Thursday, July 31, 2014

Requiem for a little bird

I vaguely remembered this song from my childhood: though we weren't exactly the Von Trapps, we were given to singing in harmony, even in round, and I may  have taken the soprano part (though I doubt it). Then the whole thing was tossed to the back of my brain, to the point that I began to think I had imagined it. For decades, it just didn't come up.

What shook it loose? Uhhhh. . . my bird got sick. That's right. I was ridiculed on someone else's blog  just for having a bird, and a large picture of me was posted with Jasper on my shoulder: anyone who has birds must be nuts, some crackpot old lady half out of her mind.

I'm not. But to get back to the original point, we did some painting upstairs (in my office, in fact: it's now a lovely soft blue with a touch of dove-grey) and my bird got sick. We tried everything to keep him away from possible fumes. It may not have been the paint at all. He has something wrong with the toe on his left foot, and has partially lost his grip. Did he take a fall? For whatever reason, he was puffed up, ruffly and almost unresponsive, and we feared the worst.

When I picked him up (for he no longer had the energy to just hop into my hand as usual), he snuggled down in my palm as if in a nest and buried his head in my hand. Not normal behaviour, at all. It was then that the song began to play in my head. After more than 50 years, my sick birdie pushed "play".

Ah, poor bird. Take thy flight. For some reason I remembered my brother Arthur singing it. It was one of those songs that came from who-knows-where: nobody wrote it, apparently. It just "was". On doing a bit of digging, however, I discover that the roots of it may well be Elizabethan. No doubt it sounded different hundreds of years ago and there were/are many versions, but this is the one I kept finding on YouTube.

This was the only decent version I uncovered.  It's an amateur group, but they're definitely singers. It's touching, if not perfect: meaning, it's music. I like the way they sing it more than once, the way they work on it and discuss it and let it evolve. The process is everything (and I particularly like their obvious joy in singing).

Most of the videos I found were of Godawful children's choruses singing wildly off-key. It's a children's song, apparently, like Frere Jacques. . . buthey, do you hear a sort of similarity? Flip Frere Jacques into a minor key, and there you have it. With only a few changes, we have the original Ah Poor Bird, stolen by who-knows-who.

Way leads on to way. The next association was with Gustav Mahler and his - what, second symphony? We played Mahler recordings endlessly when I was a child (along with every other classical composer, up to and including Kurt Weill and Alban Berg). One day the slow movement of this symphony was playing, and my older brother Walt said, "Listen to this. It's Frere Jacques." "No it isn't." "Yes it is.  It's just in a minor key." "What's that?" "You know. The sad key." I was probably eight years old, but it somehow stuck. 

I found a recording of the Mahler piece and will post it next, along with some revelations about the composer and Leonard Bernstein, then deemed the go-to guy for interpreting Mahler symphonies.  It's funny how finding one video, or remembering one bit of tune due to a sick bird, can open out memory telescopically, or rather, kaleidoscopically. 

By the way, my bird suddenly recovered and is now hopping into my hand, devouring millet and humping his plastic toys with his usual elan.

POST-BLOG THOUGHTS. This is a repeat of a piece I wrote over two years ago.  Last night Jasper died. He was nine years old and had been doing poorly for a while, but we kept hoping he'd bounce back like he did last time, the only other time in his life he had been sick. I had been preparing for a while, though I know that sounds strange. Everyone copes in a different way. Bill cried and cried, but he's a cryer much more than I am, except for sudden torrential floods of sobbing that come upon me suddenly, triggered by the flat-out tragedy of a deteriorating, perhaps even plummeting world, and my uncertain, maybe even impossible place in it.

I had something ready for him, a little Twining's tea box that had held mint tea bags. It was quite pretty and mint-scented and the perfect size. We buried him with two of his favorite toys, and I made him a little stone with his initial on it. Found a small branch of heather in the front yard with little white flowers on it, an earthy, durable sprig that somehow seemed appropriate. 

