Monday, August 29, 2016

ERNEST HEKKANEN: POET, NOVELIST, MEMOIRIST, PUBLISHER, ARTIST

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Ernest Hekkanen


I met Ernest Hekkanen probably about 1999 or so when a student in my friend Heather Haake's class brought in an author/book report about him. Heather and I were involved with the Federation of BC Writers at the time and were naturally curious about this writer we'd never heard of who apparently had all kinds of books to his credit and who was publishing a literary magazine, The New Orphic Review, right out of Nelson! 

Ernest wrote all these books!
We invited Ernest to give a workshop at one of our Fed festivals in Kaslo and I remember him demonstrating how "easy" it was to put a book together. At that time he was binding every copy of the NOR by hand, and he had the method down. Flash forward to last week when someone asked me to fix a book they loved whose pages were coming out. I ended up deconstructing the whole book and putting it back together using the very method Ernest taught me. 

This week about 35 people showed up to support Ernest and the New Orphic Review. Why? At the end of April the almost unthinkable happened when Ernest's computer was randomly attacked by ransomware, one of the latest forms of computer viruses whereby the target computer is frozen by who-knows-who and large amounts of cash are demanded before the required keys to unlock it are provided. 

Happily, most of Ernest's files were backed up. Ernest refused to pay, and his computer was pronounced dead.

When Tom Wayman heard about this he decided the writing community needed to help and a benefit was planned. 

Tom Wayman


Ernest asked Ross Klatte, Diana Morita Cole, and me to read from some of our work that he's published in the New Orphic Review. 

Linda Crosfield
Ross Klatte
Diana Morita Cole 
Given the reason behind this particular literary event, Gordon Andrews then spoke about nastyware—the viruses, worms, and whatnot that can make your time at the computer nothing short of miserable. He talked about passwords and how to make them stronger and safer, and answered questions during a short Q and A session. 

Gordon Andrews, talking tech
Then Ernest came up to the podium, thanked his partner in work and life, Margrith Schraner, and read some of his work. 



In 2013 I blogged about the 16th Anniversary celebration Ernest and Margrith threw for the New Orphic Review. You can see more pictures of most of these fine folk there.

Anne DeGrace and Verna Relkoff were among the folk who came out for Ernest
That's Diana looking over her shoulder at Ross
Poet Jane Byers beside me. She has a new collection coming out this fal
Diana sharing a laugh with Ted
Julian Ross of Polestar Press on the left, and Margrith Schraner, Ernest's right-hand woman on the, where else, right.
Although the reason for this particular literary event was not as happy an occasion as, say, a book launch, it proved beyond a doubt that Nelson and area writers look after their own. 

Stay safe out there in cyber-land, people!

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

POSTCARD POEMS, YEAR TEN

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Please note, this year the cut-off for joining is July 17th at midnight. If this sounds like something you'd like to try, sign up now.  

The other day I received an email from Judy Kleinberg who is working on a blog post of tips for poets interested in participating in the 10th Annual August Postcard Fest and wanted to know if I had any suggestions as to how to organize/manage/write postcard poems. To celebrate a decade of this poetry-writing frenzy there's going to be an anthology published next year and Judy's one of the editors. Judy produces wonderful found poems like this one:

The Condition — found poem by Judy Kleinberg
I've been doing this since 2007, the year Paul E. Nelson and Lana Hechtman Ayers, two Seattle-area poets, came up with the idea. For the paltry sum of USD$10 you sign up, get a list of 31 names and addresses, find yourself a bunch of postcards and stamps (mostly US; the majority of participants are from the States), and get writing.

Paul posted a comprehensive list of instructions here. The idea is to write your poem directly onto the card (ie. no practice drafts!). I don't think I was able to do that for the first three or four years, but now I find the process to be exceptionally liberating. Combing through old blog posts to do with August postcards, I found the following: 

For the first few years I found this (writing directly onto the card) to be well nigh impossible. What if I got going and ran out of room? What if I got the line breaks wrong? What if it was too bad to send? What if I thought of a better subject to write about? Well, honestly, after a few years of sketching the poems in a notebook first, I came to realize that I could write directly on the cards and the world would't end. Now I love the process. I love surprising myself with what comes out of my pen. And there's something very satisfying about the physical act of mailing the card to someone — most often a stranger, and it's both amazing and gratifying that many of those strangers have become "friends" through Facebook. Many of us send the requisite number of cards to the assigned people plus several others to folk we've exchanged with in the past. 


