Sunday August 31st, 2008

The exercise:

Let's end August with another random CD starter. This time around I laid out six CDs in a row that I've been listening to, then went to a random number generator I found online. I got it to generate one random number between 1 and 6 to pick the CD, then got a number from 1 to 11 (11 being the number of tracks on the chosen CD) to select a track. The first line of that song was my starter.

It sounds more complicated than it really is.

Mine:

Sarah Harmer - I'm a Mountain - Escarpment Blues

If they blow a hole in my backyard
Everyone is gonna run away.
Newsmen will come from every town
And we won't even get a say.

No more obscurity, no more peace,
Our neighborhood will be front page news.
Reporters will vie for headline quotes
And smother us with their pompous views.

And I will look down upon it all,
Safe in my private balcony;
I'll see the burned pictures, shattered toys,
Precious dreams scattered in the debris.

Saturday August 30th, 2008

The exercise:

Another Saturday, another four line poem. This week's topic is: new beginnings.

Mine:

Tears, screams, terror in the night
Push, breath, fighting that bright light
Stop, rest, relax now my wife
Joy, tears, welcome this new life

Friday August 29th, 2008

The exercise:

Def Poetry Jam Friday this week features Dan Sully and Tim Stafford performing Death From Below.

Mine:

Holy lord I love this one so much. I love how passionate they are, especially Tim (the one on the right). When he screams "Tiny f#@%ing Tim", jumps up and down while talking about tall people and when he poses while saying 'and we can still be handsome"I almost fell off my chair. Yes, that makes three times. No, I don't have very good balance.

If Rives can provide the theme song for poets, let these gentlemen give us the short man's anthem.

I remember being in a split grade 5/6 class and being the shortest guy in the room. And I was in grade 6. Oh, how I know their pain.

Anyway, before we start dredging through painful childhood memories, here's another great performance from my new short heroes.

Thursday August 28th, 2008

The exercise:

Today's starter is: thoughts on meditation. Ah, the struggles of the restless mind.

Mine:

Okay, focus on the breath, don't get carried away by thoughts. Just label it 'thinking' and go back to the breath, no problem.

What was that sou- thinking.

In. Out. In. Out.

Is thinking 'in out' cheating? Thinking.

In. Out. In. Out.

I'll have to ask if that's che- thinking.

I wonder- thinking.

Ow, my ba- thinking.

Hey, I'm getting pretty good at cutting these thoughts off. I'm not letting - THINKING!

Oh man, I almost laughed. Would they kick me out if I la- thinking.

I wonder what you'd have to do to get kicked out of a meditation class. Oh, thinking.

Oh, is it time to stop already? Wow, I feel so mellow.

Wednesday August 27th, 2008

The exercise:

Today's topic is: the disappearance.

Mine:

It's getting late, where did they go?
The young children, with the Play-Doh?
They must be here, please don't say no!

What were they wearing, do you know?
Maybe they're watching their new show,
The one about the girl's blue bow.

No, no! I have searched high and low.
But wait! There, a little hand, oh!
Why must they play in the sand so?

Tuesday August 26th, 2008

The exercise:

Kat and I went to Golden Ears Provincial Park today (thankfully before the rain hit) - it was my first time there and I can't wait to go back.


Unsurprisingly, today's exercise is to write about nature.

Mine:


We travel down the earthy path,

Creek calmly slipping by to the right
While mossy Tree can't help but laugh
At sodden Rock's panicky plight.
"Relax," Tree calls, "it's just a bath!"
But Rock still struggles with all his might
Wry Wind whispers, "He's just too daft -
Leave the fool to his eternal fight."

Monday August 25th, 2008

The exercise:

Using the prompt from yesterday's meeting: write down two places you want to go, seven things you see around you right now, four things you hear and five chores you want to avoid. Draw ideas from your list and go!

I liked the idea of creating lists as a starter so I think I'll try that out here at least a few times. There were actually several more things to list but by the time I got these down an idea had already been sparked so I just went with it.

Mine:

Places to go: Spain, Thailand
Things I see: thrones, ceiling fan, exposed pipes, fake flowers, clock, piano
Things I hear: music, children, footsteps, thoughts
Chores to avoid: laundry, dishes, clean floors, weed garden


The street king sat proudly on his broken down throne, unaware or without a care for the jutting springs, splintered wooden armrests or the stuffing erupting like white lava from the cushions. He watched with a toothy smile as his many children danced around him, each to his or her own imagined choir.