I have this cage to scrub out now, and - .  But not today. I know it will get harder the longer I leave it. I slept lousy last night, just lousy, and have that raw bagged wired feeling that will last a couple of days. I tip easily. Oh so easily, which is why I stand my ground so fervently when I can. Where others have wooden beams or even stone, I have eggshell. If that.

Jasper came into my life when I badly needed something to take care of. He was so little that he'd do that baby bird thing, quiver his wings and look up at me, all but opening his beak to be fed. He bonded with me quickly, for he had to: I was survival for him. There were disadvantages to a bird, mostly the incredible mess he could spew. He didn't just go splat. His shit was shot out of a tiny cannon and could fly horizontally more than half a foot. Dried, it was like cement, but wet it was even worse,and it stained. The other disadvantage was the racket, sometimes so shrill I could hardly stand it. 

At the end he kind of lost his will. He wasn't climbing up on Bill's glasses any more (a behaviour he never practiced with me, though he often preened my hair at the back). I knew he was going. I began to wonder if there was music I could listen to, to help this along. I immediately thought of Ah Poor Bird, the lovely sad round that doesn't show up much on YouTube. Then I thought of the Mahler version, a sort of Frere Jacques in a minor key that is also meant to represent the funeral procession of a hunter, with all the animals walking in a single file behind the casket. Not bloody likely, but it makes a lovely mournful tune. Then I thought, to hell with that, I'll find something else. But today I find I want to hear the Mahler. 

Ah poor bird, take thy flight. In the end he was fragile, but then he always was, like a little bright brooch you'd wear over your heart. My dread of seeing him dead was unfounded. He lay relaxed on his back, his feet curled around an invisible perch, his yellow breast exposed like a drop of sun. He was okay, this Jasper. This Jasper helped me through a time in my life when it looked like I might commit suicide from despair, when everything I had depended on in myself, all my recovery so carefully nurtured and worked on for fifteen years, just fell out from under my feet. I wanted to say, to cry like a thwarted, lied-to child, "But you PROMISED!" You promised that if I stayed sober, did all the things I was supposed to do, worked really hard on myself and all my issues, that I would stay well, that I would never again be swallowed by a hospital and be poked at with sharp sticks.

They were wrong.

But I had this bird, this tiny fragile thing that was somehow feisty. I had him a long time. Did things get better? Better, worse, up, down, sideways. Many losses, many disappointments, some agonizing near-accomplishments that as usual were jerked away just as they brushed my fingertips.

But my mood grows dark. Can't tell you why, maybe it's because my bird died and I seem to be doomed to carry on.

Don't ask why.

I guess I will always be this sixties brat. Except that now I AM sixty, a fact which makes my head spin around. And it's strange that I wasn't a Doors fan then - not much, except that you'd have to be dead not to respond to Light My Fire and the even more hypnotic/seductive Hello I Love You. Morrison just seemed too pretty somehow, and besides, I had my Dylan, whose poetry blew Morrison out of the water. Well, maybe.

Dylan at least had the divine or mortal gift of longevity, didn't fall prey to that awful "27 curse" that even reached into the '90s and beyond with Winehouse and Cobain. I think anyone trying to be a poet while Dylan was on the same earth must have been intimidated and automatically suffered by comparison. So I didn't do the Doors particularly. But when I saw a recent PBS documentary called When You'rs Strange (narrated, wonderfully, by Johnny Depp, a Doors sort of person), I began to dig it, man. Really dig it.

I dug, most of all, or was impressed by, their prodigious outpouring, flood really, of hits, most of real quality and substance. I mean, Riders on the Storm! Touch Me Baby! I was astonished and impressed a few years ago to find out they'd covered Kurt Weill's Alabama Song, an unheard-of choice for a '60s rock group. I knew the song better than most, for it was blasted at me - embarrassingly - on the stereo after school, while I tried to sneak my bewildered friends past all that racket and upstairs to my bedroom so we could listen to Freddie and the Dreamers.

