Tuesday, June 30, 2009

White Porcupine

You don't come across a white porcupine everyday, so when you see the title of Phil Hall's book of poetry maybe it will make you think twice. Maybe the title will even entice you to pick up the book. And when you do, maybe some odd postcards will come fluttering out of the pages.

Were those postcards in o-so-specific places? I'm not so sure, but I do know that I'm using the quirky cards to nestle between the pages of some of my favourite lines.

One card holds a space for the fun of reading these lines out loud:
After death crops & roars
onto all fours with spiked pores blowing the doors
drizzle gets on with its whispered slant
a white porcupine trundles rain-sticking in
the new tenant is the old tenant
gnawing salt off furniture again.
What a grunting-great poem it is, full of animal sounds. Real and surreal. Elements that seem to happily co-exist.

Between pages 14 and 15 a postcard marks this spot
First - my first language - nonsense - overhugged my second language - sense
later my first language - sense - dampered my second language - nonsense
until an actual poem came brandishing its turret key - but no language
so I had to find one

Also interesting when the work veered into the 'incomprehensible" I sometimes didn't even notice it was lacking literal/linear meaning. It made 'sound-sense', so I forgot to care about what the words were supposed to represent.

I watched as another poet, Sue Sinclair, drew wandering lines and curvy circles down the words on the page to demonstrate the flowing sounds and connections between syllables, bringing yet another dimension. It made me want to get a photocopier and crayons to squiggle the words to life, to bring a real porcupine into the room, quills and all.

Hall playfully called himself a terroir-ist - and talked about the idea of writing a poem that made sense when you read it in the right place.

The idea of terroir-ist poetry is very appealing. It makes me want to laugh. It makes me want to go places. And drink wine and read poetry in those places. So, yeah, somewhere between Bob Cajun and Fenelon Falls there is probably a Red Rock where it all makes sense. I just might try to track it down.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Clematis - Henry

Clematis - Henry, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Fairy Roses

Fairy Roses, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

West African Peanut Soup With Chicken

A delicious hardy summer soup from Minimalist Mark Bittman.

3/4 cup roasted and shelled peanuts
2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken (about 2 thighs or breasts) cut into chunks
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups stock or water
2 sweet potatoes or yams (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into thick slices
8 plum tomatoes, cored and halved (canned are fine; drain and reserve liquid for another use)
1/2 pound collards or kale, washed and cut into wide ribbons
1/4 to 1/2 cup peanut butter, chunky or smooth.

Chop peanuts, or crush them with the side of a knife, or pulse them in a food processor to chop roughly.

Put oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat; a minute later, add onion, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chicken and continue cooking for another 3 or 4 minutes, until just coloring. Add 1/2 cup peanuts and the cayenne and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Stir in the stock and the sweet potatoes, bring to a boil, and turn heat down to medium-low so the soup bubbles gently. Stir in tomatoes and collards, then cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter. Taste, adjust seasoning (you may want to add more peanut butter at this point) and serve, garnished with remaining peanuts.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Fern, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Cool, green canopy.


You know those fleeting moments when all is right with the world?

Life's blessings.

Sitting on the deck of the boat, slightly sunburnt after a full day's amazing sail. Anchored at the foot of the Bluffs, the sound of distant laughter wafting in from the sandy beach. A warm summer breeze blowing from the shore.

Sipping this wonderful organic Syrah from Bonterra Vineyards.

This song comes to mind....Que Sera Sera:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Spring Rolls

Lunch at Spring Rolls with my brother Dave today! We've developed the rather tasty habit of getting together for lunch every few months or so at this particular restaraunt near Dundas Square. I was just thinking we hadn't indulged ourselves lately.

Looking forward to the usual - ginger tea, lettuce wraps and some tasty Dim Sum.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Book Babes and Miriam's Margaritas

Miriam hosted & served her famous margaritas:
Fresh squeezed lime + lime zest + extra fine sugar + ice in a blender
+ tequila 

I am sure the drinks helped fuel an interesting discussion!

Reading Lollita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi was the book in question.

Reactions to the book based on its literary merit weren't very favourable - but that didn't seem to dilute discussion.  And isn't that one of the things a good book is supposed to do, after all.... generate opposing points of view and get people talking?  

