Monday June 30th, 2008

The exercise:

I was sitting out on the balcony trying to figure out what to write about. And the sun was setting. So, shockingly, I ended up writing about sunsets. I know, sometimes my own creativity awes me too.


When the sun dipped into the ocean,
The final trick of Day's magician,
Where red sky and blue water met,
We would say that Jupiter had set.
That summer in Mexico
Doesn't seem so long ago.

I remember a different night,
The October air had quite a bite;
As we left the pub he said with a sly grin:
The heroes ride into the sunset again!
That one evening in Cologne
I didn't feel so alone.

Now the sun has gone to bed tonight.
Alone, I watch this fading light.
You're sleeping, three thousand miles away,
It's your tomorrow in my today.
And though the sky is lovely here,
It appears dull without you near.

Sunday June 29th, 2008

The exercise:

Having a lazy Sunday so I'm going to steal what I wrote from my writer's group this morning. The topic was silence.


Why are so many people afraid of the stillness of quiet? Where did they learn that silence is to be avoided? Are they just rebelling against parents who were professional mimes?

Perhaps they are living in fear of their own thoughts and their refuge is to keep talking, banging pots together, blaring bad music. Maybe someone forgot to tell them that if you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Have these poor people heard of meditation? I wonder if they equate it with witchcraft and voodoo, a behavior for the fringe element. Do they consider taking a vow of silence to be the same as promising to stop breathing?

I am not one of those people. I love silence. Give me two hours of quiet and I will journey upon the stormy waves of my thoughts to every corner of the universe. Call me a thought tourist if you like.

I will review the past, savor the present and speculate about the future. I will not need a television. I will not need the wacky morning radio DJ to share his views on Britney Spears. I will not need to see the latest fad video on YouTube, even if it involves the newest shenanigans of the dramatic chipmunk.

For me, silence is still golden.

Saturday June 28th, 2008

The exercise:

Kat and I went strawberry picking this morning on Westham Island and came home with 17 pounds of berries. We'll be freezing and eating these for quite a while:

Today's exercise is to use a favorite Beatles lyric as your first line and go from there. I suspect you can guess what mine will be.


Strawberry fields forever! May we never see the day that these delicious berries are only born in the laboratories of giant corporations. May the day never dawn that these fields are dug up, paved over and built up into the latest subdivision of matching houses. But if that day does arrive, may the very next day bring the earthquake that washes it all away.

Strawberry fields forever. May the day soon come that every single man, woman and child realizes, appreciates and acts on the knowledge that a fresh, local strawberry tastes one hundred times better than one transported from thousands of miles away. May the fields of our local growers be filled with the young and old alike, picking the biggest, juiciest berries side by side. Five for the bucket, one for me. Three for the bucket, one for you. One for the bucket, two for me.

Strawberry fields forever.

Friday June 27th, 2008

The exercise:

Welcome back to Def Poetry Jam Friday. Up first, a quick update on my attempt to stop uptalking - it lasted until last night when, around 6:30, I said 'The greens in the salad are from the garden, right?" I knew damn well the greens were from the garden - I picked them myself! Ah well, starting over.

This week's performance to discuss is a powerful piece by Daniel Beaty called Knock knock.


The first time I saw this video it gave me chills. It still does. The passion in this performance is so intense that I don't know how anyone could not be touched by it in some way.

The transformation from his first words to his last are incredible, and the audience changes with him. He begins with a 'I have a little story to tell you' demeanor and the crowd quiets down to listen, a distance between them and this man on stage.

By the half way point he has taken on a 'You will listen to my story' style and the audience has closed the gap, they are wrapped around his words. The intensity is building and they are going along this journey with him whether they want to or not.

At the end he has grabbed the audience by the throat and they are up there with him. There is no separation between performer and audience. His words are the only things in that room that matter to anyone.