I had a weird upbringing. I am grateful for some of it. I was much, much younger than the eldest child. My sister, it now seems to me, got out of that house like a bat out of hell at the first opportunity and lived in Europe for several years. Munich. She spoke fluent German, did her Masters thesis in German, for reasons that are still not clear to anyone. For you see, nobody is remotely German in our family. You'd have to go back to the Vikings or something, or old pre-Chaucer English with all its guttural sounds.

Anyway, our den, where the TV was so we spent a lot of time there, was lined with books. Books books books books books. My books weren't anywhere to be seen, as they were safely stashed upstairs in my bedroom. But the books, well, I don't know how some of them got there. It was a junkyard, a repository of high culture and slightly tawdry randomness.

I just remember covers. There was a novel called I Should have Kissed her More with a picture of a smarmy-looking older gentleman. There was A Rage to Live by John O'Hara (with passages in it that fascinated me, though I can't say I understood what a "climax" was). There was Don't Get Perconal with a Chicken, a collection of cutely-misspelled writings by children, and Ted Malone's Scrapbook, a book of lamely sentimental poetry designed to be read on the radio. 

Though I thought I imagined it, I just proved to myself that there really was an outright-racy book by Mordecai Richler called, wait for it, Cocksure. Sons and Lovers, by D. H. Laurence, looked promising, though I'll be damned if I could find the dirty parts. A red-leather-bound, fat, falling-apart old book of local history called Romantic Kent had a few flaky old wax-covered pressed leaves stashed in it.

And there were innumerable books in German: Goethes Werke, Schiller Werke, and the complete works of Sigmund Freud. IN GERMAN. 

I just made a connection this second, something that seemed puzzling before, how I always "diss" Germans in a way that is supposed to be humorous, but is in fact kind of mean. My sister posed as a German, wrote her Master's thesis IN German, and as a matter of fact, it was all about The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. 

With its famous song. Not hummable, but famous: the Alabama Song.

Show me the way to the next whisky bar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
Show me the way to the next whisky bar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find the next whisky bar
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you
I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say say good-bye
We've lost our good old mamma
And must have whisky
Oh, you know why.

Show me the way to the next pretty girl
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
Show me the way to the next pretty girl
Oh don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find the next pretty girl
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you
I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say good-bye
We've lost our good old mamma
And must have a girl
Oh, you know why.

Show me the way to the next little dollar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
Show me the way to the next little dollar
Oh, don't ask why, oh, don't ask why
For if we don't find the next little dollar
I tell you we must die
I tell you we must die
I tell you
I tell you
I tell you we must die

Oh, moon of Alabama
We now must say good-bye
We've lost our good old mamma
And must have dollars
Oh, you know why.

Bertolt Brecht

And it was the soundtrack to this, with Lotte Lenya endlessly wailing in her testosteronic baritone voice, that I tried to hustle my friends past, the endless dark sinister and really life-hating, dystopic, anhedonic sounds of Alabama Song: please show us the way to the next whiskey bar. Oh don't ask why. Oh don't ask why.

I could get into how it was with my sister, that is, when she was actually around. She was a thwarted singer who, when she sang at all, sang very morbid folk songs about rotting horses and death. Her exposure of me to her "friends" was such a disaster that I honestly wonder if I will ever be able to deal with it. But nothing was done because there was "nothing wrong" with what was happening, nothing wrong with an older sister inviting her pudgy, lonely, misfit 15-year-old sister to her parties. Oh don't ask why. 

And don't ask why the whiskey flowed so darkly, and why the men groped and shoved, and why I dared not speak. Why I threw up the next day with my mother pretending not to notice. And don't ask why I was the mascot, cutely topped up and topped up and encouraged and softened up and, I now see, groomed. Even my brother's best friend had a go at it while his wife slept in a room upstairs. But then, we were both so drunk it didn't count anyway.