Some reactions:
  • Made me want to reread Lolita and The Great Gatsby
  • Valuable chronicle of how quickly women in Tehran lost their voices, occupations and "relevance".... we are mistaken if we think it couldn't happen in North America, given the right set of circumstances
  • How interesting we are reading it now, with all the civil unrest in Tehran
  • Didn't like Nafisi's voice, found her a bit controlling and distant; had a very high opinion of herself vs. those around her;  superior attitude to most people around her
  • Didn't connect with the academic analysis, found it tedious in spots
  • Read reviews that Nafisi became a bit of a mouthpiece for Bush
  • Hard to keep track with chronology of events
  • Written with a pro-American viewpoint and an eye to self-promotion
  • Valuable insight into the mentality of a totalitarian regime
  • Read a bit but not motivated to finish this one
Diverse points of view =  a very interesting evening!

Tuesday nite...

Diane 06 09 206, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Perfect conditions for a sail.
Flat water, warm breezes.
The sails all puffed out and happy.
The water so smooth, and undulating like a midnight blue sculpture...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm dreaming.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice

Lovely lovely weekend.

Motored over to Toronto Island Friday night with Rob and tied up to Hanlan's wall. It started to pour in the middle of the night. I love the sound of rain on the deck when we're safe and snuggled up inside the boat.

Saturday we rode our bikes in the light drizzle from one end of the island to the other, stopping to admire the Dragon Boat races. Our timing was perfect, we got to see the Mayfair Predators take their heat. The announcer said they are one of the top teams in Canada - in fact - internationally. He also mentioned Canada is one of the most highly ranked countries in Dragon Boat racing, thanks in part to this team.

After a tasty lunch at the Rectory we wandered around and looked at some of the Ward Island gardens in the rain and cycled back to the boat.

Alex joined us in the evening and we hung out, watched a bit of TV and got to bed before midnight.

Woke to sunny weather. Rode bikes, climbed trees, kicked sand on the beach, watched more dragon boats, hung out by the fountains, saw the gardens. Toronto Island is definitely one of my favourite places on the planet!

Celebrated Father's Day on the Island and then had a wonderful sail back to Bluffers Park.
Really enjoy hanging out with my boys!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Tikka, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Rob and I went to Lahor Tikka House at 1365 Gerrard Street East in Toronto and it was absolutely delicious! Enough food for dinner, lunch and dinner the next day for $50. It's true, we got a bit carried away....

The Butter Till Naan (toasted with sesame) was incredible dipped in the Muttar Paneer and Tarka Dal. The Chicken Tikka had just the right amount of heat. Also tried something new called "Botti Tikka." The picture on the left is the "leftovers" after we ate our full.

Meanwhile the table next to us was served the Butter Chicken and then Chana Masala - it all looked so good I wanted to ask for a taste.

The place was absolutely packed, on a Wednesday night. Obviously doing something right!

I know I'll definitely be going back for more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beauty Bush

Beauty Bush, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

This is one of my garden favourites!

Happily, Nicki was able to join me for tea under the boughs. It was great to be able to share the wonderful flowers and amazing perfume.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Rob and I saw two theatre productions this weekend, both on the Luminato roster. (Thanks, Ross and Virginia!)

The first, Zisele, was a North American premiere of an Israeli production. It was more of a comedic dance, actually, playing on the theme of "Jewish Mothers" living their lives through their children and driving them crazy with guilt. Done with a great deal of gentle humour and insight, the performers drew lots of laughter from the crowd. Although I was raised Catholic I could certainly relate (both as a daughter and mother). Very entertaining.

The next night we saw 5 O'Clock Bells, a truly memorable one man play written and performed by Pierre Brault and based on the life and music of Lenny Breau. The audience gets to know about this renowned guitarist through his intimate relationships. Father, mother, lovers, wives, Don Franks, Chet Atkins - all masterfully channeled by Pierre Brault. Lenny himself only has a line or two as the characters around him react and chide and plead.... their interactions with the central character unfold a complicated life story right up to his tragic early death and unsolved murder.

Lenny Breau may not be widely known by the general public but remains revered by guitarists around the world for his virtuosity. Breau was a child prodigy of country music, played jazz guitar of the same calibre as Django, mastered classical guitar and mentored rock stars like Randy Bachman. His music has been called 'exquisite.'

Have a listen....

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Last night was the last class for Influency 6, A Toronto Poetry Salon. For the past 11 weeks I've been spending my Wednesday evenings enjoying poetry, listening as one poet introduces the featured poet's work and then hearing the poets read aloud from their own collections. Fellow "influencers" spoke of their "wonderments" and insights, and wrote eloquently about their reactions and interpretations of the poems.

I've always felt poems are far more than flat letters on a page — meant to be spoken more than silently read. Seeing/hearing/talking/sharing insights enriches the experience. This course deepened that appreciation.