Listening to this piece I get to the point that I'm hanging on every word, almost so much that I lose the forest to the tree. I have to step back to hear the entirety of his message and it's important that I do so. This is a man who knows the true value of a father, who will make an incredible father himself one day if he is not already. The only reason he knows the word 'neglect' is because he suffered from it, not because he will do anything remotely like that to his children.

It is a reminder to us all to be grateful for the attentive parents we have had, or it is a comfort to those who were not so lucky to know that they are not alone. It is a brave, vulnerable spoken word performance and we should all feel fortunate to have been witness to it.

Keeping in the tradition that I started last Friday, here is another piece by Daniel Beaty for your viewing and thinking pleasure. Sorry for the long intro, this was the only decent quality version I could find.

Thursday June 26th, 2008

The exercise:

It's been a big year for birthdays. Lots of the big three-oh going around, a 60th celebration around the corner, even a 70th. Thirty is four months to the day away for me, so with all that in mind - today's exercise is to write about aging.


I'm not where I expected to be with thirty looming around the corner. If you had asked five year old me he'd have probably predicted a successful career as an artist. Coloring strictly between the lines of course.

Ten year old me would have regaled you with exciting tales of my future life as a librarian. Man was I a book-loving nerd back then. Still love reading, working on managing the nerd thing.

Fifteen year old me would have told you all about playing second base for the Toronto Blue Jays. I wouldn't hit a lot of home runs you see, but I'd steal a whole lot of bases. They'd nickname me Speedy.

Twenty year old me would have believed an exciting career as a marketer awaited me. I was going to be the bane of those bland, intellectually-offensive commercials. To jail with Jared! The capital punishment for the Canadian Tire couple!

Twenty-five year old me would expound the virtues of my life as a photographer for National Geographic. Snapping safari shots, framing France's fields. Summer all year 'round.

And here I am, none of those things. But you know what? I'm okay with that. No, I'm thrilled with that. I'm content with my life: I've found a pursuit in writing that I'm passionate about; I'm living happily with the girl of my dreams; I've got great friends around me; I've traveled abroad and will do so again.

Life is rarely what you expect it to be. But, let's be honest here, if it really was - wouldn't that be the most uninteresting, boring, lifeless life to live?

Wednesday June 25th, 2008

The exercise:

Have fun with homonyms!


I for an eye - should be the motto of the Third World Eye Care Society.

Two is too many to consider - potential motto for China's one child per family policy.

Acts four and eight need the ax - a medieval play director.

The ketchup and relish mustered the condiment troops in support of the mustard's failing health.

Sic us on your sick! - the rallying cry of doctors everywhere.

I could go on like this all night but any knight worthy of his armor knows that discretion is the better part of valor.

Tuesday June 24th, 2008

The exercise:

I'm really tired tonight, so I'm writing about that. Feel free to do the same.


I ran and I ran, until my legs would no longer carry me. I ran 'til my lungs filled with cotton and my legs turned to jelly. I rested, sucking in air noisily.

And then I ran some more.

Now my whole body aches, my thoughts are like earthquakes. Rational, coherent thoughts register a 1.0. Exhausted, nonsensical ideas a 5.9. Motivating thoughts fail to nudge the meter past the zero line.

My bed is calling, soon I shall be falling into the deepest slumber. My snores will be like the sawing of lumber!

And in the morning I shall rise. And I will run again, to nobody's surprise.

Monday June 23rd, 2008

The exercise:

I had this line pop into my head last week and I didn't have time to do anything with it at that moment so I wrote it down for later. So today's exercise is to use it as your first line and go from there. Here it is: My memory doesn't discriminate, it forgets all things equally.


My memory doesn't discriminate,
It forgets all things equally.
It forgets to love, it forgets to hate;
It forgets plainly, beautifully.

Friendly faces now belong to strangers,
No memories of you and I.
My safety is lost, where are the dangers?
I wish I could have said goodbye.

Sunday June 22nd, 2008

The exercise:

Write about losing, being lost, Lost if you must. You get the idea.