So when I hear Moon of Alabama in Morrison's smoky, seductive, doomed voice, I see that he is singing the hell out of it as Lotte Lenye with all her strident Nazi bleating never could. Morrison is actually going to die. He was a Rider on the Storm, way out on the farthest edges of acceptability and even sanity. He is gone now, long gone, his molecules have come apart to the point that he no longer exists, not even in the farthest reaches of space. He's an idea now, a sound wave, a song interpretation. I continue, feeling forever strange, and yes, no one remembers my name. 

A few post- thoughts. As usual, it's far too late to be up, but here I am, up. It's been a hard day emotionally. I lost a long-term beloved pet,and now all I can hear is his sweet peeps when I pass his door. That room will always be "the bird room" to us, but with his huge cage moved out, it looks cavernous.

I edited this post because it got a little too honest about my sister, an emotional vacuum on legs who inflicts her bile on everyone by insisting it all originated with you. Bait and switch, or something. She's gone out of my life now, and the little I know about her suggests life in a sort of cave of isolation that she would vigorously justify and defend, unless she's gone completely off her nut. Which would be justice, since she expressed such contempt for mental illness in any form.

I still don't know why she pretended to be German - the connotations really are sort of creepy, now that I look at it, which maybe I haven't up to now. Why she travelled to the other side of the world like that, immersed herself in a language and culture she had no real affinity for. I don't remember any enthusiasm from her at all about Europe, she didn't even talk about it, except to say the men fucked better and had fewer hangups.

Oh, and her sex life. Yes, and. The descriptions were endless, the lovers all married, except for the 20-year-old guy, and then the descriptions were endlessly anatomical. Until she turned her back on the whole thing, and now anyone who even thinks of having sex is beneath contempt. It's damaging to be treated like that for so long, then to have it dumped back in your lap. My sister, if she's alive, has a very deep case of narcissistic personality disorder that has basically poisoned her life and done tremendous damage to anyone who ever cared about her. Her one big genius in life is twisting other people's emotions so bizarrely that they no longer know who or even where they are. Is this evil? I wonder about that. She eats her young without even thinking about it, casually, even with no need for it, just on a whim. If the absence of love isn't hate, then what is it? I think of those shadows on the cement in Hiroshima. A person who isn't there.

Order The Glass Character from:

Thistledown Press


When you're strange

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Oh no it couldn't be

(Two middle-aged women, overheard talking at Tim Hortons yesterday).

Oh well you know I can’t stay in the sun longer than

Well, aren’t you using sunscreen?

Isn’t it a little late for that, I mean

Oh my God, I’ll bet you were one of those people who baked in the sun.

I don’t bake in the sun any

Use sunscreen

By the way I got some news about, you know, all that trouble he's been having

Oh, tell me, what did they find?

Oh well, they didn’t exactly find anything

Whadda you mean? He went through every test that existed, didn’t he?

Yeah, and they kept not finding anything, and he was, you know, wanting to give up. And I said, I've been with you twenty years and I'm not about to give up yet.

Well, why don't you just have the tests done again? These machines, you know

Yeah, and that’s about all there is now. Machines. No real doctors.

Tell me about it. Doctors don’t do anything at all now except sit there and delegate.

Then you get to the hospital and your body is stuck in a big tube, or you have to get your insides reamed out


So they still don't have a clue what it is?

No, I told you! I got the news on (muffled)

News. What do you mean by news?

They think they do know what’s wrong with him.

So, what, tell me!




Yeah, see it’s

Oh NO. No, no, no, no, no. That’s what they all say now. It's the disease of the week.

Yeah, but he -

It’s just a way of pushing those pills. Maybe it’s his adrenal glands.

But he’s been so –

Everybody gets that way. Listen, I know what will help. Turmeric.

Turmeric? Isn’t that something that goes in a pie or something?

No, no. It’s a miracle substance. I’ve seen it happen again and again.

But I’ve tried everything like that. I mean, alternative stuff. He just sits there

Get him out! Just get him out more. Talk to him. Get him to be more positive.

This isn’t a matter of will. That’s what the doctor said.




They’re not witch doctors, you know.

They’re not? They’re funded by the pharmaceutical companies! You should know that. They’re nothing but pill-pushers.