Sometimes it was overwhelming... we read a volume of poetry each week and there were probably hundreds of pages of responses shared via email between classes. Sometimes it was intimidating because responses were so piercing or people had seen things I had completely missed. Often it was frustrating — how could someone like/not like that phrase? What did the poet intend by that, exactly? If I didn't like something was it because I just wasn't trying hard enough to "get" it? How hard should I have to try, anyway? Did I need to understand all those references to the Romantic poets to properly appreciate the piece?

The poets and collections included:
Jacqueline Larson's Salt Physic (Pedlar)
Sina Queryas's Expressway (Coach House)
M. NourbeSe Philip's Zong! (Mercury/Wesleyan)
Glen Downie's Loyalty Management (Wolsak & Wynn)
Adam Sol's Jeremiah, Ohio (Anansi)
Billeh Nickerson's The Asthmatic Glassblower (Arsenal Pulp)
Sue Sinclair's Breaker (Brick)
Phill Hall's White Porcupine (Book Thug)

I admit to starting the course looking for the 'right' way to go about responding. Margaret Christakos did a brilliant job as instructor. By the end I had relinquished any notion that there was one 'right' way, there were many different ways to look at the poems.

I know I will be spending months going over these collections and people's notes and enjoying my own ponderings. If my Wednesdays weren't already booked for the Fall term I might have signed up for Influency 7. I can't recommend the course highly enough, it is amazing — and it just may change the way you look at a poem forever.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sail Past

IMG_0114, originally uploaded by Things We Love.

Life is good.

Champagne + orange juice + strawberries = mimosas.

Sailing in the afternoon.

Fireworks in the evening.

Dancing all night + summertime =

"... and the living is easy..."

Honey Moon - June

originally uploaded by Heaven`s Gate (John).

The last Full Moon before the Summer Solstice.

- Strawberry Moon
- Rose Moon
- Honey Moon

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Griffin Poetry Prize

How exciting! A poetry reading sold out for the 2nd consecutive year. Maybe next year…. The Rogers Centre!

Liz and I will join a crowd of 800 or so to listen to the poets nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize read from their work.

The finalists among Canadian poets are Kevin Connolly, for his volume Revolver, Jeramy Dodds for Crabwise to the Hounds and A.F. Moritz for The Sentinel. These finalists seem plucked from a limited pool: All are from Toronto (or, in the case of Dodds, from Orono, less than an hour east of Toronto), all are male, two of the three (Connolly and Moritz) are published by the aforementioned Anansi Press, while the third, Dodds, had his volume edited by Connolly. It's hard to believe that there wasn't a single volume in Canada from outside this small circle that deserved a nod.

The Post predicts Albert Moritz will win it. Although they also ran a piece in the paper today about Kevin Connolly:

An ambitiously unique collection like Revolver may be one reason why Connolly has often existed "outside the normal bounds of canonical Canadian poetry," as he puts it. "I don't go with Al Purdy, or Leonard Cohen, or Lorna Crozier or people like that." But it's perhaps this very reason why Connolly has found an audience with a younger generation of poets and readers. Indeed, Babstock points out that when he teaches creative writing it is Connolly who is among the most revered by his students: "They go crazy for him."

Canadian Shortlist
Revolver • Kevin Connolly House of Anansi Press
Crabwise to the Hounds • Jeramy Dodds Coach House Books
The Sentinel • A. F. Moritz House of Anansi

Press International Shortlist
The Lost Leader • Mick Imlah Faber and Faber
Life on Earth • Derek Mahon The Gallery Press
Rising, Falling, Hovering • C. D. Wright Copper Canyon Press
Primitive Mentor • Dean Young University of Pittsburgh Press

I'm not familiar with any of these works so I'm really looking forward to hearing all the poets read tonight. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Loyalty Management

Loyalty Management is the first book of poetry since 1999 to win the Toronto Book Award, and it is the selection this year for 'Keep Toronto Reading.' Here is one of the poems from the collection... (unfortunately I can't reproduce the line spacing here with my limited html skill). If you're a regular TTC-er like me, you may have read it as part of their 'Poetry on the Way' series:
The creatures

Caged in your sleep may the great beasts
bless and protect you always the bears of
loving kindness the wise Blakean tigers
of wrath & the horses of
instruction Dream untroubled
by paradox of proportion - the ladybug
bigger than the cat the mouse
as large as the elephant
& wearing pants In their all-forgiving silence
may they love you in ways we fail to
these friends of first refuge
the peaceable kingdom
where the lion lies down with the lamb

Here is a quick interview with the poet Glen Downie: