Archive for July, 2015

hunter

23 words that rhyme with litter:

Bitter

Critter

Fitter

Flitter

Fritter

Glitter

Gritter

Hitter

Jitter

Knitter

Mitter

Pitter

Quitter

Sitter

Shitter

Skitter

Slitter

Smitter

Spitter

Splitter

Titter

Twitter

Witter

 

Shitter?

 

Bruce Hunter was born in Calgary. In 2011, his Two O’clock Creek – Poems New and Selected won the Acorn-Plantos People’s Poetry Award.  In 2009, his novel, In the Bear’s House, about a young deaf boy who finds love and redemption in the wilderness, won the Canadian Rockies Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Festival.
 
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Up Next:

bennett, rox“…whether Jodie-Ann

kissed softly or with teeth.”

lambert

Phylo pastry…

Written in a purposeful round hand; not the sort of hand that would lose the list before the shopping was complete; yet there the list lay on the pavement, trodden so many times the yellowish paper had the look of antique parchment.

…Phylo pastry
…Thyme
…Parsley
…Green onions…

A special dinner? An anniversary? Spanakopita as the starter, to set the atmosphere for the Greek Island cruise she plans to mention when he’s had a glass or two of wine?

Hang on. Shouldn’t retsina be on the list? Not to mention spinach for the pie! And doesn’t spanakopita need feta cheese? This is a disaster in the making. For a moment I can’t help looking around the Safeway lot for the figure I’ve dreamed up (pleated skirt, spectator pumps, blazer with a crest) to warn this woman of her lapse. Not that she’s the type to welcome that.

Instead, thanks to the “phylo” (far be it from me to challenge the woman on her spelling; she’s got problems enough) I find myself whisked back ten years to the seawall in West Vancouver on a blustery afternoon, and it is Dorothy Papadopoulos I encounter.

In the little Okanagan town where we grew up, Dorothy Papadopoulos was several grades ahead. I hardly knew her, except as the eldest of three beautiful sisters (the youngest was my classmate) who year after year were the acknowledged rulers of the popular kids, membership as unattainable for the likes of me as a trip to the moon. Thinking back, the Papadopoulos girls’ ascendency was a triumph. The valley’s original settlers were chiefly the sons of moneyed Brits, sent out to make their way by carving up the semi-desert into orchards, for recreation galloping over the hills — Tallyho! — hunting coyotes in place of foxes.

Popular. The word still brings an inner cringe. “Dear God please…” The pathetic nightly prayer.

Just before my mother died, on one of my visits home, she told me that Dorothy’s doctor husband had become head of anesthesiology at Vancouver General. So. Not only a doctor’s wife, but one who’d moved into a haute big-city echelon. In my teen years the still Brit-inflected wives of doctors, lawyers, bank managers, ruled our streets as effortlessly as the Papadopoulos sisters ruled the school. My mom was ironic about those contemporaries with their cut-glass smiles. But she was so encouraging and curious about the careers and adventures of my quasi peers as we all grew up, especially those who had moved on to a larger world, and she delighted in Dorothy’s visits to the studio. My mother’s own yearning for a larger world was something I never acknowledged as a youngster, or even as a teen. Where else should she be but making pots when she had a moment, and working alongside my dad in the orchard, and sewing clothes for me and for herself, and filling our house with flowers from the garden. For her, the prize-winning and the chance to travel came too late.

As Dorothy Papadopoulos approaches along the sea wall, her fine Greek profile carves the wind like a figure at the bow of a ship. She is wearing a belted camel coat, and enviable boots. I’m straight from my desk. Ink-stained hands and too tight jeans, the better to squeeze the words out. I sling my scarf around my neck, prepare to jog right by: not a chance that she’ll recognize me, anyway.

But her face breaks into a warm delighted smile. “Oh how wonderful…” Etcetera. “And you are so like your mother!”

She’s giving me a hug. There are tears in her eyes. It’s terrific to run into me. And how often she thinks of my mother! How she used to love visiting my parents’ studio, after her own mother died. “Your mother was always so welcoming. And I missed my own mother so! Those were the good years, weren’t they, growing up in our little town.” She dabs at her tears.

Bingo. Despite the intervening decades, I am back in the vice-grip of being a fourteen-year-old in that same small town, flushed with a germy memory. A moment when it seemed popularity might be on the doorstep after all.

But how unfair to pin the memory on Dorothy Papadopoulos — to hold back from the warmth of her greeting. Yes the Papadopoulos girls were the triumvirate at the top, but it wasn’t Dorothy or either of her sisters who stopped me in the school hallway one morning and invited me to join three of the cool girls at noon for a smoke break in a stolen car.

