Once my friend Dane gets started he can't be stopped. This video was taken after our band Rocky High & The Northern Lights had already played a 2 hour gig followed by an unexpected few hours of playing for the beer gardens. This was one of the last jams of the night. Enjoy!
(This entry is coming in half a day late. Camping last night. Sorry folks.)
So this past week was busy and productive. My deadline for finalizing my manuscript for The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses was due on Tuesday. My weekend was spent reading through the entire manuscript aloud, twice. I spent hours tweaking the ending to a single poem. I spent hours arranging and rearranging the sequence of poems. I could feel the manuscript getting closer and closer to being finished. And as I neared that sense of completion I began feeling a few different emotions: Excitement, Anxiousness, Relief, and something akin to Brevity.
Some of the poems appearing in this book have been with me for about 5 years. Even in the final days leading up to the manuscript's completion I was making slight edits to them. It's a relief to finally say, "This poem is finished." But it's also a little sad and a little scary at the same time. I'm worried that there might be a few lines or words or punctuation marks that aren't exactly 'right'. I'm sure this is something every author struggles with as their manuscript nears its final stages, but with this being my first project of this nature I'm wondering if I'm feeling it a little more acutely.
I'm glad that I've got a few ongoing projects that I've been working on over the past few years. I don't what I'd do otherwise. It's amazing to have cleared my slate of these older pieces, but it's also daunting approaching some poems I haven't looked at in months. I've got to twist my brain back to these other projects, some of which are completely different than The Last White House at the End of the Row of White Houses.
I'll write more on this later. For now I'm going to go and do some reading. I feel like I've let that go in the past few weeks. (Though I've still been reading, just not as a much). Then band practice later tonight. Then writing some new poems even later tonight. The work never stops, and I'm thankful for that.
While I'm generally not too interested in visiting zoos (they actually make me feel quite depressed) I did visit Toronto Zoo with my good friend Ethan today. Here's a picture of my favorite exhibit.
This week's blog entry is a banjo riff I was working on Friday night. I was just plucking away and wanted to record a bit of the riff so I wouldn't forget it. Sometimes I have a bad memory for music. I'll play the same riff all night and get it pretty solid, but if I don't play it every day the riff quickly fades.
So this recording is definitely not flawless, but it was a pretty good first take.
You can listen to it HERE
The past two nights were spent sleeping in my tent. I spent the weekend with some friends at a friend's grandmother's cottage just outside of Lake St. Peter. The cottage is on a very small lake. In fact it's the only cottage on the lake. It's a quaint cottage. Not much room when you've got seven guys and two dogs, but we managed pretty well. Mostly we played board games/lawn games and played music.
While there were enough beds to fit us the majority of us set up our tents to sleep outside. I love sleeping in my tent even if the quality of sleep is sometimes hit-or-miss. I've had some awful sleeps in a tent, even when the conditions (ground conditions (lumpiness/hardness/slope) and weather conditions (heat/cold/dampness)) are favorable. I still love it though. The past two nights I was going to bed pretty late (4:30am & 1:30am) while still getting up early (8ish) because of the direct sunlight in the morning. I was waking up fully rested though... more well rested than I've felt in a while actually.
I normally use my Thermarest (basic model), and my sleeping bag which is tested for 0 degrees. I think a big difference was that I was able to bring a few pillows from home. (normally I'm hiking into a camp site and just use my sweater as a pillow). I also had Donkin sleeping beside me which helps me sleep all that much better. His occasional deep sighs relax me. I think I probably smile in my sleep when I subconsciously hear him.
Recently I've been experimenting with Party Mix, a.k.a Snack Mix, Munchies, etc. I've never been a big fan of the stuff... I think it was was the pretzels that turned me off. But after being at a party and snacking on some I got hooked. Some brands are better than others. This is true for most things, but never more true than when you're eating Party Mix.
Also I've been eating my fair share of Smart Food. Normally I'm of the belief that the best popcorn is air-popped and covered with melted butter and a dash of salt.
My go to chips are Salt & Vinegar. I think because they are my father's too. In our house we never had flavors like Dill Pickle or Ketchup and now I won't even touch those kinds.
Doritos are an occasional treat, but they are a little pricey and sometimes too flavorful.
I don't remember the last can of Pringles I purchased. In fact I'm not sure I've ever bought Pringles.
