Friday, August 31, 2018



Another month has flown by. At some point earlier this year I swore I was going to post something at least every month. Missed February, but if I type fast, I can still nail down August.

August was busy busy. Company came and went, forest fires raged all over the province and it was horribly smokey but the swimming was good.

Smoke hanging over everything, obscuring the mountains, making it hard to breathe. Ootischenia, August 2018.

I spent quite a bit of time in the basement where it was cooler. Wearing my Nose in Book Publishing hat I finished making 250 copies of a chapbook, Migration Songs, edited by Stephen Collis, Lorna Crozier and Kurt Trzcinski, which was commissioned for the International Ornithological Congress and Vancouver Bird Festival that just wrapped up in Vancouver. Eleven poets were paired with scientists to converse and write about various birds.

Cutting, scoring and folding covers
Getting the text block into the covers
Sewing chapbook with new assistant, Kiisa, keeping an eye on things
(Very heavy) box of books, ready to go!
Finished chapbook features cover art by annie ross

Table of Contents. Look at all the wonderful poets in there!
I thoroughly enjoyed putting this one together, and now I'm working on two more!

In other news, my friend and fellow poet, Bobbie Ogletree, is moving away and our poetry group is sure going to miss her. We'll still meet via the magic of Skype or FaceTime or one of those, same as we do when I'm in Mexico. But it's not the same. Bon voyage, Bobbie and Freya. Sechelt is so lucky to have you!

Susan Andrews Grace and Bobbie Ogletree
Susan and Bobbie
Jane Byers
And, in other other news, my poetry manuscript received another glowing rejection. Frankly, this is getting a little tiresome! Oh well. Back on the horse and all that.

See you in September.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018



As I always try to put something poetry-related into these posts, I'm happy to announce that my poem, Tethered, that appeared in the anthology Refugium: Poems for the Pacific, edited by Yvonne Blomer, was selected to be included in Vancouver-area's Poetry in Transit this year! There'll be a reading of such poems (plus a couple of others) at Word Vancouver on September 30th and I'll be there. I'll provide more details (ie. where; when) closer to the date, but am I ever excited to think that one of my little poems is going to be riding buses and Skytrain and hopefully providing the odd person who looks up from their phone with a little hit of poetry. Tethered was born in La Manzanilla, the little fishing village on the west coast of Mexico (ie. on the Pacific Ocean) a few years back. I was very proud when Yvonne accepted it for the anthology, and now this! Do let me know if you happen to be riding and spot it. #PoetryinTransit @ReadLocalBC

I've been remiss in my blogging habit of late. Truth be told, I've often gone AWOL from Purple Mountain Poetry since I started it some twelve years ago, but after a happy month of daily blogging in April I had decided I'd make an attempt to blog at least a couple of times a month, just to keep those particular poetry muscles working.

Curious about exactly when I started this blog, I just looked up my very first post. It was in May of 2006, and I was so nervous about putting myself out there I wrote it in third person!

At the beginning of June, my 98-year-old mom had a heart attack, was in hospital for three weeks and is now back in her apartment in the assisted living place where she's lived for the past ten years. This has kept me and my two sisters unbelievably busy, leaving little energy for stuff like cleaning the house, never mind blogging! Here she is with her favourite grandson, Jesse. He got his musical talent from her; she was a fine violinist and pianist in her day and can still discuss the finer points of all things classical. And she supported his early musical training by giving him violin lessons, starting after we moved back to Nelson when he was seven.

In spite of this not entirely unexpected health drama (I told you she's 98), I have, however, managed to produce two chapbooks since the beginning of June. They aren't at the finished stage yet (ie. they're not quite ready for printing) but almost, and I'll certainly write about them when they are. Making little poetry books helps keep me sane.

I also made three Coptic-bound journals for a friend in Victoria and yesterday when I took visiting friends from Gibsons and La Manz over to the Kootenay Gallery I was told that someone had come in that morning specifically looking for one of my journals as she'd been gifted one before and loved it!

Speaking of making such books, Paper-Ya, my old Vancouver go-to place to buy book cloth has stopped carrying it. If anyone reading this has any tips as to where I can source good-quality (ie. silk) book cloth in Canada, please shoot me a message. I've spent a little time wandering around online, but haven't seen some of the stuff I really like, such as the cloth I used for these ones:

Any and all tips appreciated. You reading my blog is appreciated. All in all, it's a pretty good life.


Friday, June 08, 2018



There's been a lot of death talk lately. Just read a gorgeous piece of writing by Lawrence Hill about how he took his mother to Switzerland because at 90 she was ready to leave this world but even though Canada has made doctor-assisted suicide legal it's still very much "in some cases", and his mom didn't quite qualify.

