Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

December 12, 2017

 

 

Hero

by Kevin Higgins

 

The day you fall, bawling into the world
in a village northeast of Salisbury;
in faraway Florida, Sidney Poitier is busy

 

being one day old. In Moscow heavily scarved
women mark the anniversary:
Lenin – One Month Dead Today.

 

Your two older brothers soon join him.
And your father, Gabriel, scarpers.
You are ten years old. It is nineteen thirty four

 

and all down to you. Mission schools,
then university. You are a teacher.
Your only son dies of cerebral malaria.

 

For subversive speech,
you are under arrest. Ten years.
You study law. The Party

 

chooses you. Rocket launchers
and Chairman Mao. You look in the mirror
one morning and see: His Excellency Comrade President.

 

Your name on the lips of a continent.
In the final act you start gifting
farms the white man stole

 

to your friends. One for everyone
in the audience. As the supermarket shelves empty,
your life fills up with dead people.

 

The country may be living on Styrofoam and grass
but will sing your name
one last time. The air fat with laughter

 

as you step into the TV to say
“We don’t cheat; but on the other side…
all sorts of irregularities.”

 

A foreign journalist is arrested
on the tenth floor
of a hotel near the airport.

 

Silence,
but for the sound of an occasional dog barking
on Samora Machel Avenue.

 

Outside your office the sign:
Mugabe is right. It is two thousand and eight
and all down to you.

 

 

from Frightening New Furniture (Salmon Poetry, 2010) 

BLAST FROM THE PAST

December 6, 2017

image012

 

For yet another rare occasion, we see Neil from a different angle, on the other side of the microphone discussing his early life with Dennis Trudeau for the show Sunday Night.

Aired on 13/04/97

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

December 5, 2017

 

 

Blessings

By Katharine Tynan

 

God bless the little orchard brown
Where the sap stirs these quickening days.
Soon in a white and rosy gown
The trees will give great praise.

God knows I have it in my mind,
The white house with the golden eaves.
God knows since it is left behind
That something grieves and grieves.

God keep the small house in his care,
The garden bordered all in box,
Where primulas and wallflowers are
And crocuses in flocks.

God keep the little rooms that ope
One to another, swathed in green,
Where honeysuckle lifts her cup
With jessamine between.

God bless the quiet old grey head
That dreams beside the fire of me,
And makes home there for me indeed
Over the Irish Sea.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

November 28, 2017

 

The first snowfall

by James Russell Lowell

 

 

THE snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer’s muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan’s-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, ‘Father, who makes it snow?’
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snowfall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o’er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
‘The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall! ‘

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

November 21, 2017

 

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

by William Shakespeare

 

 

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

PIT STOP

November 16, 2017

Many of you might not know that Neil use to write for The Senior Times, he had a column called Pit Stop.  Since the weather is quickly changing here in Quebec, I found the perfect article for you.

Resist hibernating and enjoy the outdoors this winter.

”If you want to enjoy the Montreal winter, you’ve got to join it.”  I wish I had heeded that advice when I first arrived in Montreal in the autumn of 1972.

That first winter I was broadcasting editorial comments on CJAD and producing and hosting ”Prime Time”, a program for seniors.  On the week-ends I huddle with my wife, Catharine, (a writer-researcher at the Reader’s Digest) inside our apartment on the twenty-first floor of a high rise near the old Forum, and read the newspaper including the weighty Sunday New York Times.  This regimen turned out to be a recipe for lethargy, lassitude and recurring stupor.

At the time we didn’t have a car (once we toured a good part of the island of Montreal on two metro tickets), but the following winter, Catharine reconnoitred the lower Laurentians by bus to find a place to stay and to ski.  Happily, she discovered on the perimeters of Prévost, then Shawbridge, a sprawling white frame house with many appendages, the Laurentian Lodge Club, founded in 1923.

Catharine and I have now been members of the Club for more than twenty-five years, enjoying chef André’s savoury cuisine and cross-country skiing on trails with such evocative names as The Barking Dog, Fallen Women, The Madonna, and of course, portions of the Maple Leaf, laid out by the famous Herman Smith ”Jack Rabbit” Johannsen himself.

One stormy Saturday, I was chatting with Mr. Johannsen (then more than a hundred, still a skier and long-time member of the Club) in the living room beside the fireplace when the ”Chief” with a glint in his eye, lit a cigarette.  ”I never smoke before lunch,” he explained, ”but I usually have lunch early.”

Mr. Johannsen was not the only notable member of the Laurentian Lodge Club, chock-a-block in those early years with young families and their children.  Other distinguished members included the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield and Brooke Claxton, a minister in federal Liberal governments.