But I don’t know what to do. He’s talking about killing (muffled)



(unintelligible; sounds of weeping)


But it’s true that (muffled)

No. Just get him out more. I mean, spiritually this might mean he’s trying to break out into the light.

LIGHT! He wants to jump off a bridge!

Keep your voice down! Everyone can hear you.

Yes. Everyone is uncomfortable about this.

Well, no wonder!

When he took a six-month leave at work, no one phoned.

(low voice, almost unintelligible) It's because people don’t know what to say. And when you're away that long, after a while they start to talk.

It’s like they just expect him to pull himself together.

Well, what else can he do? Just lie there? Take pills and turn into a zombie?

They don’t “turn you into a zombie”.

How do you know?

Well, I –

OH GOD! Don’t tell me YOU’VE been conned into this!

I couldn’t stand it any longer, he couldn’t work, he felt useless, he was around the house all the time talking about suicide and how much he hated himself. I couldn't sleep either and I

Listen, everybody’s depressed now. Next year it’ll be something else. And every time, there’s a drug for it.

What else can we do?

Well, maybe there’s a higher purpose in all this. You know, as if you’re about to break through to joy.

Is that what they told you at that retreat?

Don’t get sarcastic with me.

I wasn’t! Don’t you hear me?

Not if you take that line with me. Listen, if you expect any support at all, from anyone, you’re both going to have to stop the pity party.

But this isn’t self-pity.

Who told you that, the “doctor”?

I read it in a book called

Oh, for God’s sake, a BOOK?

Yes, a book. I wanted to find out if

That’s worse than pills!

But better than turmeric.

Oh, now you’re being sarcastic! Hey, don't forget I'm your best friend! Who else is ever going to listen to all this? 


Right, so don't talk to anyone else. And don't tell me anything more. It's better that way.

(One of the women gets up and storms out. After a while, the other woman leaves. It is obvious she has been crying.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This life is bittersweet. . . again

Now all of the planes have landed
The soldiers are in their beds

Smoke rises from their clothing
And sweet dreams through their heads

Truth faced leaves a strange taste
When joy and sadness meet

A country rain on a city street
This life is bittersweet

The boy with the bloated belly
Hears today's truck arrive

He puts down his baby sister
And makes his way outside

Truth faced leaves a strange taste
When joy and sadness meet
A country rain on a city street
This life is bittersweet

Everyone's a novelist
And everyone can sing
But no one talks when the TV's on...

The lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled
Dark clouds filled the sky

A country rain on a city street
This life is bittersweet 

Moxy Fruvous

Post-blog notes. Once again I lost an entire post, with all my thoughts about my favorite '90s pop/folk group, Moxy Fruvous, gone forever. (Barenaked Ladies were a close second, with their anti-rockstar geekster appeal predating The Big Bang Theory by 20 years.) I'm trying to piece it together now, but it's traumatic. What I was going to say was, I never expected to hear this song again. Every so often I'd check YouTube to see if someone had posted it, and though King of Spain and the cutesie My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors ("spilled some dressing on Doris Lessing, these writer types are a scream") were all over the place, this one wasn't. It has a smoky, dust-rising, melancholy Gulf War feeling to it, along with two of the greatest non-Dylan lines in pop music: 

Everyone's a novelist, and everyone can sing
But no one talks when the TV's on

Once again, this predates the cult of narcissism, the American Idol and easy one-click authorhood by twenty years or more. And yet, unlike the Ladies, these boys gradually drifted into obscurity. But that one song, somehow redolent of Jim Morrison's melancholy bleakscape, smolders on.

(And oh. When I went looking for Google images to illustrate this post, most of them were from my blog. From my post. On this. On this song, a while back, two years maybe, or three. So I just pirated my own work. I don't care who pirates mine. I remember when it was a real issue "using" a photo, then Pinterest came along and everybody was stealing everything from everyone. I've used TinEye Reverse Image a lot, trying to find the provenance of certain photos, but all I ever find are different sizes and what web sites it has appeared on. I would hate to be a photographer now. By the way, what possible use is Pinterest? It seems almost as useless as LinkedIn.)

