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Friday, July 26, 2013

Surfing on the Petitcodiac River NB


Surfing on the Petitcodiac River NB

For the past week, surfers have been riding the Tidal Bore on the Petitcodiac River, NB.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, Colin Whitebread and JJ Wessels set a record for the longest distance surfed on a wave in North America for their 29-kilometre, two-hour ride.  Whitebread estimated they were surfing at about 10 to 14 knots when they travelled around the bend in the river in Moncton. 

These competitive athletes had studied the river and had support staff on Sea-Doos, in case of falls or accidents.  Moncton Fire Department Chief, Eric Arsenault said, “It’s a powerful river and certainly not … for the novice or recreational user.”  One of the professional surfers slightly injured himself this week, so the Department warned the public not to attempt surfing the river.  The currents were strong, particularly along some sections of the Petitcodiac River.  Whitebread said, “There were … sections that could have been life-threatening.  There’s so much power, behind this thing.”

Thousands of spectators watched, as the men travelled the Tidal Bore’s waves up the Petitcodiac River. 
(These photos were taken by my husband on his I-phone as he stood under the Gunningsville Bridge.  The direct quotes were taken from the Times-Transcript dated July 25 & 26, 2013.)


Monday, July 22, 2013

Grandchildren Visit

Our two oldest grandchildren came to visit on Sunday.  They are so grown up now, though still in their teens.  My mother came over to spend the day with us.  It was a wonderful treat to share the summer time with all of them.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Who Looks Back From the Mirror?


Who Looks Back From the Mirror?

Who looks back from the mirror?  Some days, it is the Green Lantern or Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman or Batman.  A child dreams potentials, sees prospects and wears possibilities.

Who looks back from my mirror?  Some days, it is a weary grandmother but others, a wise woman learning to write poetry.  Perhaps it might be easier to own my dream if I wore a costume that said, “I am a poet.”

Everyone would see it and know.  “Oh!  This is who you are.”  For now, it is enough, for me to recognize that a poet is who I am, deep inside.

But, what would a poet’s costume or attire be?  Open heart, acute observation and attention to details, skilled use of imagery, metaphor, precise descriptions of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, and tools, pencil and paper,  over it all a gifted resonance with the world, as a way to understand the world and others.  All very abstract; well, most of it.

Perhaps the real ensemble of the poet consists of jeans, birkenstocks, field guides, a heavy thesaurus, a heavier dictionary, paper, pencils, a faded pink shirt faintly fuzzed with cat fur and a curiosity so large it could be worn as a cape … a cape which invites the whole world into its folds.  Perhaps.

I’ll work on it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing Reviews


Writing Reviews

My writing desk is a hamster’s nest.  Books sit in heaps on either side of the writing space (ever shrinking), and on the chair next to the desk, as well as on a bureau.  This small room doubles as a guest bedroom with a bed and two large bookcases, my desk, two chairs and lamps, and the bureau.  Cozy?  Yes, if you’re into books.  My husband warns if the stacks aren’t balanced, they could topple, injuring guests as they sleep.  My worry is I’ll lose the bookmarks and sticky notes marking important “stuff”, if the piles fall.  C minus for hostess attitude.

What to do?  I will return the borrowed books to friends or to the public library and tidy the towering dangers and squeeze a few more into the book cases around the house.  Perhaps I’ll write book reviews on those which have been helpful to me, teaching me about poetry and writing; then pack those away.  Somewhere … under the bed, in a closet; there has to be a space somewhere.

Last week, I attended a workshop entitled “Reviewing 101” with Laurie Glenn Norris.  It was part of the week-long Maritime Writers’ Workshops organized by University of New Brunswick College of Extended Learning in Fredericton.  Laurie is a regular contributor to “Salon”, the Telegraph-Journal’s arts and culture supplement, as a book reviewer.  She has also written reviews for Atlantic Books Today, Arts East, the Daily Gleaner, the Telegraph-Journal, the Journal of the NB College of Craft and Design and MUSE.

Laurie is the author of Cumberland County Facts and Folklore (2009) and Haunted Girl:  Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery (2012) both through Nimbus Publishing.  Haunted Girl was shortlisted for the 2013 Atlantic Book Awards – Democracy 250 Award for Historical Writing.

The workshop provided an introduction to book and visual arts reviewing.  Laurie shared how to research and write reviews for fiction and non-fiction books, and for museum and art gallery exhibitions.  She offered supportive information about current markets and how to pitch reviews to potential markets.   Following the workshop, Laurie sent her power point presentation (35 slides) to each participant by email. 

One slide gave general guideline questions, though there were many others with detailed instructions about how to write the reviews.

                        Keep asking yourself

                        What do my readers want to know?

 What do I want my readers to know?

 What are the theme, purpose and scope of the book?

 What were the book’s strengths and weaknesses?

The workshop encouraged me to think of my mounds of books, not as mess but as potential information to be shared, information which might help others and might help me to be more focused on what I have learned.  I was grateful to Laurie Glenn Norris for her efficient presentation, her expertise and her enthusiasm.

If I lived in Fredericton, I’d be able to afford to attend the whole week of Maritime Writers’ Workshops each July, as there would no extra costs for travel and accommodations.  But I don't, so I can't.  What I can do is attend those which are possible for me, each summer.  What I can do is begin reviewing some of my volumes, sharing what’s been instructive to me.