Not that the Club was an elitist conclave or luxury resort.  Far from it.  The original iron beds were purchased from the Montreal General Hospital for three dollars each.  Their springs were so dilapidated the mattresses had to be propped up by large sheets of stiff brown paper that crackled down the halls whenever the sleeper turned over.  Still, the spartan bedrooms were merely a counterpoise to the charm and gentility of afternoon tea served in front of the blazing fire by ladies in long gowns.

From its beginning in 1923, the Club was at the heart of early ski developments in the Laurentians.  Just beyond the first door across the river and through the trees loomed the Big Hill where in 1932 Alec Foster, using an old Ford engine for power, installed the first rope tow in North America, charging skiers five cents a ride.

From those early days, the Laurentian Lodge Club developed and still retains a distinctive élan marked by enthusiastic and warm camaraderie.  ”The atmosphere,” as one senior member described it, ”was set by people in their eighties who had nothing to prove,” and who, it might be added, encouraged a tradition of fun skiing which meant taking time on the trail to stop to eat an orange and feed the birds.

This spirit continues, epitomized by the Club’s oldest active member, a vivacious ans elegant lady in her early nineties.  She still skis and still serves afternoon tea in a long gown.  She joined the Montreal winter a long time ago.  Obviously she had never regretted it.  Neither have I.

Published in February 1999

Jean P.

November 13, 2017

 

DARK ROSALEEN

by  James Clarence Mangan

 

O my dark Rosaleen,
    Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
    They march along the deep.
There’s wine from the royal Pope,
    Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
Over hills, and thro’ dales,
    Have I roam’d for your sake;
All yesterday I sail’d with sails
    On river and on lake.
The Erne, at its highest flood,
    I dash’d across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
O, there was lightning in my blood,
Red lighten’d thro’ my blood.
    My Dark Rosaleen!
All day long, in unrest,
    To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
    Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
    To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
Woe and pain, pain and woe,
    Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
    Like to the mournful moon.
But yet will I rear your throne
    Again in golden sheen;
‘Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
‘Tis you shall have the golden throne,
‘Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
Over dews, over sands,
    Will I fly, for your weal:
Your holy delicate white hands
    Shall girdle me with steel.
At home, in your emerald bowers,
    From morning’s dawn till e’en,
You’ll pray for me, my flower of flowers,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My fond Rosaleen!
You’ll think of me through daylight hours
My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
I could scale the blue air,
    I could plough the high hills,
Oh, I could kneel all night in prayer,
    To heal your many ills!
And one beamy smile from you
    Would float like light between
My toils and me, my own, my true,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My fond Rosaleen!
Would give me life and soul anew,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
O, the Erne shall run red,
    With redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread,
    And flames wrap hill and wood,
And gun-peal and slogan-cry
    Wake many a glen serene,
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,
    My Dark Rosaleen!
    My own Rosaleen!
The Judgement Hour must first be nigh,
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,
    My Dark Rosaleen!

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

November 7, 2017

 

Going back to your roots

 

Catharine writes:

                                  This was an extraordinary moment for me, to visit Aunt Polly’s grave in St.-James cemetery, Toronto. With John Fleming and Stephanie. There also was the grave of Polly’s mother, my great-grandmother. Thanks to their courage as immigrants and refugees from Ireland I could be born in Canada. I found myself choking up with gratitude.

 

 

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

October 31, 2017

Discovering your roots

 

Your own family’s history can be an inspiration – and a good source of material for writing. In the video below Bob Fleming discusses how he traced his Irish roots. This same story led Catharine Fleming McKenty to write her first novel, Polly of Bridgewater Farm.

Have you investigated your own family’s history? Have you written your memoirs?

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

September 19, 2017

Spraying the potatoes.

by Patrick Kavanagh

 

The barrels of blue potato-spray
Stood on a headland in July
Beside an orchard wall where roses
Were young girls hanging from the sky.

The flocks of green potato stalks
Were blossom spread for sudden flight,
The Kerr’s Pinks in frivelled blue,
The Arran Banners wearing white.

And over that potato-field
A lazy veil of woven sun,
Dandelions growing on headlands, showing
Their unloved hearts to everyone.

And I was there with a knapsack sprayer
On the barrel’s edge poised. A wasp was floating
Dead on a sunken briar leaf
Over a copper-poisoned ocean.

The axle-roll of a rut-locked cart
Broke the burnt stick of noon in two.
An old man came through a cornfield
Remembering his youth and some Ruth he knew.

He turned my way. ‘God further the work’.
He echoed an ancient farming prayer.
I thanked him. He eyed the potato drills.
He said: ‘You are bound to have good ones there’.

We talked and our talk was a theme of kings,
A theme for strings. He hunkered down
In the shade of the orchard wall. O roses
The old man dies in the young girl’s frown.

And poet lost to potato-fields,
Remembering the lime and copper smell
Of the spraying barrels he is not lost
Or till blossomed stalks cannot weave a spell.