I'll feel very badly for the tourist map vendors in Venice if visitors ever figure out the real reason to go there. They would be out of business before they could say "arrivederci."

The only reason to visit Venice is, of course, to get lost. It took me a while to realize this, I was quite insistent at first on figuring out how I would get to where. But it didn't take lone for the city of canals to set me straight.

In my five days in Venice I don't think I took the same route twice when going from my hostel to Piazza San Marco. I don't think so, but I might have. I have no way to be sure.

I remember finding a gelato shop two hours after I got off the train that served After Eight mint flavored scoops. I love After Eight. It was heavenly. I never found that shop again and believe me I tried.

There is a joy in accepting getting lost, a fanatical optimism involved in laughing at a street name the fourth time you see it within ten minutes. I discovered these great little piazzas all over the city that I would never have seen if I'd managed to go from point A to point B in any kind of ordered manner. I saw buildings from every angle. I even almost fell into a canal once.

I only have one piece of advice to anyone going to Venice for the first time: leave the map in your room and go really see the city. You'll be amazed at the city you stumble across.

Saturday June 21st, 2008

The exercise:

Saturday might be turning into 4 line poem day. We'll see what happens next week, but for today the theme is: the great outdoors.


Flowers, mountains, birds, bees;
Bushes, bunnies, clouds, trees;
Outside is where I am meant to be;
Preferably with a view of the sea.

Friday June 20th, 2008

The exercise:

I've decided to make Friday's Def Poetry Jam Day for the next little while (if you don't know what Def Poetry Jam is, hit the links to the right). Every Friday I'll post a link to a spoken word performance and the exercise will simply be to discuss it. So let's begin with a piece by Taylor Mali called Like You Know.


I wish it weren't true but I am sooo guilty of doing this. I am by no means the worst offender around but I turn my statements into questions far too often. It's as though I'm afraid to stand behind my opinions and beliefs, worried that if someone should question them my facade of intelligence will come crumbling to the ground.

I hate confrontation but I need to learn that I can stand behind what I'm saying without being argumentative about it; that if someone aggressively questions my words then the least I can possibly say, with the utmost respect, is "You may not agree with me but you don't need to be an asshole about it." Discussions instead of arguments, talking calmly rather than yelling.

The scary thing is that it has somehow become cool to talk this way. I hear kids talking and all they ever seem to be saying is "I won't believe what I'm saying until you say you do too." You can't pin anyone down because they're always leaving room to wiggle away from what they think.

So I'm challenging myself to go for a day without uptalking. If that works out I'll try for another day, then another. If it doesn't, I'll just start over. I'll let you know how it goes.

One last thing: wouldn't it have been wild to have Taylor Mali as a teacher?

Thursday June 19th, 2008

The exercise:

Choose a cd at random. Now pick a track at random. Use the first line of the song as your starter and go from there. Go where? Wherever it leads you.

How I chose mine: I grabbed the six most recent cds I've been listening to and put them out in order. I rolled a dice to decide which cd to use, then rolled it again to decide which half of the track listing to choose from (even roll = first six, odd roll = last six), then rolled it one last time to determine the track.


Johnny Cash - The Best of Johhny Cash - Home of the Blues

Just around the corner there's heartache. This life holds no guarantees. Just because you're happy, fulfilled, loved today doesn't mean you won't be miserable and alone tomorrow. Anything can happen, and it often does.

So savor the happiness and the good in your life, appreciate it fully. Never take joy for granted, don't expect the ones you love to return the favor, but instead be grateful when they do. The present is here and now, breath it in deeply. The future is not promised to you.

That doesn't mean you should grasp and cling to the good and flee from the bad. That's a perfect recipe to drive away happiness and fill your life with gloom. Rather the ideal is to appreciate and acknowledge your blessings and to learn and grow from the lessons your troubles are so eager to teach you.

