Showing posts from March, 2015

SOL2015 March 31 - The Writes Of March Completed

I recall a story of a famous mountain climber being asked why he climbed mountains. He replied, ‘Because they’re there.’ I experience a similar feeling when I think about tackling the challenge of the Slice of Life March Challenge. I consider it an invaluable proposition for me as a writer. It encapsulates every aspect of the writing process, and those processes are reinforced daily by the challenge of producing  some meaningful words each day for the entire month of March.

Each day, I willingly indulge in pre-writing. I am aware of my rehearsal. The mulling over of writing possibilities, the choosing of possible words and phrases and the inevitable questions that permeate this planning phase. The drafting follows, frequently occurring at the end of the working day. On occasions an idea supersedes my original intent such is its power over my  initial thoughts. It flies into my consciousness like late breaking news.

I compose my urgent words on the computer, before uploading them to my …

SOL 2015 MARCH 30 Left In The Cold

It’s such a waste of good time having a head cold. The first day of term holidays and I find myself gripped by a cold. Not man flu mind you, just a common cold, -but it is frustrating, none the less. My head feels like a bucket of bolts and my energy levels have correspondingly gone south...
It’s such an apt word- mucus. It even sounds wet and gloopy.  I am mired in muculent moisture at present. How does the body suddenly start producing this by-product of a cold in such quantities? The body does secretions really well at times. Tissues are my constant companion. My only companion. Who wants to hang out with a snotty, spluttering, germ laden unappealing sickie?  I even wish I could escape me. How’s that for unappealing?
I was directed to take myself outside and sit in the fresh air this morning. It was good advice. I began to dry out like a fish in the midday sun. Death to germs in the fresh morning air.
A cold arrives in the manner of a gate crasher. It is most unwelcome. I have plans f…

SOL2015 March 29 Focus on Feet

Feet are pretty darn weird things I‘ve decided. This morning I was staring down at my two, as I was pulling on my socks and shoes prior to my ritual brisk morning walk.  Toes of different length and dimension greeted me. They appear like pathetic members of a family.  A somewhat ugly family, I've decided. Tapering in size from biggest to smallest. Each one of them has its own distinct characteristics.  The big toe is hard to miss. It really dominates the foot. I wonder if the other toes resent it's preposterous size advantage? In my particular case, I have two toes I would describe as shy.  Yes, that's right, shy. They appear to be trying to hide behind other toes. 
Toes are quite individual. Even the way the nail grows on each toe makes it a little different from its fellow toes. -And yet, despite their individuality, collectively they do us proud.
We do incredibly cruel things to our little pinkies. We house them in socks for hours at a stretch and then cram them into the …

SOL2015 March 28 Memories And Ghosts in Grayscale

 Tara Smith’s post regarding students writing from old family photographs prompted me to recall Cynthia Rylant’s book, ‘Something Permanent’ where she used the Great Depression photographs of Walker Evans to celebrate the stark beauty of lives lived in harsh and challenging times. Rylant’s poetry added new perspective to the images.  My wife Vicki brought me this special little book while we were living and working in New York. I regard it as a treasured addition to my personal library.

Today, I have been inspired to use a couple of my own black and white photographs as inspiration for writing poetry.

Snow On A Silent Street

It is quiet on Union Street But we know Many have been this way Tracks Footprints Clues in the snow covered pavement
They are home now Having removed Hats Coats Gloves And through windows They peer out across the silent street The street dressed in a white shroud The street that gives little away

Fire Escape
On those long ago evenings The children Dragged mattresses onto

SOL2015 March 27 Take A Leaf Out Of The Day

It rained overnight. The wind howled and the trees bent to its unrelenting will. The casualties were strewn on the driveway this morning. An Autumnal aftermath. Leaves of many colours littered the ground. I gathered a few of them up, took them inside and photographed them. Then I wrote...

It clung tenaciously To its sturdy host
Eventually the wind Separated them And the leaf Cast adrift Began its inevitable descent
Flittering Fluttering Falling To earth Like a feather, tumbling
On the pathway It landed Face up Autumn shades exposed Brilliant at the end Intense hues of magenta, indigo and russet red Among the verdant green remnants A leaf Beauty defying death

SOL 2015 March 26 - Telling Tales & Harvesting Ideas

Students frequently ask, where do you get your ideas for writing? Well, today when the same question came up, I read them this poem...
Telling Tales
I like to tell myself stories I invent them in my head They rock and roll around my mind They entertain me on the bus They are with me as I walk down Union Street They are there when I enter the subway They ride with me through the underground tunnels My stories roll around in my head until they are ready to be told
Then… They emerge like warm clothes from a tumble dryer Fresh, new and ready to be written across the pages of my notebook

Everything’s write in the end

SOL2015 March 25 The Terrible Terrors -a memoir piece

Sometimes the tiniest reference can spark a strong memory. It comes rocketing back to the present on the most tenuous of connections. A conversation yesterday with some Grade 5/6 students about childhood memories lead me to this memoir piece today…
At the ripe old age of eleven I formed a gang. This was not a gang in the sense that we stole old ladies handbags, smoked cigarettes , or terrorized the neighbourhood writing graffiti on walls and fences. Oh no. This was a gang in the form of a secret society. We thought we were something like an undercover agency. We had secret oaths written in blood and initiation ceremonies, we held secret meetings held in what we considered a secret headquarters. We gave ourselves the name –terrible Terrors. Now, it all sounds rather exciting. However, the reality was a lot more ho hum.
Our secret headquarters was in fact an unused chicken pen in my parent’s backyard. The secret oaths we designed were actually written in red indelible pencil. Spilling bl…

