Monday, November 9, 2015

the weather gets in my words

The Weather

by John Newlove

I'd like to live a slower life.
The weather gets in my words
and I want them dry. Line after line
writes itself on my face, not a grace
of age but wrinkled humour. I laugh
more than I should or more
than anyone should. This is good.

But guess again. Everyone leans, each
on each other. This is a life
without an image. But only
because nothing does much more
than just resemble. Do the shamans
do what they say they do, dancing?
This is epistemology.

This is guesswork, this is love,
this is giving up gorgeousness to please you,
you beautiful dead to be. God bless
the weather and the words. Any words. Any weather.
And where or whom. I'd never taken count before.
I wish I had. And then
I did. And here
the weather wrote again.

(John Newlove)

Thinking of giving thanks this week, so first this one by Anna Kamienska which can be read on the TLS site.


by Anna Kamienska

How to leave without thanking
animals and particularly the cat
for his being so separate
and for teaching us with his whole body the wisdom of concentration

Thank you walls
the great invisible photographs of my life
thank you air
for the patient imprints of my loneliness

Thank you narrow table
untiring secretary
how many tears have I written into you
I’ve already changed into one of your lame legs

And you I thank for knowledge
breakable cup
it’s you have always taught me departure
there are things more precious than ourselves

Just as before a wedding I’ll have no time to thank you
all the corners and radiators
I thank you every spoon
God bless you since who else is to bless you

And now all go away along with a crowd of holy statues
I am fed up with you and fed up with thanking
the still night is looking at us
with a chasm-like eye
what are we in that dark iris

You might compare the Kamienska poem to W.S. Merwin's well known poem:


by W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

I've posted the Merwin poem before, and it's always interesting to see all the various interpretations there are of it on the internet. What does it mean to give thanks when things are crumbling all around us. What would it mean to not give thanks for things like forests and cities? Is thanking powerful or naive? Is it stupid or a tremendous act of faith? What does it say about us as humans? So much is darkness, so much is beyond us, but 'we are saying thank you / thank you we are saying and waving."

Well, I'm thankful for poetry, for all the varieties of weather. And this past week we had it all. Snow, rain, frost, and more frost.

I'm grateful for books, the getting hold of a book, and gnawing on it.

“She liked getting hold of some book, and keeping it to herself, and gnawing its contents in privacy, and pondering the meaning without sharing her thoughts with any one, or having to decide whether the book was a good one or a bad one.”

- Virginia Woolf, from Night And Day

So one of the books I've been gnawing on this past week is Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, some of you might think, no thanks, that's going to be too flakey, or it's too popular, or whatever. Or maybe you think you've been writing for years, and you're beyond it. I'm predisposed to like books on creativity and writing and the writing life. Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Carolyn See, Kristjana Gunnars - they've all written books that have helped see me through. Also, I'm predisposed to like Elizabeth Gilbert. I follow her on Facebook. I read Eat, Pray, Love when it first came out and before it pretty much went insane and made her one of those uber popular writers which other writers usually avoid. Big Magic is a super quotable book, for sure. And maybe the language she uses to describe the process of creativity isn't for everyone, but if you can just be open to that, then I think there's a lot of good stuff to be discovered in this book.

Here's what I like about the book: the conversational tone, the contemporary feeling of it. It's your smart writer girlfriend telling you some real stuff. Magic-y real stuff. You've had a couple of glasses of wine, and here it is. The book is generous. And it's uplifting, when actually a lot of talk about writing and the writing life can actually be, get this: depressing and heavy.

Here's the other crazy thing I like about the book: I put it down one afternoon. I hopped into the bathtub for a long soak. And by the time I hopped out, I had mapped out a new piece of writing. A lot of what I had mapped out was stuff I'd been thinking about for a while, and rejecting for this reason or that reason. A lot of it had been right before me all the time and I just realized that these disparate seeming things I was interested in, could actually work together. So.

Was it the Gilbert book? I've also been skimming through a few of my favourite novels for inspiration as well. But maybe that was the combo I needed for this little breakthrough of mine.

Along with the mapping, a character arrived, named. A picture of her in my mind. I mean, who knows if she's 'the one.' But. Again, just saying.

I'm not exactly in the perfect space to start writing something new, but then there is never exactly the right time or moment, is there? I've said yes to writing a few articles of late, yes to blog posts and yes to receiving a City of Edmonton Salute to Excellence Citation Award in a couple of weeks (not that I have to do anything much but show up for that one). In short, I'm in 'yes' mode which is really good and actually pretty fun. But I'm also saying yes to my own writing because I know if I don't I'll be unhappy.

And we might as well say yes to winter, and thank you, as well. It's going to be here for a while.

Here's a poem from the Times Literary Supplement "Poem of the Week" section. For another quite different translation of the same poem and a commentary do click on the link.


by Rainer Maria Rilke (trails. Iris Origo)

Master, the time has come. Rich was the summer’s gain.
Now on the dial let Thy shadow linger,
Loosen Thy winds above the boundless plain.

Let the last grapes hang heavy on the vine.
Grant them yet one more mellow southern hour
To ripen fully; tread the final drop
Of cloying sweetness into heady wine.

The time has passed for dreaming or for building.
Alone, alone, the lonely will remain,
And wake and read and write unending letters,
And wander aimless down long avenues,
While the last leaves are blown by wind and rain.