This was not what he dreamed of when he arrived from Spain, this palace of exposed pipes and rusted ceiling fans; the clock on the wall that claimed it had been twenty past seven for the last five years; the perfectly out of tune piano in the corner. No, this was not his dream.

But this court of fools was his: the woman from Thailand who taught school back home but cleaned floors for a living now; the jester with a weed garden; the children who sold fake flowers to tourists who felt bad about the obvious poverty of the boys and girls but couldn't be bothered to really do something about it.

The street king rose and marched, military style, across the room, his footsteps echoing faintly off the bare walls. All eyes were on him during his hourly inspection, striding the length and breadth of his kingdom. He slowly made his way back to his crumbling throne, satisfied. All was as it should be.

Sunday August 24th, 2008

The exercise:

I went to my writers group this morning for the first time in a month and a half and I almost didn't make it. I'll probably use what I wrote at the meeting for tomorrow's exercise, but today's will be to write about motivations.

Mine:

I almost didn't come here today
Not because I had nothing to say;
No, my reasons were much more mundane:
I woke late and it was pouring rain.

But I thought to myself: that's no good;
Get up, go get wet, write like you should!
So I came with umbrella in hand
To have my creative fires fanned.

Saturday August 23rd, 2008

The exercise:

I was reading an article on meditation that referred to our usual way of thinking as a "tumble dryer of thoughts." I liked the analogy and decided to have this week's four line poem be based around thoughts and/or a way of thinking.

Mine:

... and that's why I like blueberries.
Wait, wasn't I just thinking about
How much I hate BC Ferries?
My thought waves are stormy, no doubt!

Friday August 22nd, 2008

The exercise:

Def Poetry Jam Friday this week features the verbal brilliance of Rives, starting with Dirty Talk.

Mine:

This should be the theme song for every poetry organization, for spoken word night in every location in every city in the world, for every poet.

You know what? That's pretty much all I have to say about this - let us call this the minimalist approach.

The real point of featuring Rives today was to link to some of his other spoken magic. Watch, enjoy, and have a great Friday night.

Thursday August 21st, 2008

The exercise:

Alright, Jack Johnson in concert is pretty awesome. I even have video proof, taken from the exit ramp during his encore. Here we go with my first attempt at uploading a video to Blogger:

video

The first act to hit the stage were Culver City Dub Collective, who I had not heard before but quite enjoyed. Here be a sample for you.

Anyway. This is going to be short for me since it's late, but today's topic is: great concert experiences.

Mine:

I saw Our Lady Peace at the Orpheum Theater a few years back and it was a great, great show. The defining moment came near the end of the concert when Raine Maida, the lead singer, decided that we were such a good, well behaved crowd that it would be alright for a few fans to join the band on stage.

So, obviously, a whole lot of people took him up on his offer, despite the misgivings of the security guards. But things went fine... in fact they went so well that Raine announced: "I need to see this for myself."

So he hopped down into the crowd and walked across about fifteen rows of seats, turned around and watched the people on the stage sing the rest of the song for him.

That's the sort of thing that, when experienced in person, makes life-long fans.

Wednesday August 20th, 2008

The exercise:

Watching Simon Whitfield win Silver in the triathlon at this year's Olympics reminded me of another great Canadian Olympic moment I was lucky enough to experience. So today's writing "assignment" is to describe an Olympic moment that made you proud to be from wherever it is you happen to be from.

Mine:

In the 2002 Winter Olympics, both the Canadian men and women's teams won hockey gold. Despite it being our unofficial national sport, it was the first time the men had managed to win the big one in fifty years. And I wasn't home to watch it.

I was backpacking around Europe at the time and hadn't really caught much of the Olympic coverage. But on the big day I happened to be at a hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland where several other Canadians also were staying. And when word got around that Canada was playing the USA for hockey gold, and the Americans staying at the hostel found out, well it couldn't be anything but a memorable evening.

We gathered in the hostel's TV lounge (with a bar at the back), the Canadians at one table, the Americans at another. Being out-numbered we thought it wise to recruit a few British backpackers to our side, although I seem to recall one of them defecting to the Americans about halfway through the game.

Canada went up two goals to one and we started doing some rather un-Canadian trash talking, which I still believe directly led to the Americans tying it up shortly afterwards. It was at this point that the night took a turn for the better.

"You guys want to make a bet?" asked one of the Americans. Well, of course we did. "Losing country buys the winning country a round of beers."

Suddenly the stakes were high. This was about more than winning gold. This was about beer.