Joanie-who-shrank-her-sweaters-on-purpose invited me. She implied that this was a try-out, and if I passed I might be accepted into the group. I skipped French to go out and buy a pack of cork-tip Craven “A”. I didn’t know which cigarettes were cool.

Joanie had only been at our school a few months. She’d palled around with some of us lesser types at first, but it didn’t take her long to suss things out and make the necessary moves.

I never could figure out what those moves were — anymore than I could figure out why the Papadopoulos girls held sway, year after year. Their parents were from a foreign country just as mine were. Well my father was. And the war was well over by then. The fact that my family had been enemy aliens shouldn’t matter any longer. Besides, my mother wasn’t remotely German. My mother could trace her ancestry back to a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence. (When I mentioned that in class once, to prove my pioneer credentials, the teacher just rolled her eyes.)

Joanie.

And Linda-whose-father-was-on-the-School-Board. No teacher ever rolled eyes at her. Linda wore little white dickie collars with her appropriately loose sweaters, and spanking-clean saddle shoes.

And Eileen, the Royal-Bank-Manager’s-daughter. Eileen went out with Angelo who’d been suspended for coming to school with an Iroquois cut. It was Angelo who had hot-wired the car and parked it across the street from the school for us to smoke in.

If a Mountie came and caught us, Linda said, we could leave the situation to Joanie. “She knows all the cops in town.” Joanie ran her hands through her yellowy-white hair in an exaggerated Marilyn Monroe sort of way.

We all got out our smokes. Everyone helped themselves from my pack. I lit mine from the cork-tipped end.
I haven’t a clue what we talked about. I didn’t talk. It was all insider gossip, accompanying another round of my cigarettes.

Then Linda — “Oh oh!”

I ducked my head, peered out the rear window. The cops?

The others were opening their car doors — swinging them back and forth.

“Pee-yew…!”

“Who farted???”

They looked at me.

It had to be me, because it wasn’t any of them.

“My mother would kill me if I ever farted!”

“Mine too!”

“It’s eating cabbage that does it.”

“Yeah…!”

Thank goodness the bell rang then.

It was the bare-faced nature of the lies that obsessed me as I went back to class. All so prissy-perfect — My mother would kill me! — sending my single chance at popularity down the drain. And I hadn’t even smelled that fart. Nor did I get the cabbage reference till days later. It was years before it struck me that no one had farted. More years, before I figured out that the test had been for Joanie-the-sweater-shrinker. She’d been my friend, and if she wanted to move up into the clique she had to dump me for good, and prove it in some way. She’d dreamed the whole scheme up. That was why when I ran into her at a reunion years later (still sultry: but no more need to shrink her sweaters) she was so stand-offish, as if that fart still hovered in the air. Trying hard to blame the victim, still.

I’ve been nodding and smiling, and chiming in to Dorothy Papadopoulos’s reminiscences of growing up in our little town, while at the same time re-living that humiliation, which I haven’t thought of for years. Now she is looking at me curiously. Have I inadvertently wrinkled my nose at that ancient non-existent fart? I am ashamed of letting let my mind wander back to that petty event, when this woman is so clearly getting pleasure about sharing memories of times long past. Maybe a rare thing for any of us in our moving-around world.

How many of her city friends would have the faintest notion of our Main Street in those days: the Shell Station with its robot-looking gas pumps; the whiffy drafts from the fish shop, where the bodies on ice had come up over-night on the train; the grocery across the way with its oiled wooden floors and cheese in round wooden boxes that my dad used to take home and turn into stools. Across from the grocery was The Select Café and Bakery, which Dorothy’s family owned.

With a jolt, I realize that I knew practically nothing about her family as I was growing up, so deeply focused on my own outsider miseries: nothing except that they were Greek and owned that popular gathering-place, where black-clothed women worked at a table at the back making pastries and her mother was one of those.

The Papadopoulos sisters were so cool; they could do anything they wanted, that’s what I’d thought. Yet now Dorothy is telling me how strict her mother and grandmother had been, how the girls always had a curfew, how they were not allowed to attend Teen Town dances even, without their big brother going along to keep them safe. “We were so embarrassed.” She laughs. “I wish I had that kind of power over my own grandchildren!”

She and her sisters had envied me the freedom of growing up on a farm with artist parents, she says. “What a small place it was then! We knew everyone, didn’t we? I remember us sisters working in the café on Saturdays and your family would come in to do the shopping, in that terrific old Model T Ford. Your dad would park in front of the grocery. It was always a great moment when your mother stepped out of that old car looking so dashing, such a contrast, wearing bright lipstick and ultra stylish clothes…”

Such a contrast.

