slow summer (days) with books

Posted by Daniela Elza on Aug 20 2008

Well, here we are, two weeks before school begins. Just got back from the Nelson area where we did some camping, and stayed for four nights at the White House. Camping was good, but we had to cut it short, we got bitten by mosquitos so viciously that the kids looked like they had the chicken pox. In Nelson we spend most of our day by the Kootenay River (West Arm of the Kootenay Lake) near an orange bridge called BOB (Big Orange Bridge, of course). Lakeside Park is a perfect place for all four of us: big trees, deep shade, playground, beach, river, and a concession stand that will surprise you with their good coffee, with their sustainable practices, and healthy food choices. Quite refreshing. There was even a labyrinth you can walk. The kids thought it was more fun to run it. (here is my daughter’s post on the trip)

“The present looks different under trees,” says Annie Dillard and I agree. Under those massive trees things looked quite different. I spend a lot of time by the river reading, poetry and anything that had the slightest chance of inspiring and giving me a jump start with writing again. I have been sending submissions out, I have been catching up on housework, I have been catching up on reading, but after class ended a month ago, writing has not been what I was hoping it would be. Most of all I spend time staring across the water. Well, I am not sure if staring can capture it, but definitely the type of posture and look that tries to capture what precipitates through the shimmering around things. Try to capture what changes by the moment. Try to own that.

On the beach (in the shallow parts of the lake) there was a rock castle. My kids spent three days hauling rocks, and adding on to it, building their own little extension. People walked by and stoped to put a rock here and there and it seemed like it was becoming more and more elaborate each day. More and more communal. Thanks to the people who started that. It does not seem difficult to bring us together around an expression such as this.

Talking about inspiration I wanted to mention here some writers that have inspired me and been (very likely) influential to my writing. I am asked quite often who I read. So here is a bit. A big acknowledgement goes to Introduction to the introduction to Wang Wei by Pain not Bread. It has been my poetry bible in the last four or five years. Others are Robert Bringhurst, Anne Michaels, Harold Rhenisch, Tim Lilburn, Jan Zwicky, Roo Borson, Aislin Hunter, Lyubomir Levchev, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Rilke, Wislawa Szymborskaya, Gaston Bachelard. I guess there are more, but these are the ones that come to mind readily.

Books I have been enjoying lately? So far in the last month I have read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a book I have had on my bedside stand for many months and finally read it. I am not much of a novel reader. It has to come recommended quite a bit before I can commit to reading one. Like Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, or The God of Small Things by Arundati Roy. All excellent reads. Also The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman from the trilogy His Dark Materials. I am about to read the last in the trilogy. My daughter, 11, read them in no time, her friend has read them twice.

Poetry books: Modern and Normal by Karen Solie. I was pleasantly surprised. Reminded me a bit of Sue Sinclair’s book Mortal Arguments. I guess what qualifies a poetry book for me is how much it inspires me to write. Dream World by Alison Pick. I think Alison is becoming one of the writers I will be following. I also read Human Cartography by James Gurley. At the moment I am going through Whetstone by Lorna Crozier. And will look at a book of Selected Poems 1977-1997 by Patrick Lane.

So I thought if I binged on poetry, maybe it will come. This waiting, its little doors opening. . .”Here is the other side of waiting: what you don’t write writes you.” (Alison Pick, The Dream World)
I look up form my book, into the book of the hill, my gaze glides along its outlines, along the river edges. The late sun a caress on the skin, on its way to plunge behind the hill. The water teased into peaks and wedges by boats and swimmers. I wonder why I came so far, to sit here? When this reminds me of home? Yet this is no time for thoughts like that. The light slowly closing the two hard covers of the world, blurring the sight, taunting it with the ambiguity of shapes, turning the ears, the nose, and the touch to eyes. And somehow, you are more present, more alert, more here as you watch what disappears into sleep. Karen Solie says: “It is less difficult/ to love what sleeps, because,/ like you, it might wake up new.”

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