Signature

It’s these soft and summer-still Saturday evenings
that bring it back. When the weight and press
of the heat makes the air tangible, touchable,
and the drone of the city is dampened,
as it drips down into the grates —
like the sweat on the back of my neck;
a delicate and curved trickling, undulating downward.
It’s evenings like these, in the dissolving light,
as night writes its name on the still-warm sidewalk.
that brings it back.

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Sometimes all you need is a haiku

There have been times in my life  — and I’m not proud of this — where I found haiku annoying. Other more poetic forms, too (I’m looking at you, Rondeau). Something about the restrictive nature just turned me off. I’m a free verse kind of girl. Substance first, style second. Which is, I know, narrow-minded and disrespectful of the vast and beautiful metrical and rhyming canon that marks our literary past.

I have loved reading Byron and Shelley and Donne, and even some Shakespeare (but not Spenser). I just never wanted to write like them.

I haven’t written creatively for a long time. Focus changes, lives change. Often the first thing that gets axed from our busy lives are the things that bring us the most joy. At the top of my list: poetry. Even though I still feel that blush of embarrassment when mentioning it, like I collect ceramic cats or something (although there’s nothing wrong with collecting ceramic cats), I write poetry. And I have done so for as long as I can remember. Even in public school I was shoving my prolific ditties under the eyeballs of anyone who would read them. As any writer knows, writing owns you. You just know that it’s what you’re supposed to do. So get on with it.

But getting on with it is hard [cue groan]. It’s hard mainly because we make it hard on ourselves: not allowing time for it, casting unreasonable demands on our creative supplies — write a book, now! go! — neglecting the muse when it comes sweetly calling (and playing Candy Crush instead).

There comes a point, though, when you realize that it’s time. No more bullshit excuses. Give yourself permission, if that’s what you need to do. But just do it.

I have been writing stories over on ozy.com for a few months now and love. every. minute. of. it. There’s something supersonically satisfying about writing something that you’re proud of — and for which you receive cash. But I’ve allowed poetry to go cold, shivering somewhere in a snowbank that just seems to just get bigger.

For me, it’s time to dig it out. Let that frozen muse come inside a while and have a thawing scotch by the fire. But just for a few minutes at a time, mind you. Just can’t rush things, even though I know she has so much to say. Perhaps that’s the most frightening thing of all.

For now, I’m starting off small. Even if that means haiku. Even if that means bad haiku. Because it’s something. And it’s a start.

Queen Street West, Family Day

Leftover club thugs
Stumble still holiday streets:
Futile breakfast quest.

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Sunday promise

Silver box stays shut
Touched just for words or whim –
No work wanders here.

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Weekend working

Eye-crossed and brain-strained
Editing on Saturdays
Rewrites a weak week.

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Great lives of my life: A party

So there was this party a few weeks ago. My party. A party where people came to a restaurant to see my photographs and hang out. My opening party.

I worried for weeks. What if nobody came? What if too many came and there wasn’t enough food? What if my dress was wrong or I looked weird? What if people really didn’t like my photos? And what if they actually told me? A constant flutter of worries.

These things would wake me up in the middle of night. Silly things.

Silly because it was such an amazing experience.

Two weeks ago I was standing in the restaurant, waiting breathlessly for that first person to arrive to my show. Wondering who it would be, who would follow. Within moments people started to arrive. First it was one person — someone I once worked with — and then two couples: friends and former workmates. And then suddenly the room was vibrating with people: the love of my life, friends, colleagues, my mom and brother. The lovely woman who cuts my hair and her lovely partner. My spinning instructor. Gym friends. The drinking crew. And people I haven’t seen in years — all in one room. A microcosm of my life, mixing and talking and laughing with each other. All there to support me.

It was more than overwhelming, more than heart-bursting, more than exhilarating.

Time passed like viscous liquid, with moments slowly descending and suspending. Words bubbling underwater. If only I could have captured them all before they dissolved.

People telling me which photographs they liked, sharing their interpretations, trying to guess where a photo was taken. Asking me which ones I liked best (and there are some).

(And I even sold three photographs — curiously, the three that I almost didn’t include in the collection. And one is one of my favourites.)

As the evening evaporated, and the great lives in my life trickled out the door, I downed a big glass of wine and smiled. One of the most genuine smiles that have cracked my face.

And then it was over. But there are no photos to prove it. The irony. I didn’t think to take any photos at my photo party.

This is not the party venue

But am I photographer, too?

facebook_promoToday is a very exciting day. One that has left me blinking in shock and wonder. Crackling.

Last night I hung my first photography show. I stood with the restaurant owner and hanger, directing them to place my photographs on the wall. My photographs. For people to see. Perchance to buy.