Again I stiffen. I was always proud of the way my mother managed to hold her head up, style-wise, when she dressed for town: outfits that came from pouring over Vogue pattern books, and hours at the treadle sewing machine. Was this an echoing snigger from those doctors’ wives in The Select for their morning coffee? “…And claiming fancy American ancestors, too! As if that cut any ice up here!”

But Dorothy is enthusing about how even in later years, even at her pottery wheel, my mother was a treat to see. On sunny days Dorothy would find her working out on the patio below the border of trailing petunias. Mom would immediately take off her canvas apron and she’d be wearing a boldly flowered shirt and slim boy’s pants and bright lipstick — and she’d bring out tea and home-made cookies, though she never ate any herself; she’d smoke a cigarette. (Another of those that killed her! That lovely patio scene zings straight into my heart.)

“She was so slim,” Dorothy is saying. “In my family food was such a lethally seductive form of love! All those delicacies made with phyllo pastry, by my mother and my aunties — basically just layer on layer of butter between sheets rolled as thin as gold leaf! Cream-filled bougatsa…” her face goes dreamy, “crunchy baklava … and little rolls filled with custard, I can’t remember the name …oh, and myzithropitakia…” lost completely for a moment in the memory of the sweet-cheese and honey pie she then describes. “All that was heaven when we were growing up, but (terrible to say) later us girls vowed we’d never put on weight they way our mom and aunties did. No wonder none of them lived to see their grand-kids!” She shakes her head. “But now I so regret never even learning how to make those wonderful dishes. Slimness isn’t everything, is it? What a sacrifice.”

“And I never learned to make pots.”

We stand and reminisce some more, old friends who never actually knew each other. And when we’ve finally parted, how strange to feel my heart puff with warmth: as if only now discovering what a long rise it has given to the curious confection that was life in my childhood town — sweet, sour, honeyed, crunchy, sometimes cruel — layer on layer of unexpected beauty, luck, regret.

Barbara Lambert has won the Danuta Gleed Award for Best First Collection of Short Fiction and The Malahat Review Novella Prize, and been a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Prize and the Journey Prize. Her latest novel The Whirling Girl was published in the fall of 2012. Her previous work includes A Message for Mr. Lazarus (2000) and The Allegra Series (1999). Lambert is currently editor of Dr. Johnson’s Corner, an online gathering place for writers too in love with their own words. Barbara has lived in Vancouver, Ottawa, Barbados and Italy, and has now returned to her childhood home in the Okanagan Valley where she lives on a re-planted cherry orchard with her husband, Douglas.

She can be found at www.barbaralambert.com

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Up Next:

hunter“Sitter
Skitter
Shitter”

De Vries???

We are the authors, brought together on this page and, likely, on many others.

Has a teacher been offering us up for years?
Teachers?
Did the student whose bleeding pen recorded our names and titles choose us from many or were we all she was given?

Why did she tear out the page and fold it neatly?
To toss it?
To take it to a bookstore?
A library?
Did it serve its purpose or did she lose it too soon?

The three of us never met. Not once. Chances are we won’t now. Stella’s been gone for a quarter of a century, after all, and Fay lives in Dorset, England, Nicole in Chicago, USA. We’re all three feminists of a sort, but our sensibilities… A She Devil would fit right into those chronicles, but neither Sylvia nor that She Devil would find comfort, cold or otherwise, on that farm. That’s a different sort of a place altogether. Not a place Sylvia would want to go. And the She Devil’d make short work of the folks there, that’s for sure.

Anyway, we were talking about finding ourselves together like this, cosily listed, warmly, roundly credited. The big round B and the extraneous colon, used in error, firm and full, setting us off.       By:

Am I, Nicole, here for the lazy ones, the ones who don’t want to read ALL THAT TEXT?

How about me, Fay? I think I’m a trick. That She Devil of mine is meant to lure the unsuspecting into a piece of literary fiction.

As for me, Stella? Sure, I’m dead, but that doesn’t mean I can’t speak my mind, point out that even decades after my passing, even in a new century, it’s still my first book that makes the list. Forget the other 22, the decades of writing that followed, the honing of my craft. A one-trick pony I remain.

We wish—all three of us—to know what the assignment was, and whether or not it was completed. We hope—all three of us—that the young person wrote down our names and titles because she wanted to.

Could we be her summer reading?

Not likely.

