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Cry from an Indian Wife • Psychogeographics • Piss-ups • Lethbians • Beautiful Man in a Hot Tub “BABY DANCE” • NORTHERN FISH NOR FOWL • BETRAYAL UPON BETRAYAL • BEARS STARTLE EASILY Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk • Ondjaki • Anne Carson • Bruce Serafin • Sara Cassidy • Miriam Libicki • Randy Fred in New Zealand! W’ile de camp is warm an’ de fire is bright
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· Number 96 · Spring 2015
F EAT U R ES
BL AST PHOTOGR APHY
John O'Brian Nuclear flowers of hell 41
SCR AWLED ON THE BACK OF MY MAD FATHER’S WILL Joel William Vaughan Tobacco Lit readers choice 53
Pg. 39. The squatting life
SHALLOW IN THE A SECTION Sara Cassidy Father of the puck bunny 54
INNER LIMITS Stephen Brown Poetic investigations into psychogeographies 58
Pg. 10. Pauline Johnson at her death, 1913
Eradicating boredom for a ¼ century
NOTE S & DI S PATC H E S
F IN D IN GS
CO LU MN S
Stephen Osborne Insurgency 9
AFTERLIFE OF CULTURE
Best Laid Plans
White Out Stephen Henighan 22
Jeff Shucard Piss-up 11
Lindsay Diehl Honolulu 12
Fist Alberto Manguel 60
CITY OF WORDS
Time for a Rewrite Daniel Francis 62
Bill Howell Failure to Yield 13 Marko Sijan Peace on Earth 16
D EPA RT MEN TS
Specks of Dirt “The Baby Dance” and Other Instances of TMI
Miriam Libicki Drawn Life 18
German Sentence Structure
Bears Could Be Anywhere
Northern College Life
OFF THE SHELF, NOTED ELSEWHERE
70 71 CAUGHT MAPPING
72 Detail from Last Supper, East Vancouver by Dina Goldstein. See the whole photograph on page 24.
C A M E R A
his photograph was taken at the International Exhibition of Photography at Expo 67 Montreal by my uncle, Hiroshi Morita, the diminutive figure holding his camera at his waist. The imposing man holding a camera to his face is unknown to us, and probably to the photographer as well. Hiroshi Morita was an avid amateur photographer, who, when he died a few years ago at age eighty-five, left a photographic archive of thousands of images, mostly of Toronto: Nathan Phillips Square, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian National Exhibition, and many modernist buildings as well as less recognizable streetscapes. My uncle appears in some of the photographs, sometimes his full image in the frame, other times as a shadow or a reflection. The photographs represent a map of his life in Toronto. Hiroshi Morita was born in Vancouver in 1927 and sent by his parents to Japan at age seven. In 1945 he was living near Onomichi, sixty miles from Hiroshima, when the atomic bomb was dropped. The blast and resulting firestorm killed about 70,000 people, tens of thousands more died in the subsequent months,
4 Geist 96 Spring 2015
and there was famine and poverty throughout the region where he lived.Â In 1949, when he was twentytwo, Hiroshi Morita returned to Canada and joined his parents in Greenwood, BC, where they had been interned as enemy aliens during the dispossession of Japanese Canadians in World War II. There he struggled to integrate into the family. In his late twenties he moved to Toronto and took up work in the warehouse of a stationery company; over the next sixty years he rarely returned to Vancouver to visit his family. I got to know my uncle Hiroshi later in his life, when I began visiting Toronto as an adult in the 1990s. We often strolled through Nathan Phillips Square and always went out for a meal. His English was quite poor (as was his Japanese) and conversation between us was awkward; at these moments Hiroshi would bring out his camera or his iPhone and snap photos of me or take selfies of us together. This piece is part of a larger project about Hiroshi Morita. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Emiko Morita
This one is for Nikola, b. Jan 8, 2015 published by
The Geist Foundation
“Strange Women” by Connie Kuhns (Geist 95) was a fabulous read. I wasn’t a musician but I did study sound engineering and worked with some bands back in the day. The author really captured that slice of time, which held so much importance to us all! Thanking you, Connie! —Karen Spaner, Vancouver The punk girls’ scene in Vancouver was very much like the scene in Toronto when I lived there in the late '70s/early '80s. I am male and I played with members of the Diodes and Hoi Polloi until just a year ago. Back in the heyday, we would go to see the B-Girls, ZRO4, Time Twins, Mama Quilla (which would later become the Parachute Club), Mickey Skin, Michaele Jordana. Now, in Hamilton, punk is still very much alive with women artists like the Sheanderthals. —Les Szamosvari, Hamilton Well done. “Strange Women” was a wonderful tribute to the many talented women struggling to be heard. —Mary Simmonds, Vancouver Superb history of women in the Vancouver punk scene of the '70s in the new @geistmagazine. Remember the Dishrags! —@profnickmount Read “Life After Virginity” and other work by Connie Kuhns at geist.com. cruising
This car inhabits my neighbourhood in downtown Calgary. I say "inhabits" because I’ve never seen it driven anywhere, but I pass it parked in different locations; it seems to skulk. And it sprouts a new installation every season. This particular morning when
my daughter and I passed it at its usual berth just across the tracks, I had her stop to pose in front of it. I love the image because it could be straight out of 1977, or whenever the car was the latest thing. —Monica Kidd, Calgary
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beatific boarding pass
Christopher Gudgeon’s poem “Waiting for Our Lord God Jesus Christ,” (No. 93) was hilarious. A copy of this poem should be attached to every booking confirmation issued by Air Canada and Westjet. It won’t turn the air travel experience into a delight but it will constitute a powerful distraction. —Mark Lovell, Montreal Read “Waiting for Our Lord God Jesus Christ” and other work by Christopher Gudgeon at geist.com.
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“The Ashtray” (Rolli, No. 93) was a fantastic, punchy story. I’m now the author’s biggest fan. I don’t like smoking (never have) but I don’t have to. It’s this lady’s personality I love. Too few authors write about the relationship between the old and the young, and the few that do layer it with sappiness. In this story we have a direct, honest portrayal—a portrait. Also, who the hell do we think we are to believe we can tell elderly people how to spend their last days? —Tristan Cleveland, Halifax Read “The Ashtray” by Rolli at geist.com. Letters 5
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the writing life, whether writers want them to be or not. —Pat McGuire, Three Hills AB The “illustrious” Geist team is actually made up of a bunch of quitters. No one at Geist HQ actually smokes (anymore). —The Editors
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randy reports yoga poses for editors
Thanks to @geistmagazine for the fun Yoga Poses for Editors Eve Corbel bag. —@EditMapleRidge Fun mail surprise today: @geistmagazine tote bag with “Yoga Poses for Editors” by staff cartoonist Eve Corbel. —@girlyratfish Want your very own Yoga Poses for Editors tote? Renew your subscription at geist.com/renew.
Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Circulation Department, #210 – 111 West Hastings Street Vancouver BC Canada v6b 1h4 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (604) 681-9161, 1-888-geist-eh; Fax: (604) 677-6319; Web: geist.com Geist is a member of Magazines Canada and the Magazine Association of BC. Indexed in the Canadian Literary Periodicals Index and available on microfilm from University Microfilms Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. The Geist Foundation receives assistance from private donors, the Canada Council, the BC Arts Council and the Cultural Human Resources Council. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund (CPF) of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Geist contributor Shelley Kozlowski shows off her copy of Geist 95 in San Miguel de Allende. quitters always win
Geist has always had unique contest ideas, but Tobacco Lit is extra amazing! I don’t know how you do it—I picture the illustrious Geist team sitting in a wine-soaked boardroom, sucking back cigarettes as you ponder the next great writing contest. The second-prize-winning entry, “The Flower Lights Up,” (No. 95) was the funniest one-act play I’ve ever read— maybe playwriting should be your next contest!—and “Father Suite” was such pretty prose. Cigarettes aren’t the ugly thing people make them out to be; they’re dark and mysterious and funny, and they’re the backbone of 6 Geist 96 Spring 2015
Dear Geist, I just returned from the International Bowls for the Disabled World Championship in New Zealand, hosted in Lower Hutt, in the Wellington region. I came second in each of my seven games; that sounds better than saying that I lost every game. It was very encouraging to be part of a bowling tournament that included amputees, people in wheelchairs, deaf people, the visually impaired, and little people. Canada must start to promote lawn bowling to disabled groups other than visually impaired people. It really is a fun and worthwhile activity. Government support is needed to bring up the calibre of play to enable Canadian lawn bowlers to be competitive abroad. New Zealand is fascinating, especially for a blind Canadian Indian. The accent is so strong that everyone sounds the same. Even the Maori sound like everyone else. Everyone there says “eh,” much more than Canadians do. And people are friendly, the way Canadians once were. The climate in the Wellington region is similar to that of the Lower Mainland of BC and central Vancouver Island. The Kiwis are very aware of ozone layer depletion. Wellington is very windy. The wind that blows from the south comes from the Antarctic; it carries no dust. Dust helps block UV rays that hit the earth from the lack of ozone layer. Thus, it is easy to get burned in the Wellington area on days when the wind blows from the south. On days when the wind blows from the north you are fine, because that wind carries dust. Kiwis are very connected to water.
Sailing is huge. Fishing continues to be important. However, the quota system is making it difficult for owners of small fishing vessels to survive. Canada should learn from this. The Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada continues to push the Individual Transferable Quota system, which allows anyone to transfer or sell their quota of fish to anyone else. This makes it very difficult for Aboriginals to participate in the commercial fishing industry in Canada. Petone, the area of Lower Hutt near where we played, is the oldest colonial settlement in the Wellington region: 175 years old. The impacts of colonialism on the Maori are parallel to those on First Nations in Canada. The struggles are the same and we can learn much from each other. —Randy Fred
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Thoughts, opinions, comments and queries are welcome and encouraged, and should be sent to: The Editor, Geist email@example.com Snailmail: #210 – 111 West Hastings St. Vancouver BC v6b 1h4 Letters may be edited for clarity, brevity and decorum. Authors of published letters will receive a Geist map suitable for framing.
Artists in this Issue Emiko Morita is the Executive Director of Powell Street Festival in Vancouver. Her project “Hiroshi Calling” is supported by the National Association of Japanese Canadians. She lives in Vancouver. Miriam Libicki is the creator of jobnik!, an autobiographical comics series. Her work has been published by Rutgers University Press, Alternate History Comics and other publishers. See her work at realgonegirl.com. Libicki lives in Coquitlam, BC. Martie Giefert is a photographer whose work has been exhibited throughout Canada and the USA. See his work at mgiefert. com. Giefert lives and works in Toronto. Letters 7
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in the machine
8 Geist 96 Spring 2015
NOTES & DISPATCHES F RO M T H E N EW WO R L D
Insurgency ST E P H E N OS B O R N E
History brushed against the grain
ast month an intrepid interviewer from an online journal put a direct question to the new editor of the Walrus: “Why is the Walrus so boring?” he asked. In reply the new editor of the Walrus spoke intermittently for nearly an hour without pausing to deny the implied charge, which would have been to acknowledge it, and would perhaps have wounded his dignity. I felt grateful (with a certain schadenfreude) never to have had the question put to me during the years that Geist has been publishing and that I have been its publisher. Geist will be twenty-five years old in September and already a new publisher is taking over the slot on the masthead occupied until just before now by my name. Geist came into the world in 1990 in contradiction to orthodoxies expressed in the humourless pages of Saturday Night, at the time a respectful and respectable journal of politics and literature (now defunct), and the equally orthodox and humourless pages of Quill & Quire (still a publishing success); our intention has been to provide a bulwark or perhaps a redoubt against the encroachment of the boring, always a creeping menace in the literary world. The new editor of the Walrus suggested in his “long
form” reply to the online interviewer that one needs to know “what people want to read” and that he was planning to find out what people want to read by consulting the internet. I who have less faith in the internet prefer to show people what I want to read, and what the editors at Geist want to read, and let the readers decide as they read Geist whether they want to keep on reading what Geist offers them to read. The internet is by now an integral part of publishing and cannot be ignored, but its oracular qualities in
near, allows it to enter life. It represents a strict antithesis to the sort of history that makes things abstract.” Pauline Johnson was twenty-four years old when the first of her “Indian” poems appeared in print on the 18th of June, 1885, in a magazine called The Week, on page 9, as recorded in a footnote in one of her biographies. The poem was “A Cry from an Indian Wife,” a dramatic monologue of sixty lines cast in the voice of an Aboriginal woman whose husband is leaving to join the war against Canada. Her words seem (even today) surprisingly bloody-minded: “Here is your knife!”
my experience are not to be trusted. Today the Walrus occupies the niche once held by Saturday Night in the national publishing ecology: let it not sink into boredom and ennui! One of the pleasures of the internet is in looking things up, and then looking up more things from those things and so on, so that relationships appear that were once obscure, and orthodoxies loosen their grasp on one’s ability to perceive. In several places on the internet, for example, Walter Benjamin posits the street insurgence of the anecdote as a corrective to the usual constructions of history: “the anecdote brings the world
she says; “’Twill drink the life-blood of a soldier host. Go; rise and strike, no matter what the cost,” but otherwise, rather typically of its time, Victorian in both tone and diction (“I thought ’twas sheathed for aye”)— and yet although its subject matter can seem in 2015 to be exotic or even corny, the image of the Noble Savage so often found in Romantic poetry is here inverted or erased. For the Indian Wife who urges her husband on to slaughter in the next breath calls him back, not to save his life, but to spare the lives of his enemies, the “stripling pack of white-faced warriors, marching West to quell our fallen tribe that Notes & Dispatches 9
rises to rebel… Curse to the war that drinks their harmless blood. Curse to the fate that brought them from the East.” And then in a final, painful reversal, having considered the lives of the young white men and the prayers their mothers make to their white God, the Indian Wife arrives at the salient question: “What whiterobed priest prays for your safety here, as prayer is said for every volunteer that swells the ranks that Canada sends out?” she asks. “Who prays for our poor nation lying low? None— therefore take your tomahawk and go.” Pauline Johnson was raised at Chiefswood on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, as a Mohawk member of an English-speaking middle class; by the time she was fourteen, she was steeped in the verse of Milton, Scott, Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Longfellow, Tennyson and Browning. Her father was a Mohawk Chief and Speaker of the Council of the Six Nations for forty years; he died after several beatings at the hands of white whiskey traders; her mother was a Quaker with connections to the literary world: her mother’s cousin was William Dean Howells, the novelist, critic and editor of Harper’s magazine (who some months later rejected, with an unkind remark, a poem written by his great-niece Pauline Johnson). Her great-grandfather Tekahionwake, whose name (which translates as “double life”) she adopted as a second pen name, fought at the battle of Lundy’s Lane against the invading American army of 1812. Her biographers narrate the life of Pauline Johnson as a “dual” life and in this way “solve” the problem of her life story. (Historians use the same procedure to solve the problem of Canada as “two solitudes” or a “cultural mosaic” or, more recently, a peace-loving and at the same time a war-making nation.) 10 Geist 96 Spring 2015
When “A Cry from an Indian Wife” appeared in The Week on page 9, on June 18, 1885, most of the facts required to make a biography of Pauline Johnson were not yet available, for the simple reason that the future from that point had not occurred. This was the quasi-insight that came to me when, with a few keystrokes, I discovered a copy of The Week of June 18, 1885, in a digital archive online, and the poem itself, as it appeared, and continues to appear, on page 9 (numbered 457 in the continuous run of the magazine), in a plain Roman font, surrounded by the miscellaneous stories and articles that make up the issue (Vol. 2, no. 29): the poem looks quite at home in its proper context, and as I read the first few lines, “A Cry from an Indian Wife” felt new rather than old, and not at all outmoded. I had noticed a reference to “Big Bear” on the front page of The Week, and now having found the poem I went back to the front page and read the sentence that had caught my eye, which begins in media res: “For the present, Big Bear has found safety in flight…” and in a moment I was immersed in events: the Battle of Batoche has been fought and Riel defeated; he and Poundmaker
are awaiting trial; and now, in “the present,” General Middleton is in pursuit of Big Bear, whose surrender is a matter of conjecture. The appearance of “A Cry from an Indian Wife,” a poem in support of the enemy, appears in the same “present” as the pursuit of Big Bear, while further news is awaited: the ensuing trials, the hangings, the myriad jail sentences have not yet hardened into a future that includes the clearing of the prairies of its human inhabitants through officially sanctioned disease and starvation; the rescue of the CPR, as reward for carrying the army speedily to the battlefield, from the bankruptcy threatening to destroy it (the so-called Last Spike is driven later the same year). When, seven years later, Pauline Johnson recites “A Cry from an Indian Wife” at a poetry reading in Toronto, her biographers report, the audience responds with “wild applause” and shouts of “Encore!”; her career as a performing poet is launched. In this issue of the The Week, we
feel history “brushed against the grain”; the past is given to us (to paraphrase Walter Benjamin) to seize as an image that flashes up at the instant of its recognition: a young woman writing in an age when women had no rights, in the midst of battle; an Aboriginal daughter calling Aboriginals to the war against her country that is already lost.
The Week calls itself “A Canadian Journal of Politics, Society and Literature”; it is the forerunner of Saturday Night, Canadian Forum, the Walrus, and, in certain distillations, This Magazine, CNQ, Maisonneuve, Geist. The Week in its time had to struggle in a “global” marketplace controlled by the large American publishers, among them Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s. The issue of June 18, 1885, is an example of cultural publishing at its best: sixteen pages long, self-covered, set in small type, with four pages of advertising at the back. Short essays on the front page treat of current affairs such as the proposal that Canada annex Jamaica; and the state of war on the Prairies: “For the present, Big Bear has found safety in flight.” Elsewhere in the issue are reviews and cultural news: a new law in Connecticut prohibits “flash” literature; that is, any “publication of criminal news, or pictures and stories of deeds of bloodshed, lust or crime.” Its editorial procedures are open to chance; humour and clear thinking are evident everywhere in its pages: The Week sets an example for new publishers, such as the new publisher at Geist, and—if I may say—for the new editor at the Walrus—and would be forgotten but for the memory work of the archivists who preserve it, and the internet that allows its pages to be opened in the present, so to speak, both then and now. The interview with the editor of the Walrus can be found at canadalandshow.com. The Week can be found in the digital archive at eco.canadiana.ca. The full text of “A Cry from an Indian Wife” can be found easily through Google. Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the author of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World. Read his latest dispatch, “Shaggy Dog Tales,” and many other works at geist.com.