When dry of inspiration, think of a panda

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lots of cool alien shit

I go weird at night, well, sort of. I stay up too late, which I never used to do when I was younger and went to bed at 9:30 or 10:00. I do my straight blogging in the morning, and my way weird blogging late at night (or is it very early in the morning?)  Something in my head went "sproinggggg" a few years ago, and now everything is upside-down. But that was then, when things were normal. Now I have the Aliens.

Hey, I liked The X Files as much as anyone, though I don't think any of it exactly convinced me. But then came YouTube, and plenty weird shit. Most of these things look like animatronics, puppets, or just somebody's idea of a joke. But that big-headed one, you've gotta wonder. The long gangly body with the long fingers. I want to call Whitley Streiber and say, "Whitley, come home. We believe you now. All is forgiven."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Should we be more like the States?

Over the past several weeks, I have been trying to sort out what I saw in New York City, especially in The Cloisters, the brilliant collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art's Medieval Collection. I have come to the conclusion that even though none of the museum's collections was American (how could it be?), it was genius of them to recognize genius in
others. This is a key cultural failing of Canadians (sorry to say but it is true). Until we learn to recognize genius in others we will not be capable of recognizing genius in ourselves and our own works and we will remain a second rate culture dominated by cliques and second rate conversation among those who are merely self-serving. It is time we took that conversation to a
different level. Rather than just patting ourselves on the back, we should ask why we are patting ourselves on the back. Rather than just saying that our poetry is good because it has been promoted and discussed in trade journals, we should be asking ourselves why something is good, what made it good, and how it could be better. We aren't pushing our brains enough and because of that we're casually accepting things merely because they appear on bookstore shelves or because they've been reviewed in publishing journals. That isn't culture. That's just marketing and we need to recognize the 


Those brave words were posted on Facebook by one Bruce Meyer, a much-published poet who has his ear to the ground on all matters cultural (and NOT just Canadian culture, folks!). I always pay a lot of attention to what he writes, because he comes out and says things the rest of us tiptoe around while we keep our mouths safely bandaided shut.

I don't think this is a screed against CanLit or anything else Canadian, except perhaps its insularity and near-desperate attempt to prove to itself that, yes, in spite of all the evidence, it DOES have a thriving arts community not dependent on constant handouts to survive.

OK then, what if it's true (which it is, largely) and artists DO need government funds and/or constant scrambling on social media in order to go on? The problem is, someone has to name the problem first or it continues to worsen through denial. I've been re-reading the brilliant works of Margaret Laurence, and what I see is work that speaks for itself, with a quality of greatness that does not exist any more. I don't know how much schmoozing writers needed to do then. Maybe a lot. But I don't think it was the main event. Laurence, after all, was widely quoted as saying, "Don't be a writer in this country unless you absolutely have to." (And that was in the 1960s, an era when Jack McClelland took manuscripts home in his briefcase to personally read in bed.) In The Diviners, Laurence's most autobiographical novel, Morag is portrayed as a "successful"published author barely scraping by while she raises her daughter on a pauper's income.

Canada has always suffered from chronic low self-esteem in every area. It's no secret why. We live next to this giant, the elephant that at any moment might roll over and crush the mouse. We have approximately one-tenth the population of the U. S. spread over a much wider geographical area, consisting of concentrated blobs of population punctuating vast stretches of nothing. We are a much younger country, nearly a century younger, so that we have had a century less time to establish ourselves beside this heaving, seething superpower. Until fifty years ago, we didn't even have our own flag.

Our history has also been vastly different, dull by some standards. Robertson Davies was once quoted as saying, "Historically, a Canadian is an American who rejected the revolution." No rocket's red glare, no bombs bursting in air, just an endless "we stand on guard, we stand on guard".  I do not know one single individual who owns a gun, and in my entire lifetime have only known two (an antiques collector and a cop). I doubt if this would be the norm in the States. You do not see articles published in magazines here telling you (quite seriously, like a fire drill) "what to do if someone has a gun to your head". We have no "right to bear arms" in our constitution. We don't "pledge allegiance", an idea which to the Canadian mind seems very strange.