What else?  Well, I can stop typing this blog entry and organize the nest of clutter on the desk, the chair, the bureau.  Oh my … but there is a book on hold at the library for me right now.  The email notice just popped up.

What to do?

Words typed in red will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Approaches to Nature Poetry


Approaches to Nature Poetry

My mind is a snow globe, shaken, thoughts tumbling, suspended and seeking a way to settle into a familiar scene.  Learning does that to me.

I attended a Maritime Writers’ Workshop on “Approaches to Nature Poetry,”  an event sponsored by University of New Brunswick, College of Extended Learning, and facilitated by Ian Letourneau  Well qualified, he is the author of Terminal Moraine (Thistledown Press 2008), and Defining Range (Gaspereau Press 2006).  He is poetry editor of The Fiddlehead, associate poetry editor with Goose Lane editions, and frequent contributor to CBC as the local book columnist.  His book reviews have appeared in magazines across the country, including The Malahat Review and Books in Canada.

For the workshop, each participant submitted their own poetry, some of which we critiqued together.   We explored samples of animal world poetry by  John Clare, Ted Hughes, Clea Roberts, Les Murray and Jo Shapcott.  We studied landscape poetry through the work of Alden Nowlan, Harry Thurston, Milton Acorn; environmentally conscious poetry from Les Murray and Erin Robinsong.  We shared reading lists, ideas, laughter, examined what makes a poem work and why, looked at how nature poetry has evolved and continues to evolve, we asked questions, found answers (often more than one) and reviewed diverse approaches to nature poetry.

What did I learn?

1. Where I am.   I know basics.  There is much more to learn.  There will always be more to learn. 

2.  Nature poetry must be unsentimental.  Sentimentality, clichés, expected phrases or images draw attention away from nature itself.

3.  Nature poetry should be accurate in detail and language, speak the truth, and use images in the same metaphorical field as the subject of the poem.

4.  Acknowledge anthropomorphism.  Evoke it thoughtfully.  Don McKay author of Vis-à-Vis, Field Notes on Poetry and Wilderness suggests reading field guides as one preparation to writing.  Don explains that writing poetry about nature struggles with the desire to put the experience in words, knowing that it is too easy to quantify nature with human perception, in anthropomorphic terms.  It is more respectful and more accurate to see and experience the event, to translate it from nature’s point of view, without human judgement.

5.  Culture and nature are not two separate concepts.  Even the tiniest seeds are political issues now.   "Everything is political," says Ian.  Culture and nature are intertwined, and as Alden Nowlan remarked, the climate can kill us.

6.  Metaphor and precise description are essential poetic skills.

7.  Poetry is not always serious; neither should I be.

8.  Write regularly.  Be receptive to what comes.  Even on the bad days, there will be beginnings, images, possibilities for another day's writing.

9.  After hard work, play.

10.  Poetry is everywhere.

11.  It takes time to absorb learning, for the brain to settle into new paths.  Sit in the sun, make notes, drink wine and breathe summer.

12.  Write and write and read and read.

Thank you to UNB College of Extended Learning and to Laurie Glenn Norris for organizing these Maritime Writers’ Workshops.  Thank you to UNB CEL for a scholarship to attend Ian’s workshop.   And huge thanks to Ian LeTourneau for patient feedback on my poetry. 

I am grateful for advice given by Ian and by the other writers at the event, for honest feedback, helpful suggestions, reading lists and encouragement.

When my head settles its flurry of thoughts and learning, I’ll continue to write; write nature poetry with an expanded understanding.

 Note:  Learning list item #2 through #6 inclusive are from Ian LeTourneau's notes and /or explanations.
Words printed in red will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chipmunk Chatter

This chipmunk lives in our rock wall and comes out to chatter and hunt for food, or sometimes just to sun.  He usually keeps a safe distance, but he popped out of a hole near the deck and didn't notice we were sitting there.  He is one of many who co-habit this property with us.  We were content to see him close enough to capture a good photo.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

God of Poetry: A Writers' Retreat


God of Poetry: A Writers’ Retreat

We break bread, share wine,

a get-acquainted preamble.

Evening relaxes

sun-sweet, after hard rain;

we gather outdoors for your poetry reading.


From damp adirondacks, we listen;

a semi-circle of homage

and blackflies.  We lean in,

ignore spasms of itch. 

The lawn, resurrected

as bog, washes our feet.


We murmur entreaties:

“May there be

enough grass plastered

on toes to protect them

from feast.”


You stand.

A father’s gentle voice

reading stories to children.

You choose four poems;

do not want to overwhelm.

Our fingers reach

to touch the hem of your words.

You finish.  No sound.

Our heads bowed. 


Then you swat a blackfly

on the back of your neck

and say,

“We have to suffer for art.”

Laughter, applause;

we run back to the inn.


Alone in our rooms,

we each pray before sleep:

“May our stings and spilled blood


the stigmata

of poets.”


I attended an excellent retreat for writers and wrote this tongue-in-cheek poem about our first evening together, after hearing some participants respectfully and affectionately referring to our instructor as the “God of Poetry.”  He may or may not be a god, but he was helpful to me, taught me much about how to write and gave gentle, direct feedback.  Perhaps, they are correct.  Being god-like encompasses kindness, teaching by example and helping people where they are.  Oh yes, and having a sense of humor.


Words and photo are copyright © 2011-2013 Carol Steel.