onto the deck, breathe in the tide and look out over Galway Bay to the J E F F S H U CA R D islands beyond. There was no job to go to, no St. Patrick’s Day, 1979, Boffin Island bills to pay, just the day offering itself up to us. Henry’s idea was to go salmon fishing and make some money, but I don’t think the boat ever left the Claddagh. Piece by piece, he sold off bits of the boat—gear, mast, engine, screw, winch— for cash, to keep himself in porter. He didn’t have a telephone and I didn’t have one either, nor did I know anyone who did. To make a phone call t was on a fine March day that my I would have to go to the phone box friend Henry showed up at my down in the village, crank the handle place on Cleggan Bay on his ancient and speak to Mrs. Moyard, who ran Matchless motorbike in his postman’s the local switchboard. But then again, vest and dark goggles and hair flywho would I call? Occasionally the ing and I made him up a bed in the litpostman would leave me a message: tle room that held the enormous hot please ring so and so. He was a lovely water contraption that built up just man with a beautiful daughter named enough steam for a weekly soak in the Mary and he rode a bicycle with his tub. Each spring for the past few years official hat on and he once brought Henry and I would set off on a buskme a letter that was addressed siming tour up and down the west coast ply: Jeff, County Galway, Ireland. I from Killybegs to Cork in my little still have it somewhere. So, given the Ford Anglia van. Henry was known lack of communication infrastrucfar and wide as a true musicianer, a ture at that time out in the wilds of gentle, loving soul of the great travNorth Connemara, it was a fortuitous eller tradition. And so it was that we thing that Henry and I were in Oliwere sitting in Oliver Coyne’s one ver Coyne’s pub that particular eveevening shortly thereafter planning ning when Evan Burke, a native of our journey when we were invited Boffin, happened in and found Henry to perform for the opening of Murand me in the back room and of ray’s bar on Boffin Island, population: course we accepted the offer to celtwo hundred weatherbeaten souls. ebrate the grand opening of Murray’s Henry was from Galway and lived on pub. On the arranged day we drove a trawler he had won from a Norwedown to the jetty in Cleggan, and gian fisherman in a poker game in the Henry and I climbed on board the back room of Molly’s and many was mail boat to Boffin Island with our the riotous night I staggered out of guitars, fiddles and mandolins, and the Cellar pub or Molly’s, arm in arm tooted off. You could clearly see with Henry, to crash in the galley. It Boffin out there. Not so big as you was a rough kip to be sure, but then couldn’t walk around it. We landed at again I loved to wake up there to the the Boffin quay early in the evening smell of coffee brewing and to step out
Notes & Dispatches 11
John Henry Higgins: musicianer, traveller
and we were met by a welcoming committee who took us directly to the new pub, right there in the little harbour village. It seemed like the entire population was already crowded into the premises and a cheer went up as we entered and we were directed to sit in the far corner of the room so we might have the celebrants before us. We took out our guitars and fiddles and mandolins and immediately began playing our repertoire of traditional Irish fiddle tunes, blues and ragtime pieces from the turn of the century. We played everything we knew and then some we didn’t know and then the whole thing over again. By that point it mattered little what we did as the entire affair was alight with good cheer and raucous benevolence. The islanders rose unsteadily to their feet and sang plaintive songs of the sorrows of lost love and emigration, followed by ribald ballads of tinkers and milkmaids, goings-on behind the hedgerows. Pennywhistle and spoons players joined us in a circle of ancient druidic magic. Mothers with children, toothless elders and all in between joined in. It was one of the great piss-ups of all time. As the night began to edge closer to day, children came by bearing cheese sandwiches and clean drawers for them that shat themselves. As you most likely know from personal experience, a serious, prolonged session of drink has its peaks and valleys, requires an athlete’s stamina, pacing, courage and fortitude, and at some precise point, 12 Geist 96 Spring 2015
when the sugar levels in the bloodstream take on a spiritual aspect, life is imbued with a soft golden hue and all men of all races and creeds and all the creatures of the earth both great and small and all the birds of the air become your brothers and sisters. This is known in Ireland as beatitude. It was at such a moment that I excused myself and staggered outside. It was just dawn, the first rays of light breaking across the darkness. Awash in porter and without sufficient ballast, I made my way somehow to a promontory covered in a blanket of green, with a flock of sheep upon it. The sea below was crashing against the rocks and sending up a delicious mist of salt spray. Across the sea the dawning was like an enormous curtain parting over the grand stage of the planet. I was overcome by such majestic beauty and I fell to my knees
Druidic dolmen. Shucard’s cottage, Cleggan Bay
weeping for the joy of it all. The sheep, obviously mistaking me for a saint, gathered around and began bleating for mercy. Jeff Shucard was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He attended the Minneapolis School of Art and Franconia College. After a decade of foreign travel, he settled in Vancouver for twenty years and worked in education and music. Now he lives on a small farm in St. Cuthbert, Quebec.
some fresh air before I went to bed. As I walked out of the elevator and onto the L I N DSAY DIE HL pool deck, the first person I The pendant was shaped like a curved tongue. saw was him. His head rested on the side of the hot tub, “This catches the truth,” she said. his arms spread out behind him like massive wings and his hair was slicked back in zigzagverybody is looking for love. ging curls—and without even thinkNo one is denying that,” Frank ing about it, my plans for the evening said. “But relationships suck. They changed to somehow include him. take compromise… Or balance. The When I arrived in Honolulu, my only difference is, if you say ‘balsister picked me up at the airport in a ance,’ you sound like a flake; if you rented car. And then we drove around say ‘compromise,’ you sound like a for what felt like an eternity. She kept hard-nosed prick. Doesn’t matter,” he missing the turnoff onto the highway. sniffed, “they mean the same thing.” I told her I knew where to go. That night, the air in my room was “Sure you do,” she said, sounding unbearably hot and stuffy. An aged and irritated. rusted air-conditioning unit rattled “I know where to go,” I insisted. beside my bed; periodically it wheezed “You pass it every time.” and sputtered a mist of beady moisture She didn’t say anything, just coninto the air that settled on the mustytinued to drive. smelling turquoise carpet like dew. “Okay,” I said. “Whatever.” I decided to go for a late-night The man in the hot tub was, quite swim. I wanted to cool off and get
possibly, the most beautiful man I had ever seen. My seeing him that night at my hotel was a coincidence. I had noticed him a couple of days before. I was walking along the beach near the Hilton Lagoon with my sister. He was sitting on a patch of grass beneath a coconut tree, peering out at the ocean with a body board leaning against his long muscular legs. I stopped to observe him, but my sister continued walking. When I looked up, she was some distance ahead of me, swinging her arms by her side. She was walking as if she were on a busy city sidewalk, not a lazy stretch of beach. I had to run to catch up with her. Soon after arriving in Honolulu, I rented a surfboard. A woman wearing a pink miniskirt and big ugly glasses laughed at me: “You’re going surfing out there? What about the wall?” She was sitting in the sand on a white plastic bag. She shook with laughter. “What about the wall?” She glanced around, searching for somebody else to partake in her joke. Every time she moved, the plastic bag rustled beneath her. “Are you going surfing or what?” my sister prodded. I ran across the beach and started swimming out into the ocean. It wasn’t long before I discovered the stone wall meant to protect the swimming area next to the beach. It had been hidden by the high tide. I had to struggle for several minutes in order to cross the barrier. The waves kept pushing me back. After I had made my way over the wall, a local surfer on the other side gave me a startled look. He warned me to look out for the coral. “You could really get hurt if you fall down,” he said. “Yeah,” I said, panting. “Oh.” He creased his forehead. “You already know?” “No,” I said, “I don’t think I’ll catch a wave.” And I didn’t. I was too tired, or maybe too embarrassed, to try. I started to think that the beautiful man and I might be meant to be. I walked across the pool deck and
put my things down on an empty lounge chair. I pulled my sundress over my head and got it stuck behind my ears. For one awkward moment I couldn’t see a thing. I wriggled and squirmed until I was finally able to get the dress off. To regain my composure, I stared up at the empty sky. I was intensely aware the entire time that he might be watching me.
The swimming pool was a small rectangle and only five feet deep. It wasn’t really good for anything except wading around in. I climbed in and attempted some aimless breast strokes. No one else was in the pool. I looked over at the hot tub. A man was standing right in front of the beautiful man, blocking my view. After a few minutes, I got out of the pool and
Failure to Yield B I L L H OW E L L
The phrase totally underplays the impact of having your lovely red Alero T-boned by a guy in a white Mazda with incredibly low mileage on his life. Four eyewitnesses volunteer their numbers before the guy himself shows up fifteen minutes later, saying it took that long to find parking. This unlikely delay screws up the police dispatcher and adds two hours to getting processed at the Collision Reporting Centre, somewhere just south of Ungava Bay. Nobody apologizes for anything because it might be misconstrued as a confession. Your dreams become redundant slow-mo replay time-loop leaps through overgrown Day-Glo underbrush. You spend the next three weeks hoping the insurance adjuster will agree to repair your car. You want their offer to mirror the good life you don’t deserve but still feel you’ve earned. But it’s cheaper and easier for them to simply write it off. You wonder why you even need a car. Luckily, you get a deal on a three-year-old Corolla. Barely broken in, which is almost fun, except it feels like Mazda guy has plundered your savings. Still, whatever you were planning, you’re better off. After all, choices can’t stay parked forever.
Bill Howell is the author of Porcupine Archery and four other published collections of poetry. Shorter works have appeared in Descant, Event, Literary Review of Canada, Antigonish Review and other periodicals. He lives in Toronto.
Notes & Dispatches 13
walked over to the hot tub. “My name is Frank,” the man standing in front of the beautiful man said. “And this is Andy.” He slapped the shoulder of the beautiful man and looked around, knitting his eyebrows together. “Are you alone?” “Yes,” I said. “Well, sort of. My sister left earlier this week; she had to go back to work.” While my sister was in town, we stayed in one of the newest and most exclusive hotels on Waikiki, surrounded by glitzy restaurants and designer clothing stores. My sister said she hadn’t been on vacation for three years, so she wanted the best. “There’s a Burberry on every corner here,” she pointed out. I could never have afforded a place like this on my own. But since my sister had arranged for our accommodations, I accepted my surroundings as a luxurious gift. I was relieved my sister could only stay a week. Otherwise I might have started to feel guilty. Within a few minutes, Frank had told me his entire life story: he was abandoned by his drug-addicted mother at a young age, married to the only woman he had ever loved at the age of twenty-two, and divorced at the age of twenty-nine. He was an officer in the US military and had been stationed in Hawaii for over a year. He had dated a girl for six months, but he’d had to break up with her (“She was getting all crazy on me”). And now he was dating a new girl whom he met online in a chatroom (“Not a dating website, but you know, just a place for people to talk”). “Where are you from?” I asked him. “I’m from all over the place,” Frank said, glancing at Andy. “He’s from France.” In late afternoon tourists leave their air-conditioned rooms and traipse up and down the shady boulevard, gazing at shop windows and watching street performances. At least, that is what my sister and I did. The sidewalks 14 Geist 96 Spring 2015
were a spectacle. Audiences bulged out into the street, crowding around a man juggling basketballs or moving in slow motion. People stuffed dollar bills into tip jars and stood in lines to get their pictures taken with the performers. I passed a woman sitting on the ground with an assortment of jewelry by her feet. Her face was dark and chubby, and her long black hair was streaked with grey and swept back into a massive braid. When she saw me looking, she smiled and I noticed that she was missing a few teeth. She patted a necklace. “This is done in the old way.” I knelt down and picked up the necklace. It was a string of smooth, pearly white beads with a pendant hanging down from the middle. “What is it?” I said. “It’s whalebone.” Her eyes creased. “I carved it.” She reached out and fingered the pendant. “This is a curved tongue. It catches the truth.” I took my wallet out. “How much is it?” “Make me an offer,” she told me. I didn’t have money. I said, “I’ll be right back.” “I might not be here,” the woman said, shaking her head. “Once they see me, they’ll ask me to leave. I’m not wanted,” she said. “I don’t do tricks.” My sister nudged my back. “Come on. If you want it, just get it,” she said, and handed the woman some money. “French!” I exclaimed. “I’m from Canada. I speak a little French.” Andy didn’t say anything. He stared straight ahead at the bubbles bursting on top of the water. “Why are you in Hawaii?” I asked him. This time he responded. He was studying finance at Hawaii Pacific University and had come because he wanted an American experience. “You know,” he said, “like in the movies.” “Yeah,” Frank interjected, “but before he met me, he was just hanging out with a bunch of foreign students.
Since we’ve been hanging out, I’ve been able to show him a whole bunch of different things.” “Like what?” I asked. Frank stroked his chin. “Well, one night we went out to the canal with a couple of fold-out lawn chairs, a cooler full of beer and a transistor radio. Another time I took him to the shooting range.” “Oh yeah,” Andy smiled. “That was fun!” “Was it a real shooting range?” I asked. “Or just one that you set up in your backyard?” “Now that would have been a real American experience,” Frank said, pounding the water with his fist he was laughing so hard. “You might think I’m crazy,” Frank said, screwing up his eyes, “but I know what’s going on.” Frank told us about the drills they’d been running at the military base. “We’ve been pretending to be at war with North Korea,” he explained. He was especially proud that he had completed his most recent simulated mission: “Ninety-four percent of my men died in the process,” he admitted, “but, in the end, I was successful.” “Ninety-four percent?” I said. “How do you even know such a thing?” “It’s all done by computers,” he nodded. His face fell, suddenly serious. “The simulations have to be realistic. They’re preparing us for the real thing.” “Is war with North Korea imminent?” “Look, there are a lot of things you don’t know about,” he snapped. I turned away from Frank, not sure of what to say next. I looked at Andy, but he didn’t seem to be listening. His eyes were directed at us, but glazed over as if he didn’t see a thing. The day my sister left, I accompanied her to the airport. We didn’t talk much in the car. I kept massaging my arm. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked. “Why do you keep doing that?”
“The waves were choppy this morning,” I said. I had gone sideways into a wave and my surfboard had been pushed into my face and slammed into my elbow. Now my elbow was aching and my nose was tender. “You should be more careful,” she said. At the airport, she tried to give me money. “What’s this for?” I asked, shoving it back to her. “Just take it,” she said. “You think life is a dream. But it’s not. You can’t stay here without money.” “So,” I asked Andy, “what do you like the most about Hawaii? Surfing?” “He doesn’t surf,” Frank said. “I took him once, but he wasn’t any good. The funniest part is,” he laughed, “most people mistake him for a local— I mean, doesn’t he look like a surfer? With his bleached blond hair?” Andy smiled. “But the joke’s over,” Frank said,
“as soon as he opens his mouth.” Andy made a slight jerking movement, but kept on smiling. “What’s the biggest difference between America and France?” I asked. “I mean, what’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed so far?” “That’s easy,” Andy said. “The optimism. Americans still believe in the rags-to-riches story.” “That’s kind of sad,” I said, “don’t you think? How many people actually get to be rich?” “I’m not talking about statistics,” he said. “I’m talking about what they believe in.” “Well, if you ask me,” Frank said from behind me, “the illusion is better than the reality. Because with the illusion, there’s always something more to hope for. I mean, who really needs reality anyway? It’s depressing.” I said goodnight to Frank and Andy and walked to the elevator. My feet were wrinkled from being in the hot water for so long, and the night air
felt cool against my skin. As I stepped into the elevator, I told myself to forget about the evening, and Andy, as fast as I could. But I still think about him. Not necessarily about who Andy was but about what he could have been. Sometimes I even imagine meeting him again, only this time he is someone else completely. I also think about the necklace—I picture its hand-carved beads and tongueshaped pendant. I have to picture it, because I don’t have it anymore. Shortly after arriving home from Honolulu, I lost it. It must have slipped right off my neck but I have no idea when. All I know is, I reached for it one day, and it was gone.
Lindsay Diehl’s poems and short stories have been published in Fireweed, Ricepaper, Lake, the Capilano Review and Geist. She lives in Kelowna. Read more of her work at geist.com.
Notes & Dispatches 15
power. Even David Suzuki. He made a life for himself. So fuck ’em.” He let out a M A R KO S I JA N long exhausted breath and whispered, “Fuck ’em.” My father believes the world is coming to an In 1956 in the former end, yet he commits his life to curing the sick Yugoslavia, my father was nineteen and had no plan for his life. His mother dreamed of raising a future doctor. our years ago my mother died. None of his siblings wanted to study Weeks later my father informed medicine. So his mother told him he me that, at seventy-four, he might live had no choice but to become a docanother ten years. I was relieved to tor. In medical school he was drawn hear him say that because during her to the acrid smell of formaldehyde, illness they had talked about killing used at the time in its undiluted state themselves together. I saw him cry for to preserve corpses for dissection. the first time in my life as he kneeled With a firm push from his mother, beside her corpse in the bed they had he stumbled into the pit of his calling shared for almost fifty years. Months and became a family physician. later I returned from Montreal to my hometown of Windsor to check up on him. He cried again when we were having lunch. He said it happened all the time. He said he lived in a state of constant confusion, especially when he was at home, alone, talking to my mother. “What do you say?” “Oh,” he London honeymoon, 1966 replied, clearing his throat, “I’m terrified she hasn’t gone.” More than fifty years later I asked But I remember that he used to say he him what he enjoys so much about loathed religious cowards who can’t his work. “I don’t know,” he said. admit that death and oblivion are bio“I’ve never thought about it.” He says logical facts. I pointed out his contrahe came out of retirement after my diction and he mumbled, “Nothing is mother died to divert his mind from logical about grief.” grief, and I imagine he has liked being My father and I share a commita doctor all these years because it ment to telling it like it is, especially keeps him thinking about anyone but about the symptoms of humanity’s himself. Before he retired he worked major depression, like anthropogenic ten or twelve hours a day and felt environmental collapse, terrorism, restless during vacations. His patients war, the rich eating the poor. We disadore his devotion to every minutia cussed the news over lunch, after he of their well-being, his kindness and had stopped crying. He said the recent generosity and self-sacrifice. He weleruption of philanthropy among the comes the fact that I haven’t had chilrich was a public-image campaign: dren because he believes the world is “It’s all about business. They’re all coming to an end, yet he commits his just looking after their money and life to curing the sick.
Peace on Earth
16 Geist 96 Spring 2015
My father rejects the world in favour of his work. He tells me he sees nothing in the present or future but a void. This is a man who shared almost fifty years with a woman who loved him and their children far more than she did herself, a man who dedicated his working years to nurturing and prolonging life. We were talking on the phone recently and, trying to make him laugh, I said, “I haven’t read the news in a few days and can’t imagine what I’ve missed. World peace?” He didn’t miss a beat. “The solution to peace on earth is to kill all the humans.” In spite of grief he retains his sense of humour, which in fact is less his own than my mother’s, her mind having swollen like a tumour of malignant wit. Days before she died, when I mentioned the box of family photographs in their basement
and my interest in keeping some, she said, “There is nothing to be saved. Destroy everything.” To the last thing I said to her, “See you soon,” she replied, “At my funeral.” It seems she now resides in my father’s mind, her spirit alive in his most cutting lines, as if selected from his conversations with her ghost. I’m terrified she hasn’t gone. Almost four years have elapsed since he said those words. I was worried he might still feel that way. A month ago I went to visit him and as we were driving to his house from the airport, my heart pounding, I asked, “Do you still talk to Mom?” He took a deep breath and sighed. “I know she’s dead.” Then, after a brief silence, he added, “And you know what? I’m single.” I burst out laughing. “What do you mean by ‘single’?”
“I don’t plan to start dating again, I just mean I’m alone and it’s fine.” “Do you enjoy being alone?” “Sometimes. I work in the hospital in the morning. I come home in the afternoon and I read or watch television. I’ve learned how to cook. But I don’t know what I want. When I’m busy, I want more free time. When I’m free I want to be at the hospital.” We got to his house and talked more over lunch. He didn’t cry.
Marko Sijan’s writing has appeared in Canadian Notes and Queries, Maisonneuve and This Magazine. His novel, Mongrel (Mansfield Press), was named one of the “Best First Books” of 2011 by the Globe and Mail. He is working on his next book. Marko lives in Montreal.
Notes & Dispatches 17
Drawn Life MIRIAM LIBICKI
Talking comics with Rutu Modan
18 Geist 96 Spring 2015
panels 5–7, 9–12 copyright rutu modan.
panel 8 copyright alison bechdel.
Notes & Dispatches 19
20 Geist 96 Spring 2015
left half of panel 11 stock photo; panel 13 copyright nsi.
panel 14 bezalel comics poster by hila noam. all other images by the artist.