Something my Dad used to do was eat plain tortilla chips and dip them into Cheese Whiz. That's a habit I only take part in when visiting my parents...
Okay, to be totally honest this entry is 9 hours and 25 minutes late. At some point last night between talking on the phone with Allison, my dad, and my friend Bryan, this blog slipped my mind. I even took this picture yesterday evening for the blog.
For Christmas this year Allison had this Book House custom made for me. I love walking around this neighborhood with my dog. I know of at least 6 other free libraries within 10 blocks of each other. I'm always fascinated by what books seem to move and which books tend to linger. I'm also glad to be doing my part in keeping books in the public's hands... I wonder though if Allison's intentions for giving me this weren't a little selfish. Admittedly our bookshelves are overflowing, and I end up with more books than I can possibly read (especially after events like this weekends Small Press Book Fair in Ottawa). So this Book House is giving me a chance to do a bit of a purge.
If you're in the neighborhood wander past 130 James Street and check it out! Take some books, leave some books. My shelves are getting bare.
This week's entry is coming in just under the wire. It's 11:28pm.
This coming Saturday is the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair and I'm in the process of printing and assembling 100 copies of illiterature. issue six. a journal of one-word poems and 75 copies of In this light, a collection of minimalist poems by Guy Ewing.
This issue of illiterature. is my most production-intense yet. There are two pages that fold out, two pages in color, a page in rich black, all of which need to inserted manually as I print primarily from home, and these pages I needed to print separately. There's also two envelopes pasted onto blank pages which will house 1. a mini-hand-stamped chapbook 2. five business-cards on which the poems are typewritten, hand written, hand stamped and ink-jet printed.
So I'm working full-steam-ahead. Luckily for me my beautiful wife Allison is happy to help with production. It's a real pleasure to spend a few hours folding, stapling, gluing, and arranging pages with her.
55 copies finished. 45 to go!
This week’s blog entry is the closest to my heart so far. Today, May 29th, my brother Steven would have turned 29. Every year since his 23rd birthday my gift was a song that I’d write especially for him or about him. That first year I just waited until his birthday and then sat down with my guitar and pressed record. I ended up improvising a 6 minute ramble all about him. The next year I did the same thing and ended up recording a song in which the chorus was “I sang you happy birthday two days too late”. Eventually I ended up writing actual songs with layers of instruments. After his second year in Peru I wrote a song in Spanish and recorded it for him. It was a tradition that he and I both looked forward to. The last two years have been pretty difficult though. Steven took his own life in Peru in October of 2014. He’d been living there for nearly three years. I hadn’t seen him (aside from occasional Skype conversation) in all that time. We were close but we didn’t communicate too often. He was good at keeping his distance and I’m awful at keeping in touch with people. There were months where our only communication was the odd email. He was pretty enigmatic. I could write paragraph after paragraph about him and unless you’d actually met Steven, my descriptions would fail to convey his personality at all. Even to me, there are huge parts of his life that remain a mystery.
This year I spent a few days trying to work through different songs. Everything was coming out so sad. Here’s the first lines from a song I scrapped.
“I tried to write you a birthday song
but all the words they came out wrong.
it’s just too hard without you here
it’s been another day, it’s been another year.”
See? I was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to write anything that I’d be happy with. I began to feel a pressure that I hadn’t felt before when trying to write him a song. The first few songs I wrote for him I’d just record it on the spot and send it to him alone. After a few years I started to send the songs to my family as well. Now it feels like I’m writing for him but it’s equally a song for my family.
I really have to wrestle with the sadness of not having him around and the joy of having known him. It’s difficult, but it allows me a chance to really focus on him, to focus on my thoughts and feelings about him. There’s lots to sift through. I put myself through an emotional wringer. It’s a struggle, but in the end it’s also very cathartic. I mean, I think about him a lot, almost every day, but I rarely examine how I feel, or why I feel a certain way… So much of it happens subconsciously... I think it’s an important thing for me to do.
This year’s song is entitled Emmerentia, my grandmother’s name, but it's also the name of a place that Steven liked to envision: a world where people in peace with one another and in harmony with the world. Though much about Steven is still a mystery to me, I do know that he was searching for something, and I think that in end he did find what he was looking for.
You can listen to it HERE