Maggie de Vries is the author of ten books, including two teen novels—Hunger Journeys and Rabbit Ears—and a memoir for adults—Missing Sarah: a Memoir of Loss. CBC included Hunger Journeys in their recent list of “100 Young Adult Books that Make You Proud to Be Canadian,” and Rabbit Ears won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize at the 2015 BC Book Prizes. Maggie teaches in UBC’s Creative Writing Program, speaks and gives workshops regularly to groups of all ages, and coaches and mentors people who wish to write about their own lives.

She can be found at:  www.maggiedevries.com
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Up Next:

lambert

(far be it from me to challenge the woman on her spelling; she’s got problems enough)

rash talk

Posted: July 20, 2015 in penn kemp
Tags: , , , ,

kemp

Litter begets
more litter—

ah, sure when
litter it, we re
itter ate it.

I / it
lit

light
litter

along
the literal
littoral.

The ill litter it
refuse refuse
and garb age.

I utter a light
little iteration

against litter
alluding to

allusion, all
iteration and

assonance off
the road, on

the road and in
to ash, rash,

trash
can.

 

London ON performance poet, activist and playwright Penn Kemp is the 40th Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets and their 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for service to arts and culture. As  inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of London (2010-12), she presented poetry at many civic functions. As Canada Council Writer-in-Residence for Western University for 2009-10, her project was the DVD, Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. Penn has published twenty-five books of poetry, prose and drama, had seven plays and ten CDs produced as well as several award-winning videopoems.

Follow her on Twitter or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Penn-Kemp/126450531030?fref=ts.
Updates: http://mytown.ca/pennkemp, https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/

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Up Next:

De Vries“Sure I’m dead, but that doesn’t mean I can’t speak my mind…”

berry

Fiona comes home from school, tosses the envelope down on the kitchen floor and stomps over to the fridge.  Inside are cherries, lunchmeat and a few old containers of yogurt. Her mother hasn’t been shopping in weeks.

Peeking around the corner, Mel’s head comes into the kitchen. “Fi’s home,” he says, happily.

She grunts.

“What are you doing, Fi?”

“Eating. What does it look like.”

Mel picks up the envelope from the floor. It’s been stepped on a bit. The “O” in Fiona is dirty.

“Who’s this for?”

“Who do you think,” Fiona says. “It says “Fiona. Can’t you read?”

Mel can’t read. Fiona knows that. He’s only four. He’ll read in grade one, that’s what his mother says, when she’s not lying on the couch watching her soaps. When she’s not drinking her G&T’s at four o’clock, and painting her nails flaming red.

“We have no food,” Fiona shouts. “We never have any food.”

“We’ll order pizza,” her mother says, her voice muffled by the sound of a saran wrap commercial. Freshness You Can See. Mel peeks back around the door towards his mother’s voice.

“Really?” he says. “Pizza?”

The party is tonight but there is no way Fiona can go. Her mother won’t be able to drive her. Fiona needs to look after Melvin. He can’t be left alone and most Friday nights her mother goes out late. Fiona walks over to the envelope and steps on it again. She sighs at the little sparkly tree, such a pretty colour blue. The glitter, the gems, the gold star. The whole thing just makes her sad. She sighs again. Steps again. Smooshes it around a bit. It rips on one side. And what is all the dirt on her shoes? Fiona notices her footprints through the kitchen and twists her foot up to look at the bottom. She stepped in something on the way home. Mud. Sigh. Sigh again.

Mel comes back into the kitchen. This time fully in. “We’re getting pizza,” he says. “Can you believe that?”

“Have you looked in the fridge? There’s nothing in the fridge.”

Fiona’s mother is standing there suddenly, sloshing her G&T around in her glass. The ice cubes tinkling. “Friday night,” she says. “Party.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Fiona says, trying not to look down at the floor, at the envelope, at her mother. Trying to look anywhere else.

“What’s this?” Her mother picks up the envelope.

Mel says, “Can’t you read, it says Fiona.”

“It’s tonight,” Fiona says, her face feels hot. “I can’t go, I know.”

“Why not?” Mel looks from his mother to his sister, back and forth. “Why can’t she go to a party if it says Fiona on the envelope?”

There is silence in the room, except for the hum of the fridge. Fiona’s mother jiggles her glass a bit. Bites her lip. “Where’s the party?” she says.

“Samantha’s house.”

“You’d need a ride.”

Fiona nods.

“It’s a pretty envelope.”

“Or it was,” Mel pipes in. “Until Fiona stepped all over it with her muddy shoes.”