Notes & Dispatches 21
c u lt u re
White Out ST E P H E N H E N I G H A N
Canadianness comes not from imitating customs, but from developing one’s own connection to the country
he year that I was fifteen, my family and I arrived in Oslo on the Easter weekend. The friends we were staying with introduced us to a sport I had never tried: crosscountry skiing. We drove south in search of snow. The Norwegian hills resembled the Gatineau Hills north of Ottawa, though they had more lakes and ice fishers. On a remote plateau surrounded by fir trees, I clipped on cross-country skis for the first time and glided out into the winter landscape. By the end of the afternoon, we were sweating, our shins and ankles drenched by sticky, melting snow; I decided that I had found my sport. The next winter, when I was in grade 11, my stepfather and I laid out a cross-country ski trail around our farm in the Ottawa Valley. I would come home from school and snap on my skis in order to make three, four or five circuits of the loop through the woods and fields before darkness fell. Like many converts, I was eager to share my new enthusiasm. I rounded up two accomplices from my French class, met an older student who had tried out for the Canadian junior team, and launched my high school’s first cross-country ski club. The lads from the hockey and football teams regarded the tight suits we wore when training behind the school, or competing at races in the Gatineau Hills,
22 Geist 96 Spring 2015
as less than masculine. I didn’t care: even after coming 160th or 170th out of 250 competitors, I felt fulfilled. The kick-and-glide rhythm of the Nordic skiing technique on a wellgroomed trail became the supreme expression of my physical being. The raptness with which I learned to shift my weight to fly over the snow, the miracle of being able to go outside at thirty degrees below zero in a garment no heavier than a track suit and, within ten minutes, feel warm and insulated against the cold, made me aware of, and pleased with, my body in a way that was a novelty to me, as a skinny, bookish teenager. Cross-country skiing absorbed me into my landscape. Bushwhacking to break a new trail, I would glimpse a rabbit thumping its big back foot, a snowy owl perched on a fencepost in a swirling blizzard, and feel viscerally connected to winter. As an immigrant
who was growing up in a farming region, I was aware of the sense of apartness thrust on me by my foreign birth, non-standard accent and lack of my classmates’ multi-generational Ottawa Valley heritage. Cross-country skiing offered me the reassurance sought by the immigrant who is excluded from his locality’s history: a viable alternate route to belonging. Other farm boys had snowmobiles; I had cross-country skis. Like many immigrants, I felt Canadian not when I imitated the customs of old-stock citizens, but rather when I developed my own connection to the country. I learned that it was an immigrant, Herman “Jackrabbit” SmithJohannsen—at that time still skiing in his eleventh decade of life—who had popularized cross-country skiing in Quebec, from where it had spread to other parts of Canada. I enshrined the Jackrabbit as one of my heroes. As long as winter lasted, crosscountry snow was right outside my door. Between my late teens and my late thirties, I spent more than a dozen years outside Canada. Whenever I returned for a winter visit, I slid out into the snow and found that, though my muscles ached, my kick-and-glide rhythm remained intact, a form of instant injection into the landscape. In Montreal, where I lived during my residences in Canada over those
wendell "chummy" broomhall in the 1930s. mainehuts.org
decades, I would board the Number 11 bus with my skis and poles, ride to the top of Mount Royal, then ski back down to avenue du Parc. In the city, as in the Ottawa Valley, cross-country skiing was a natural response to my surroundings. I expected to renew this relationship when I moved back to Canada in my late thirties to settle in southern Ontario. Yet here the climate was more fickle, snow yielding to rain even in January; society was more regimented. When I entered a Guelph Transit bus carrying a new pair of ski poles, still encased in plastic, the driver radioed the police that a man had brought a weapon on board. Two police constables boarded the bus and asked me if I had been drinking. As winters in the Great Lakes region grew milder, the ski-and-cycling shop in downtown Guelph discontinued its line of ski equipment. Friends encouraged me to go up north for ski weekends. This
defeated my purpose. I didn’t want to make an expedition to go skiing: I expected cross-country snow as part of my habitat. One weekend when it snowed, I drove to a provincial conservation area. I skied for a couple of hours, then went into the interpretive centre to use the washroom. As I stepped inside in my ski suit, I was met with jeers: “Whoah! A Canadian!” “Hey, dude, you like snow?” A class of fifteen-year-olds had been bussed in from Toronto on a school trip. Having refused to leave the interpretive centre for their scheduled hike in the woods, they clicked their cellphones. Nearly all of the kids appeared to be of South Asian or East Asian ancestry; their flawless Toronto accents suggested that, unlike me, they had been born here. Like me, though, they had found their Canada by eschewing imitation of old-stock citizens. I, in the Ottawa Valley, had prized
skis over snowmobiles; they, growing up in a city that received little snow, identified with a narrative of urban primacy that thrived on a dismissal of rustic life and winter. They saw a white man in a ski suit as a folkloric relic. Had I tried to tell them that I was their age when I had discovered cross-country skiing—they still had time!—my words likely would have made as little impact as those of the teacher who was trying to persuade them to hike through the woods. Emerging from the washroom to a fresh round of jeers, I retorted: “Yeah, I like snow!” I walked outside into the cold, clipped on my skis and plunged back into the Canada that had made me feel as though I belonged. Stephen Henighan’s books include A Grave in the Air, A Green Reef and Sandino’s Nation. Read more of his work at stephenhenighan.com and geist.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHenighan.
Afterlife of Culture 23
Last Supper, East Vancouver, by Dina Goldstein, comes from the series Gods of Suburbia (2014). Dina Goldstein is originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, and now lives in Vancouver. See more of her work at dinagoldstein.com.
Leetle Bateese B RU C E S E R A F I N
From Stardust. Published by New Star Books in 2007. Bruce Serafin won the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for Stardust. He was a founding editor of the original Vancouver Review in the 1990s. He died in 2007. One afternoon about ten years ago I was talking to the five-ton driver at Postal Station D in Vancouver. We started talking about writing. Roy asked me if I was working on anything. I said I was thinking about William Henry Drummond’s “Habitant” poems, which were written around the turn of the century. I had recently started reading them, I said, and I’d 24 Geist 96 Spring 2015
been amazed at how entire sections of my childhood were preserved in their lines. But Roy couldn’t get the reference. Finally I said, “You know. Leetle Bateese.” “Oh, right! Right! Leetle Bateese! ‘Leetle Bateese, you bad leetle boy.’ I remember that. I read that when I was a kid.”
In the next two months I talked to maybe a dozen people about Drummond. I found that about half remembered reading him in school; three or four people hadn’t heard of him at all, and one person confused him with the inventor of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe. But in general I received enthusiastic responses. Like popular songs and advertising jingles, it seemed that Drummond’s poetry stuck in one’s brain. But while Drummond was the only turn-of-the-century Canadian poet I knew of who was remembered like this, his writing had disappeared from the curriculum. He wasn’t discussed
even as part of Canadian literary history. B.W. Powe spoke for most when he wrote: “Add further complications: a place without a flag to identify as its own, whose ‘Literature’ (it cannot be called writing yet) is either imported or institutionalized, where someone can poeticize Dcre’s somet’ing stirrin’ my blood tonight, On de night of de young new year, W’ile de camp is warm an’ de fire is bright, An’ de bottle is close at han’ . . . and it could be considered a part of the national treasury.” Powe here quotes Drummond’s “The Voyager,” and it’s plain that he is using Drummond to epitomize everything parochial, old-fashioned and corny about
Canadian writing. Which is fair enough. Drummond is corny. If you were to compile a Canuck Bumper Book (its cover wreathed in toques and moose antlers, say), his poems would probably fill about a third of it. No other Canadian poet before or since has been so vulgar. But since he is spectacularly out of date, why not discuss him? After all, every other Canadian writer who might have even the faintest claim on our attention has been resuscitated in the past two decades. (I know: I’ve attended classes on Canadian writers who to all extents and purposes were unreadable.) What does Drummond have wrong that these writers don’t? Well, he was a bigot. Open any collection of Drummond’s poems and a concentrated blast of stereotypes hits you in the face. It starts with the lines of dialect themselves, whose vowelconsonant combinations are saturated with the pure dumb nasal ho ho of the Jean Chrétien character on Air Farce (“‘Yass-yass,’ I say, ‘mebbe you t’ink I’m wan beeg loup garou”’), and it goes on from there to build up a world as swollen with popular mythology as the world of The Beverly Hillbillies. Like Vachel Lindsay’s The C0ngo, Drummond’s writing embarrasses. Read his poems, and you are back in the world of “The Happy Nigger” and “The Pigtail of Wu Fu Li.” Yet what most embarrasses me about his verse is how familiar it is. I have just reread all the “Habitant” poems; and I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that the mental image most English Canadians have of Quebeckers is still largely the one propagated by Drummond. No wonder so many Quebecois
hate us! Everything Drummond ladles onto the plate—the playfulness, the toques, the Saturday soirees with their fiddle music, the enormous families, the sheepishness, the bad education—the dumbness, really— all this remains part of the mythology of French Canada so far as the English are concerned. Read Drummond’s poems—right away you feel as if the anti-French prejudice that gets bleached out of the Anglo in our cultural washing machines is reappearing before your eyes. If you’re like me, you’ll settle into the writing with the same bemused emotions one might feel listening to a seventy-year-old uncle talk about getting Jewed down by the Chink grocers in Edmonton. Not that Drummond preaches hate. His verse is sweet. But he was saturated in the prejudices of his day. As a result, his poems now seem almost grotesquely sentimental. Nor is this sentimentality confined to their “leetle guy” attitude, all those granpères who’d rather be poor and ’appy than rich and corrupt like the Yank. It goes deeper. In the best of our own popular art—in movies and rap songs—the deprived Other is at least seen as tough. In Drummond’s verse, though, the illiterate farmers and loggers are completely stripped of their virility. They become children—so much so that when you’re reading the poems in their original format and come across one of Frederick Coburn’s illustrations of rawboned, serious men, you feel a shock: you expect little round fellows with apple cheeks. In the following, for example, I grimaced not just at the horrific size of the family (which helped me understand why Quebec women now have almost the lowest birthrates in the world); I also grimaced at the smarmy, placating, Norman Rockwell chuckle: Findings 25
Ma fader an’ moder too, got nice, nice familee, Dat’s ten garcon an’ t’orteen girl, was mak’ it twenty t’ree But fonny t’ing de Gouvernement don’t geev de firs’ prize den Lak w’at dey say dey geev it now, for only wan douzaine De English peep dat only got wan familee small size Mus’ be feel glad dat tam dere is no honder acre prize For fader of twelve chil’ren-dey know dat mus’ be so, De Canayens would boss Kebeck— mebbe Ontario. But dat is not de story dat I was gone tole you About de fun we use to have w’en we leev a chez nous Drummond’s master was Kipling. But I can’t imagine Kipling’s soldiers saying those last two lines. His Cockneys with their stunted legs might have bowed to the social order, but Kipling never presented them as ass
lickers. He accepted his subjects for what they were in a way that Drummond did not. So why has Drummond endured? He was a bigot and a sentimentalist; he turned the unblinking anger of the Quebecois into treacle. So why does he—like Pauline Johnson and Robert Service—still last in some way, while other writers who are far more favoured by the academy go unread? Why does Roy Bernard, a literate five-ton driver at Canada Post, still remember lines from his work? And why does Leetle Bateese, a tough square-shaped figure with the manic energy of the Katzenjammer Kids, haunt my dreams, almost like a member of my extended family? The answer is complicated. But right away one thing has to be noticed: exactly where Drummond is at his most embarrassing he becomes most vital. In his use of Habitant patois Drummond tapped into a current which I want to argue is now
BABY TALK Selected terms from a list of parenting-related abbreviations and codes and their meanings, gleaned from a Community Help page at BabyCentre.com. Aunt Flo Basal body temperature Baby dance Been there, done that Cry it out Cervical mucus Days past ovulation Do the deed Expressed breast milk Egg white cervical mucus First time mom Incompetent cervix
OVERUSED WORD ALERT Google Alert results for “epic”
26 Geist 96 Spring 2015
In my humble opinion Intrauterine insemination Luteal phase Mind your own business Ovulation predictor kit Off topic Pee on a stick Reproductive endocrinologist Sperm donor Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler Too much information
much more important than the Tennysonian-Romantic flow found in the poetry of his peers—a current that remains alive, and in fact is the chief source of energy in modern poetry, in all the various places that modern poetry can be found. I have in mind what might roughly be described as the replacement of the voice of the individual with the voice of the crowd, the mass public; and maybe the best way to evoke this aspect of Drummond’s verse is through quotation. Below I’ve listed four pieces of writing: three by the “Confederation poets” who were Drummond’s peers—Bliss Carman, D.C. Scott and Archibald Lampman. All of them deal with nature (which is one of the bigger themes of the Habitant poems, and probably the theme of the more artistic, “Canadian” poetry that the Confederation poets were trying to write). Bliss Carman first: Was it a year or lives ago We took the grasses in our hands And caught the summer flying low Over the waving meadow lands, And held it here between our hands? D.C. Scott: A storm cloud was marching Vast on the prairie, Scored with livid ropes of hail, Quick with nervous vines of lightning— Archibald Lampman: Where the far elm-tree shadows flood Dark patches in the burning grass, The cows, each with her peaceful cud, Lie waiting for the heat to pass. From somewhere on the slope nearby Into the pale depth of the noon A wandering thrush slides leisurely His thin revolving tune.
a bc cat goes on an epic journey: A BC cat appears to have used up a few of his nine lives after an epic journey. cellist kevin fox plays epic cover of katy perry's 'roar' next to live tiger: Noth-
And finally Drummond: An’ down on de reever de wil’ duck is quackin’ Along by de shore leetle san’ piper ronne— De bullfrog he’s gr—rompin’ an’ dore is jumpin’— Dey all got der own way for mak’ it de fonne.
not an intoning artificer. This gives the verse life. But even more, it puts the writer on the side of his audience. Common, everyday speech is what we use to touch others, after all, the kind of speech that goes along with arm gestures and warm tone of voice. So that by using an intensely colloquial language, Drummond immediately gains a sense of vivacity and ease.
By contrast, look at what his peers were doing. The painful fact is that the harder Lampman and the rest strained to write in a “pure” language not stained with the dirt of common use, the more their poetry was emptied of any sense of a natural voice, of that idiosyncratic yet instantly recognizable syntax that you find in Tennyson or Whitman, for instance.
To drive the difference home, I quote part of a ballad by Carman: On the long, slow heave of a lazy sea, To the flap of an idle sail, The Nancy’s Pride went out on the tide; And the skipper stood by the rail…
Franzlations G A RY BA L DW I N , C R A I G CO N L E Y, H U G H T H O M A S
From Franzlations. Published by New Star Books in 2015. Gary Baldwin is a writer, composer and performer and author of The Porcupinity of the Stars. Craig Conley is the author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary and other works. Hugh Thomas is the author of Heart badly buried by five shovels.
And part of one by Drummond: On wan dark night on Lac St. Pierre, De win’ she blow, blow, blow, An de crew of de wood scow ‘Julie Plante? Got scar’t an’ run below— For de win’ she blow lak hurricane Bimeby she blow some more, An de’ scow bus’ up on Lac St. Pierre Wan arpent from de shore. german sentence diagrams
I could go on, but these passages ought to show the vigour that Drummond got into his work. Drummond discovered the power of spoken language, the fact that it carries with it all the atmosphere of the situations in which it is used. He discovered that once you let bits of common speech into your verse—“grromping,” say, or “bus’ up on Lac St. Pierre”—the writing immediately gains bite and tactility. And he discovered that the use of such speech lightens the verse’s Poetic Solemnity: you hear a man speaking,
a. A simple statement in which the conjugated verb has a separable prefix. b. An inversion, in which the subject phrase is put directly behind the conjugated verb. c. A yes/no question. d. A question in which the speaker knows the gender and number of the unknown object. e. Asking for a predicative. f. A specific indirect question in which the outer nominal phrase possesses a noun inside. g. A command in which the verb changes the vowel in the third person singular. h. A relative clause highly uncommon in written German. i. When the independent clause comes after a subordinate clause the conjugated verb comes before the subject.
ing fazes Kevin Fox. this is one cool, epic, black cat detective: When I first came across the graphic novel series Blacksad, I had to do a double take. watch kate middleton's epic eye roll!: Duration: 01:42 i ate 10 boxes of macaroni and cheese in two days, all in the name of journalism: An epic mac ’n’
Granma Nineteen ONDJAKI
From Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret. Translation by Stephen Henighan. Published by Biblioasis in 2014. In 2012, the Guardian named Ondjaki one of its Top Five African Writers. Ondjaki was born in Luanda, Angola.
e made drawings in the dirt across from Granma Agnette’s house, then fled from the water trucks that came late in the afternoon to settle the dust. It was a big square with a gas station in the middle that was on a traffic
circle so that trucks and cars could loop around it and pretend that they were in a big city. The Comrade Gas Jockey was able to sleep away most of his working hours because the pump never had any gasoline. He only woke up when
From Slaughterhouse Slough. Published by Eric Dyck in 2013. Eric Dyck is a cartoonist, illustrator and educator. He lives in Lethbridge.
he heard the voice of crazy Sea Foam. “Those stars that fall all of a sudden have names: they’re fouling stars and that ain’t the weed talking, I know what I says with all these teeth in my mouth...” On the other side of the gas station was the gigantic construction site of the Mausoleum, a place they were building to hold the body of Comrade President Agostinho Neto, which had spent all these years embalmed by some Soviet experts in the art of keeping a person with an appearance fit to be seen. Behind the construction site, on the other side of our square where the dust never settled, lay that beautiful thing that taught me about blue every day: the big sea, better known as the ocean. “You all talk about falling stars, but I know all the dictionaries of the Angolan and Cuban languages. Fouling stars are phenomena of the skies of the dark universe, the cosmic dust and so on... You dipsticks who never went to university schools!” We, the children, laughed in outbursts so thick we could almost see them sketched in the air. We were struck silent by terror and magic at the words of the comrade lunatic. “Get this, kids, there are two skies: the blue sky that belongs to our eyes and to the wings of planes and little birds. And then there’s a black sky that’s as big as a desert.” We were almost not afraid of Sea Foam. He had never done anything bad to anyone. “Fouling stars melted in the heat of the sun and that’s why they fall towards planet world. Our planet is the only one that has water where they can cool down again. They’re fouling stars, and one day, after cooling off, I swear, those stars are going to want to return home...”
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28 Geist 96 Spring 2015
He shrugged his threads and went off with a nervous laugh that could have been a sob, walking ever faster, raising the dust with his bare feet, going forward as if he were about to enter the sea. “We’re still going to see those stars rise up from the earth to way up there, in the skies that sleep far away dressed in bright brightnesses...” On our dusty veranda, Granma Catarina, Granma Agnette’s sister, would slowly appear dressed in the black of her old mourning garb, with her white hair like downy cotton. “Still in mourning, Dona Catarina?” asked the neighbour, Dona Libânia. “As long as the war in our country continues, sister, all the dead are my children.” Granma Nhéte watered the plants, the bushes and the trees with the thin trickle of water that appeared on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She watered the guava tree and the fig tree, the cherimoya tree, the palm tree and the mango tree. Afterwards she soaked the steps and watered the flowerpots. “Children! Everybody inside. It’s snack time.” Snack time was complicated for us: we had to go and wash our armpits, hands and faces before sitting at the table. We ate half a slice of bread, half a banana and a glass of water. “Anybody who wants to can make ngonguenha, but only use a little sugar. It’s almost finished.” Sometimes on the way over we grabbed guavas or mangoes that the bats had forgotten to pillage. A little after five o’clock the Soviets’ water truck would come by to settle the dust in the street and on the sidewalk. One of the cousins had the job of listening out for noise. The Comrade Gas Jockey would wake up when the Soviet driver hooked up the water
truck on the construction site of the Mausoleum. This was the signal. Crazy Sea Foam would appear at his front gate with a tiny whip that he would bob in the wind around his legs. “Granma Catarina, is it true that Sea Foam has an alligator hidden in the doghouse in his yard?” “Maybe,” Granma laughed. “Does an alligator fit in a doghouse?” “If it’s really small.” Some of us were frightened by this tale, others laughed nervously as we ate in a hurry to get out into the street again. Granma Agnette wasn’t home. She had gone to a last-minute funeral. “Here in Luanda people die without giving proper notice. Such bad manners!” Granma Catarina would say. Swirls of wind lifted the afternoon dust, and the leaves around the
Mausoleum square danced in the air without wanting to go very far. The Comrade Gas Jockey started to close up the gas station, Sea Foam was dancing as though the breeze were a wedding chorus, and many workers, dressed in blue coveralls and yellow construction helmets, were coming out the main gate of the Mausoleum. Men who walked hand-inhand, laughing, doffing their helmets, drinking a few beers, rubbing their eyes because of the tears conjured up by the dust. “It must be boring to work,” Pi said. “They’re all happy when it’s time to go home.” His real name was Pinduca, and in the family he was called Pi. Sea Foam, who had studied mathematics in Cuba until he went crazy, told us that Pi was equal to 3.14. Even without understanding, we liked this name that sounded like numbers and had a decimal point.
LETHBIANS Additional suggestions to a survey conducted at lethbridgeliving.com wherein citizens of Lethbridge, Alberta, voted on a preference for a demonym: Lethbians or Lethbridgians. The result was a tie. Compiled by Shelley Sheremeta. Bridgers Lethbridgites Lethies Windblown Lethbridgers Lethbridgarian Citizens of Lethbridge Lethians Lethbrite From Lethbridge
I can’t believe this is even a real question Citizens YQLers* YoQueLs* Lethbridgonians Lethbridgenarians Lethigonians Bridgites
*YQL is the International Civil Aviation Organization code for the Lethbridge airport.
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The work on the Mausoleum was supposed to be almost finished. That tall, ashen part, made out of a cement so hard it would never fall, looked like a rocket and I figure that later they were planning to paint it with the colours of the Angolan flag, though that could have been one of Charlita’s lies. “My dad has a bar where the workers come in for beer. And he hears the comrade workers talking.”