It was a thrilling moment, standing there in the quiet, moving my eyes along both walls. Seeing images that I captured. Remembering each of those moments — the light, the weather — and seeing them suspended. Framed and spread along the length of the brick walls, the narrative unfolding.

And in this weird, slow-motion moment I’m not quite sure who I am anymore. I’m a writer. I’m a creative person. I like spending time alone wandering alleys and streets thinking about what I see, turning these tableaus into stories. And until recently this has been only in words.

Photography: it’s both new and old to me. I’ve always enjoyed taking photos but never thought of them beyond holiday snaps. Last year, when I lost my job and suddenly had a lot more time on my hands, I started capturing everyday moments and focusing my now-no-longer-needed Photoshop skills on a different path. And didn’t notice the hours passing as I experimented with filters and post-processing. Tweaking and coaxing, and generally liking the end result.

In January, on a whim, I applied to a local restaurant to have a show. Quite unexpectedly, they accepted me.

And my life changed. This sounds cliché and dramatic. But it’s the truth.

I will write about the process, about the tremendous amount of work that ensued and the frenetic emotions that followed me around each day. Until this day: the moment where I looked up and saw my photographs on the wall.

Writing has been who I am for so long. I cannot remember not writing, not wanting to record or tell a story with words. Photography is new and curious. There is so much to learn. It has so much to give to me. It’s overwhelming.

Having this show doesn’t make me a photographer. And if I manage to sell one print — that doesn’t make me a photographer. But right now, in this moment, it doesn’t matter.

The sharpness that waits

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The interview is not going well. She is too
enthusiastic, too upbeat, and definitely too smiley.
All open lips and white teeth and brightness.

It’s all the polite interviewer can do
to staunch the flow of bright-red positivity
spewing from the wound of that mouth.
That great gush of giddiness.

Everything is amazing. Life is amazing.
And I will be amazing at this job.

She probably is the perfect candidate:
excited and determined (but thin-skinned),
unjaded and unaware of the hard, dark edges
that people carry under their coats. The sharpness
that waits. A different kind of bleed.

Getting the message

Sometimes a message reaches you right at the time you need it. Like there is some kind of human-connection force that listens, hears you, and puts the missive in motion.

It can take the form of an inbox note, an article posted to Twitter, an unexpected phone call, song lyrics that you never paid attention to before, a graffitied statement on a back alley wall, or even a misdirected text. There are infinite possibilities for these random (but somehow targeted) connections.

In my case it was a TED video shared by a friend on Facebook. In a 13-minute talk, singer and criticized crowdsource-funder Amanda Palmer posits letting people pay for music instead of making them pay. Based on her experiences as a street performer she learned that people with whom we make organic connections simply want to support us. In an organic kind of way. And after having made hundreds of meaningful interactions with strangers, in simple give-and-take situations, she broke free from her record company, asked for donations, and put her music out there for nothing (donations gratefully accepted).

And while this was the general gist of the talk, and gave me a “hell yeah” moment, it wasn’t my key takeaway. After all, disenchanted artists offering their music for free is not a new concept. No, there was one specific thing that Palmer touched upon which felt like a direct communication to me, one of those random-but-incredibly-direct messages: Accepting yourself as an artist is “about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”

Basically, don’t be an artist for the celebrity (connection-less, adoration from afar), and don’t try to create art to please the naysayers, the people who scoff at your creative efforts or tell you to get a real job. Accept the love from everyday interactions with people who are moved by your work. Accept the support from people who draw something from what you create.

It’s enough.

In the past few months I’ve been engaging in a new creative venture, uncertain and unsure. And I’ve been going through a somewhat crippling crisis of confidence, worrying about what other people think. Did I imagine that eyebrow raising? Do those dissers in the online artistic communities have a point? Always half-expecting the “who do you think you are?” reaction. This has been unsettling and challenging.

Palmer’s message somehow found me. Today, in this moment. It discovered a way through the cacophony of so many people’s words and reached me. Just at the right time.

Being an artist is difficult. It’s about putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. Ugh. But shutting out the noise of the naysayers and letting the yessers yell louder is what will help us get there.

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The dark unsaid

Recently I tweeted about a short story that really shook me: the achingly slow unravelled suspense of it, the seductive and beautiful movement toward a horrific end. But an exquisite end: one that the reader knows is coming, knows what’s happening, and yet, it is never mentioned. The event is never spelled out but we all know what’s going on. And we feel complicit in it. There is a guiltiness to it. Because we enjoyed getting there.

When the author replied I told him that what I love most about his writing is the “dark unsaid.” Writing is at its most glorious when it tells a story with implication, when it alludes to events — or the potential of events — without ever naming them. Acts of violence hinted at. The possibility of evil teased. Unexpected deaths detailed without words. The gradually developing picture of something that has gone terribly wrong.

The dark unsaid. Provocative. Damaging.

Great writing leaves a mark — but not a visible one.

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