When Joe Sakic scored to put Canada up 3-2 we erupted. When Brodeur made a huge save to keep the lead we erupted. When Sakic scored Canada's fifth goal to seal the win we made enough noise for five times the number of people that were actually there.

The Americans were true to their word and soon we had beers in hand. A Canadian flag appeared out of nowhere and suddenly we were arm in arm, wrapped in our flag, singing our national anthem, a small part of Canada nestled into the mountains of Switzerland.

Tuesday August 19th, 2008

The exercise:

Haiku, revisited. Topic: endings.

Mine:

September is near
Ultimate must be ending
Time to hibernate

Summer is leaving
But the question must be asked:
Was it ever here?

Empty cookie jar
I do my best not to take
It personally

Swim, bike, run like hell
What an amazing finish
Simon made us proud

Monday August 18th, 2008

The exercise:

Today's starter is: passing judgment. Yeah, sometimes this is just about writing therapy.

Mine:

I don't know you, I've never even seen you. But I've heard you.

Your words, relayed through another's lips, passing judgment on a stranger. Capitalized ignorance, parenthetic insecurities, self-important exclamation marks, close-minded periods.

You know best full stop
No knowledge of my situation comma don't care to learn full stop
Unfounded criticisms comma unsolicited advice full stop

I don't know you, but I've heard enough. I've never seen you and don't plan to. I'm too busy living my own life, I suggest you start doing the same.

Sunday August 17th, 2008

The exercise:

A slight variation on the random cd exercise I've become so fond of: I was doing some writing while listening to my iPod when I decided to use the first line of the next song as my starter. I also wanted to do it as a poem this time since I had been avoiding it in previous attempts.

Mine:

Foo Fighters: Learn to Fly

Run and tell all of the angels:
This could take all night.
I hope God isn't in a hurry:
It's time for a fight.

Tell me why life is so unfair:
Cancer for a dad;
A new life stolen from a womb;
Yes - I'm getting mad.

Diabetes here, blindness there,
Death everywhere.
This is how life's supposed to be?
Do You even care?

A baby born two months too soon-
All part of Your plan?
We cannot do this on our own;
Help us, if You can.

If You're even there...
Are You? Are You there?

Saturday August 16th, 2008

The exercise:

The theme for this week's four line poem is: reunion.

Mine:

I smile and say "long time no see"
But it's just like it used to be;
We are a bit older maybe...
Oh, and you've got a cute baby.

Friday August 15th, 2008

The exercise:

I was almost going to skip Def Poetry Jam Friday this week because a) I spent a good portion of the day travelling to get to my parent's house and b) I was having trouble finding a performance that I wanted to discuss. Then I found Poetri's Driving.

Mine:

Ah, the joy of driving. What is it exactly that turns a reasonable, thinking human being walking on the sidewalk into the all about me, get out of my way, maniac behind the wheel? Hey, I'll be honest, I do it too. That's why I try to avoid driving as much as possible. I can't even begin to describe how much more relaxing it is to bike or walk instead of hoping in a car.

Driving stresses me out. I could be having the best day of my life, everything is going perfectly, but put me in the driver's seat and have one other driver, just one, do something stupid in my line of sight and see what happens. My shoulders tighten up, my jaw muscles get working, the thoughts in my head... well, all of a sudden they're not keeping polite company.

And why? I would think it is at least partly to do with the inherent danger of motor vehicles. If you do something stupid on a bike, you can hurt yourself pretty good, maybe hurt one other person in the process, more if you've got a talent for it. But do something stupid behind the wheel? You can kill yourself, a mother, a child, a grandparent, your best friend.

Which makes it infuriating when you see another driver do something reckless or impatient that could easily result in tragedy. And it makes it painfully embarrassing when you catch yourself doing something similar.

I'm a big fan of Poetri's work, in fact I thought I had seen all of his performances on YouTube but I somehow missed this one and it turned out to be my favourite. I'll leave you with another piece that makes me smile every time I watch it.

Thursday August 14th, 2008

The exercise:

I'm rather attached to the pen I write with, so I went and wrote it a poem. Go ahead and do an "ode to my pen", have fun with it!

Mine:

Oh my BIC Ultra Round Stic Grip,
How could I write with another?
You're home when you're in my fingers,
It's as if you're my twin brother!

I fear the day your ink runs dry-
What if that's where my thoughts reside?
My creativity will fade;
They'll say it began when you died.

Wednesday August 13th, 2008

The exercise:

A conversation between any two parts of your body. Mine happen to be in conflict but two that are in harmony would also work, I suppose.