“But your dad’s bar is always out of beer!” 3.14 teased, and we took off to run through the dust cloud. The Soviet from the tanker truck honked his horn and spat out his words in the Soviet language, which was really weird and impossible to understand. The Comrade Gas Jockey changed his clothes and his shoes and stood there waiting for the truck to give the whole square a soaking. The
workers disappeared and thousands of swallows began to arrive from every corner of the sky. The earth was damp with a beautiful smell that imitated that of real rain when it falls hard to irrigate the world. The last person to leave the construction site—who wore a different helmet and closed the padlock on the front gate—was the Soviet Comrade Gudafterov, to whom we had given
The Psychopathology of (Northern) College Life G . P. L A I N S B U RY
From Versions of North. Published in 2011 by Caitlin Press. G.P. Lainsbury’s poems, stories and articles have been published in journals across North America. He lives in Fort St. John, BC. “You run on ahead?—Do you do so as a herdsman? Or as an exception? A third possibility would be as a deserter… First question of conscience.” —Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols a place where all are neither ﬁsh nor fowl the secretary just a bit too smart to be satisﬁed managing a mid-size office the teacher who doesn’t really like kids or who kids don’t like or who can’t keep his mouth shut at meetings work well w/ others
all those MEds w/ academic pretensions the MA w/ connections &/or charisma various permutations of the academic not interested enough in her subject to continue work beyond the dissertation
the historian who writes potboiler novels replete w/ racial stereotypes the wildlife biologist who chases bears from the staff parking lot the chemist w/ record of research obsessed w/ lebensraum
the frustrated professors w/ out proper lecture theatre
the physicist who just can’t understand how his students can be so stupid
too much libido for priesthood or wife sublimating desire endless preparation
the Muslim mathematician starving through Ramadan
jogging the English instructor who stutters & blushes whilst reading the dirty bits of the books he assigns
&, of course, the smug superior bastard w/ a few poems in magazines nobody reads
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30 Geist 96 Spring 2015
this name because of the way in which he said, almost as though he were speaking Soviet, “Gudafter-noon,” even when it was early in the morning or really late at night. We imitated him, then burst out laughing. “ G u d a f t e r- n o o n , C o m r a d e Gudafterov!” “Gudafter-noon,” he replied in a serious voice. “Comrade Gudafterov, is it true that the work on the Mausoleum’s almost finished?” 3.14 asked. “Nyet!” he said, with the face of a bad guy. On the other side of the square, the wind was drawing pictures on the sea. Charlita arrived, with her thick glasses. “Do you see the sun the same as we do, Charlita?” “Of course.” “And if you take off your glasses?” “Then I don’t see anything. Just stains.” “I’d still like to see those stains some days. They must be like watercolours.” The enormous sun, which seemed so close by, was sinking, as though boiling, into the water of the sea. Maybe that’s why here in Luanda the water on the beaches is so warm. And it even seemed that the sun was giving the wind orders to calm down. The wind stopped whistling and all that remained on Bishop’s Beach was the wet earth and a silence in which almost nothing could be heard. “Gran Nhéte is here?” Comrade Gudafterov asked. “Nyet!” I replied. “Then pleeze say I come back tomorrow.” “Kaput yes,” 3.14 invented. “Go ahead, tupariovsky!” These words came from Senhor Tuarles, who liked saying, “tupariov” for nothing and everything.
Comrade Gudafterov departed, walking with his feet turned in and moving very fast as though he were always late. His car, a Lada Niva of a hideous colour, was on the other side of the street. It took a moment for the engine to catch. Explosions came out of the tailpipe and then he pulled away. Sea Foam was swirling his whip around. Granma Maria came to tell Charlita to come home. The Comrade Gas Jockey said goodbye and disappeared.
“See you tomorrowov, Comrade!” 3.14 said. Far away, in the shadowed darkness, the Old Fisherman had just arrived. He got out of his dugout, slowly folded up his net, stowed his two anchors and waved to me. “Watch out, Elder, the sea is full of salty waters!” Sea Foam shouted. “They’re the tears of those who just died.”
Short Talk on Housing ANNE CARSON
From Short Talks. Published by Brick Books in 2015. Anne Carson won the Griffin Poetry Prize for her book Red Doc>. She divides her time between New York and Michigan.
Here is one thing you can do if you have no house. Wear several hats—maybe three, four. In the event of rain or snow, remove the one(s) that get(s) wet. Secondly, to be a householder is a matter of rituals. Rituals function chiefly to differentiate horizontal from vertical. To begin the day in your house is to “get up.” At night you will “lie down.” When old Tio Pedro comes over for tea you will “speak up,” for these days his hearing is “on the decline.” If his wife is with him you will be sure to have “cleaned up” the kitchen and parlour, so as not to “fall” in her opinion. Watching the two of them, as they sit side by side on the couch smoking one cigarette, you feel your “heart lift.” These patterns of up and down can be imitated, outside the house, in vertical and horizontal designs upon the clothing. The lines are not hard to make. Hats do not need to be so decorated for they will “pile up” on your head, in and of themselves, qua hats, if you have understood my original instruction.
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Rating Dr. Chestnut E L A I N E M C C LU S K E Y
From Hello, Sweetheart. Published by Enfield & Wizenty in 2014. Elaine McCluskey has published three books of fiction, and her short stories have appeared in many Canadian literary journals and anthologies, including The Journey Prize Stories. She lives in Dartmouth. Possible ratings: Dr. Calvin Chestnut, Family Physician, Yarmouth, N.S. My first visit with Dr. Chestnut was not a good experience. First off, you are given a Stare Down before you say anything. Went for a 2nd visit and it got weirder. When I started to explain my symptoms, the doctor, who reeked of something, shouted “NEXT, DUDE, NEXT!” I will NOT be going back.
Dr Chestnut was my physician for almost five years and he saw me through three bouts of back surgery. I am a former SAR tech who performed hoist rescue operations at sea. Yes, he is abrupt and not everyone likes him. But maybe he does not like you, did you ever think of that? I’m glad he is the way he is. He stared me down the first time I went there, just sizing me up. I just stared back—sizing him up—and we have clicked ever since then. “You’re a warrior, dude,” he told me. “A fucked up crippled warrior.”
GREENSBOROUGH JAMIE SHARPE
From Cut Up Apologetic. Published by ECW Press in 2015. Jamie Sharpe is the author of Animal Husbandry Today. He lives in Whitehorse. This is beginning t0 feel like home. Get the latest bargaining tips from real estate expert, J. Sharpe: Even as we settle, we plan to leave. The best way to motivate a seller is a brick through their window. We say it’s to be closer to family, One two-dollar brick, on average, knocks two thousand off the asking price. but I’m beginning to suspect, Don’t forget to factor in future savings of a newer, energy efficient, window. We’re forever restless.
The waiting room was filled with junkies. During my visit, the doctor almost fell asleep. He sent me for some tests, but lost the results. I find it hard to believe that this man was once an Olympic cyclist. I’m writing this on behalf of a LARGE group of patients who ADORED Dr Chestnut. First, for you whiners who complain about him being late Dr Chestnut has medical issues of his own (as a result of being run down by a car while he was on his bicycle!!), but he still goes in to see his patients and he’s entitled to take breaks! Secondly, his “rude” comments some of you find offensive— it’s called a sense of humor! Some of you should get one.
There was a HUGE petition that we took up for him to stay here in New Brunswick and we still hope to get him back. And as for him smoking weed during breaks, he has a medical prescription!! Can someone explain to me how you are kicked out of one province and allowed to practise in another? If I could give zero stars for my rating, I would. I went to this doctor with an ear infection, and he told me my ears were too large for my head. “Has anyone ever called you Dumbo?” he asked, followed by a crazy stare. The waiting room looked like a scene from Hobo with a Shotgun. The more I read these ratings, the more disgusted I become. I am not looking for a “date,” I’m looking for a good doctor. If I want candy coating, I go to a candy shop. If I want medical treatment, I go to Dr. Chestnut. I went to this doctor suffering from post-partum depression. He told me to make a list of the three people in the world I hated most, and then place fake obituaries for them in the weekly newspaper. “It may cost you fifty bucks, but it will be worth it. Have them all die horrible deaths.” I did place the obituaries, and the cost was actually $69 plus tax. I included a photograph of my former motherin-law, and that cost an extra $5. My insomnia went away, and I started going to an aqua aerobics class. I have Dr. Chestnut to thank. I took my mother to see Dr. Chestnut for symptoms for a hiatus hernia, and he said, “Well, you are a profoundly fat woman who probably eats clams and chips and hot dogs.
wanted to get everyone excited and that he was inspired by the speeches delivered in epic battle movies like 300 and Braveheart. hodor threw down an epic dj set at “rave of thrones”: Soon, the magnificent iron throne, a symbol of the power struggles that dominate George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic, appeared. epic chevron
32 Geist 96 Spring 2015
From A Softer World. Emily Horne is the co-author, with Tim Maly, of The Inspection House, published by Coach House Books. Joey Comeau is the author of comics and novels. They live in Toronto and at asofterworld.com.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” My mother gave up hot dogs and she has been able to breathe and swallow much better.
in NB. Some mention of substance abuse (oxy and vicodin)/patient complaints...etc. although legally this is all rumour.
During the 5 mins I spent in his waiting room I watched three patients walk in and walk out with prescriptions. Just slightly suspicious. I mentioned this to my Pharmacist who had nothing good to say about this man. Dr. Chestnut spent 10 minutes filling out a routine blood collection form and it is totally botched with X’s and squiggles and checks. His office was skeezy, he was drinking Coke and coffee simultaneously at 9am. He was wearing a ballcap that said Free Lance.
Very good doctor. Yes, he is abrupt, but personally I am OK with that because he does not sugar coat anything. If you want sugar, go to a sugar store.
I have been to see Dr. Chestnut now five times and have found him to be grate. As for the comments about personality, what are you concerned with the man’s charisma or his intellagence? I would chose the later. I am very upset about this doctor. Someone needs to check on why he left Saint John as I have heard, from sources inside the medical community, that he lost his rights to practise
I had this doctor when he was in Saint John and I reported him to the College of Physicians & Surgeons. I am tired of these people criticizing Dr Chestnut. For your information, he does NOT smoke weed when he is seeing patients unless he is in EXTREME PAIN. He speaks perfect English. He tries his best to clear the waiting room of junkies, and he does not type on his computer during your visit, which is more than I can say for my last doctor who was money crazy. Dr. Sour Face would only hear one problem per visit, which allowed her to collect more money for more visits. My mother is in renal failure because of this!! My husband went to Dr. Sour Face for stitches
after he sliced his hand. While being stitched he passed out cold. When he come to he was experiencing heart attack symptoms which he told the doctor about. The Dr. asked him to leave. She just kept saying “Get out! Get out! I need this room!” presumably for the next scheduled appointment. My husband staggered out of her office and was told that he would have to go into the outer waiting area. After 10-15 minutes he was able to leave. At no time did this Dr. or her staff (specifically Darlene) offer assistance to someone in obvious distress. With the help of kindly Superstore staff across the street—in particular, the produce manager, Chad Hennebury—he was able to get a vehicle to take him to the hospital where he was rushed in for what turned out to be a heart attack. By the way, Dr. Chestnut won a medal at the Olympics. How many of you can say that? I just learned that this doctor has been suspended in NS. No reason given. Not only is Dr. Chestnut a great doctor, but he is also a wise
oil pollution case goes before canadian supreme court: Lawyers have fought for 21 years in courts in a half-dozen countries over who’s responsible for oil contamination in the rain forest in Ecuador. watch chris brown ignite epic dance off at lapd charity event as he gets over karrueche tran split: The
man who will overcome this latest setback. I went to Dr. Chestnut, and I told him that I was not happy. And Dr. Chestnut told me that that was not necessarily a bad thing. He said: “I see happy people all the time, and they are going to classic rock concerts and sushi dinners; they are driving vintage sports cars and posing for
photos in Cuba. And they are—by all appearances—wonderfully, enviably happy. And some of them have abandoned wives and broken kids. And ailing parents they have bilked for money. And some of them have never done a kind thing for anyone in their life, but there they are—they will tell you—happy. They don’t
deserve to be happy, but they are too stupid to know it. Look at us—buying arugula at the market in our running gear. Look how happy we are. If they weren’t so stupid, they would be miserable.” I hope that all of the busybodies, who complained about Dr. Chestnut, are happy now. ps: He will be back.
Examinations M I T I A R J U K N A P PA A LU K
From Sanaaq. Published by University of Manitoba Press in 2014. Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk was an educator and author. She lived in the northern Quebec territory of Nunavik. Sanaaq is the first novel written in syllabics. She died in 2007.
he airplane came again, with a nurse aboard. She brought her devices for diagnosing illnesses. The plane would stay two nights and the nurse would attend to the health problems of the Inuit. It was the first time that the Inuit met an aanniasiurti. The nurse used the missionary as an interpreter. That evening, the Inuit were invited to come. They heard for the first time that they would be examined. That same day, in the evening, they underwent blood tests. Maatiusi was the first to have a sample of his blood taken. “Aatataa! That hurts!” It was then the children’s turn. “No, I don’t want to!” said Irsutuq, “because Maatiusi has just been hurt!” Qumaq and Aanikallak ran off for fear of being hurt. Although they slipped away, they were still made to take a blood test. Qumaq’s blood was too weak. As was Aanikallak’s. They were told so. “Sanaaq! Qumaq’s blood is too weak and the same is true for Aanikallak’s. They’ll both have to go to hospital!” That did not at all please Sanaaq and Aqiarulaaq. The two of them cried and cried. Their lungs were going to
be X-rayed. The next day, they were ordered to strip to the waist. They felt very ashamed, because they had never undressed in this manner. “Do it!” they were told. After they had been tested, their lungs were found to be healthy. Taqriasuk, however, was advised to take it easy because he was very old. The same recommendation was given to Qumaq and Aanikallak because they would soon be leaving on the airplane to be among the Qallunaat. The nurse also questioned Arnatuinnaq. “Are you often unwell?” “No!” Their weights were measured: Arnatuinnaq, 122 pounds; Qumaq, 77; her little brother, 26; Sanaaq, 118; Qalingu, 141; Taqriasuk, 136; Aqiarulaaq, 112; Aanikallak, 76; Maatiusi, 101; Tajarak, 40; Irsutualuq, 215, and Angutikallak, 143. The last two were too fat. Angutikallak was told that he was overweight. “Angutikallak! You will not eat seal blubber too often. You’re too fat for someone as young as you!” “Yes, yes! I’ll surely do as you say!” “And you, Arnatuinnaq! You’re
pregnant. Your baby will be born next month.” On hearing this, she felt thoroughly ashamed, for she had no husband. Sanaaq, her family, and everyone in the camp were learning the news for the first time. They thought, “Could it be Maatiusi’s child or maybe Angutikallak’s?” Once she had gone home, Arnatuinnaq told her older sister, Sanaaq, “It’s the chief factor’s child!” Some of their camp mates were very astonished and displeased at what Arnatuinnaq had said. When the time came to leave, Qumaq and Aanikallak were weeping warm tears, as were their families. The Inuit realized for the first time that some unpleasant things were being done to them. Qumaq did not cry too much, however, because she had begun to listen to the teachings of the Church, and her thoughts were often on the Catholic faith. “In truth, I won’t always be happy!” There were many things they had not yet understood by the time of their departure. From then on, however, Aanikallak and Qumaq were constantly learning and understanding more and more.
"Yeah 3x" singer definitely made some unforgettable shapes at the charity event in Los Angeles. watch this high school benchwarmer’s epic highlight tape: Wide receiver Jack Lenihan of Barrington High School in Illinois is so good, he doesn’t even have to catch the ball to make one of the best highlight tapes you will see
34 Geist 96 Spring 2015
Plan Your Getaway From According to Plan. Published by Treyf Books in 2014. Rob Kovitz is the founder of Treyf Books. His previous works include Pig City Model Farm, Games Oligopolists Play, Ice Fishing in Gimli. He lives in Winnipeg.
here’s no better time than the Canada Day weekend to plan a Canadian getaway. Here are some new things to consider: —Doug English, Plan Your Canadian Getaway (Toronto Sun) “I have a plan.” “Tell me.” “Tonight, at the hotel.” I nodded. The hotel, of course. —Matt Cohen, The Bookseller In his excitement Mitya told the people of the house there and then that his fate would be decided that very day, and of course described to them in great haste practically the whole of his plan which he had put before Samsonov, and Samsonov’s suggestion, his own future hopes, etc. etc. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov dieter: Now listen. We must collect the rice, and hide it. But we must dry it because it rots too quickly if we don’t dry it. gene: You want to hide it? We could eat it now. dieter: No, no, look, I’ve created a secret compartment here for the rice. It is at the bottom of my crap container. So I don’t think the guards are gonna want to check that. gene: This is crazy. Why are you hiding it now? dieter: For our escape. (Long pause.) duane: You have a plan. —Werner Herzog (director), Rescue Dawn
I had come this far and waited long enough. I had a plan. It might get me into trouble, but it was my concern, my responsibility, and nobody else’s. I bent over, ducked my head into the squad car window, and said: “I’m going to do some exploring.” What was Bellamy supposed to say? If I wanted to hang around an abandoned building in the middle of the night, there wasn’t much he could do about it. I was the senior officer. I was a highly decorated member of the department, and as far as Bellamy could tell, I was losing my marbles. “I’ve got to do this, Bells. Can’t you see?” I pleaded. “I don’t know, Coddy. You like pushing rocks uphill?” At least Bellamy was getting paid to watch me have a nervous breakdown. It wasn’t like he could intervene. It was better to leave me alone; that was the best thing one cop could do for another brother. Let him find his own way. He’d thank you for it later. “Don’t sweat it, Coddy. Just do what you have to. Me? I’ll make myself cozy and listen to the radio.” My face eased up; I was acting crazy, but I couldn’t stop myself, and besides, I didn’t want to stop. I let a shred of a grin touch my mouth. “I won’t be long.” I bounded across the pavement, showing more vitality than I’d had in a long time. I could feel myself gathering momentum, lifting off, gaining lucidity. And simultaneously, I was getting older, breaking down, becoming creaky, forgetful, simply not enough. The two paths were going to converge
on my deathbed. Even now, with the abandoned building before me, I was aware of that. —Peter Plate, One Foot Off the Gutter
Asbestos Cement Products Association, According to Plan: The Story of Modern Sidewalls for the Homes of America To save myself time in the future I put extra compound over some of the plasterboard in those first houses. The wind stopped blowing through them and the stupid young couples kept warm. That was the first of my plans. I took no breaks and I had no time. But there was freedom between my ears, and I don’t mean what you think I mean. Building is ten percent concen tration and ninety percent habit. You have to think about what you’re going to do, but you don’t while you’re doing it. It doesn’t matter how busy your body is, your mind is always free. Free if you have good forearms. Once I know where to put it, my trowel moves steady as the waves—habit moves it, and my thoughts are free. And that’s when you plan. Johnny Cooper, Mario Caizone, and Tony Espolito, they don’t plan. When they’re staring at a wall or choking on sawdust, they’re thinking this: Woman, Blood, Bone. They’re thinking things you’ll never know. But Jerry McGuinty plans.