Zen Buddhists have a saying which encapsulates this idea beautifully: keep your highs low and your lows high. Don't get too caught up in the good, for it is fleeting. Don't obsess over the bad, for it too shall pass. Appreciate. Learn. Live.

Wednesday June 18th, 2008

The exercise:

I'll admit that this was more writing therapy than writing practice but I think it was a healthy session regardless. Today's topic: how would you regulate cell phone use in public?


Oh if I ruled the world, how different things would be. For starters, that man at the next table talking so loudly into his cell phone that everyone in Starbucks can hear him would be in jail. If he happened to suffer some police brutality along the way, all the better.

I'm not being unreasonable here, he is. He's the one who thinks so much of himself that everyone here needs to know how "fucking bullshit" the raw deal his buddy got was. Or what day of the week he's planning on dumping his girlfriend. I just want to eat my sugar-infused snack in peace.

I think I'd call the law he's breaking Disturbing The Peace Through Cell Phone Use. Minimum penalty: loss of cell phone rights for a month and a small fine. Maximum penalty: removal of vocal chords.

In my world talking is a privilege, not a right. If you can't be trusted to use your voice in a reasonable manner, Dr. Yankemout will be paying you a visit shortly.

The harshest penalties would be saved for those who indulge in personal, not in the least bit urgent cell phone conversations in confined spaces, such as buses, planes and movie theaters. Trust me, Brit can wait to hear about the fab new shoes you just bought and we don't care - call her back.

I'd also institute a warning system in order to be fair, lest my people worry that I am an unjust ruler. I would introduce mandatory Shockem (TM) technology in all new cell phones. That way whenever one of my citizens is being subjected to one side of a loud, personal, public conversation they can simply press the Shockem (TM) button on their phone and the offending party will receive a small electric shock through their cell. If the behavior isn't corrected after three Shockems (TM), the proper authorities will be notified.

All at the press of a button! My people will not suffer from lack of convenience.

If you think me harsh my friends then let me say this: you should hear my policies for rapists and pedophiles.

Tuesday June 17th, 2008

The exercise:

When was the last time you uttered, "Well now I've seen everything"? Write about it.


Kat and I were in the garden just before dinner tonight, weeding and planting and harvesting veggies. The garden is right beside the alley that runs between 18th and 17th avenues, with a half-rotten wooden fence separating our greens from the alley.

I was near the fence wreaking destruction upon the stubborn weeds surrounding our snow peas while Kat was closer to the middle of the garden. Our silent reverie was suddenly disturbed by the sound of a shopping cart trundling along the alley. I heard the lady pushing it talking but didn't look up, too intent on getting the last of the wicked weeds. Then I realized I was only hearing half of the conversation.

I looked over at Kat to find her looking back at me with a mix of laughter and puzzlement. We remained like that until the shopping cart and it's owner (legally or otherwise) had passed by.

"I think that's exactly what it seemed like," Kat said.

I stood up and looked down the alley to see that we had indeed just been witness to a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart full of odds and ends. While talking on a cell phone.

"Yes, it is," I replied. "Well now I've seen everything."

Monday June 16th, 2008

The exercise:

Go for a walk around your block. Pick one object, person, house or animal and tell its story.


In a neighbor's front yard a caged trampoline stands quiet watch, waiting for its moment to perform. Bouncing blackness with yellow trim, ten cloud-white poles erupting skyward to support black netting, it is imposing to behold.

Whenever I look at it I think of cage fighters circling cautiously, professional wrestlers strutting and flexing, of bodies thrown mercilessly against the sides of the structure.

This contraption does not play host to such violence though, no not at all. The only combatants to climb inside do so hand in hand, three little girls with hair as wild and free as their spirits.

They jump and laugh and sing, screaming their cares to the wind. And the trampoline bears their weight without complaint, perhaps even with joy. For he will spend his life providing a little happiness to this world and he knows that not all structures of nylon, netting, springs and steel are so fortunate.

