the /g/ in gold, not like gem.[23]
Jabberwocky: When a class in the Girls’ Latin School in Boston asked Carroll’s permission to name their school magazine The Jabberwock, he replied: “The Anglo-Saxon word ‘wocer’ or ‘wocor’ signifies ‘offspring’ or ‘fruit’. Taking ‘jabber’ in its ordinary acceptation of ‘excited and voluble discussion’…”[16]
Jubjub bird: ‘A desperate bird that lives in perpetual passion’, according to the Butcher in Carroll’s later poem The Hunting of the Snark.[18] ‘Jub’ is an ancient word for a jerkin or a dialect word for the trot of a horse (OED). It might make reference to the call of the bird resembling the sound “jub, jub”.[16]
Manxome: Possibly ‘fearsome’; A portmanteau of “manly” and “buxom”, the latter relating to men for most of its history; or relating to Manx people.
Mimsy: Humpty comments that ” ‘Mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’ “.[15]
Mome rath: Humpty Dumpty says following the poem: “A ‘rath’ is a sort of green pig: but ‘mome” I’m not certain about. I think it’s short for ‘from home’, meaning that they’d lost their way”.[15] Carroll’s notes for the original in Mischmasch state: “a species of Badger [which] had smooth white hair, long hind legs, and short horns like a stag [and] lived chiefly on cheese”[16] Explanatory book notes comment that ‘Mome’ means to seem ‘grave’ and a ‘Rath’: is “a species of land turtle. Head erect, mouth like a shark, the front forelegs curved out so that the animal walked on its knees, smooth green body, lived on swallows and oysters.”[16] In the 1951 animated film adaptation of the book’s prequel, the mome raths are depicted as small, multi-coloured creatures with tufty hair, round eyes, and long legs resembling pipe stems.
Outgrabe: Humpty says ” ‘outgribing’ is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle”.[15] Carroll’s book appendices suggest it is the past tense of the verb to ‘outgribe’, connected with the old verb to ‘grike’ or ‘shrike’, which derived ‘shriek’ and ‘creak’ and hence ‘squeak’.[16]
Slithy: Humpty Dumpty says: ” ‘Slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’. ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active’. You see it’s like a portmanteau, there are two meanings packed up into one word.”[15] The original in MischMasch notes that ‘slithy’ means “smooth and active”[16] The i is long, as in writhe.
Snicker-snack: possibly related to the large knife, the snickersnee.[19]
Tove: Humpty Dumpty says ” ‘Toves’ are something like badgers, they’re something like lizards, and they’re something like corkscrews. […] Also they make their nests under sun-dials, also they live on cheese.”[15] Pronounced so as to rhyme with groves.[18] They “gyre and gimble,” i.e. rotate and bore.
Tulgey: Carroll himself said he could give no source for Tulgey. Could be taken to mean thick, dense, dark. It has been suggested that it comes from the Anglo-Cornish word “Tulgu”, ‘darkness’, which in turn comes from the Cornish language “Tewolgow” ‘darkness, gloominess’.[24]
Uffish: Carroll noted “It seemed to suggest a state of mind when the voice is gruffish, the manner roughish, and the temper huffish”.[19][20]
Vorpal: Carroll said he could not explain this word, though it has been noted that it can be formed by taking letters alternately from “verbal” and “gospel”.[25]
Wabe: The characters in the poem suggest it means “The grass plot around a sundial”, called a ‘wa-be’ because it “goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it”.[15] In the original MischMasch text, Carroll states a ‘wabe’ is “the side of a hill (from its being soaked by rain)”.[16]





Wonderful blog by Amanda Earl

24 04 2014

And some fun poetry exercises to try…homosyntaxism!

http://amandaearl.blogspot.ca/2014/04/oulipost-24-homosyntaxism.html

And here’s the originating Oulipost site:

http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/oulipost-24-homosyntaxism/





Aubade, by Philip Larkin

4 04 2014

Love Larkin’s poetry. This one, an aubade, or a dawn song, usually apparently written by a departing lover looking at a sleeping woman, I’m posting for two reasons – first, to remind me I want to try my hand at this format, which deals with separation, distance, longing; and second; because it is both beautiful and sad. I love the line: “Death is not different whined at than withstood.”

Aubade
BY PHILIP LARKIN
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

 

Philip Larkin, “Aubade” from Collected Poems. Used by permission of The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Philip Larkin.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)





Poetry published on OHForgery…

17 04 2013

Learning againimages-8

Sonnet 

When I was just a tiny girl

I used to want to find my boy

But now that my whole life’s awhirl

I find that men, they do annoy.

They want a gal to fill their tum

And keep them warm and often touched

Unless I cheer them, they are glum

And lay about and scratch and such.

But as I age I feel the ache

Of living lone and sans a mate

It seems I must a big step take

And find a chum before too late

To learn to care again is tough

I only hope to love enough.

 

Post-modern Living in Sinimages-9

Darling super,

Seems my boyfriend

lost some mail

and is so sad

Seems they don’t like

making delivery

if his name

won’t ring the bell.

Darling super

could I ask you

oh most sweetly

to assist him

Could you put

his name

in the list

with my phone number?

Darling super,

could you put him

on a line

all alone, though

He’s got a wife

who truly hates him

perhaps she won’t

get to know me.

Put togethermed_combination_stool_dryer

 

She assembles herself as

she pulls herself out of the dryer.

Shirt, bra, underwear

One sock. Much later, the other.

She finds it nestled in the bed sheets

Tumbled together in the thread eroding cycles

One covered with gym sweat,

the other with night sweat.

A malodorous bundle, now cleansed.

Assembled, she looks around her

Knowing it is just a breath

to disassembly

 

OPEN HEART FORGERY

www.ohForgery.com

Halifax, Nova Scotia





The Worst Poetry I Have Ever Read

22 01 2013

The Worst Poetry I Have Ever Read.

Oh my golly! I laughed so hard coffee came out my nose reading this.

Early shades of “shades of” – dreck that is unreasonably popular. Goshens I’d like to hear the audiobook of “This is My Beloved”.

I MAY have to buy the ebook.

I could use the laughs…





Creativity and NaNoWriMo and letting yourself play

28 11 2012

20121128-230140.jpg

The creative impulse is a tricky one. These paintings were done by my dad while somewhat high on morphine for his cancer. They’re different than any of his other paintings and I’ve always loved them. Well, in truth, I finished the pregnant lady one for him – he’d drawn it but not painted it.
I have several of my dads paintings – one of his very first, and three of his very last. He became freer as he got older, most free when his brain was a little unhooked from its moorings with medications.
I’ve spent the day today listening to the Teaching Company’s excellent series of lectures on the brain and how everything links together and learning how if we lose our emotional cortex we can no longer make decisions, and I’m left with two questions.
1. Whose bright idea was it to arrange for everything to cross over in there?
And 2. Why?
Seriously, though, if you haven’t studied the mind, you should. It’s astonishingly marvelous and quite unbelievably wonderful. It makes me believe in God. Literally. There’s a god- belief spot…
And from somewhere in there we create paintings of blue ladies and stories of murder or romance or love or hate. Or poetry, buildings, craftwork or vaccines.
But it’s important to let ourselves be free – not suggesting we should all take morphine or anything, but we need to get to that wild don’t give a damn spot and let the ideas spring out.
For me, NaNoWriMo and such usually do that. This year, pain didn’t let me free as much as I’d like. But every once and awhile I could shimmy past the gate guardians and head out to play.
Still two more days to go!








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