this season. richard linklater’s epic boyhood wins top honours from toronto film critics association: The Toronto film critics association has named coming-of-age drama Boyhood the best picture of 2014, one of three TFCA awards for the film. epic viral video countdown: the beckham catch: New York
The future was there one day, drying around my fingers. —Colin McAdam, Some Great Thing VOICE OVER
The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. They look and feel human. Some are programmed to think they are human. There are many copies. And they have—a plan. MALE CYLON
What’s the plan? BROTHER CAVIL
The plan is, everything blows up a week ago. All humans are dead, we Cylons all download, and the universe basks in justice… —New Trailer for ‘Battlestar Galactica The Plan’ (youtube.com)
Dr. Theodore von Karman (black coat) sketches out a plan on the wing of an airplane as his JATO engineering team looks on. From left to right: Dr. Clark B. Millikan, Dr. Martin Summerfield, Dr. Theodore von Karman, Dr. Frank J. Malina and pilot, Capt. Homer Boushey. I immediately understood that there was nothing I could do to stop him. His mind was made up, and rather than try to talk him out of it, I did what I could to make his plan as safe as possible. It was a decent plan, I said… —Paul Auster, Moon Palace Slyly going into Cantor territory on Friday, the president promised a sustained campaign to sell Americans on
his plan. A re-energized Obama urged students at the University of Richmond to lobby lawmakers: “I want you to call, I want you to e-mail, I want you to tweet, I want you to fax, I want you to visit, I want you to Facebook, send a carrier pigeon.” —Maureen Dowd, Sleeping Barry Awakes (The New York Times) “Well said,” cried Aramis; “you don’t often speak, Athos, but when you do speak, it is like St. John of the Golden Mouth. I agree to Athos’s plan. And you, Porthos?” “I agree to it, too,” said Porthos, “if D’Artagnan approves of it. D’Artagnan, being the bearer of the letter, is naturally the head of the enterprise; let him decide, and we will execute.” “Well,” said D’Artagnan, “I decide that we should adopt Athos’s plan, and that we set off in half an hour.” “Agreed!” shouted the three Musketeers in chorus. —Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers Project management involves the process of first establishing a plan and then implementing that plan to accomplish the project objective. Taking the time to develop a wellthought-out plan is critical to the successful accomplishment of any project. Once the project starts, the project management process involves monitoring progress to ensure that everything is going according to plan. —Jack Gido and James P. Clements, Successful Project Management But, before they set out, the commodore paid the compliment of communicating his design to Mr. Pickle, who approved of the plan… —Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, in Which Are Included Memoirs of A Lady of Quality
Wait. Nancy. I’ve been saving these for myself, I want you to have them. Make a plan for yourself. For both of us. Those mitts are the key to our future. —Jenji Kohan, Weeds: Season 7, Episode 1
Encyclopedia Britannica Films, Baltimore Plan But wait: I had a plan. I couldn’t stop now. I was standing back and looking at myself enter a tunnel. There I was at the entrance, catching a glimpse of myself as I disappeared down the tunnel’s bore. Follow me, the hole was saying. —Peter Plate, One Foot Off the Gutter As Archie left the office he suddenly worried that he might not have enough video space to cover his evening’s viewing. He had some room left at the end of his Star Trek Volume VI tape. Maybe there would be enough to accommodate the X Files. He wondered whether it might be a bit sacrilegious to mix the two programmes on one tape, and slipped into a daydream of Scully encountering the Clingons, and what the FBI might make of Spock and…this kept him more than amused while he walked out of the building towards the bus stop. A nagging doubt of change interrupted his sci-fi day-dreams. He really should be on the safe side and buy a videotape. If
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36 Geist 96 Spring 2015
he bought a video, it would be bound to cost a sum of money ending in 99p. He checked his front trouser pockets for change and managed a curse skillfully untainted by swearing or blasphemy. He had no change at all. He checked his wallet. One five-pound note. This presented a change-disposal problem. Archie judged purchases of lunch, newspapers and cups of tea not in terms of the needs they fulfilled so much as their merits of spare coinage disposal. He generally took five pound coins with him to work each morning and a five- or ten-pound note in case of unforeseen eventualities. Occasionally, if he was feeling adventurous, he would vary his coinage and leave the house with four-pounds fifty or fivepounds twenty or some other sum which prevented him simply buying the same items every day. In this way, Archie kept himself on his toes. Today had been a challenge. The sandwich shop he bought his lunch from every day had increased its prices without warning and he had been badly off balance ever since. It had been a struggle, but by the end of the day he had returned to equilibrium having legitimately spent every one of the fivehundred pence he had started the day with. The video, though, would doubtless result in a spare coin and it would be difficult to dispose of one pence in a supermarket. By his own rules, he wasn’t allowed to lose, donate, throw away, deface beyond recognition or otherwise dispose of remaining coinage. He stood at the bus stop for some minutes trying to find a way around his predicament. Anonymous cars crawled by. There had to be some way. He pushed his glasses slowly upwards as far as they would travel on the bridge of his nose. This would take some careful planning. —John McCabe, Stickleback
Testimony S U N B E LT
From Cabalcor: An Extracted History. Published by Anvil Press in 2015. Sun Belt is an interdisciplinary arts group comprised of Rick Maddocks, Stephen Lyons, Carrie Walker, Dave Wilson, Jon Wood, Paul Rigby and Sandra Carvalho González. Its work incorporates music, fiction, painting, illustration, performance and photography. Bianca Camarena’s Testimony, Cabalcor Truth Commission Hearings, Appendix VI. We saw the dust before we saw the men. They came from the south, that’s what we were told. We’d been told many things that year. Rumours had spread through town about the corporation contracting out specialists of some kind and those rumours only got louder once the union came out of the shadows. The first union folks, my uncles and the rest, they were brave but they weren’t stupid. So they set up their headquarters north of town, up in Fort Iquique. Yet that move was seen as a statement on account of all the people who were getting sick up there—indigenous people, mostly, people who didn’t even work at the plant. Women, children, old folks. There was a doctor there once, but he got forced out—by the company, not the locals. So the union’s Local No. 1 presence there drew its own kind of attention, whether the founding members meant it or not. There were those in the company, even day labourers, who accused us of being disloyal. Any sickness in the air or water, they said, was too easily blamed on the mines. They asked us why we were sleeping with the enemy. They asked us why we were so hell-bent on losing our jobs and threatening theirs. The first time the windows of our headquarters were smashed in, it was exactly three o’clock in the
afternoon on a Saturday. I remember looking up at the clock and the next thing I knew my table was covered in shards of glass. Somehow, there wasn’t a scratch on me. Not that time anyway. It wasn’t long before fights broke out on those quiet streets up in Fort Iquique. Some people said it was inevitable. I say it was inevitable because somebody made it so. Like I said, we saw dust first and it came from the south, just not the far south like we’d imagined. The men who brought it wore sunglasses and moved in packs. They’d been living in the workers’ camp on the edge of Cabalcor, out beyond the Bald Ring. You just followed the trail behind Sandi’s and there you were. They lived in barracks, these dank prefab trailers with shared toilets and mold on the walls. Later they were housed in steel shipping containers too, dangerously overcrowded. You got your Texans, Croatians, Newfoundlanders, Portuguese, Welsh, Salvadorans, Dakotans, Mexicans. That’s just a small sample—they were from all over, all colours and creeds. Men who had no ties with this place, who came for money and left with money and who, in between, did anything for money. The camp was more or less run by the cooks, who’d been there longer than anyone else. They could get you contraband anything. Drugs, girls, boys, guns. Real pieces of work, the cooks. As for your regular camp types, you knew them when you saw them. They had blistered
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lips and scabs and they’d usually be seen walking silently in groups of four or five, not giving a damn about the bylaw. Each of them dragged his past life behind him like some old skin that hadn’t been cast off. At first these men seemed resentful of the fact they were working for anyone; when asked to carry out any task at Cabalcor, their first response was usually “no.” Some of them brought their wives to the camp. There were more wife beatings per capita in the Cabalcor workers’ camp than in any
place in North America during that time. Look it up. No, I did not envy the lives of those women. That’s why I founded the Trauma Fund at Black Sands Local No. 1. And that’s probably another reason the men who brought the dust attacked Local No. 1 with such venom when they came back a second and third time. It was a matter of months before we moved Local No. 1 down to the eye of the storm in Cabalcor, where we found your garden-variety
Bear Safety C L A I R E C A L DW E L L
From Invasive Species. Published by Buckrider Books in 2014. Claire Caldwell edits romances at Harlequin, and runs poetry workshops for kids. She lives in Toronto. Bears could be anywhere On the subway at rush hour. Between couch cushions. In the drawer with dull pencils and batteries and nothing you need. In the eavestrough. On a soccer field during a lightning storm. In the pocket of your dirty jeans, your unlaced sneakers. Run a hand under the sheets before bedtime. Bears prefer to sleep on Egyptian cotton. They can usually tell if it’s cheap. Bears startle easily In conditions of hampered visibility, braid willow in your hair. Floss with alder. Line your eyelids with nightshade. Sing jazz standards in the key of C or D-flat major. If you must tell a bear
about your hysterectomy, your son’s defection from the military academy, speak quietly but with conviction. Never let them smell your Ativan. Keep your campsite clean Bundles of unattended clothing invite curious bears. The wilderness is not a thrift store parking lot. A grizzly in floral skirts and pearls is not just “going through a phase.” Individuals are often spotted near high school proms and costume departments. Their fur may start to thin. They may become dependent on polyester. Eventually, such bears must be destroyed.
intimidation and orchestrated chaos. We figured it wasn’t fair to the people of Fort Iquique for us to remain up there. They’d suffered enough in our eyes. The thing was, we failed to realize the depth of their fury toward the corporation. Thanks to the mines they’d lost their livelihood and their livelihood was the land and water. Local No. 1 offered them torch paper for that anger to catch fire—an institutional touchstone, if you like. And then, as soon as it was lit, we were gone. So, yes, there were some who felt we’d betrayed them. Betrayal upon betrayal. It’s one of my many regrets. [Long pause] But at the time we asked ourselves, why do they need other people’s problems visited upon them? Of course, we didn’t admit to ourselves that we’d been visiting our problems upon them ever since my grandfather arrived here. And we didn’t know they were going to suffer a whole lot more for a whole lot longer. They fought though, more than anybody. We recall how the Fort Iquique Council pursued legal challenges long before the rest of us even dreamed of such a thing. And how they came down and blockaded Highway No. 3, I don’t know how many times. And how so many of them were dragged into that godforsaken detention camp—one of the reasons we’re gathering here this week. Who among us, all these years later, would have thought those same workers’ camp types would go on to form the backbone of the Cabalcor security forces, the prison camp personnel? Go on, hands up. We’d thought they’d gone away for good. But they came back for the worst.
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38 Geist 96 Spring 2015
Origins AL NEIL
From Origins, an adjunct publication to the exhibit Origins: Celtic Series. Published by Western Front in 1989. Al Neil and his partner, the artist Carole Itter, were recently evicted from their home in North Vancouver, where they have lived and worked since the 1960s, following the sale of the property to developers. Theirs was the last cabin remaining in Dollarton, whose literary residents included Malcolm Lowry, Earle Birney, Dorothy Livesay and Al Purdy.
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Savour the latest episode of
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Kitchen live on location from Italy
Photo: Leanne Boschman.
I M A G E S
T I M E
Blast Photography JOHN O’BRIAN
“Nuclear explosions are beautiful,” she said. “At a distance.” — Elizabeth Hay, Garbo Laughs
Joint Task Force One A Tree Grows in Bikini, from the book Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record, 1946
uclear photography, like the nuclear era itself, is haunted by questions of excess. To understand how atomic representation has shaped public attitudes and memory, I want to consider the surplus production of mushroom cloud imagery since the end of World War II through two early images, one from the Nagasaki bombing in 1945 and the other from Test Baker at Bikini Atoll, then a Trust Territory of the United States, in 1946. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the mushroom cloud became the dominant icon of the atomic age, its most extravagant figurehead. Every part of the globe was stamped with its image through photographs and imprinted with a spectacle of mass destruction. Photographs taken during the attacks of 6 and 9 August made the mushroom cloud instantly recognizable, and the atomic tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll and in Nevada following the end of World War II made it a staple of the mass media and popular culture. The first mushroom cloud produced by an atomic bomb, which did not acquire its “mushroom cloud” moniker immediately, rose from
AP Wirephoto Atomic Bomb Sends Smoke 20,000 Feet Above Nagasaki, August 9, 1945 Images In Time 41
Kenji Higuchi A Beautiful Day at Crystal Beach, Mihama Bay, August 2004
42 Geist 96 Spring 2015
the desert floor at the Trinity test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in the early hours of the morning on July 16, 1945. Upon witnessing the explosion, the theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, sometimes called the father of the atomic bomb for his role in its development, famously (and pompously) declared, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” while speaking in front of a motionpicture camera recording the event. A photograph of a statue of Oppenheimer, taken by Barbara Norfleet at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, transmutes the scientist into a metaphorical pillar of salt capped by his signature porkpie hat. Norfleet’s camera freezes Oppenheimer against a black background, making it look as if he has just gazed upon the forbidden and paid a biblical price for his transgression. The iconography of nuclear explosions began with the Trinity explosion, where photographers took at least 100,000 photographic exposures of the test. At laboratories in Los Alamos, Julian E. Mack and Berlyn Brixner designed specialized cameras for recording the detonation and scientifically measuring the blast yield of the weapon. Some of the photographs record the exact moment of their execution down to a fraction of a split second, which is recorded on the prints. Nuclear testing and the development of increasingly sophisticated camera and film equipment to document what otherwise could not be recorded went hand in hand. A photograph taken during preparations for the first Bikini test, for example, shows the mounting of dual movie cameras in the nose of an observation aircraft. “The technologies of cinema and warfare have developed a fatal interdependence,” observes Paul Virilio, the French theorist of speed, technology and warfare. An extreme version of this interdependence was produced by the atomic “flash” at Hiroshima, where the violent excess of light and heat from the explosion caused images of bodies to be imprinted on the steps and walls of the city. In her essay “Radical Contact Prints,” Susan Schuppli writes that these radiographic prints—literally atomic shadows—“document life at the very moment of death.” A survivor described the Hiroshima sky after the explosion as being “filled by a garish light which resembles the magnesium light used in photography.” The most immediately recognizable of all mushroom cloud photographs came from the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki. It exists in multiple versions and constitutes the first of my primary examples. The version released to the press was a two-tone, two-tier
Barbara Norfleet Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos, 1988
Kyungah Ham Nagasaki and Hiroshima Mushroom Clouds 02, 2010, Seoul Art Collection
Awatani (Kyoto) The Atomic Cloud, c 1945–1946
image taken from the air minutes after the detonation, as the caption states, and then rapidly circulated around the globe as a wirephoto. The upper part of the cloud contrasts sharply with the dark column of smoke and debris that forms the lower part, and is separated from it by a slender gap. The gap is highly charged, like the gap in Michelangelo’s ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel between God’s forefinger and the hand of Adam, but whereas Michelangelo’s fresco represents the creation of life the Nagasaki photograph represents the destruction of it. The relationship between generative and destructive power is also the subject of a poem by William Carlos Williams. In “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” Williams reflects on the correlation between the mushroom cloud as a blooming flower and the mushroom cloud as a bloom of death. “The bomb/also/ is a flower,” he writes, aware that in classical times asphodels were associated with mourning and death. Asphodels were flowers of hell. The gap separating the light and dark components of the Nagasaki image, referred to as a signature feature by those who make a specialty of studying mushroom cloud iconography, makes it unlike any other atomic image. But this has not prevented the photograph from being identified with the explosion that took place three days earlier at Hiroshima. Because Hiroshima and Nagasaki are often spoken of as a single event, and because the attack on Hiroshima preceded that on Nagasaki, the sibling cities are frequently conflated into one word. “Hiroshima” has become a sign for both. Soon after the war, the Kyoto publisher Awatani printed a postcard of the Nagasaki cloud with an inscription, “The Atomic Cloud,” written across it in English and Japanese. The postcard alludes to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki without naming either. It also miniaturizes what is pictured. By encouraging audiences to view the explosion as a hold-in-the-hand spectacle, the postcard domesticates the bomb. The Atomic Cloud, like other postcard images of disastrous events, tames the catastrophe. In addition to being sold for touristic purposes, a version of the Nagasaki mushroom cloud was used by the US Army Air Force to commemorate the event. A deluxe presentation album containing twenty three tipped-in photographs—one shy of the number found in a standard roll of film—includes the Nagasaki image. The image is horizontal in format and shows a section of the wing of the observation plane from which it was taken. Written across the top of the wing, which is represented in the lower right-hand corner, is the photograph’s identification number, “AEC-51-40128 58381 A.C.” The overlapping of text and wing is no doubt coincidental but serves to emphasize, as other photographs of the Nagasaki mushroom cloud do not, the connection between the interior of aircraft, where an anonymous photographer was aiming his camera out the window, and the exterior of the aircraft, where a megaton explosion had destroyed a city. Here the act of photographing the mushroom cloud and the act of detonating the bomb align. A military aircraft delivered the nuclear weapon, another military aircraft delivered the photograph.