SOL2015 March 24 The Joy Of Collecting Words

I am unashamedly, a word collector. I listen, I acquire and I use particular words. I recall as a child frequently delving into dictionaries in search of new words. Sometimes I recall or hear a word or phrase that has fallen out of use and I attempt to revive it by sprinkling into my conversations. I find beauty in old words. Words rarely used. Words from English and other languages that ring in my ears and beg to be slotted into conversations. I recently heard the word skedaddle and felt compelled to use it. As a kid, we frequently skedaddled from the scene. Particularly when something nefarious had happened. I loved words like scallywag, and rascal and how those words were ascribed to us when we were kids.
 I had a thing about the word piffle a while back. So much so, I felt compelled to write a poem about piffle. That’s how compulsive, my word collecting has become. I love the word hullabaloo. It’s a word that makes me ponder. Just how loud is a hullabaloo? Is it louder than a commo…

SOL2015 March 23 - Words I Wish I Had Written

Today I planned for my teaching tomorrow…

The focus of my work will be to show teachers and students how as writers we need to develop a close relationship with those author’s we admire. We need to get close to their words. We need to study closely, aspects of their craft. We need to learn to savour their words. We need to learn to read not just with our eyes, but our also with our ears, our hearts. 
 These writers over time will be our collaborators. My aim is for these young writers to understand how we can immeasurably improve the quality of our writing by learning to read like writers.
When our eyes fall upon words we identify as wondrous, we should copy such extracts into our notebooks as a reminder of powerful and inspirational writing. These words are the words we wish we had written…
The passages I copy into my notebook regularly come from those writers I view as mentors and heroes. Their words inspire me to greater effort as a writer. I write under their influence, I write in the…

SOL2015 March 22 - Autumn Days And Memories of Keats

I woke this morning to a crisp autumn morning. I walked for over an hour, beside the sea, along the streets of my town. This morning was the kind of morning that possibly inspired John Keats to write his iconic ode ‘To Autumn’  
‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
        Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
        With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;’

It’s almost a year since I visited Keats grave in a small cemetery in Rome. He lies in the only protestant cemetery in Rome. Keats is not the only luminary buried here though. The cemetery is beautifully maintained. It was most gratifying to encounter Keats in this tranquil setting. It was unexpected, making it even more memorable.

I first became aware of Keats during my secondary schoolboy years. He was there when my poet’s heart was awakened.  The opening words of his poem, To Autumn often burst out of me during these days of mellow fruitfulness.
I shall walk in the…

SOL2015 March 21 - The Eternal Mystery of Pillows and Cushions

It has been said that the bed is the culprit in the pillow proliferation of our  modern sleeping zones. Pillows and cushions have progressively and mysteriously multiplied over the years. The bed has become an art installation.  It’s a work on display for all to see. Check out the profusion of pillows. Somewhere under all those piled pillows, there is a bed. Can you believe that?  Some of these puffed up shapes even have designated roles, such as the Euro, the Sham (how appropriate is that dear reader?) and the most essential,  Scatter Cushion. But despite the name, Scatter is rarely just plonked on the bed.  It has a designated position. How do I know this? Well, I am frequently pilloried for my random positioning of the scatter cushions ( yes, we have more than one).
I am considered uncouth around cushions and pillows. I have failed to absorb the relevant information it seems. These prima donna cushions have  pre-determined positions and I am  clearly not privy to that  particular s…

SOL2015 March 20 That's Not Correct

A conversation with a group of teachers yesterday about correcting errors in writing has had me thinking today. We know inexperienced writers make errors. We also know experienced writers make mistakes. Learning cannot take place without some level of error. One of the greatest issues a developing writer can face is to be inhibited from responding, for fear of being wrong.

When a young writer tackles an unfamiliar word in their writing and spells it correctly they confirm their existing beliefs concerning that word. If they happen to get it ‘wrong’ then they learn something just as important. They learn that they must modify their belief about that word. The writer learns by testing their existing belief. This is the kind of healthy risk taking we must encourage in our classrooms. Writers should not be afraid to tackle new words.
I recall with glowing pride as a Grade 1 writer tackled the word aquarium in her writing, because ‘fish tank’ just wouldn’t do. We celebrated the risk taking w…

SOL2015 March 19 A Day of Reflection on Writing

I spent today at Sorrento Primary engaged in critical conversations with teachers reflecting upon the teaching of writing. They came armed with questions and queries and wonderings that had surfaced in the first weeks of the school year. Four one hour question and answer sessions with groups of teachers at various grade levels were conducted. The final session was used to review the day.
The aim of the day was to identify the important issues surrounding the teaching being done across the school to support writing development. There exists in this school a desire for young writers to think more deeply about what they are writing down; to write about the things that matter most to them, -those things closest to the heart. So voice and choice has become a centrepiece of the writing program. Students are being asked to write for authentic purposes.  It is gratifying to be part of this work. 
To foster the emergence of writing during the year the school has been focusing on teaching young w…

SOL2015 March 18 -The Result of Some Rummaging.

Rummaging, I love that word. Rummaging is something I am particularly fond of doing. Checking out old boxes, unpacking containers stashed in an around the house, it's appeal is unending. It can uncover treasures, or just turn up very little. These days I also rummage through my computer files. They are labyrinthine. Meaning they often throw up surprises. Long lost poems, stories, photographs and files buried seemingly beyond memory.
This afternoon while rummaging through the thousands of photographs stored on my computer, I found three, (obviously taken by other people) snaps of me with my back turned.
That is the common link between the three images. However, the circumstances of each image is quite unrelated. Allow me to explain.

April 2011. Walking beside the creek. Camera in hand, I am seeking out Monarch butterflies. I had spotted them the day before and wanted visual evidence of their long awaited presence. It took me almost an hour to get the shot I wanted. They flapped and f…