28 April 2008

Back in Slocan Valley

Just entering Week 2 of this spring's stint in the Kootenays. I arrived last Saturday: luckily, because the flight from Vancouver to Castlegar almost wasn't able to land. Castlegar Airport is in a valley that gets socked in by clouds very easily, and the weather was pretty bad: snow, rain, locusts, and various other plagues.

Castlegar poet Linda Crosfield and her husband, Ted, met me at the airport and we headed over to Weezie's Borscht Hut for the best goddamn borscht on earth. Always great to see those incredibly nice people. But I had to move on pretty soon towards New Denver, where I have a cabin on Slocan Lake to stay in while I do my residencies in the various nearby schools.

My first week of work was at Nakusp Elementary School, about 40 minutes away. I was a little freaked, because I was going to be doing poetry with Kindergarten kids and Grade 1's, as well as 2 through 7. But it went extremely well: with the really little kids, I did sound poems and group poems mostly. They were amazing. As were the kids in the later grades, the kids who could do their own scrawling in their notebooks. Each day I jumped around from grade level to grade level, and found that each workshop took on its own organic logic. As opposed to my usual Boot Camp approach, I focused a bit more on different forms and different elements of poetry, but I still had them write some pretty wild stuff.

It always makes me a little sad to parachute into a school, get to know the kids, and then have to leave at the end of the week. I had these little kids hugging me on my way out, and when I went to the Overwaitea (really!) supermarket in Nakusp, some schoolkids spotted me and asked me for my autograph. I remember when I was a kid, I got A.Y. Jackson's autograph out in Kleinberg. I think I got the better deal.

A weekend of relaxation at Terry's cabin followed. A whole bunch of her family members were visiting for the week, and they made me feel like part of the family. I also got to go out kayaking in a one-person kayak for the first time: in fact, it was the first time I've ever been in a boat on my own. And finally, after four years of visiting New Denver, I mastered the narrow old miner's trail from Terry's place to town; using a walking stick one of Terry's brothers found for me, I discovered I could counterbalance my vertigo/acrophobia on some precipitous paths.

Over in Mountain Berry Foods, the little gas-station grocery store in New Denver, I found a copy of the current issue of This Magazine and bought one: I'm still amazed by the Canadian mags at Mountain Berry. This issue of This, not long for the shelves now, as May creeps in, has incredible poems by David O'Meara and Clarice Eckford, and a fabulous story by Sara Heinonen, set on the northern edge of Toronto.

Meanwhile, back east, Jason Camlot of DC Books reports that Dead Cars in Managua is back from the printer. A batch should be arriving for me in New Denver this coming week. Can't wait to see it. And give it a little launch here, before the bigger launches in Toronto and Montreal.

And on the Mansfield front, I've finalized the fall poetry books that I'll be seeing through the press: new collections from David McFadden, Alice Burdick, and Jason Heroux. For me, this is a dream lineup. And I recently finished a pleasurable edit on Dog, a collaborative book of sonnets by Joe Rosenblatt and Catherine Owen, inspired by Cuban pup-pics by Karen Moe. Over the past couple of years, I have had the thrill of editing books by four of my long-time literary heroes: Rosenblatt, David McFadden, Tom Walmsley, and Ron Padgett. I try to cling on to those positive things amid other strife and personal woes.

I'm in New Denver for two more weeks, and I'm off to Vancouver and Edmonton, a couple of cities I love. Looking for people who might like to invite me for living room readings in those places.

Time to light a fire in the woodstove.

Talk soon. Over and out.


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