U.S. Army Air Force Presentation Album of Original Photographs of the Bombing Missions on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Nagasaki Mushroom Cloud], August 9, 1945
Images in Time 43
Berlyn Brixner Trinity Test Explosion, 0.006 Seconds, July 16, 1945
Berlyn Brixner Trinity Test Explosion, 0.016 Seconds, July 16, 1945. From the collection of Mark Ruwedel
44 Geist 96 Spring 2015
The first two atomic tests at Bikini Atoll, code-named Operation Crossroads, were conducted in July 1946. Test Baker, which followed soon after Test Able, provides my second example of a mushroom cloud photograph that has been persistently reproduced and circulated. Test Able and Test Baker were the fourth and fifth nuclear detonations ever to take place. In part, they were scientifically managed nuclear experiments designed to assess the impact of aerial (Able) and underwater (Baker) detonations on target ships and biological specimens; and, in part, they were political theatre, carefully staged media events with the world press in attendance, mounted to assert American nuclear superiority and dispel reports about the dangers of radiation. Photographers from Associated Press, International News Service, Acme and Life magazine were invited to attend on the condition they pooled their images for distribution under the supervision of the United States military. Seven hundred fifty cameras were employed by the news photographers and military cameraman to record the blasts, using up half the world’s supply of motion picture film in the process. Among them were the largest still camera then in existence, with a 48-inch focal length telephoto lens, and an ultra high-speed motion camera capable of shooting 10,000 frames per second. “The multiplicity of cameras was necessary to insure full records of results,” a pictorial book on the operation stated, “particularly damage results.” The “damage results” from Bikini that entered into public memory were provided by photographs from Test Baker, detonated 15 metres below the surface of the water. The images exist in at least as many variations as there were cameras trained on the event, and represent a column of water rising from the blast to form a cloud of condensation that looks more like a cauliflower than a mushroom. (Some early reports of the explosion did, in fact, describe the cloud as having a cauliflower form.) The most widely known of the images goes by several titles, of which the most straightforward is Mushroom Cloud, Test Baker. A written description of a version of the image appearing in Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record, published a few months after the tests by the trade publisher William H. Wise in conjunction with the military, concentrates less on the shape of the cloud than on the damage effects of the explosion. The description comments on what is invisible to the camera as well as on what can be seen: “The wall of spray and steam at the base of the column rushes precipitantly out from the center, drenching the target ships with its thick poisonous wetness.... Small wonder that 90 percent of the target vessel array was affected by the deadly radioactivity. Although the amount of damage done to the hulls was not very different from predicted damage, the extent of radiological hazards went beyond what had
Joint Task Force One That Men May Live, from the book Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record, 1946
Jack Aeby (U.S. Army) Atomic Bomb Burst That Changed the World: First Color Photo, 16 July 1945, October, 1945
been expected.” This passage does not mince words. Ships were drenched in “thick poisonous wetness” and affected by “deadly radioactivity,” while the “radiological hazards went beyond what had been expected.” The phrases address the dangers of radiation with a clarity and openness that would not last in press communiqués issued by military authorities. After 1946, words such as “poisonous” and “deadly” were excised from the official nuclear lexicon and replaced with the anodyne language of bureaucratic obfuscation. Among the biological specimens placed on the target ships and assessed for radiological and other kinds of harm were pigs, goats, rats, mice and guinea pigs. Pigs were used because of the compatibility of their skin and hair to that of humans, and goats because their weight and bodily fluids were similarly compatible. In Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record, there is a photograph of a goat laid out diagonally on an operating table, its hind feet bound with a cord of rope, surrounded by four doctors administering a blood transfusion for radiation sickness. The goat has wisps of hair encircling its face, making it look uncannily human, as if it were more conscious of its situation than the masked doctors around it. The caption beneath the photograph reports that 35 percent of the animals used in the tests died: 10 percent from the blasts; 15 percent from radiation; and another 10 percent from medical experimentation. The circulation of photographs of irradiated goats and pigs after Operations Crossroads, like the circulation of words and sentences describing radiological threat, was subsequently curtailed by military censors. In Operation Sandstone: The Story of Joint Task Force Seven, a book of photographs of tests conducted at Enewetak Atoll in 1948, there are no images of animals or masked doctors. The photographs selected for general release by authorities were less about radiation experiments and the effects on animals and people than about the technological sublime, the flash-and-bang spectacle of fireballs and mushrooms clouds. Two dozen photographs in Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record are of the Test Baker mushroom cloud, not to mention the gold embossed image of Mushroom Cloud, Test Baker on the front cover of the book or the photograph of an atomic cake baked in the shape of the cloud being cut by Vice Admiral “Spike” Blandy and his wife to celebrate the completion of the tests. Some of the photographs were taken by drones flying overhead, some by photographers in
Joint Task Force One Mass Grouping of Cameras Used to Photograph First Bikini Tests, from the book Operation Crossroads: The Official Pictorial Record, 1946
International Nickel Company (Inco) advertisement Even this cloud has a silver lining, advertisement in Time magazine, March 22, 1954
Images in Time 45
U.S. Army Air Force Presentation Album of Original Photographs of the Bombing Missions on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Survivors Making Their Way through the Ruins of Hiroshima or Nagasaki], August 1945
46 Geist 96 Spring 2015
observation planes, some from a specially built tower, some from the surface of the water, and some from the atoll itself. Over time, Mushroom Cloud, Test Baker has supplanted most other images in constructing a public memory of the event. In addition, the photograph has served as the matrix for a new body of imagery ranging from advertisements to protest art. The International Nickel Company (Inco) published a full-page advertisement in Time magazine in 1954, in which Mushroom Cloud, Test Baker was transformed from a black-andwhite photograph into a grisaille watercolour. The illustration in the advertisement, which reverses the photograph, remains faithful to most of its characteristics, emphasising the extremes of dark and light in the cloud as well as in the surrounding sky and water, but makes two notable alterations. It eliminates the target ships that were placed at ground zero by the military to test the force of the bomb, and it inserts a prominent group of thatched huts and palm trees into the lower right foreground. The changes soften the image, transforming a representation of the atomic sublime into what might be called the atomic picturesque. Whereas the force of the atomic sublime can seem disturbingly seductive, the orderliness of the atomic picturesque is merely pleasurable. Like postcards of nuclear explosions, the advertisement domesticates the deadly event. It strikes me that the bathing suit named by Louis Réard after the 1946 Bikini tests is a more compelling representation of the event than the advertisement; at least the twopiece “Bikini” acknowledges the sexual character of a nuclear discharge. The reason for Inco’s pictorial ledgermain is announced in the advertisement’s message: “Even this cloud has a silver lining,” the caption reads, invoking the beneficial side of the nuclear pharmakon. Nickel alloys are needed in reactors to produce radioisotopes for medical purposes, Inco states, because the alloys are non-corrosive, heat-resistant and strong. The company is ideally situated to help in the production of radioisotopes for peaceful purposes. The message of the advertisement is consistent with those of other Inco advertisements in American magazines in 1954. An ad placed in Collier’s explains to readers “How Inco Nickel Is Helping to Produce Power from the Peace Atom.” President Eisenhower’s recently coined slogan “Atoms for Peace” was clearly finding an audience among military suppliers, just as the Atomic Energy Commission’s promotion of nuclear power for civilian purposes was attracting commercial interest. “While the AEC’s weaponeers are at work in the Pacific,” an article in Time observed, “the AEC is also
United States Information Service Reactor Container 36 meters high being constructed for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, Lake Ontario near Oswego, New York, c 1950s
going after peaceful nuclear power in a big way.” In other words, the United States was turning swords into ploughshares while looking for ways to build even bigger bombs. The first thermonuclear test, Castle Bravo, took place at Bikini on March 1, 1954, just weeks before the Inco advertisement appeared. It was the most powerful nuclear device ever exploded by the United States and, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, one of the most lethal. The contradictions in the “Atoms for Peace” movement are made explicit in Dennis Brack’s photograph of military officers watching a test explosion from deck chairs on the patio of their beach club while getting a sun tan. From the tone and content of Inco’s advertisement, readers might be persuaded that a significant part of the company’s future lay in the medical uses of nickel. They would be wrong. In an era of near-permanent war—an era that still shows no sign of abating half a century later—it follows that all corporate and government activities must be performed in the name of peace. By 1950, and the outbreak of the Korean War, Inco had established a near monopoly in the production and distribution of nickel in North America—it was supplying close to 80 percent of the United States’ requirements—and Congress launched an investigation into the company’s market dominance and pricing practices. Nickel was a “true war material,” the United States Department of Defense declared, and it wanted the Canadian company to provide the metal to the United States at a competitive cost. The construction of nuclear reactors, whether for military or peaceful purposes, required a lot of aluminum, and the United States wanted to be sure of having secure supplies. The Congressional investigation bruised Inco’s image. To repair the damage, the company increased production to bring down prices and initiated an aggressive advertising campaign to refashion itself as a concerned corporate citizen. Inco even managed to find a “silver lining” in the Baker mushroom cloud, or so its advertisement claimed, by converting a destructive force into a positive benefit to medicine. By 1954, the company was operating at full capacity and selling all the nickel it could mine. Only a very small part of its production, however, went for reactors that were making radioisotopes for medical purposes. Much more of its output went to feed the United States’ war machine. A month after the advertisement in Time appeared, the Inco Triangle, an in-house company publication, reported: “War or the preparation for war creates an immediate demand for all metals and destroys the usual balance between demand and supply.... We are now in such a period.” The nickel supplied to the United States by Inco, like the uranium supplied to the United States Department of Defense by another Canadian company, Eldorado Mining and Refining, was directed more towards making mushroom clouds than producing isotopes for medicine. In 1981, Barbara Kruger used a photograph of the Test Baker
Dennis Brack Sitting on the Patio of the Officer's Beach Club, Illuminated by an Atomic Explosion at Enewetak Atoll, April 8, 1951
Associated Press Lieutenant T.H. Martin Mounting Dual Movie Camera in the Nose of a B-29 Bomber, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests, 1946
Images in Time 47
Bruce Conner BOMBHEAD, 2002/1989
explosion to deliver a message about nuclear weapons that drew on the techniques of billboard advertising. She cropped the photograph tight at the edges to bring it closer to the viewer. “Your Manias Become Science,” the work declares, if one reads the words sequentially, or “Manias Become Your Science,” if one reads the middle two words first. The message was directed at those nations in possession of nuclear weapons, members of the so-called Nuclear Club. When Kruger exhibited the work in Sydney and Mexico City, she altered the title to Their Manias Become Science in order to distinguish Australia and Mexico from countries that were engaged in the nuclear arms race. Kruger’s appropriation of an iconic Bikini image, and her reanimation of it with an aggressive political slogan, is presented without irony. The kind of dark humour found in Stanley Kubrick’s film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, where Slim Pickens rides an atomic bomb to doomsday, is alien to Kruger’s project. In Your Manias Become Science, the spectacle of the mushroom cloud ceases to read as a cliché. Instead, it reads as threatening. It also reads as threatening in the work of Bruce Conner, who used images of the Test Baker explosion in three different works: A 36-minute film, Operations Crossroads, 1976, which was made from declassified footage of the Bikini explosion; a photomontage called BOMBHEAD, 1989, which was assembled from cut up photocopies and newspaper images; and a large-scale print, also called BOMBHEAD, 2002, that was based on the photomontage. The cranium-shaped mushroom cloud in BOMBHEAD is attached to a male figure’s uniformed body by a columnar neck of water produced by the detonation, and refers back to Conner’s early work as a Beat artist in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time of intensifying fear in the United States about the risks of nuclear catastrophe. In Conner’s 1959 sculpture, Child, a deformed body seated in a wooden highchair resembles a charred corpse. BOMBHEAD, like Child, functions within an ongoing economy of fear precipitated by the Cold War. From “Nuclear Flowers in Hell” in Camera Atomica, edited by John O’Brian and published by Black Dog Press. John O'Brian is a writer, curator and art historian. He has written and edited books on modern art history and on nuclear narratives, including Atomic Postcard: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War. He teaches at the University of British Columbia and lives in Vancouver.
48 Geist 96 Spring 2015
Barbara Kruger Untitled (Your Manias Become Science), 1981. Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Another Kodak Moment Photographic coverage of the effects of a nuclear detonation at zero time requires exposing the camera to the detonation, making some of the results exceedingly difficult to obtain.
The initial heat generated at the heart of a nuclear detonation can reach 10 million degrees. Therefore, second only to dust as problematic to photography are the effects of thermal radiation.
high yield h - bomb photography
Zero event will render sunlight dark by comparison. Satisfactory photographic nuclear radiation coverage of a high yield thermonuThe closer you get to an atomic clear bomb or device requires elaboexplosion, the greater the risk of rate precautions against the possibility radioactive contamination. Gamma of damage to the cameras from heavy radiation produces the same photoradioactive fallout. chemical effect on film as visible light, namely fogging. illumination
The inital flash of light created by a nuclear explosion is more than 10 times the brightness of the sun. Obtaining proper exposure in this “zero time photography” is complicated by the intense and rapidly varying illumination from the nuclear detonation. Because this illumination varies so greatly in the first few seconds after zero time, film exposed properly at one moment will be overexposed at earlier times and underexposed later. the shockwave
A millisecond after the detonation of an atomic bomb a pressure wave develops, moving outward from the centre of the fireball. At close distances, a shockwave or blast wave causes most of the destructive force, next to the thermal and nuclear radiation. The shockwave might not be felt or heard for 30 seconds or more after the detonation, which can catch a novice by surprise.
Colour film may fog over time as it is sensitive to gamma radiation. Only use colour film beyond 4000 feet from ground zero.
The greatest difficulty encountered in photographing the results of an atomic detonation over land is dust. Dense clouds of dust raised by the blast wind can cover the entire field of view of the camera in an extremely short period of time. film recovery
Once a nuclear device has been detonated, time is of the essence to recover the film photographed. This arrangement will reverse orientation of the image, left to right.
Rockets fired for shockwave detection.
Even cameras with 15 PSI rated pressure resistance have been found 1500 feet from original locations.
Detail showing the actual occurance of the shockwave.
how to photograph an atomic bomb by peter kuran. published by vce in 2006. visit atomcentral.com.
Encyclopedia Atomica 49
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50 Geist 96 Spring 2015
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Scrawled on the Back of My Mad Father’s Will, 1992 J O E L W I L L I A M VAU G H A N
If I pass outside of town, wait three days to begin. Otherwise, wait two: Take a handful of pepitas from your grandfather’s garden (if pumpkins are not in season, sunflower seeds will suffice). On 191 Industrial you might still find my yellow hay woven into the lawn. Bundle some with red elastic. I’ve kept Father’s pouch of chew in second-middle drawer of my studyroom wardrobe. Rev. Timothy will have left instructions to set aside two lungs. See him to retrieve them from coroner. Use a milk jug from the shop. Stretch lungs out, hooks and twine on the clothes line. Sun-dried ~ 5 days Slice into strips, roll contents into leather and wrap in the evening Whig-Standard. When you miss me, and you might, light with a cardboard matchstick and puff until embers glow. Breathe me in deep, like I did my father, and he did his. — 1971
Joel W. Vaughan reads manuscripts for Black Balloon Publishing and writes reviews for Broken Pencil. He lives in Kingston.
Tobacco Lit Readers Choice 53
Shallow in the A Section SA R A CA SS I DY
Waving signals that you are not alone
y daughter has fallen in love with a professional hockey player. His name is Dwight and he refers to my daughter as his puck bunny, which I have decided to find cute. Two weeks ago, Dwight invited me to watch the afternoon game, offering a comp, which took the form of a seat in a box, which was a room, really, where I sat at a large window that muffled the sounds of the crowd and provided a superior view of the game. Also in the room, mostly standing, jiggling peanuts in their fists, tossing them up into their mouths, were a number of angular men who spoke to each other as if they were in a locker room, careful not to look at each other’s privates. They were the sort of men I introduce myself to as Norm rather than Norman. They spoke in a volume that suggested hearing aids. They joshed rather than joked, chuckled rather than laughed. I would guess
54 Geist 96 Spring 2015
that up close they smelled of new barbecues— propane, steak. I had a feeling that the chuckling men would have nodded agreeably to anything I had to say. I could have told them about my apartment’s new door handles, which I had installed that morning, the kind recently approved, now the only ones allowed, by the local building code—no more global turn of the wrist, only a stiff, downward twist—and they would have been pleased. Jocular, I think the word is that describes the ways in which these men spoke. Jockular? From where I sat, I could see my daughter in the cold seats, near the ice, behind the players’ bench. I watched her watching the game and wondered how it was to see the man she loved slammed repeatedly into the boards. It made me wince, but my daughter only laughed and shook her head.
photo: osprey community centre, feversham, ontario, 2008. martie giefert
Between periods, the square-headed men lifted their eyes to a television mounted high on the wall. First the hockey commentators yapped about the game, and then the news followed. The lead story was about Nelson Mandela’s memorial the day before. Apparently, the interpreter for the deaf had translated the dignitaries’ speeches into gibberish. He did not know sign language! The peanut-eating men chuckled as the interpreter churned the air with his hands. I also found the man’s efforts hilarious, but the hilarity thrummed uncomfortably in my veins—it felt more like hysteria. I couldn’t laugh. Sure, I was troubled by the so-called interpreter’s exploitation of deaf people and his implication that their language was just a bunch of waving about. Mostly, though, I felt exposed; the man was me: he was the flailing man I had become in the wake of Eleanor’s death. And as the square-headed
men continued to chuckle, slapping their thighs, moving their arms in imitation of the interpreter, I saw that this was all smoke and mirrors: they, too, had been exposed. We are insufficient muttering lumps. Compared to the cellular lace and molecular castles within us and around us, our lives are negligible nubs. I was suddenly endeared to the players on the ice—small, silent, zooming. They at least were not trying to make sense of the world. They chased a puck. They knew the limits. It turned out that “our” team won the game. The men of new barbecues high-fived one another, shrugged into their windbreakers and clapped each other on the back as they exited the box. I looked after them wistfully: I would have liked to be clapped on the back, too. I had an urge to call after them, to cry out, my name is actually Norman! As it was, I remained at the window watching the crowd
Short Story 55
empty from the arena, then the Zamboni spiralling, smoothing out the dashes and dots the skaters had cut into the ice. When the Zamboni came my way, I waved and the driver waved back. Two wires touching. As I walked home along the darkening streets, my phone vibrated with a text from my daughter: Good game, hey? she asked. Great. Thanks. I answered. Really, what she said was, We’re going for a beer. Having you, my father, along would squash the mood. And: I’m thinking of you. And my reply? I’ll be OK. And I will not burden you. I’m glad my daughter has Dwight. You have to start somewhere. After a beer, the two of them will likely go to her or his apartment and fall into bed together. She won’t be careful of the bruises he has just amassed; to her, they will be as dead as words in a language she doesn’t know, a language spoken by others. Dwight, though, will feel the bruises, especially when my daughter’s knee or elbow wakens them. But he won’t wince: he won’t suck in and bring the pain deeper. He’ll ignore it, let it wander off, back from the roadside toward the woods. In these children’s minds deer evaporate into endless wilderness. At my age, I know that forests end, criss-crossed by highways or sputtering into tundra. Above all, pain persists, whining until death answers the door. If I had ever come home with a bruise like Dwight’s, Eleanor, in our later years, would have lowered her book and reached gently toward it, her fingertip on the darkened skin light as a whisper. And I, aging man with blood pooling, would have returned her venturing with a look of love, love for circumstance as much as for her; the young do not know this doubleness of love. Though it was late on a Sunday afternoon, city workers were hard at work outside the apartment, their labour lit by flood lamps and truck headlights. There had been a water main break and they had had to peel back the macadam to repair the pipe. Now, they mended the road. A driver hovered the Caterpillar bucket over the break. A worker on the sidewalk raised his hand, motioning the driver to back up. Then he curled his fist to inch him forward. Finally he waggled his hand, small finger and thumb splayed, back and forth, signalling for the driver to shake sand from the 56 Geist 96 Spring 2015
bucket. I thought again of the interpreter with his pitiful grunting motions. What was he really saying? I am alone, dumbstruck. The best I was ever able to express my love to Eleanor was to say, I can’t tell you how much you mean to me. Since we scattered her ashes I have moaned, sobbed, even whimpered on the floor like a dog, but all my noises vanish into the apartment, leaving neither a rent nor a run. Despite our best efforts, we die shallow in the A section of the dictionary. When Eleanor and I met, as graduate students, our apartments were two blocks apart. We would turn our lights off and on in the evenings, a yellow code in the darkness that said, Here I am! and Yes! I see you. We were always running to the other’s apartment. I still remember the urgency I felt at times, running, as if Eleanor would vanish if I didn’t get there soon enough. One night, I stepped outside and turned onto the sidewalk to see her already heading my way. She was waving to someone. As soon as Eleanor saw me, she lowered her hand. I turned around, but there was no one there. Eleanor explained later that she would wave to an imaginary person when she felt unsafe. Women get attacked, you know, she said. Waving sends a signal that you aren’t alone. The Caterpillar growled and beeped and the workers shucked their shovels into the gravel as I fumbled for my keys to the building where Eleanor and I spent our last twenty years. I looked down the sidewalk. It was empty as far as I could see. I waved. It was a full wave made with my entire arm, a wave that could be seen from far away. After that I climbed the stairs to the apartment and settled down to an evening of reading, across from Eleanor’s chair, which I had not yet moved, and which I force myself to look at periodically, to learn, I suppose, the shape of its emptiness. Our chairs are by the window and I read until the room was dark, until the last evening light had drained from the sky. Then I put down my book and felt my way to bed. Sara Cassidy is the author of Skylark and the forthcoming Not for Sale, both published by Orca Books. Her poetry, fiction and journalism have appeared in many periodicals. She lives in Victoria and at www. saracassidywriter.com.
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photo: romain pelletier
Inner Limits ST E P H E N B ROW N
Brown's ongoing investigation of psychogeographies—the study of effects of geography on people—uses poetry and poetic technique in place of mapping and statistics
15. Parque España Got half a half joint in my knap sack cigarette pack, didn’t want to have to half if off again in the street in a Delicado’s™ soft box, finger ash, in some dream state stand still, the experiencing pseudo subject in I, englobed, my day overlapping; with a blank white changku face paper that overlaps my blank expression: collective mumbling and mediumistic.1
15.1 Playing bridge and shuttle in a smudged window light, pencil mark, on the dark libidinous earth of technological day, with a corresponding mind concept that inter-relates both image and thought: or in the dooryard, as seen thru thistlebloom, or in some semi-precious half shade beside the garden door, or near it: flowers in lieu
15.2 At the helm in the tot-lot, where a junky cooked pig fat on a beer can steel grill, And the women collecting cherries had inside the tot-lot beside a pole for tether ball, thighs like amaranth or like axiote, and there was a wall of circles in circus conklin, and there was a wall of circles in circus conklin, inside the tot-lot beside a pole and the junky he rolled his tortillas with lime for tether ball. pulp, and if there was sea salt then with sea salt. The little gap that separates us from each other was there in the nuances in we ourselves, close to the cathedral on closed circuit; it was there with what we had in our window one room and 3 the hand out paraphernalia we get in gated parks, there on either side of the park gates when the gates are gated, the little gap that separates us : ‘in our ( hope ) of monogamy, in our monotheism… Some failed attempt at wholeness, human ecology.’2 (esta programa es publico)
1 I was, I Silenus on a stolen tenspeed, with a little help from the habit, where a junky cooked pig fat at the helm in the tot-lot jungle gym, close to the cathedral on closed circuit [ in the gap gated-in. ] 2 Michel Foucault. 3 Graph of desire by Jacques Lacan.
58 Geist 96 Spring 2015
36. Kiosko Morisco Saw, in an atm glass cubicle on a shoddy street under construction, totopos in styrofoam take out and one page of an 80’s thrift store porn mag flattened down on the tiled floor, so that, thru a rhetorical trick I learnt in the l’in noir could see our man had found some fine shelter, and was able, with the help of an instrumental drunkenness, and a fake shine, to eat jerk off and sleep before first light.
I sketch this in passing, so it shall not pass, staring at a multi-stable hallway pyramid that goes from hallway to pyramid then pyramid to hallway, but in a colonnade hallway of trees at the cultural center pyramid display, waiting for the aforesaid euphoria that comes before the final throe(s), my hand in my drug pocket you see me in passing, cooked up, dethroned, and completely anosognosic on the hard problems.