Sunday June 15th, 2008

The exercise:

It's Father's Day - write about your dad, about being a dad, becoming a dad, being your own dad or however you want to approach the subject of fatherhood.


Slow to anger, listening fully, silently, at peace with the world,
He is Patience.
Unending selflessness, encouragement and support,
He is Generosity.
Sweat on the brow, dirt on the hands, grease on the shirt,
He is Hard Work.
The look in his eyes, the way he carries himself,
He is Quiet Confidence.
Loves his wife, loves his kids,
He is a Family Man.
Fair man, kind man, holy man,
He is my Moral Compass.
My model of a man, what I hope to be,
He is my Father.

Happy Father's Day Dad.

Saturday June 14th, 2008

The exercise:

Alright it's been a busy day and I don't have much time so I'm going with a quick one today, inspired by my writing group's exercise this morning: write a four line poem about the place you call home. Feel free to write more than four lines, obviously.


From our quiet little house,
We can see the lights on Grouse.
But wherever I may roam,
I'll always call your arms home.

Friday June 13th, 2008

The exercise:

It's Friday the 13th, so include a superstition in your writing. Use it as a first line, a last line, write about a superstition you have, about the origins of a common superstition or an obscure one.


Break a mirror, face seven years bad luck? Isn't that a bit harsh? I've seen murderers, robbers and rapists get lighter sentences than that.

If you break one on purpose I suppose that's one thing. But if it was an accident? If I fall off a ladder and happen to land on a child would I be punished like a serial killer? Of course not, yet all mirror breakers are treated equally in the eyes of this karmic law!

Imagine a six year old boy knocking his mother's mirror off the dresser. Congratulations young man, you've just won seven years of misery! You won't see happiness again until your thirteenth birthday! Lucky thirteen indeed.

And what of a grandmother, alone in her nursing home room? Hand shaking furiously as she checks her hair in her antique hand mirror. What if it falls from her frail grasp and shatters on the floor? Might as well pull the plug now!

My brothers and sisters, elect me as your leader and I will do away with this arcane law! I will ensure that each broken incident will be handled on a case by case basis, with an open, kind and fair heart. No more will our children and elderly live in fear of their reflection! No more will the good people of this great country be subjugated by this unfair, unjust and unreasonable law!

You won't hear my opponent in this momentous election discuss this critical issue. And I'll tell you why: he is a staunch supporter of this terrible law. His voting record proves it! How can we, as responsible citizens of this great country, allow such a man to lead us?

The voting stations open tomorrow my friends. I trust you to make the correct choice.

Thank you and God bless!

Thursday June 12th, 2008

The exercise:

Tell a story from the viewpoint of an element of the weather - a cloud, the wind, a snowflake, etc.


The story of George the Raindrop.

"Hey Bob, where's everybody going?"
"What's down there?"
"I dunno but I think I'm gonna join them, I'm getting pretty bored up here. You want to go with me?
"But those guys that went down last week never came back."
"Maybe it's better down there."
"Or maybe something terrible happened to them."
"Only one way to find out. You coming?"
"I dunno Bob..."
"Come on, everybody else is doing it! You don't want to be left up here by yourself do you?"
"Well the ground is starting to get a bit thin anyway. Oh, alright, let's do it."
"Great! Okay on three we jump. One, two..."
"Wait, wait! Are we jumping on three, or three then we go?"
"George, you're really starting to tick me off."
"I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page! What if..."
"When I say three we're going, okay?"
"Alright, alright."
"One, two... three!"
"Isn't this great?!"
"We're going pretty fast, maybe we should slow down a little."
"How do you propose we do that George? Just sit back and enjoy the ride!"
"I don't think this was a good idea Bob!"
"Oh come on, this is fun! Say, what's that down there?"
"It's getting bigger in a real big hurray!"
"Hmm? HMM?! That's all you've got to say for yourself?!"
"Hang on tight, this looks like it's gonna hurt a little bit."
"Never again, Bob! NEVER AGA-"

Wednesday June 11th, 2008

The exercise:

Tell a story from inside your favorite painting. If you share your story in the comments please include a link to the painting if at all possible.