Mine:

Legs: So let me get this straight...
Brain: Here we go.
Legs: Last night we ran ourselves to exhaustion at ultimate.
Brain: Yes.
Legs: For like two and a half hours. Real, real tired. Like I could barely get us up that tiny hill after the game.
Brain: I recall.
Legs: And now this morning you expect me to bike us halfway across the city, then back again.
Brain: Uh huh.
Legs: On one night's rest. And we hate mornings. Are you failing to see the problem here?
Brain: Listen, if we keep this up you'll be in great shape and this sort of stuff will just get easier and easier.
Legs: Ha ha, that's a good one... if we keep this up... that's cute. It's like you actually expect me to get you out of bed tomorrow morning.
Brain: It'll be fine, we'll rest this afternoon and tonight, get a good sleep and then we can get back at it tomorrow!
Legs: Who the hell put you in charge anyway?
Brain: Hey, nobody else wanted to take charge. Well, besides that guy that hangs out with you but I think we can agree his judgment is atrocious.
Legs: A throw what?
Brain: Bad. Completely lacking rational thought.
Legs: Then why do you let him take charge every now and again?
Brain: We'll have to discuss that later, time to hop on the bike!
Legs: I hate you so much.

Tuesday August 12th, 2008

The exercise:

Use a movie title as your starter - I used the first movie on our video/DVD shelf that caught my eye.

Mine:

"Almost Famous"

She could have had it all - the fame, the screaming fans, more money than she could have ever spent. It was all so close, she could have almost reached out and brushed her fingertips against it... but it was snatched away.

Ripped from her a future of comfort, of luxury, a future filled with appreciation of her hard work and God-given talent. Robbed of her dream when it was closer than it had ever been.

But the part she was born for was given to another and she could take no more. Sitting in her apartment with only a single chair, a rusted metal dinner table and an empty fridge for company the tears come and they won't stop. She cries until her eyes run dry, the memory of that crucial moment cuts as deep today as it did when those words first came down the telephone line five long years ago.

No more, she can take no more. It ends tonight.

Monday August 11th, 2008

The exercise:

I did some writing in Douglas Park today and got a little bit of inspiration for today's starter - kids with bikes.

Mine:

"Sweetie, come back here!"

I look over my shoulder to find a little man barreling towards me. His mother is calling him from the sidewalk but he's too intent on his destination to care.

"Bike!" he says while pointing at my bike sitting beside me in the grass.

"Yes it is," I reply, not quite sure what to say. "Do you like it? Is that a nice bike?"

"Bike!" Now he's pointing at the bike helmet that I'm using as an impromptu writing table. I'm guessing 'helmet' is a bit beyond him at this stage, so I let it go. He walks over to me, a bit unsteady on his feet but determined to get where he's going.

"Sorry, he's a bit obsessed with bikes right now," his mother says as he reaches down and picks up my helmet. He then places it on my head, surprisingly gently.

"Thanks," I tell him with a big smile.

"Sorry, sorry," the mother says as she grabs his hand. "Come on sweetie, we need to get going. Say bye-bye!"

"Bike!"

Well, close enough. I give him a wave and return to my writing, helmet sitting slightly askew on my head.

Sunday August 10th, 2008

The exercise:

I'm not feeling particularly creative today so... let's just go with a poem about music.

Mine:

If my life had a soundtrack
It would be a best seller.
Not trying to be clever,
Just saying: it is a fact.

My musical tastes: top flight.
Radio songs: not making the cut.
Won't be all underground, but
It will truly rock the night.

Saturday August 9th, 2008

The exercise:

Kat and I volunteered at the Slow Food Agassiz Cycle Tour today, helping out at the Canadian Hazelnut Inc. farm. It rained a lot but we still had a pretty good time. So today's topic is: volunteering.

Mine:

Why would you volunteer to fight in this war?
You know it will be like all the wars before.
Faces change but the result will be the same:
There are no winners and no one takes the blame.

Friday August 8th, 2008

The exercise:

Def Poetry Jam Friday brings you Asia, performing The Waiting Hour.

Mine:

I have watched many, many a performance from Def Poetry Jam and this is the first one that made me cry.

Powerful, passionate, vulnerable, funny, courageous, candid... this piece was all of that and more. If you can listen to that without being moved... I'm sorry, but there's something wrong with you.

Stories of failure, succumbing to struggle, death and despair are all around us. What a beautiful reminder this was that there are true triumphs still to be found, even if the evening news would have you believe otherwise.

Here's another Asia piece on YouTube for you.

Thursday August 7th, 2008

The exercise:

Today's starter is: heat wave.