36.1.2 And the building light it lit up when it sensed me leaving, so you could see the new born afterbirth as it slugged into the sewer; some people were walking weatherwise fast for shelter, and the out cast dead cat on the corner had by trolley bus been drawn and quartered, some of its leftover hindlegs were caught in a fruit cartwheel, & the girl on the corner had had her ego quartered.
An atm glass cubicle bank machine public space is one place to sleep if you can stand the security lights behind a plastic bank bullet proof & window glass scratched out with pocket knife graffiti like the pawnshop Was quarter to 10 when the android went intake front windows in poor districts.
B Sleeping on benches in poor districts under news-papers, or under the store front canvas awning of a gentrified colonial being remodeled, in construction sites, abandoned cars,
or in a metro stairwell where the foot traffic is light, until there is no light.
I sketch this in passing, so it shall not pass; my hand in my drug pocket as you see me pass by.
pneumatic, havin’ thoughts he’d never thought before, in an ectoplasmic mezzotint, by media visitation, with a fake shine; I was, in on in-front the bonfire of bibles korans and copies of pagan constitutions future shocked, beside a young tanned woman whose small titties were new plums doing calligraphy hieroglyphs with grease pencils.
A young woman washed plums along the fountain wall edge of a candy floss flower water petaled with foxglove as the vaulted cathedral blue sky was going off purple.
Stephen Brown is a poet and visual artist. His work has recently appeared in Phoebe, Indiana Review, Rampike magazine, CV2 and Vallum: Contemporary Poetry & Poetics. He was born in Regina and lives in Mexico City. Shelter 59
C I T Y
W O R D S
Fist A L B E RTO M A N G U E L
À Claude Roquet
Primal symbol of rebellion and grief
here is, in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, a fresco by Giotto that depicts Christ angrily chasing the money lenders from the temple; he is portrayed in the attitude of a boxer, his right fist raised to attack the transgressors. In a letter addressed to his brother Theo, dated September 18, 1888, Vincent van Gogh writes that he has long been moved by Giotto and that he understands him better than most because Giotto was “always suffering and always full of benevolence and zeal, as though he were already living in another world.” In Christ’s raised fist Giotto has expressed Christ’s anger but also his sorrow. The wrath of the Lamb, St. Bonaventure observed, is sorrowful: the Lamb weeps for our sins even as he punishes us. The fist is the first gesture we make with our hands. In the womb we close our fingers, once they have lost their web-like form, in a mirroring of our body curled in upon itself, our eyelids shut, seeing inwards. Only later we open up, stretching and 60 Geist 96 Spring 2015
blinking as we come into the world. But in moments of fright or passion or suffering, our body recalls the gesture and we curl up, we hunch down and close our fists again. Among the first signs our ancestors painted on the walls of their caves, tens of thousands of years ago, were the marks of open palms. We can’t tell, of course, what they were meant to signify, but we can suppose in their depiction was a shadowy memory of our earliest gestures. Making a fist is almost unknown among primates other than humans. The fist is an indication of our humanity. The double significance of Giotto’s fist became divided in later depictions. In certain settings, the fist signals rebellion. In 1968, for instance, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists during the Summer Olympics in Mexico to signal their protest against the human rights abuse of African-Americans; their gesture became emblematic and lent a new meaning to the long sequence of fists that, from early
twentieth-century revolutionary posters to symbols of civil combat in our time, mirror the athletes’ raised fists. In certain other settings, however, the fist signifies grief. Two months before his suicide in July 1890, Van Gogh completed a painting that he called At Eternity’s Gate, but which is also known as Old Man Grieving. The painting depicts an old, balding man sitting on a chair by the burning hearth, elbows on his knees, his face hidden in his two clenched fists. It was inspired by a popular print by the now forgotten artist Hubert von Herkomer of an old war veteran asleep in his chair, which was the basis for a painting later exhibited at the Royal Academy of London. As early as 1882, Van Gogh had made two drawings of an old man in a similar position, and wrote to his brother: “What a fine sight an old working man makes, in his patched bombazine suit with his bald head.” And later: “It seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of ‘something on high’ photo: fist. rick onorato
in which Millet believed, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man like that, without his being aware of it perhaps, as he sits so quietly in the corner of his hearth. At the same time something precious, something noble, that can’t be meant for the worms.” Grief certainly, but also a quiet rebellious quality, an ardent melancholy of which the flames in the hearth are a kind of emblem. The title Van Gogh gave to his painting, At Eternity’s Gate, sets the figure of the old man in a continuous timeline without end and without beginning, stretching into the time beyond his approaching death but also in the vast unfolding time behind him, stretching into the infinitely remote beginning of things. This is the time Aby Warburg called “a ghostly and symptomatic time,” outside the measured cadences of history and the regulations stipulated by historians. Giotto’s frescoes belong to the fourteenth century, the age of Dante, but for Warburg they cannot be understood without understanding the anachronistic time of the survival of ancestral images (the Nachleben of images, as he famously called it) they embody. Warburg conceived this notion of time, in the realm of artistic creation, as a chain of counterpoints or mutual responses that contaminate or influence fact and chronology, and restore perceived forms—a lit fire, a grieving old man, a fist—to their original archetypal condition. In a letter written in 1884, Van Gogh quoted the words that Herkomer had addressed to his students: “My aim is to set original forms free.” Words, too, have their Nachleben. Alberto Manguel is the award-winning author of hundreds of works, most recently (in English) Curiosity, All Men Are Liars and A History of Reading. He lives in France. Read more of his work at alberto. manguel.com and geist.com. City of Words 61
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N A T I O N A L
D R E A M S
Time for a Rewrite DA N I E L F R A N C I S
Against incredible odds, Aboriginal people are creating a new version of Canada. John Saul says the rest of us can either lend a hand or get out of the way.
n Greek mythology, Cassandra is blessed with the gift of prophecy, then cursed by never having her predictions believed. I thought of Cassandra as I read John Ralston Saul’s latest book of prophecy, The Comeback: How Aboriginals Are Reclaiming Power and Influence (Penguin Group Canada). Aboriginal rights is “the great unresolved Canadian question upon which history will judge us all,” intones Saul in his most prophetic voice. And it is Aboriginal people themselves, he argues, who are in the process of resolving this great issue. We—and I write, like Saul, as a non-Aboriginal—can either help them, or get out of the way. In the words of another prophet, Eldridge Cleaver, we can be part of the solution, or part of the problem. Either way it is Aboriginals who are writing the “new narrative” for Canada. That is Saul’s prophecy; it remains to be seen how it will be acted upon. Saul, who is probably the country’s highest-profile public intellectual, has a remarkable career trajectory as a writer. Beginning in the 1970s as the author of a series of international thrillers, he later produced philosophical tomes about the nature of Western civilization and then, most recently, turned his attention to the
62 Geist 96 Spring 2015
importance of Canada’s Aboriginal past in forming its present identity. Along the way he has been an oilcompany executive, a consort to a Governor General, a human rights activist and probably a dozen other things. The Comeback is an extension of his earlier book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada in which he argues that Canada’s European past is far less important to its present than its indigenous roots; that we are a “Metis nation” whose prevailing ethos is shaped more by Aboriginal ideas than European ones. The “comeback” that Saul identifies
in this new book emphasizes the strides that Aboriginal people have made in reversing years of population decline and cultural oppression. As recently as seventy years ago it was widely assumed that “Indians” were disappearing, the victims of disease, starvation and their own ineptitude for modern civilization. Today we know how wrong that idea was. Canada’s Aboriginal population is growing in numbers and its cultural and political self-confidence seems boundless. In Saul’s view, this observation, while obvious to anyone who studies the history, nonetheless needs hammering home. We are far more used to hearing about the dismal lives of Aboriginal people—their family dysfunction, their crime rates, their impoverished communities—than we are to being told they are a success story. Today’s Aboriginal population, for all the problems that afflict it, has overcome incredible disadvantages to achieve what Saul calls “a position of power, influence and civilizational creativity” in Canadian society. In Saul’s view, our fixation on the negative, even when we mean well, is a “new form of racism.” It evokes sympathy, but sympathy is not what is needed; solutions are, and solutions require the recognition of rights. This
is, he believes, the only basis for a meaningful discussion of reconciliation. It is time to stop feeling bad and get down to the job of negotiating treaty rights. He compares today’s situation vis-à-vis Aboriginal rights with the 1960s in Quebec, when Canadians seized an opportunity to right historical wrongs in that province. In the same way that a French-speaking elite took control of its own society during the “Quiet Revolution,” Saul believes that a new generation of educated, activist Aboriginals is ready to lead the First Nations to a new partnership with non-Aboriginals. In Saul’s opinion the thing that is frustrating the new narrative is the failure of government to engage honestly with the Aboriginal reality. Government wants to blame Aboriginal people—for living in remote communities, for electing corrupt chiefs, for failing to educate their young. But these problems that seem to afflict Aboriginal people are not their problems, argues Saul; they are our problems, because we caused them and are not doing enough to solve them. Saul scolds government at all levels for a complete failure of leadership: “All of them, of all sorts, over an extended period of time.” That said, he is most judgmental about Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who he believes “is emotionally unable to engage in open, transparent conversations about these issues.” (Anyone who saw Mr. Harper’s end-of-year television interview with the CBC, in which he stone-facedly said that the missing and murdered Aboriginal women were not high on his government’s agenda, cannot help but agree with Saul’s assessment.) There are echoes of the “Noble Savage” in Saul’s argument. Seventeenth-century philosophers used an idealized image of the innocent, virtuous North American Indian as a stick with which to beat the supposed depravities of their own societies. In the same way Saul argues that
Aboriginal culture has given Canada everything it has of any value, from multiculturalism to democracy to egalitarianism to a preference for negotiation over violence. And he is a bit ingenuous when it comes to suggesting solutions. It is easy, he seems to say, if only government would show some initiative and good will. But if years of negotiation on these issues has taught us anything, it is that solutions are not easy. Nonetheless there is also a whole lot of good sense and astute observation in The Comeback. For one thing Saul reminds us that political
change is driven from the streets, not from legislatures. Idle No More, the Occupy movement, the 2012 Quebec student protests, all indicate to Saul “a growing rejection of politics as we know it.” Taking the long view, he notes that Canada has a history of popular protest going all the way back to the 1837 rebellions. Women’s rights, the environmental movement, the peace movement, they all rejected the top-down managerialism of politics as usual in favour of direct action, and Saul sees Idle No More as the inheritor of that tradition. Recent mainstream discussion of Aboriginal issues in Canada has been
driven by the three Rs: remorse, recognition and reconciliation. We are sorry for what has happened; we recognize the injustices of the past; we need to get past them to build a new future together. But it is time to move the discussion along, to actually resolve some of the issues by sharing power and resources. This is the logic of Saul’s argument, as it is in another new book about Aboriginal rights, by the Dene political scientist Glen Sean Coulthard. Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (University of Minnesota Press) is a densely academic and therefore much less readable book than The Comeback, but Coulthard deserves the same attention that the much better known Saul attracts. He argues that reconciliation is a false hope, that it may be impossible to reconcile Aboriginal aspirations for nationhood within the present system of power relationships. For all the talk of reconciliation, Aboriginals are at an inherent disadvantage because they don’t set the terms of the discussion. Coulthard believes that Indigenous people must engage with the Canadian state but they must do so with an increased insistence that their own legal and political traditions form the basis of the discussion. Canadians would like to believe that reconciliation means forgive and forget. These two books burst that balloon. Saul and Coulthard propose a new narrative of Canadian history in which non-Aboriginals will have to recognize that our society is fundamentally shaped by Aboriginal culture and come to terms with a much greater level of power sharing than we so far have contemplated. Daniel Francis is a writer and historian who lives in North Vancouver. He is the author of two dozen books, including The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (Arsenal Pulp Press). Read more of his work at geist.com and danielfrancis.ca. National Dreams 63
ENDNOTES RE V I E WS , CO MMEN TS, C U R IOSA
uite a few in-depth reviews for Local Customs by Audrey Thomas (Dundurn Press) have been published, so I’m going to dip my oar in only to say that it has been a long wait for a new Thomas novel—close to a decade—and what a reward it is to read her new work. It’s written in the same format as her 1970 masterpiece, Mrs. Blood; that is to say, it unfolds in reflective, multi-voiced fragments, which bring the disarray into a finished ensemble. I say “finished,” even though a couple of notes are left hanging in the air. The story is essentially a mystery: an early Victorian poet, Letitia “Letty” Landon, is found dead under questionable circumstances, two months after moving to West Africa. She has recently wed the mostly benevolent George Mclean, governor of Gold Coast castle. The nightly disturbances outside Letty’s bedroom door are so hair-raising, they bring to mind Shirley Jackson’s classic ghost story, The Haunting of Hill House. There is no question that such a setting as Gold Coast castle would be haunted, given its abominable history. Audrey Thomas is adept, as always, in depicting the influences—the local customs—of the era, both in West Africa and in England. In a memorable interlude, some of Letty’s admiring readers mail samples of their own poetry to her, for her perusal. Letty refrains from critiquing them too harshly, admitting that “even those of us who have been fortunate enough to have published and been 64 Geist 96 Spring 2015
praised, still tremble that next time, next time, we may be laughed at or even reviled.” That particular state of affairs is the same now as it was in 1838. — Jill Mandrake FORTY-ONE FALSE STARTS AND A TWO-HEADED WAITER
he sixteen essays collected by Janet Malcolm in Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) will be familiar to readers of the New Yorker, NYRB and NYTRB; to have them in a single volume affords the great pleasure of reading or binge-reading promiscuously, and over and over again. Each of her thoughtful discourses on the life and work of Virginia Woolf, Diane Arbus, Julia Cameron, Edith Wharton, J.D. Salinger is worth the price of the book. She also considers in depth the vagaries of nude photography, and the women who posed for Edward Weston. In a piece called “Capitalist Pastorale” she introduces the work of a spectacularly bad novelist who achieved bestsellerdom and great wealth in the 1920s. Gene StrattonPorter never revised and never cut: the novels “just came pouring out of her,” Malcolm writes. (One is reminded of Ian Fleming, the inventor of James Bond, who advised writers never to revise: “If you once look back, you are lost. By following my formula, you can write 2,000 words a day and not be disgusted with them until the book is finished.”) Janet Malcolm attributes Stratton-Porter’s hold on
readers to the “boiling sea of emotion” in which her fictions are suspended (she often writes “she panted” instead of “she breathed”; and endless lists of consumer goods and brand names pour forth with an almost sexual energy; cf. James Bond). One could wish that Janet Malcolm would take a look at the works of James Michener for another example of the worst possible writing with the biggest possible audiences. Surely the most terrible novel ever published in Canada is Michener’s Journey: A Quest for Canadian Gold, a work swimming if not boiling in seas of fact-like information. An astonishing paragraph on page 48 narrates the mileages between cities and the hours of travel required to get from Montreal to Edmonton on the CPR, a trip that “traversed an awesome distance.” The dining car offers “a gala meal intended to display the riches of Canada: seafood from the east coast, rich beef from the prairies, fruits and vegetables from Ontario and desserts from French patisseries in Montreal, all served by two professionally gracious white head waiters assisted by blacks trained to show professional smiles.” “This is a grand introduction to Canada,” says one of the central characters. “I hope it’s an omen.” The royalties from this endlessly selling work fund a major Canadian literary prize. —Stephen Osborne MISS BOSSY PANTS
f Sophia Amoruso had been born a decade earlier she might have become the sixth Spice Girl—“Nasty Spice,” perhaps—promoting “girl power” along with the rest of them. Instead she
started Nasty Gal, an eBay store selling vintage (i.e., recycled) clothing, which later morphed into an independent online fashion retailer. Amoruso and her brand have been profiled in the New York Times and Forbes magazine; in 2011 her company grossed $23 million. In #GIRLBOSS (Portfolio/Penguin) we have an account of Amoruso’s gradual conversion from an adolescence spent “hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and dumpster diving” to her current status as a somewhat reluctant cheerleader for capitalism: “I thought that big corporations were running the world (which I now know they do) and by supporting them, I was condoning their evil ways (which is true, but a girl’s gotta put gas in her car).” The cover shows Amoruso wearing a black cocktail dress and sporting a
Betty Page haircut, standing in a “Spice Girl-power” pose, hands fisted on hips. #GIRLBOSS is a motivational book aimed at a specific demographic, scattered with brand-building quotes (“I believe a #GIRLBOSS should have a sneer and a smile in her back pocket, ready to whip either out at any moment”) that are interleaved with stories of other successful and/or wannabe #GIRLBOSSes (and the Nasty Gal style guide apparently requires that the term be set in ALL CAPS and prefaced by a Twitter-friendly hashtag). In January 2015, Amoruso stepped down as CEO of the company she founded, handing the reins to Sheree Waterson (former chief product officer at Lulu lemon). Amoruso’s is the prototypical Horatio Alger story: a rise from rags (literally) to riches; it can also be seen as book-length proof of the eventual, inevitable triumph of the MBAs. — Michael Hayward
oon after When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid (Arsenal Pulp Press) was awarded a 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature, a petition began to circulate calling for the award to be revoked on the grounds that Reid’s novel was “not good literature for teens.” Then the National Post published Barbara Kay’s review of the novel, titled “Wasted tax dollars on a values-void novel,” in which Kay paints the novel as an anti-Christian fuck-fest and the main character, Jude, as a vapid and thoughtless teenager. Clearly Kay is (mis)guided by the notion that literature is to be judged for its moral value, rather than for its artistic merits. I read her blatantly
homophobic review before I read When Everything Feels Like the Movies, so I kind of expected Jude to be a cartoonish, over-the-top sexual villain. But he isn’t. To focus on his vulgarity and narcissism is to miss the point completely. He’s just a gay middle-schooler who thinks about losing his virginity, rolling on molly, playing Nintendo and making out; he hates parties, he’s sick of winter and he only goes to church to make his grandmother happy. He’s proud and unapologetic; he refers to his bullies as his paparazzi, not because he has a big ego, but because he wants to escape incessant abuse and abject poverty. Jude is the bravest young adult protagonist I’ve ever read: his classmates call him “it” instead of “he” or “she” because he wears makeup and women’s clothes, to which he says, “People meant it to be insulting, but I found it empowering. I always thought they were referring to the Stephen King novel because of my ability to shape-shift into their greatest fear.” When Everything Feels Like the Movies refuses to conform to the gender and sexuality norms of the YA genre (a genre inundated with straight, cisgender, upper-middleclass teens whose sexual fantasies end at second base), and it’s honest and beautifully written. I wish I had read any stories like this one when I was in Jude’s position: an angry, foulmouthed queer teen growing up in a small town. Those who morally oppose the novel have probably never been in Jude’s situation, and are just members of the ignorant paparazzi that Jude is always trying to escape. —Roni Simunovic AGING: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
e don’t often get clear and honest reflections out of hundredyear-old men, which is why Frank White’s new book, That Went By Fast: My First Hundred Years 66 Geist 96 Spring 2015
(Harbour), is such a great read. White was one of BC’s first truck loggers and, with his long-suffering wife Kay, went on to run a logging camp, build boats, fix cars and trucks, and raise four kids, sometimes in the bush and always in the red. White goes from being a strong, physically competent man who could tackle anything to a man whose “male appendage” has shrunk out of sight, who has learned the “roll and crawl method” for getting up after a fall and who, at ninetysix, gets behind the wheel of his car (after transferring over from his wheelchair) to find that his leg just isn’t strong enough to depress the accelerator. White has a refreshing “just do it” attitude that has sometimes gotten him into trouble but makes for stories that are both interesting and funny, and the childrearing techniques he and Kay deployed are the antithesis of those of today’s helicopter parents. But my favourite sections are when White reflects with nostalgia, regret and sometimes bewilderment on his personal life, when he describes his late-life romance with Edith Iglauer and when he faces each new indignity that old age brings by pausing briefly and then moving on.