Painting: Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night

The constable is speaking with the woman in the white bonnet again, you can't help but notice them together. The charged air surrounding them, the way they practically dance as they speak, the life and laughter in their faces, they draw the eye.

Every Sunday night their play comes to life when the constable arrives on his rounds. He performs a perfunctory survey of the cafe before lingering by the jewelry shop across the way. She arrives second, as always. Sometimes within moments, often after minutes, rarely much later, but she always arrives.

I recall one Sunday she was very late and he looked so downtrodden that, I swear to you my friends, the shop lights seemed to dim around him! Oh, and when she did appear? The jewelry store shone a most blinding light! I could hardly see my customers, on my honor!

His excuse to be there is obvious but what of hers? Coming home from work? She doesn't look like a waitress. It is too late for groceries, too early for tomorrows newspaper.

And why the need for excuses? Perhaps he is married, or she is, or both! If so it is a terrible crime against love. A blind man could see they belong together. The stars are brighter for the fifteen minutes a week these two meteors come together. We all fade, become less when they separate.

Yes sir, another coffee, of course. I'll be right along with... oh is it time for them to part already? Yes, the dance slows, the lights grow weaker, the night colder. She turns and glides away, her long skirt collecting the dust, dirt and memories of this street.

And we are all poorer for her leaving, but none poorer than the constable.

Tuesday June 10th, 2008

The exercise:

Choose a number from one to thirty. Multiply your number by your age. Now go grab a dictionary, open it up to whatever page number you've come up with and choose the fifth word defined on that page. If your number is greater than the number of pages in your dictionary, divide it in half.

No dictionary on hand? Take a word of the day from an online dictionary. Or if you're feeling really adventurous use a word of the day from urban dictionary.

Okay, got your word? Now use it:

A. In a serious sentence.
B. In a funny sentence.
C. In a two line rhyming poem as one of the rhyming words.
D. In an absurd, ridiculous, non-nonsensical sentence.
E. In the shortest sentence possible that still makes sense.


My word: 18 x 29 = 522 = Feral: in a wild state; resembling a wild animal

A. The inmate paced around his cell unceasingly, his feral desires screaming to be unleashed upon the city once more.
B. "I think he's gone feral," Tim said as he watched his little brother devour his dinner.
C. Despite your lovely apparel
I must say your breath is feral
D. Feral apples don't play well with over-ripe bananas.
E. His sheep are feral.

I felt like I got lucky with that word so I went again.

My word: 10 x 29 = 290 = Companionate: of, by, or like companions

A. Fifteen crows (at last count) have gathered in their companionate tree outside our house, screaming and screaming at the top of their lungs to let the whole neighborhood know who's in charge now.
B. How can companionate be an adjective when it reeks so much of noun'ness?
C. Why, oh why must it be companionate?
Please, oh please just tell me it was not fate!
D. Charles the dog and Daisy the cat are enjoying eating from their companionate dish a little too much for my liking.
E. Our companionate savings account is overdrawn.

Ok, lesson learned, no more of that. I'm not even sure I used it correctly! Either way, use as many words as you like and good luck!

Monday June 9th, 2008

Today's exercise:

Think of something you did today or yesterday. Think of a noise you made while doing it, or heard at the time. What does that sound remind you of? Something totally unrelated? Good. Make that leap - connect them.


The hazelnuts from the farmers market need cracking, they're no use to anyone in those shells. I pluck them from their clear plastic bag, one by one, and place them in the nut cracker.

I grasp the handle and squeeze and squeeze until the shell gives way with a loud crack. I place the naked nut in a white bowl, the shattered remnants of the shell in a silver bowl and pluck another hazelnut from the bag. This goes on for hours.

It would have gone much faster if I wasn't constantly looking out the living room window to see if the police had arrived, responding to a "shots fired!" call.