Do you ever think of the music you'd like played at your funeral? Honestly, I can't say I've spent a lot of time on that one. But this next poem had me thinking that a poem or two would be nice, a song or two.


by Lawrence Raab

For a long time I was sure
it should be "Jumping Jack Flash," then
the adagio from Schubert's C major Quintet,
but right now I want Oscar Peterson's

"You Look Good to Me." That's my request.
Play it at the end of the service,
after my friends have spoken.
I don't believe I'll be listening in,

but sitting here I'm imagining
you could be feeling what I'd like to feel—
defiance from the Stones, grief
and resignation with Schubert, but now

Peterson and Ray Brown are making
the moment sound like some kind
of release. Sad enough
at first, but doesn't it slide into

tapping your feet, then clapping
your hands, maybe standing up
in that shadowy hall in Paris
in the late sixties when this was recorded,

getting up and dancing
as I would not have done,
and being dead, cannot, but might
wish for you, who would then

understand what a poem—or perhaps only
the making of a poem, just that moment
when it starts, when so much
is still possible—

has allowed me to feel.
Happy to be there. Carried away.


As always, I'm going to prescribe naps for this season, for all of the weather.


by Barbara Crooker

What can l say, now that summer’s gone, with the weight of its heat,
its thick blanket of humidity, the cacophony of zinnias, marigolds, salvia?
Now the sky is clear blue and cloudless, that sure one-note
that can only mean October. You’re gone. The leaves turn gold
in the calendar’s rotisserie, giving up their green, and the burning bushes
have ignited, struck their book of matches. It’s enough to make the heart break,
isn’t it? We keep going down the one road, there’s no turning back.

Another one courtesy of Writer's Almanac and which can be found in the book, Small Rain. 

There's no turning back, as Crooker says. Which should be enough to make your heart break, but the thing is: there is now. And now can be pretty spectacular. 

Every day has something startling in it. I go on being quite amazed by that simple fact. 

Snow has a way of highlighting just that. Whatever had seemed ordinary, is now sprinkled, sparkling. 

So there was snow, and then rain, and then a dampness. One morning a different kind of frost. Spotty and granular.

And the sun was bright and it melted quickly but remained a while longer in the low and shady spots.

The weather gets into my photos, that much is true. Those days when people find much to be desired in the weather is usually when I take an abundance of pictures.

I've been thinking about photography a lot lately, because the character I next want to write is also a photographer. This makes some kind of sense, I think. I dragged out the first camera I bought for myself, which I bought with my own money about when I started grade 12. I have some old film, and plan on taking it for a spin.

Next. I think it must be time for a spot of tea. I'll leave you with a quotation from the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. She's talking about the mystery of how ideas find their author, the magic of that. The enigma.

"All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life - collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.  
It's a strange line of work, admittedly. 
I cannot think of a better way to pass my days." 

If you're interested in the Rumi and the Red Handbag news for this week, please click here.

Wishing you all calm things for the week, some interesting weather, and plenty of inspiration. Oh, and a nice cup of tea, or two.


  1. Such wonderful images this week,Shawna. I read Big Magic as well and I think what I appreciated most about it, as you pointed out, was how down to earth Gilbert is about being an writer and how little tolerance she allows for the role of the suffering artist. I loved that! Thanks.

    1. It also reminded me that whatever language we like to describe the process, writing does involve magic and what a blessing it is to be able to participate in that.

  2. I bought that same camera when I was 14. I loved that camera with all my heart. I held out from switching to digital for years and years. Seeing it here on your blog makes me want to do the same as you, dig it out and shoot some film. Have you heard EG's podcast? I listened and it was so good, I got on the waiting list for the book at my local library. Unfortunately when it was available, I was not so now I will have to wait a very long time to get it again. Your blog post makes me wonder if I should just buy it. Come to think of it, your book is in my shopping cart, so i think I will just go ahead and buy both of them! AND, I was so surprised to see snow in your photos. Any day now we'll get some here in Minnesota. Everyone around me keeps muttering that they are not ready. I don't know that I am ever ready for the snow yet I do know that I am willing. On an entirely different note, I have organized a monthly knit/crochet/craft get-together that has been surprisingly popular. Just the other day I was thinking of asking everyone to bring a poem at our next meet. This idea comes from you. My interest in poetry usually ebbs and flows. Reading your posts always makes me yearn for more. Thank you.

    1. Manisha - whoa! same camera? I mean, I know it was fairly popular at the time, but how cool that we both had one. I will look for Gilbert's podcast - haven't yet heard it. Thank you.

      The snow is later this year than last. What we had is now melted and gone. There will be more soon though, no doubt. xo

  3. I love that you are in your "yes mode" and I imagine wonderful things will come out of it! And I'm ready to say yes to winter and weather and naps and tea and lots of reading. Time to get cozy, time to hibernate. Finally picked up "The Hour of the Star" again and am almost done. Just may read Gilbert's book next.

    Your beautiful images have me loving the weather, all so gorgeous and wonderfully poetic. Can't wait to see what you capture on film.

    A big congrats on that wonderful award! Seems everyone is saying "yes" to Shawna Lemay these days! :)

    1. I really can't complain these days, can I? Would love to hear how you found Hour of the Star, xo

  4. Thank you. Just that. Thank you for having the words to say what you say. I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago and now I find myself waiting for Mondays.

    1. So glad you found Calm Things! Thanks for being here, Virginia!


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