Fiona tenses. Her mother looks down at the linoleum and sees the prints. She looks quickly back up at Fiona.

“I’ll clean it,” Fiona says. “Sorry.”

Fiona’s mother looks again at the dirty envelope, the hole on the side. She opens it up slowly, balancing her G&T in one hand, the envelope in the other. She pulls out the invitation. “Look,” she says. “It’s not dirty at all.”
Fiona looks. The invitation has glitter on it, more gold stars. It looks really pretty.

“I can take you,” her mother says, suddenly. “Mel and I will stay home tonight. I’ve got a headache anyway. We’ll stay home and eat pizza and watch TV.”

Mel squeals a bit. Claps his hands. “Pizza,” he says.

Fiona’s mouth won’t close. All the way to Samantha’s, her mother driving slowly along the rain-soaked streets, Fiona clutches the invitation in her hands and tries to close her mouth. But she can’t. It won’t close. A big “O” with her lips. An “O” like the dirty “O” in Fiona. The envelope long-forgotten in the kitchen garbage, tea stains on it from a wet bag. Mel sits beside her in the car, in his little seat, and he hums a bit. He’s waiting for his pizza and hoping his mother hasn’t forgotten. Every so often he looks over at Fiona and she looks at him and they both look down at the invitation in her hands and then look out the darkened window into the rainy streets. This is as close to happy as they’ve been in a while. One has pizza, the other her first party. Their mother leans forward over the steering wheel and she peers out into the glittery, shiny road, searching carefully for the way forward.

Michelle Berry is the author of three books of short stories, How to Get There from Here, Margaret Lives in the Basement, and I Still Don’t Even Know You (which won the 2011 Mary Scorer Award for Best Book Published by a Manitoba Publisher and was shortlisted for the ReLit Award, 2011), as well as five novels, What We All Want, Blur, Blind Crescent and This Book Will Not Save Your Life (which won the 2010 Colophon Award and was longlisted for the ReLit Award, 2011) and Interference. Her writing has been optioned for film and published in the U.K. with Weidenfeld & Nicolson. She is also co-editor with Natalee Caple of The Notebooks: Interviews and New Fiction from Contemporary Writerswhich is based on the famous Paris Review interviews — and has collaborated on an art book with Winnipeg artist, Andrew Valko, called, Postcard Fictions. Michelle taught creative writing at Ryerson University, was on the board of PEN Canada and the authors’ committee of the Writer’s Trust and served as Second Vice-Chair of The Writer’s Union. She presently teaches online for The University of Toronto, in-class at Trent University, and is a mentor at Humber College. She is a contributing reviewer for The Globe and Mail.

She can be found at: http://mber22.wix.com/mberry

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Up Next:

kemp“The ill litter it
 refuse refuse
and garb age.”

schmidt

the filling
cracked
________

a wildfire
fire line
hoof prints
spruce
smouldering
the crust
the crisp
hide of a doe
perhaps the mother
the burnt
fawn
spots
burning

Brenda Schmidt lives in Creighton, a mining town on the Canadian Shield in northern Saskatchewan, in the heart of what’s currently an extremely dry forest. The #skfire hashtag on Twitter is the source of the fire in this piece. She is the author of four books of poetry and a book of essays. Both her poetry and nonfiction have been shortlisted for Saskatchewan Book Awards. Her work is included in The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2015.

She can be found at www.birdschmidtblogspot.ca

 

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Up Next:

berry

“Why can’t she go to a party if it says Fiona on the envelope?”

DSC02830

Hung in a whipping
wind, sheets, freshly washed. Top
sheet bound over and under and around the line,
tangled, while the fitted sheet loosens, snaps. Floats, full-bellied—
Dwindles, sags, diminishes into a body flattened
on a bed of grass

mowed the day before. He finds the pillowcases still pegged side
by side. Holding
air, releasing it. Lungs.

She left this morning, but first she did
the laundry. Put the note
where he’d see it, on the counter by the sink.

If, she said. People, she said.

Anne Simpson is the author of four books of poetry: Is (2011); Quick (2007), winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award; Loop (2003), winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize; and Light Falls Through You (2000), winner of the Gerald Lampert Memorial Prize and the Atlantic Poetry Prize. She has also written two novels, Falling (2008), longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and winner of the Dartmouth Award for Fiction, and Canterbury Beach (2001). Her book of essays, The Marram Grass: Poetry and Otherness (2009), delves into issues of poetry, art, and empathy.

She lives in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where she started the Writing Centre at StFX University.

She can be found at www.annesimpson.ca

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Up Next:

schmidt“the crisp
hide of a doe”