It just so happens that I've been busy cleaning up my basement studio so Judy's tip request couldn't have come at a better time. 

As far as organizing goes, I live for file folders. 

I take photos, front and back, of every card I send. Mind you, with changes to hardware over the past decade I would be hard-pressed to find the earlier ones, but I can locate them from 2011 on. I use keywords: postcards/postcard images (for when I just want to see the pix, as in the attached)/the year, and thus can find them pretty fast. 






Once written, I transcribe the poem into a Word doc with the name of the person who will receive it. (For some reason, 2010 has gone AWOL, but I'm sure it's around somewhere!)

I've prodded myself with various prompt devices over the years. There's a fabulous postcard store on Granville Island in Vancouver where I've picked up several cards. In 2011 I went with a box of Nancy Drew cover images. In 2013 I used  epigraphs culled from poems in that year's Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology.  

I've even started making some of my own cards, sometimes using coloured pencils, sometimes pasting together a collage from off-cuts of paper I use for the books I make. These are my favourites now, and for someone who felt like she failed any art class she was ever in, this is huge! 

I used one of my collage images as the cover for a chapbook I did for Ottawa-area poet Carol A. Stephen. 


Another became the cover for one of Jan de Bruyn's novels. (Jan, who's 98 now, is still writing novels "to keep his mind fresh". He gets me to publish six copies of each, for himself and his children. Jan was an English professor at UBC for many years and is responsible for starting Prism International, the university's lit mag). 




Five of my postcard poems appeared in the fall 2014 issue of the New Orphic Review.


Proceeds from this year's postcard exchange will go to support the 4th Annual Cascadia Poetry Festival to be held in Seattle November 3–6, 2016. 


If you want to exercise your poetry muscles, this is a great way to go about it.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN LITERARY FESTIVAL 2016 -- THE LITTLE FESTIVAL THAT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER

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Just back from a great weekend where I got to immerse myself in words and wine. Words, because it was Nelson's Fifth Annual Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. Wine, because the opening gala has a wine-pairing thing where four different writers are "paired" with four different wines, and you get to try them all out as long as you're not driving; thanks, Ted! The only thing I missed was Caroline Adderson's talk on craft on Wednesday night, and already I'm kicking myself. (I'd just got my studio painted and was attempting to put it back together). Missed seeing Lynn Krauss, who's been part of the festival organization committee pretty much since EMLF began. Next year we're going to see her dancing!

Thursday night's 100-Mile Gala saw the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers go to two deserving people. Here's Alanda Greene of Kootenay Bay whose historical novel Napi's Dance was published by Second Story Press

Co-winner of the Carver Award, Donna Macdonald, whose book Surviving City Hall was published by Nightwood Editions earlier this year.

Jazz singer Jill Barber entertained the enthusiastic audience with a few songs.
Jill's husband, Grant Lawrence's reading included some old diary notes about the first time he visited Nelson as a young guy, when he was touring with The SmugglersHe was also frequently spotted wearing the cutest baby!
 Leesa Dean and P'nina Shames working the book table.
Will Johnson (who has much better pictures from the evening on his blog as he was using a real camera) read from his story that won the Kootenay Mountain Culture fiction contest. 
Fletcher Fitzgibbon also read from his prize-winning KMC story.
"Reading the Earth" on Friday night at the Capitol Theatre. The audience was treated to talks, readings, and slides by Richard Cannings (being from the riding Castlegar's in as opposed to Nelson's, he's my MP!), Briony Penn, and J.B. McKinnon. The inimitable Bill Richardson was MC for the evening.
 The recently rebuilt/refurbished/repurposed old CPR Station building housed the Saturday panels where various aspects of the writing life were discussed. The first one was "Writing the Land",  moderated by Calvin Wharton and featuring (left to right) J.B. McKinnon, Eileen Pearkes, Briony Penn, and Grant Lawrence



Next up was a panel that looked at the state of children's literature in Canada, appropriately titled "Once Upon a Time". Verna Relkoff moderated this one which included Murray Kimber who illustrates children's books (among other things), Caroline Adderson, and Jill Barber. The consensus? Canada's children's literature is doing just fine!


What Nelson literary event would be complete without Tom Wayman? (Answer: None.) Here he is, moderating the afternoon panel that looked at the state of publishing in Canada these days. 

Nancy Wise of Sandhill Book Marketing, Julian Ross of Polestar Press fame and calendars, and New Star's Rolf Maurer took on the "Publishing: Perish or Prosper" panel. Consensus on this one? Somewhat grim; although that might be just me.



At the festival's Saturday night wind-up Bill Richardson read from new fiction he's working on as well as sharing a few of the wonderful poems in his latest book, The First Little Bastard to Call Me Gramps: Poems of the Late Middle Ages. 

A pensive Bill. Probably hatching a new poem.

Bill shared the stage with Caroline Adderson who read from her latest book, Ellen in Pieces. Both Bill and Caroline have given readings in Nelson before, when the Kootenay School of Writing (the ad hoc local committee that sought funding from Canada Council to bring in readers, not the Vancouver off-shoot) was organizing such events. If memory serves (and it should be noted that mostly, it doesn't), Bill was here in around 1991when Queen of All the Dustballs came out, and Caroline was here a few years later when she was touring with her short story collection, Bad Imaginings.
Something new at EMLF this year was the Holley Rubinsky Memorial Blue Pencil Sessions, funded in part by a generous bequest from Holley who died last August. Caroline Adderson was the writer-in-residence for this and from what I hear those who took advantage of the 40-minute one-on-one sessions got marvellous feedback from her.

Just some of the folk who came out for the Saturday panels.
And finally, if I was looking for the one photo to sum up the energy and attention to detail that EMLF organizer Anne DeGrace puts into it, this is the one. She does everything!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

FPR #30: JACKS OF ALL...

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April 30th. Last day of the month, which means this daily poetry thing has once more come to an end. I didn't manage to post anything the last two days. Getting home home at almost the end of April meant a scurry to get Income Tax stuff together, and I'm happy to say that happened and as of yesterday it's all done, signed, and filed! Yesterday I took my mom to see my son/her grandson play music at one of the seniors' places in Nelson. Once again, the job jar is full to the brim.



Jesse Lee, showing his grandmother, Daisy, how his Chadwick folding bass comes apart.
He's a lot faster at packing it up than he was when he first got it!

I did get into trying yesterday's Found Poetry Review prompt that had us setting words to music, as it were. I produced the word bank, but had trouble figuring out how to properly put them on the staff. It was to be called Dirty Diaper Days. Aren't you sorry I didn't finish it? Love the idea, though. 

Today's FPR prompt is from Douglas Luman. It has to do with culling words that are associated with a familiar (to the writer) phone number. I used the first 7-digit one we got after the party line went extinct, over 50 years ago, I guess. Hadn't thought of it in years. Funny how the brain stores things. (It just occurred to me I could have accessed three more letters had I used the area code that was part of the number at that time, when British Columbia only had one, 604. Now we're in 250 land, and that's the one I used.)

So, to get today's poem I first figured out which letters I could use and started jotting down words that can be made from them. Then I reread the prompt, realized there was more to it and went to Project Gutenberg, found an introduction to a book about Leonardo DaVinci, pasted said text into a nifty little website for playing with words in an Oulipian (Oulipoean?) way called Applied Poetics, and applied the phone number to that, which gave me more words I hadn't thought of. Out of all that came the following. I think just three of the words I used (jape; wrens; jacks) weren't in the Applied Poetics list, but I've never been particularly good at following instructions to the letter so here's my poem.



Jacks of all…

Dear reader, we are sore losers.
We ask for power, express words backwards,
crowd seasons, mend messes.

Sons of masks and wrens,
we open flasks for sorel and roses,
a red jewel, a brown roof; fancy!

No orders so reckless,
no references, no books—
we cry fowl for modern laws.

A sense of work affords or closes
necessary cases of well planned spaces.

Name’s a jape; been sold for nada, zero.


Now, a big round of applause to everyone who read, who wrote, and who laid down these incredibly thought-provoking prompts over the past month. I've participated in NPM many times, but this is the first time I've attempted doing found poems and I have to admit, I'm kind of hooked! So thanks, all. Here's to poetry, wherever we may find it!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE ACQUIRED ESSENCE OF GRACE

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Back on track, a little. Am about to rush off to Nelson to see a grandkid in a play, but meanwhile...

Found Poetry Review's Greg Santos has a few choices as prompts today. I'm going with the "Table of Contents" poem. The first book I found that actually has a TOC is Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. Atwood doesn't much go for articles in her titles so I've added a few. And a few other words as well. Her titles are in italics. Here goes.

