24 January 2006

Big Ears comes to Stuartscratching

There are all these dogs on the parcela, belonging to Lucho, who runs the property for Gord and Susan. Little scrawny dogs, big flea-bitten dogs, all of them yapping deep into the night many nights. One , the Duke, immediately became my best friend, running up for a good snout-scratching every morning and often when I came in during the day. Another, with big ears, I called him Big Ears, would cower whenever someone walked by. Amazing guard dogs!

This morning, though, perhaps with most of the visitors gone from the parcela, Big Ears came trotting over to me and pressed his nose against my leg. I scratched his head and he revelled in it till Duke came along and they both competed for my attentions. Very flattering.

The workshop ended Saturday and by yesterday everyone had moved on: Merle back to Canada, Frank on an arduous long journey back to England, Barbara and Eileen off to some resorty town in Northern Chile. The last couple of sessions we discussed publishing, and also how to keep writing without the motivation of the workshop, and the shelter from responsibilities that a retreat brings. But I also made the write, and some of them wrote their best stuff in those last two days.

Frank worked liked a fiend to get the chapbook done for Saturday, and just barely made it. Poets At Parcela 50 was published in an edition of 8 insane little copies. Produced with inappropriate software and with the most convoluted page-layout scheme. Nice book. And it was great to see it happen with practically zero help or motivation from me.

Thursday’s workshop in English Summer Town went really well. A bad start, as I felt like I was just blithering on to a room of 40 Chileans who had no idea what I was talking about. And they probably didn’t until I got them writing, and then things livened up. We explored the list poem and its possibilities as a language-teaching tool. They were all writing in English, not their own language, and some of the poems they wrote were beautiful and odd, while some were more predictable. When we collaborated on a poem, almost every one of them independently wrote lines about love. There is so much love in this country. So much happiness. Is that because of where they’ve come from, because of the fading of the Pinochet days, or has it always been here, even in spite of political upheaval, military coups, torture, and disappearances?

A big luncheon with invited guests from the expat community, the Canuck embassy, and one Chilean writer from a nearby parcela wound things up on Saturday. I got quickly tanked, as a survival strategy. The vegetarian option was spectacular, so it was a nice way to end things here culinarily speaking. The truly uncomfortable moment was when Lucho and his son appeared on horseback, in full Chilean cowboy gear. There was a real sense of them on display for the gringos, and they seemed uncomfortable. But then Lucho came down to dance, and Gord joined them, and a couple of the little children, and all was well: Lucho had that genuine glowing Chilean smile on. Susan asked Frank to recite a couple of poems, and this he did, standing as usual, and had everyone laughing. When I went to speak with him afterwards, I saw that he too was tanked. He was for once, in conversation, spouting random Shakespeare lines and not his own work.

Anyway, that was it. The workshop – the longest one, and the most complex one I’ve given – was over. I’d been thinking that after my three single-morning Santiago workshops for expats, I’d head to Valparaiso for a few days, I’ve decided to stay here on the parcela and see if I can finish my novel.


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