Mine:

Here comes another one of those heat waves. The ones that cause the whole city to rant and rave. "The devil is coming," yells the wild-eyed man on the corner, "but Jesus saves!"

On days like these there's never enough shade. The dishes are left undone, the beds never made. House plants wilt, wither and fade. If your store isn't air conditioned, you're not getting paid.

Cool evenings are a blessing, a sorely needed respite. A time to stroll in the park, perhaps fly a kite. A bottle of wine, a blanket for two, a picnic by candlelight.

The heat, the sweat, the search for a fan - all of this we'll miss. Not in the coming days, but with the arrival of winter's cold kiss.

Wednesday August 6th, 2008

The exercise:

Another attempt at haiku, with a topic this time: excuses.

Mine:

This doesn't count as
A missed day in my practice:
Internet was down.

Tuesday August 5th, 2008

The exercise:

My Creative Outlet blog managed to attract a link from the Stop Homelessness website as part of the lead up to their A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways campaign so I decided to kick my creative juices into high gear. Which, as we all can see coming a mile away, means that today's starter will be: a dozen days, a dozen ways.

Mine:

A dozen days, a dozen ways,
There are not enough words to praise
The work of those trying to make
The world not so full of heartache.

If we had a few more like them
We would be slower to condemn,
Not so likely to look away,
But to see us, rather than they.

Monday August 4th, 2008

The exercise:

Invent a pill, a shot, a remedy of some sorts for one of your pet peeves.

Mine:

Good afternoon everyone,

We have invited you all here today in order to share with you the details of an exciting new product which will be on store shelves before year end. We here at ABC Medical know this will be a huge hit with consumers.

Haven't we all wished there was something we could do about the guy ahead of us in the cashier lineup who needs to tell the checkout girl his life story? Or the coworker who drops by our desks every hour to "chat" for twenty minutes? Or the person in every five minute meeting we have ever attended who turns it into a two hour discussion?

Well, now you can, thanks to our STFU Injector(TM). Just one dose, injected in the arm, leg or back (please don't try to administer a dose in the chest... don't ask) and Mr. Blabberwocky will fall silent within seconds!

Our extensive clinical testing has found only mild side effects, including: a brief period of disorientation; nausea; headaches; and an increased likelihood of moving to the mountains of India to live in a monastery and take a vow of silence.

STFU Injectors(TM) will be in stores across the nation very soon, price point to be determined.

Now Doug will conduct a quick product demonstration. Could we get a volunteer from the audience?

Sunday August 3rd, 2008

The exercise:

I'm just going to give you the title for today's piece: Death of a butterfly. Go with it where you will.

Mine:

Fluttering furiously, unable to achieve flight with just one wing but too stubborn to stop trying. Who has done this to you?

A bird, a cat... I guess it doesn't matter; it has been done and now here we are at the bottom of the steps in front of my home. And now the questions come: what should I do; what can I do; are you in pain; should I stop your suffering; would that be mercy or cowardice?

I don't know if the end I would bring would be kinder than a more natural one. I do know that standing witness to your plight helps neither of us.

I cannot choose between life and death so I choose instead to leave, hoping that when I return the choice will be taken out of my hands - either by your leaving or by your departure.

I have returned and your struggle has ceased. I look down at your torn, still body and pray. I pray that you've found peace. I pray for your forgiveness.

Saturday August 2nd, 2008

The exercise:

The starter for this week's four line poem is: short cuts. I have an almost obsessive need for my poems to rhyme so I thought I'd make a point of avoiding that this time.

Mine:

There are certain people in our lives
We don't ever want taking short cuts;
I can think of many off the top
Of my head - for example: surgeons.

Friday August 1st, 2008

The exercise:

Welcome to August, and welcome back to Def Poetry Jam Friday. Today brings us Jon Goode's Barbara.

Mine:

My how the times have changed. It's weird thinking that the internet didn't really arrive in full force until I was in university. And video games when I was a wee little man? I don't recall Mario shooting a gun at anything or Luigi taking a chainsaw to Bowser.

I remember winter days spent sliding down hills and building snow forts, summer days playing baseball, hide and seek, playing in the dirt and playing in the trees. I don't remember too many days spent in front of a computer or a TV.

The thought of raising a child today is flat out terrifying to me. With all the drugs, violence at home and war abroad going on, it just makes me want to find a home in the middle of nowhere to have a family. But I bet the middle of nowhere still has wireless access.

This seems to be Goode's only Def Poetry appearance but I did find this other piece which is simply fantastic. Seriously, click that link.