hen your narrator has Alzheimer’s Disease, neither you nor she can be sure of the facts, which is what makes Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey (Knopf Canada) such an intriguing story—it’s both a mystery and an empathetic look at the warped logic of an Alzheimer’s mind. The narrator, Maud, hasn’t seen her good friend Elizabeth for a while and she’s convinced that Elizabeth has disappeared and is in
danger, but since Maud’s disease makes it impossible for her to piece together the clues to Elizabeth’s current whereabouts, she grows increasingly frustrated (that is, when she can even remember to worry about Elizabeth). Maud’s frustration is mirrored by that of her daughter, who, with the help of frequent visits and sticky notes, is trying to keep Maud safe and grounded and in her own home. For a while Maud had me convinced that this was going to be a standard, if somewhat quirky, mystery, but then memories of her sister, who vanished when both girls were in their twenties, start to muddy the waters. Is Elizabeth’s disappearance real, or is Maud just reliving her sister’s disappearance? Will Maud solve both mysteries, or neither of them? Added to the mix are the chaos of London after World War II, Elizabeth’s seemingly ill-tempered and perhaps guilty son, a suspicious boarder, an awkward husband and a madwoman. It’s enough to make a reader as muddle-headed as Maud, but not enough to make me want to put down this well-written, absorbing book. —Patty Osborne FRISCO FREEBOOTERS
e Are Pirates (HarperCollins) is a witty adventure through modern-day piracy, written by Daniel Handler (who is perhaps better known as Lemony Snicket). The story is told in alternating perspectives by Phil Needle, an increasingly unsuccessful radio executive, and his daughter Gwen, an increasingly bored teenager, as they both try to find happiness, or at least excitement, along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. While Phil waffles about pitching the next big radio show and sleeping with his secretary, Gwen and a band of misfits elect to become literal pirates, and damn the consequences. Like Handler’s other novels,
We Are Pirates excellently portrays what it’s like to be a teenager in the face of indifferent and incompetent adults. I would have liked less of Phil, whose storyline feels interchangeable with that of any other unhappy middle-aged white man in literature, and more of Gwen, who is daring and unpredictable and a hundred times more interesting. But despite this imbalance, Handler deftly knits irony, humour and danger into a surprisingly adventurous read. —Kelsea O’Connor OUT AND ABOUT
ueer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives by Nia King (artactivistnia.com) is an independently published collection of sixteen interviews, co-edited by Jessica Glennon-Zukoff and Terra Mikalson. The book collects material from King’s podcast We Want the Airwaves, in which King talks to queer and trans artists of colour not only about gender, sexuality and race, but how to make art, make rent and survive. With transgender conversations finally taking place in mainstream media, however imperfectly, work like King’s is indispensable in bringing to the forefront conversations that need to be heard. The collection is not strictly informative, and never preachy. It’s fascinating and entertaining, offering the voices of talented, creative, humorous people talking about their lived experiences and saying, this is who I am, this is what I’ve done, and here’s what we need to do. It’s prescriptive in the best possible way, marking spaces for growth within queer and trans creative communities and the world at large, unafraid to laud successes and call out failures. The interviews feel in-depth, plaintalking and genuine, featuring conversations with the writer/artist/performer Ryka Aoki on giving up chemistry to Endnotes 67
write poetry and getting published with a trans press; with the burlesque performer Magnoliah Black on body positivity in performance art and representations of Black femininity in media; with Yosimar Reyes, author of For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly, on self-publishing, collaboration and getting paid as an artist; and with Van Binfa, trans activist, on racial segregation and gay gentrification in Chicago, to name a few of my favourites. King was kind enough to send me a digital review copy, but I’ve since purchased a hard copy on Amazon. This is something I’m going to share with friends. —Roni Simunovic soviet dynamite
n the tiny community of Bishop’s Beach in Luanda, Angola, Soviet soldiers are building a mausoleum in honour of the late Comrade President when a gaggle of kids get wind
of plans to “dexplode” their neighbourhood in order to enlarge the construction site. Without any help from the significant adults around them (an amorous Soviet soldier, Comrade Cuban doctor, Comrade Gas Jockey, a crazy hippie named Sea Foam and an array of Angolan grandmothers), the kids hatch a plan to use the Soviet’s dynamite for their own ends. It’s a simple plot that gets both complicated and hilarious when it is mixed in with the conglomeration of languages and cultures in Bishop’s Beach. Granma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by Ondjaki (Biblioasis) is a major feat of translation by Stephen Henighan, who has managed to translate the text from Portuguese to English, sprinkle it with Russian, Spanish and Angolan phrases, preserve the many
language-based jokes (and keep them funny), and maintain the momentum of this terrific story. — Patty Osborne to the Moomins! (and beyond)
ost North Americans have not heard of Moomins, a race of vaguely hippopotamus-shaped creatures who have an enthusiastic, almost cult-like following in Finland, where they first appeared (in 1945) in The Moomins and the Great Flood. Last year was the centenary of the birth of Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins, and the occasion was marked by a major exhibition of her life and work in Helsinki (thanks to my niece, who was in Helsinki at the time, I can now drink my tea from a commemorative Snufkin mug). Closer to home, Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal (“the hottest publisher of graphic novels in the English-speaking world” according to the CBC) came out with Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a handsome, oversized hardcover volume in slipcase that collects all of the Moomin comic strips written and drawn by Jansson (her brother Lars took over the strip in 1961). In this excerpt from the book’s introduction, the comic book artist James Kochalka explains Jansson’s appeal as well as anyone: “The Moomin books quite simply reveal the poetry of our world: sad, joyful, dangerous, enchanting. A deep longing feeling, a longing to experience all life has to offer, realized magically through words and pictures. Tove Jansson is my favorite kind of genius: the quiet kind.” Amen to that. And when you’ve read these strips, and all nine of the Moomin books, you’ll want to try Jansson’s writing for adults. The Summer Book is a classic; and New York Review Books recently published The Woman Who Borrowed
68 Geist 96 Spring 2015
Memories (translated by Thomas Teal and Silvester Mazzarella), an excellent selection from her short fiction. — Michael Hayward PROSE ON PROSE
Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (Harper Perennial) by Francine Prose is both an instructional handbook and a collection of meditations on the pleasures of entering other worlds through a book’s pages. Each chapter examines a discrete component of written works—words, sentences, paragraphs, characters, narrators—and includes examples of exemplary writing from the canon of greats: Chekov, Márquez, Gallant, Hemingway, Munro, Stein and many others, and from the first page, the author’s devotion to books is infectious (Prose includes a recommended reading list titled “Books to Be Read Immediately”). Many of the excerpts are chosen to illustrate “the rules” of good writing and how they are best manipulated to enable readers to become immersed in the fictional world of a book, but Prose pays equal respect to those writers who break the rules. She invites the reader to familiarize herself with the conventions of good writing, to observe them in action, and to cast them aside in favour of what sounds good in the mind’s ear—an indispensable lesson for anyone living the writing life. —AnnMarie MacKinnon bukowski effect
Not long ago I came across a copy of Bruce Serafin’s Stardust, a 2007 book of essays about the poetry of William Henry Drummond, the plays of Michel Tremblay, the image of the cowboy, Stan Persky, Roland Barthes,
West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Ashcroft, trips to the library, love, youth, as well as the state of Canadian literary journals: boring layouts, bad copy, artsy photography, filled with poetry and sensitive short stories— impenetrable. There’s a lot of Bukowski in Serafin’s prose: strong, punchy narrative, little exposition, unburdened by political correctness, populated in large part by men (the women in the essays are mostly girlfriends, wives, prostitutes), and occasionally set in the post office, (where Serafin worked). Serafin is an old school writer, in the tradition of American intellectuals who dealt with their subjects directly (Susan Sontag comes immediately to mind)—he writes about the thing, not around it, which is rare and refreshing to read. At times the writing is brilliant, his critiques accessible and profound; other times the writing is quite bad and his ideas baffling; which is to say, it’s definitely not boring. —Michał Kozłowski MARGINAL
Françoise Sagan became famous as a very young woman with her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, in 1954. Her third novel, Dans un mois, dans un an, appeared in 1957, and in English in the same year under the ludicrous title Those Without Shadows (E.P. Dutton); the mass market edition (Popular Library; “A Sensational Bestseller”) was priced at 95 cents—a copy of which appeared recently in a box of orphaned paperbacks left at a bus stop on the Number 20 line; a sticker on the back cover from Sunset Books (now defunct) showed the reduced price of 65 cents, and an inscription on the title page, in pencil, set its final price at 25 cents. The novel, translated by Frances Frenaye, has lost none of its compelling readability during that
lengthy devaluation. Sagan writes like a sensuous Simenon—of love and deception and the drifting lives of a generation saturated in ennui. The pages of my bus stop copy, as I now think of it, have been scribbled on in Japanese, in a careful hand, with underlinings in the text, perhaps by a student of English. The underlinings propose a new text as a kind of palimpsest: in Chapter One there are two such underlinings: punctuated, slug; in Chapter Two they begin to proliferate: humiliating, futile, intermittent perception, supplements, accurate, optimism, hogwash, range, on the verge of tears, remorse, deceptive kindness, inept, whatsoever, indispensable, condescending, over emphatic, palmiest days, notoriously thieving proprietor, stubbornly, excessively, rebelliously, fundamentally, ethereal, prick of ambition, trample, benevolence, fairy, clairvoyant, roving, adolescent air, spiritually akin, absurdity, brusquely, brutal, boulevard. Eleven chapters in all, 157 pages; only Chapter Eleven (two pages) is unmarked. —Stephen Osborne Then Came THE CONDOS
ancouver’s literary legacy is strongly associated with Dollarton, a stretch of beach along Burrard Inlet where several cabins, built in the 1940s and ’50s, were home to Malcolm Lowry, Earle Birney, Dorothy Livesay and Al Purdy. What remains of that legacy was recently sold to a development company, forcing Dollarton’s last literary residents— the writer and artist Carole Itter, and the writer/artist/musician Al Neil— out of the cabin they’ve lived and worked in since the 1960s. The fear is that given Vancouver’s history of redevelopment, the city’s cultural heritage might one day be accessible only Endnotes 69
by permission: in museums, galleries and special archives. I experienced this first-hand when I had to submit a written request for permission to read Itter’s writing in the confinement of the designated reading area in Special Collections at Simon Fraser University. There I discovered her rare chronicles of people and life in Vancouver in scrapbook-like collections of poetry, prose, journal entries, newspaper clippings, photographs, some texts written by hand with the date or exact time recorded, leaving traces of a vanishing Vancouver: in The Log’s Log (Intermedia Press), Itter gives a full account of the time Gerry Gilbert and she made the news by riding the train from Vancouver to Halifax with a 300-pound, 25-foot-long yellow cedar log as carry-on baggage; Opening Doors in Vancouver’s East End: Strathcona, edited by Itter and Daphne Marlatt (Harbour Publishing), is a celebrated collection of
stories from residents of the historic Strathcona district in Vancouver, recently republished as part of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary; Birthday, by Itter and Gerry Gilbert (Creative Community Press), collects poems, journal entries, telephone messages, lists of baby names and things to pack for the hospital that become an account of the weeks leading up to her daughter’s birth; and Location Shack (artist’s handbook) contains photos and notes about, one presumes, the cabin she and Neil occupied until they were evicted. Her effort to record ideas, people and places suggests that she knew even then that eventually those days would be gone, and that they deserved to be recalled, if only by special request, as evidence of what came before the waterfront condominiums. — Jennesia Pedri
T H E off the shelf
Greg Santos convinces T.S. Eliot, Wilfred Owen and Ernest Hemingway to skip church and get drunk with him at Hooters in Rabbit Punch! (DC Books); Marilyn Dumont learns of her Metis heritage from paperback history books sold in gas stations and gift shops along the Trans-Canada Highway in The Pemmican Eaters (ECW Press); Dudley Pasko will take the case, but prefers the term “sentient reanimate detective” to “zombie P.I.” in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, edited by Claude Lalumière and David Nickle (Exile Editions); Jeff Latosik caterwauls across the prairies into Borges’s stories, through Plato’s cave and over the quivering string of Theseus in Safely Home Pacific Western (Icehouse Poetry/Goose Lane); a silver-tongued cottonmouth and a retired Canadian snowbird compete for the affections of a shape-shifting bog woman in Joe Rosenblatt’s Snake City (Exile Editions); Axl and Beatrice must learn to bear the outrage of ogres carrying children off into the mist with a certain composure in The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf Canada); Odran Yate has lost his faith, his sister has lost her mind and his clergy have lost the respect of the people of Ireland in A History of Loneliness by John Boyne (Doubleday Canada); Judith Krause records the sounds of sex, champagne, chocolate, fifty years of no TV or radio and an hour-long antiphon between a nightingale and a bittern in Homage to Happiness (Hagios Press); Meta wishes the toque-wearing dolphin in her hammock was her ex-boyfriend, or at least a tuna, in The Gift of Women by George McWhirter (Exile Editions); Alain Farah investigates a dangerous psychiatrist and mournful manor while uncontrollably shifting through time between 1962 and 2012 in Ravenscrag (House of Anansi Press); Tootles and other orphaned queer youth swear allegiance to Pan and Mommy Wendi in their unending rivalry with Hook and the leather pirates in Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey 70 Geist 96 Spring 2015
W A L L
(Arsenal Pulp Press); in rob mclennan’s If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks), the words are a pretend contract, a true story, a convalescent jeer and they have nothing to do with anything; a timetravelling film critic saves a man’s life and consequently kills his favourite actress’s career in Hypocritic Days by David Fiore (Insomniac Press); Andy Burns re-whets our appetite for damn fine coffee, damn fine pie and the answer to the question: who killed Laura Palmer? in Wrapped in Plastic (ECW Press); Michael V. Smith spends his childhood under Star Wars blankets praying to no god in particular for a hairier body, a lower voice, a father who doesn’t drink, money, friends—or, failing all that, invisibility, in My Body Is Yours (Arsenal Pulp Press); as a budding new vaudeville impressionist, Giovanni Bernini learns that “fake it till you make it” is not a good principle to make friends with in The Poser by Jacob Rubin (Viking); in Mediating Indianness (University of Manitoba Press), Cathy Covell Waegner seeks to upend the various Native American stereotypes that have been invented and stuck in words and coins like artifacts; in Montreal, the Greek deities Dionysus and Ariadne rethink their marriage and feast on pâté de fois gras and maple syrup in The Banquet of Donny & Ari by Naomi Guttman (Brick Books); an old cottage on the edge of a Louisiana swamp is the perfect place for Hannah to reconnect with her estranged birth mother and their shared ability to commune with the dead in Cauchemar by Alexandra Grigorescu (ECW Press); Gregory Betts lives in hell, otherwise known as the real world, otherwise known as the evil den of corporate greed, otherwise known as our hometown source of cheap plastic shit, otherwise known as the last stronghold of mankind, otherwise known as Walmart in Boycott (Make Now Books). noted elsewhere
The writer Leon Rooke says that Rust Is a Form of Fire by Joe Fiorito (Guernica Editions) “pulses with second-by-second
discovery,” the writer Goran Simic warns: “Don’t read this book if you aren’t ready to meet people next door you’ve never noticed before” and Stephanie on goodreads.com writes: “It was easy to imagine myself into Fiorito’s shoes.” Roverarts.com describes Knife Party at the Hotel Europa by Mark Anthony Jarman (Goose Lane Editions) as a “weird retooling of Donnean astronomical conceits,” the Vancouver Sun calls it “moving, raw and often hilarious,” Quill and Quire says that Jarman’s experimental approach to style and form “make him challenging.” Blogger Michael Dennis says that the poems found in Washita by Patrick Lane (Harbour Publishing) “are string tight,” the Vancouver Sun says the poems “will move you to contemplate some of the most inexpressible experiences.” Publishers Weekly says that in her novel Failure to Thrive, Suzannah Showler (ECW Press) deftly “mirrors the disaffection of her generation”; the Toronto Star calls her tone “ironic and blithely detached, and often tinged with dark humour”; The Rusty Toque says that throughout the work, “philosophical musings must contend with intrusions by the quotidian, the mildly disgusting or absurd.” Atlantic Books Today calls Two Tragedies in 429 Breaths by Susan Paddon (Brick Books) “a testament to life and death as one equal force,” Numéro Cinq magazine claims it contains “none of the precision, and none of the metaphorical illumination of truly great poetry”; the New Quarterly says it perfectly combines “raw honesty and pure restraint.” congratulations
To Arleen Paré for winning the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry; to Caroline Adderson, who was nominated for two BC Book Prizes with her books Ellen in Pieces and Norma, Speak!; to Leanne Simpson and Lisa Moore, both shortlisted for ReLit Awards; and to Jen Osborne, who was nominated for a Sony World Photography Award for her photo essay Indian Me, part of which was published in Geist 95.
The GEIST Cryptic Crossword
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ACROSS 1 After arrival, be sure to put prams upside down immediately 6 Sounds like two of you can reap what you’ve sown so fruitfully 9 Miners with curly hair in Yukon are sometimes confused when they go south 11 She can’t croon it when she’s experiencing negative growth 14 He seems to exercise a degree of deviation when he’s tidying the yard 16 All hail the bouncy wet stuff 17 Our Rita flew on her own from the big one 18 Thor’s fourth is a real throwback 19 Sounds like a scary way to get out a bit 20 Only those with plates can enjoy this particular mix of nutrients and waste 23 That combination really gelled into a catchy melody 24 He had on a new outfit but we still couldn’t see him 26 She circulated it but it soon fell into disuse 27 The second part seems to teeter up and down 28 It’s been a great sauce as long as it doesn’t curdle 29 If we dim the little one partway, the woman may be merry and helpful 34 Despite her explosive laugh, she failed badly in the bath 37 That little deer is tedious 38 Folks in LA would like to be able to eliminate liquid (2) 40 We don’t put much stock in her pessimistic attitude toward having hairy children 41 Keep quiet about the necessity of the flower 42 It sounds like a customer wants to purchase the barn 43 That metallic jacket is pathetic 44 At eleven we’ll have turkey and go shopping (abbrev) 46 She’s in a stew because she wants it and it belongs to me 47 In Cuba, I’m ill so I’m going to have to
Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1H4
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Puzzle #96 GEIST
Prepared by Meandricus and address to:
cut out that chord 48 Sad little Lillian used to breathe heavily when she was upset DOWN 1 I’m pure pure stoked that there will be no more pregant pauses 2 Her morning impairment 3 Eric’s son was a good drawer 4 In the US we can go there to watch the ants crash (2) 5 Give the liverymen tea at nine before your absence is reproduced (2) 6 Did that little tart crop those pants so they would last longer? 7 Not just long division—really long division 8 The bloody system is monkeying around with my number (2) 10 After he got his fee, the disgusted giant made bread 12 Is that book we found in London really about shoes? (abbrev) 13 Can you figure out a ball of yarn? I haven’t got even one 15 Those Canadian flyers are all right, eh? 18 You know that skin game? Can you name it? 20 Under 37? You’ll have to stay in the box with those other chicks 21 The boy played baseball in California 22 She was a poser but she looked after the kids on the 6th 25 He had a certain hypnotic animal magnetism that was fascinating 30 It’s rough not to know exactly what he’s
thinking 1 That wee Scotsman liked his drink 3 32 We are contracted to do it but we didn’t used to be 33 The Australian is on the no-fly list 34 He had a lot of pet projects but he was too young to be a sib 35 Text me when you want to pass this to me (abbrev) 36 Once more it sounds like he’s going to make an entrance from the rear 39 Is that sack a good place for little Ana? I’m not sure 40 Paris smelled bad and I was blue because of all the clichés 41 That’ll hold a lot because the lily is not little 45 Take your bike and your skates round there (abbrev) There was no winner for Puzzle 95. T I G H T I S H P H A S E
E E T O V D R E E D L I P S Y M A M P C A A T S I H A R O E M D I S S C P E A K A C H H A
T A L C O O H O L I T C P S T E A P I I R
L E R I H U G H T F F E O U H S 2 O M A O S I E E O F T
W I N O D E N E P A T D I S H S H E W N D S A B O E G R O G H H O O A K E N N I A R Y E S W O S O E I H E D O G
C A U G H T
M A P P I N G
Paints and Stains The Canadian Tire Paint Chip Map of Canada by Cassia Streb Pineneedle Creek Peace Grove
Emerald Isle Twilight Creek
Goose Bay Silhouette Lake
Calico Lake Enchantment Lake
Custom House Point
Gingerbread Creek Temptation Creek
San Mateo Bay
Sonata Névé Tanglewood Hill Old Glory Mountain Elise Rialto Creek Destiny Bay
Rhubarb Lake Red Earth
Wildflower Creek Redclay Creek
Majestic Grandeur Lake
Glimmer Lake Shakespeare Windsor Red
Island Grove Peru Clay Hills Peche Island Seacliffe
For more Geist maps and to purchase the Geist Atlas of Canada, visit geist.com.
72 Geist 96 Spring 2015
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