Our last class of 2010 is this week, December 9. We start again on February 3, 2011.
This has been a fruitful, exciting course with many new members of the Collective.
Thank you to the guest authors who visited us, beginning with poet Fiona Lam in October. Fiona took us through revision stages of her own work, candidly sharing her drafts so we could have a sense of her editing process. She also generously brought copies of her second book, Enter the Chrysanthemum, and gave a copy to each participant.
George McWhirter and his wife Angela Mairead Coid visted next. George read pieces focussing on the topic of sound, which we had delved into the previous preparation. Angela read her own beautiful response piece to Collective member James McLean’s poem “Creative Thinking” about growing up in poverty in Scotland (see below). Before class George presided at the inauguration of the Downtown Eastside Literary Collection in the Carnegie Branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Cathleen With was our next visitor. She came laden with literary journals and fantastic ideas about writing in the voices of our younger selves, our friends and even people we have not met. Cathleen led us in some writing prompts using Diane Arbus’ work and then graciously donated the photo book to the Collective for our future use. Cathleen also inscribed copies of “Skids” and “Having Faith in the Polar Girls Prison” for our petite Thursdays Writing Collective library.
Our last guest of the year, Michael Turner, discussed his own process of engagement via a three piece text on Malcolm Lowry he wrote for the Capilano Review. The pieces are based on Lowry’s own syntax and form as in letters published in the Vancouver Sun. Michael introduced us to the concept of “wordsquatting,” or “kicking out the words of the author and putting in your own.” Using a verse from his first book, “Company Town,” we did that with Michael, on the spot. This concept of squatting in someone else’s text is one we will be returning to, not only for its political ramifications, but also because of the incredible creative possibility.
Michael’s writing prompt from his visit, begun with his sentence, “The sun rose like a headless pair of shoulders,” is on his blog dated the day after his visit, Dec 3, 2010.
In February we will be putting into practice the techniques and concepts these amazing writers shared with us. Thursdays Writing Collective is beginning a pilot project, The Writers Caravan, where we invite writing groups from across the city to come to Carnegie and write with us. Each group will then do a public reading with us on a shared slate in their neck of the woods. Our hope is to cross pollinate with other literary communities and to increase the creative options for all involved. In culmination we will be holding a celebratory reading and party in June and producing a publication from this collaboration with the three or four visiting writing groups. If you are interested in participating, please contact Elee Kraljii Gardiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN EARLY LIT FIRE (for James McLean)
Angela Mairéad Coid
There is no heat in the house. Coal is rationed by the government and not cheap when your father is “on the sick”. A fire is set in the fireplace, but this altar to warmth won’t be lit before 5 o’clock. Until then, the adults warm themselves with cups of tea, and the smokers warm their hands around a cigarette’s glow.
There is no heat in the house. In spite of a vest, woollen jumper and cardigan, cold wraps itself around your middle like an overpowering cummerbund. You do your homework with the dog on your feet. The cat warms your mother’s lap. Upstairs in the bedrooms is a quiet place to study, but cold rules there. Children sleep with the pets, and parents have each other. On bitter nights, overcoats are thrown over the beds. Blankets are thin and scarce.
In the west, they burn peat cut from the bogs. In Belfast on the Old Lodge Road they say the tenants strip the wood, the banisters and the doors, to burn and chase away the penetrating cold from the dirt-floored, terrace houses.
“Then they do a midnight flit to another house.” Or so the story goes.
There is no heat in the house. We live near the beach in a little town.
Last night there was a terrible storm. My eldest married sister brings news of bounty on the beach. Coal from the shifting cargo of colliers has washed up.
The women grab their shopping bags and the children old school bags. We pass the neighbours’ houses as if taking a healthy walk to the seashore, dogs delirious in the wind from the Lough. The golden sand has patches of black. We collect as many nuggets as we can respectably carry. Tomorrow it might be washed back out to sea, but tonight the fire will be lit early.
Heat in the house.
Angela Mairéad Coid was born and educated In Northern Ireland, and has published in Ireland and Canada. Her work has most recently appeared in Canadian Women Studies: Women of Ireland, Boyne Berries, Ireland and in The Antigonish Review, who kindly nominated that story for the 2009 Journey Prize.