There's been a lot of suicide talk, after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain both recently chose to end their lives that way. My friend Gayle Brandeis wrote a piece about how we talk about this difficult subject here. Gayle should know; her own mother committed suicide. Social media discussions are everywhere—some say it's a selfish act. Others say no, it's not, because someone in that frame of mind is not capable of thinking clearly.

All too often depression creeps into these conversations. Depression is nasty. It can leave you feeling as if there's no chance that you'll ever feel anything but despair. So many people are nipped at by that black dog.

When I was 17 it was not such a good year, to paraphrase a song. As much as I could, I explored how I was feeling by writing about it. Poetry probably saved me. Here's a poem I wrote that year.

The Choice

The eerie guise of moon and sand and sea
all fused together as I walked the shore,
seemed soft to whisper, wring your hands no more,
and to their blackest depths invited me.
I stood there for a while; time ceased to be.
The waves kept lapping softly at the shore
as time allowed my hidden thoughts to soar—
from cares and worries I longed to be free.
I knew that soon I had to make the choice
of going on or stopping there to rest
when suddenly I seemed to hear a voice—
it said to me, do what you know is best.
Which way to turn? How to avoid the strife?
I turned away, for I had chosen life.

I'm glad I chose life. But at the time...

If you are suffering, please reach out. Talk to a friend. Call the suicide hotline. Chances are things will not always appear so bleak.

Here's a list of the various provincial hotlines in Canada:

SASKATCHEWAN: 306-933-6200 // 306-757-0127
QUEBEC: 1-866-277-3553
NEW BRUNSWICK: 1-800-667-5005
NOVA SCOTIA: 1-888-429-8167


Tuesday, June 05, 2018



Here's a David McFadden book spine poem. He’s had a form of Alzheimer's for a few years and now he's in palliative care.

Kootenay friends may remember him from his time teaching at DTUC in Nelson back in the early 80s. Why Are You So Sad?, published by Insomniac Press, was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2008. It didn't win, but at the reading that preceded the award ceremony he read Secrets of the Universe which is a completely Nelson poem in so many ways—Ward and Baker streets get a mention, so does Hipperson Hardware, and then there's the encounter he describes. Have a listen and you'll see what I mean!

He didn't win the Griffin that year, but five years later he did, for What's the Score?, published by Mansfield PressA mutual friend says his daughter Jenny would like it if we’d read one or two of his poems today. It’s hard to read just one once you start, but when I opened Why Are You So Sad? and landed on this one, it was just too perfect not to share.

Love’s Golden Splendor

A woman is reading a book called Love’s Golden Splendor
on the bus heading down to the Pape station
And I look out the window and see a young man
pushing an old lady in a wheelchair, quickly,
for it is about to start raining.
Later, on the subway, there’s another woman
reading Love’s Golden Splendor, and a young
African woman, fashionably dressed, sits by herself
unself-consciously singing Billie Holiday songs.

My verses are subtle yet unschooled, amateur but never
didactic. The twentieth century means nothing to me.
This could be ninth-century China for all I care.
Everything is myth. I've wound up all my affairs
and am about to put all my possessions in a boat
and push it out in the bay and sink it. We have never
taken a step out of eternity. I think it's time
for you to come with me. Let's just go
and let's not know or even care where we're going.

 Here's to your being here, Dave. Here's to your going.

David McFadden, October 11, 1940–June 6, 2018


Saturday, May 26, 2018



Ottawa poet and publisher, Amanda Earl, recently won a box of 100 postcards and she's dying to send you one! All you have to do is send one back, and to others on the list she's compiling that you can access if you ask her. Go to Amanda's blog post about it here to sign up.

Send as many or as few as you'd like. No hard and fast rules, although this particular call is limited to Canadian poets so as not to incur the pricey postage that comes with sending things out of the country.

Readers of this blog will have occasionally come across posts about the August Postcard Poem event that's going into its twelfth year this summer. Over the years I've gone at the process in a variety of ways. One year I had a box of images of the first thirty Nancy Drew covers so I wrote poems that related to them. Another time I used a Griffin Poetry Prize anthology to find epigraphs and write poems in some way inspired by them. There's even an anthology, 56 Days of August, that celebrates ten years of the fest.

Since first embarking on that project back in 2007 I've collected more postcards than I'll ever need, so I'm delighted there's another way to use some of them! People give me postcards. I culled scores of them from my late aunt's photo albums (note to self: what am I doing with my photo albums that nobody's going to want?) And then there's Postcard Place, the little shop on Granville Island that I can't walk past whenever I'm there. And on and on...

See what I mean?