Am I claiming that as a nation we are morally or perhaps ideologically superior? Sometimes I wish I could say that. On the other side of our peaceable ways seems to be a woeful mediocrity. We can never keep up. I'm a Canadian and I love my country. But art is being drowned in the mad scramble for commerce, to "win", to sell copies, to be "a success". If you aren't, you feel a particular kind of miserable guilt and woe, not to mention an isolation no one should have to feel. You're not "in", you're "out", and the solution is to work even more feverishly to gain admission, to crash the gates. And yet if you say any of this out loud, you're anti-patriotic, hate Canada, hate the arts and just don't understand how it really works. Any time I've tried to write about this, I've been "corrected", shown the ropes, or told, "well, none of that applies to ME, I'm doing just fine" (so, by definition, I must be a loser).

Am I saying we should be "more like the States" (a sentiment which is always both praised and reviled)? No, I am saying we should be more like ourselves. Celebrating only the tiny tip of the vast pyramid which is the arts community in Canada is not going to do it. Imitating the States is not going to do it, because we are not the States.  I am not knocking Americans; my husband has travelled extensively all over the United States
and insists that the vast majority of people he met were warm and welcoming, perhaps a damn sight more warm and welcoming than the average chilly Canadian. Dissing Americans across the board annoys him no end.

I wonder how to transcend all these useless stereotypes, to begin to listen and respond to those powerful inner voices that drive us to create. It can be argued that art has always been elitist, that only the strong survive, etc. But it's a circular argument. An elitist system won't admit any new members, becomes smug and stagnant, and thus even more elitist. Those who need to create are shoved out into the margins, the badlands of existence. Then it's "oh, well, you know what artists are like, they're a crazy lot." The suicide rate among poets is staggering, but also part of the stereotype of crazy writers who for some reason can't cope.

And yet, and yet. I do wonder how many magnificent artists are out there, or HAVE been out there, who refused to play the game and thus remained in total obscurity, unknown to any of us.

It's my blog, and I'll lament if I want to/need to. If I can't, things are even worse than I thought. So often, when I try to express a thought or feeling that comes from a deep part of me, I am clapped down (especially on Facebook, and especially by Canadian authors!). I had an example of this the other day that made my head reel: why must we fire on each other like that? Why the unspoken, unacknowledged status wars, which if you talk about them at all seem to get a reaction of, "Oh, you're not promoting your work vigorously enough"? The unquestioned assumption is that you're clamoring for a higher spot on the totem pole we all clutch for fear of sliding down on top of those unfortunate underlings. If you're not winning the unacknowledged, futile war for ascendency, you're just not playing the game right.

I am saying the game needs to be chucked out altogether. Can't be done? Nothing can be done if it's never ventured or dared.

I can do nothing at this point but quote an old, old song by Joni Mitchell. I am not entirely sure of the message. It has echoes of the Civil War, but below and beneath that, it may be speaking of the uneasy relationship we have with the giant that constantly threatens to erase our identity. But spare a thought for this: they never set out to "erase" anything. They are simply being, huge and turbulent, while we cringe and continually wonder who we are.

And so once again
My dear Johnny my dear friend
And so once again you are fightin' us all
And when I ask you why
You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall
Oh, my friend
How did you come
To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say I have turned
Like the enemies you've earned
But I can remember
All the good things you are
And so I ask you please
Can I help you find the peace and the star
Oh, my friend
What time is this
To trade the handshake for the fist

And so once again
Oh, America my friend
And so once again
You are fighting us all
And when we ask you why
You raise your sticks and cry and we fall
Oh, my friend
How did you come
To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say we have turned
Like the enemies you've earned
But we can remember
All the good things you are
And so we ask you please
Can we help you find the peace and the star
Oh my friend
We have all come
To fear the beating of your drum