The Acquired Essence of Grace

The jagged edge of the knife,
bumps in a rocky road,
all of it what you put up with until you get home,
find the puss in the corner, waiting loudly
for food, attention, food, out, in, food—
a sort of young man's fancy when it comes down to it,
you never think about the eventual broken dishes,
shards from which you keep in a secret drawer 
which makes as much sense as putting up a snake fence
to keep out the fox and geese whose hearts and gizzards
would line the periphery.
When the lady of the lake vanishes
beneath the falling timbers of Solomon's temple, 
you know it's too late, somebody's opened Pandora's box,
the letter X is etched into your forehead
(you'll recall the jagged edge'd knife)
and what was once a wasteland is given over
to the tree of paradise, resplendent in its green spring coat.



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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GONNA GET HOME TODAY

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Dear god, I just got today's poems done and already the prompts are up for mañana! NaPoWriMo for tomorrow: Which, henceforth, shall be referred to as "today".

"Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that incorporates a call and response. Calls-and-responses are used in many sermons and hymns (and also in sea chanties!), in which the preacher or singer asks a question or makes an exclamation, and the audience responds with a specific, pre-determined response. (Think: Can I get an amen?, to which the response is AMEN!.). You might think of the response as a sort of refrain or chorus that comes up repeatedly, while the call can vary slightly each time it is used. Here’s a sea chanty example:

Haul on the bowline, our bully ship’s a rolling,
Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!
Haul on the bowline, Kitty is my darlin’,
Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!
Haul on the bowline, Kitty lives in Liverpool,
Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul! 
The call can be longer than the response, or vice versa. But think of your poem as an interactive exchange between one main speaker and an audience."

I expect it will take me until mañana to figure out what I'm doing with this one!
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And, mañana it is! In fact, it's after 11PM. Today we drove home to the Kootenays from Vancouver. It's just shy of an eight hour drive. I then had to get Income Tax stuff ready to take to the person who does it mañana. And now I'm ready to write my poem for the day! It shall be written right here on screen. There shall be little or no editing. It shall likely not be very good. But here goes. (And I'm done, and I can't figure out why it's spacing funny and I don't care, I'm tired and I'm going to bed!)

Gonna Get Home Today

Start out early, pack up the car,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Golden Ears Bridge looks pretty in the sun,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today

Big ol' Fraser River is a muddy one, for sure,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Grab a cup of coffee at Hope's Blue Moose,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Sleep all the way through the winding Hope-Princeton,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Hardly any traffic, hip hip hooray,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Everything, everywhere, green, green green!
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Cows near Midway got lots of babies,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Coast into Castlegar right around six,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.

Yard looks fine, got flowers everywhere,
Driving through the mountains, gonna get home today.


















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Monday, April 25, 2016

FPR # 25: IF I MAY HAVE YOUR PERMISSION...

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I have to admit translation poems are not my favourite thing. Perhaps its because I have twice attempted to learn at least the rudiments of another language and am sorry I can't carry on a conversation in either one. But in the spirit of Poetry Month, I'll try this again. 

The prompt: Found Poetry Review Day # 25 is from Nancy Chen Wong. The idea is to find a poem written in a language you don't know, read it aloud as best you can and imagine what it might mean based on how it sounds.

I found the poem I'm using here after a Google search for poems first in Swedish, then in Lithuanian...

  • Sound out the poem and “translate” it based on what you hear. A couple of methods you can use to sound out the poem are:
    • To sound out the poem aloud by yourself. This might be doable if the alphabet being used is something you can sort-of recognize.
    • And/or use Google Translate (https://translate.google.com/ ): Paste in a line or phrase or word of the poem in its original language. Select the language to be translated if Google doesn’t recognize it. Once the language has been detected, a little speaker icon should appear below the text you pasted in. Click the speaker icon and Google voice will read what you entered back to you.
Of course, your translation won’t be exact—getting words anywhere near the ballpark of what you think you hear is good.
This is a tiny poem in Lithuanian by whom I have no idea. I found it here. But it's late and I'm desperate for a short poem to play with and by a bunch of mental links you probably don't need to know I've come up with this.

So. 


Here's the Lithuanian poem:

Kai tave pamačiau... 

Iškart įsimylėjau 
Ir tavo mėlynas akis 
Į širdį įsidėjau 


If I may have your permission
this is similar to
how you said you'd never steal a kiss
without seriously asking


What does this picture have to do with the poem? It is for my friend Dalia Naujokaitis who died a year ago when I was in La Manzanilla and the day I found out I walked to the end of the beach to Boca where there's a cave and in that cave there are memorials to people who have crossed over and last year and this I have brought offerings in remembrance of my Lithuanian friend, Dalia who I met when I was still very young and who taught me to say "shit bug" in Lithuanian and that it was fine for girls to hug each other. 

Goddamn cancer.

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