Friday, May 18, 2018



I see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle chose the 19th of May this year to get married. We chose the 19th originally for our wedding, which was Monday of the long weekend, then realized if we chose the Sunday instead it would be better for people who were driving in for it (a lot of our friends still worked back then). So we got married on the 18th, and to this day neither of us can ever remember which of the two days it was. 

Happily, Ted made us a huge yellow cedar salad bowl to commemorate the occasion and the date is etched on the bottom so we can easily check!
We met in Tom Wayman's creative writing class in 1991. That's our friend Barb Little sitting between us in this snapshot. Both of us had more—and darker—hair.
We started dating in 1995. Before long, I was coming to visit and bringing Scarlett, my cat who was older than Jesse. Love me, love my cat (and my kid)...
...and my dog, Lily.
The morning of our wedding Ted sat under the old apple tree and attempted to write his vows. He got writer's block, ended up just winging it, so none of us have any idea what he actually said. Mine got written I think the day before. You can read them in the first photo above (thereby covering my self-imposed rule about making every post poetry-related).

Friends came from near and far. A few Torontonians arrived. That's Pegi and Rhonda.
Dee drove in from Vancouver.
Kate, Doug, Toni and Pegi came from Toronto.
Jesse with an armful of Toni and Kate.

There were children galore. Here's Andrew. 
The wedding party. Ted's groomsmen were Greg and Peter, lower right. Ted Hicks, an old friend of my Ted's, came from Winnipeg to marry us, and my boy the minstrel, Jesse Lee, gave me away.
My Ted requested and Ted Hicks played 'Tis a Gift to Be Simple.

Granddaughter, Amber was there. All six months of her. Here she is with her dad...
...and Sarah, her mom...
...and Lolo
Ted's daughter, Shannon was there. Anthony wasn't, as he was busy doing hair for Vancouver brides and is booked way in advance for that sort of thing, but he and Jim made the hemp suit Ted got married in!
Lizz, dancing with a really tall guy and Brittney rocking her cast.
Jesse signing said cast. She scored lots of signatures that day.
Some of the bigger kids—Bronwyn, Jesse, and Matt

Me and Lynne, best old friend since the sixties and my maid of honour.
A couple of weeks before the big day I went all bridezilla and decided my wedding outfit, which was made from a sari I'd had for decades, wasn't at all right. My sister and I went out and got this delightful ensemble, known ever after as the "alternate wedding dress". Alan, my other bridesmaid, would have worn it, had I but asked. At least he got to model it!
We all tidied up quite well, I think.
For a minute, anyway.

There were cousins...
...and aunts and uncles and lots of old friends...
...and sisters (and that Lizz again!)

I was hugging my Uncle Tom. I believe it was right after I told him how, when I was a kid, I was so astonished when I realized that he and Aunt June were hot for each other!
That's Lisa from Montreal on the right. She took most of these pictures and she wasn't even the official photographer.
There was impromptu music thanks to Roger and Judy...
...and Gwen on violin, and Eleanor on mandolin. 
We had a potluck dinner that was truly amazing...
...thanks to Heather, in the centre, who organized it so we didn't end up with all salads or desserts (like that would have been a bad thing!) 
Speaking of dessert, the cakes were divine. Hazelnut. Wish I'd had more than a mouthful!
After the obligatory first dance (to Leonard Cohen singing Always from his album, The Future. Word to the wise: never use as your first dance an eight minute song!)... 
and the we-thought-it-would-never-end song was over, everyone got into the act.
I can't possibly write up this whole wedding extravaganza without at least mentioning our wedding night. The first people to RSVP to our invitation were Dan and Judie, Judie being the first Mrs. Crosfield and mother of their three gorgeous kids. Not only were D and J keen to attend, but Judie gave us a brochure for a B and B she thought we might be able to take advantage of as it wasn't far from the Vallican Whole, where we got married. As both our houses were crammed with guests, we quickly booked the place, for our minister and his wife the night before the wedding, and for ourselves the night of. We kept meaning to check it out ahead of time, but never quite made it until we arrived, newly wed, after an eight hour party. Suffice it to say, it was unique. In fairness to Judie, she only picked up the brochure; she hadn't actually been there, either!
Not surprisingly, there was even a banjo. And fox stoles. And red shag carpeting. And guns. And a scythe. And...stuff. Everywhere. Lots and lots of stuff. Tchotchkes galore. And a bed that sounded as if it might be trying out for a part doing sound effects for a rusty gate in a grade B psychological thriller. (When I tossed my purse on it, it squeaked!) And a bathroom we immediately christened "Seaworld". I'm just sorry this all happened before digital cameras were ubiquitous; by the time we got there I was almost out of film. 
The next day (after we escaped the B and B) we had another party at our house. 
Me and my mom
The Linteds

Happy Anniversary, Ted 
And yes, I'd marry you all over again!