I have grown old

but these words remain

tell her for me

because it’s very important

there will come one May night

of every year she’s alive

when the whole world smells of lilacs


Al Purdy from “May 23, 1980”


I’m going to guess we all know what Al meant by that specific night’s scent. His words immediately bring back my own memories of lilacs and their scent.  As a kid my mom cutting them and bringing them into the house, the house filling with their scent, I see my mom as she was then. Or the backyard where my kids grew up, the lilacs at the edges of the yard, the scent wafting in through open windows. I see my kids as they were then in the backyard, maybe with a basketball, Mr Huber next door working in his shed. Or lying in bed alone in the dark in a certain time, the scent of lilacs making their way in. How those nights seem alive as spring fully takes hold and because of the nostalgia also holds loss.  


Scent apparently is hardwired directly into the memory areas of our brain, it doesn’t go through the filters that the other senses do.  So there is an intensity to those memories unlike our other senses. And unlike most of our other senses can also be there without experiencing the others. Your eyes can be closed, it can be quiet and you can be remote from the source of the scent but there it is. The rest of the body also not necessary to experience it or to take part in the experience. 

Continue reading “Scent – A Video Essay”



When it comes to dreams nothing sounds more like dream-stomping than looking at dreams through a “neuro-biological” lens posited in 1977 by a couple of dream stompers at Harvard that dreams are simply byproducts of brain processes during sleep, simply flotsam and jetsam of brain chemical reactions.  Here’s an example of their thinking: “dreaming sleep is physiologically determined and shaped by a brain stem neuronal mechanism that can be modeled physiologically and mathematically”

No I don’t thinks so. Human experience cannot be reduced to mathematical models of chemical reactions in our grey matter. And especially dreams. Or let’s even accept that’s possible, they shouldn’t be. It’s the mystery of things that allows us to value them.  

Continue reading “Dream – A Video Essay”


The title for my poetry collection, Moving to Climate Change Hours, was suggested by my wonderful publisher Noelle Allen of Wolsak and Wynn. It’s a modification of one of the poem titles in the book, Today We Move to Climate Change Hours. Noelle suggested it as an alternative to my admittedly much weaker suggestions and I immediately realized it was perfect. I had a discussion with my friend Linda on why it made sense to use this instead of the actual title of the poem it comes from, which also I think could have been a good but not as good title. I said I liked Noelle’s better for the book because of the ongoingness of the word moving. And also how that relates to the idea of climate, not only evoking the climate catastrophe, but also how it also relates to the poet speaker’s own internal climate which is changing through the book. I said I loved how “Moving” worked in those contexts. 

So in this little essay I’m interested in moving or move in both the motion type sense as well as the internal world.  When researching ahead of the video on the etymology of the word move it was interesting to discover “move’ showed up in the 1300 and 1400’s in Middle English with it’s motion type meaning but over that time also came to have the emotional meaning like “I found that very moving”.  So early on the word was understood for it’s physical meaning as well as an internal world movement too. 

Continue reading “Move – Video Essay”

Psychologists have something they like to call “magical thinking” and they don’t mean that phrase in a fun whimsical way, but more of “hey dude, face reality” kind of way.  The website Healthline says  “Magical thinking refers to the idea that you can influence the outcome of specific events by doing something that has no bearing on the circumstances.” Let’s take a look at some examples I’ve come up with:

Continue reading “Magic – A Video Essay”



I completed the Canada Council for the Arts project of twelve videos based on my poetry collection Moving to Climate Change Hours at the end of October. Since then I’ve been thinking of how to create a longer form video including the 12 and to extend the project with linkages. The problem was how to link them in a way that was interesting to me and also worked with the videos. In other words how to create a cohesive whole from them. 

Sara recently suggested to me that I listen to the audiobook version of the American poet Ross Gay’sThe Book of Delights, a book of short essays coming out of a daily practice Ross developed. They are quite amazing, Ross’ mind is fascinating and the delights range far and wide. His definition of delight being quite expansive sometimes including very dark topics, often important topics, but sometimes whimsical, material that makes you angry, sad or happy, I often laugh out loud while listening. His observations have inspired me to observe more as I go about the world. 

Continue reading “Enjambment – A Video Essay”


This poem is another one written in my Forms class at Saint Mary’s College of California with the inimitable Brenda Hillman. And when I wrote it I was a beginner in writing eco poetics, actually kind of nervous of the contents…what would my old company and co-workers think? And here it is in a book and now in a video on the internet. Strange to think back five years ago to my tentativeness.  Oh and btw there were only two minor injuries in this horrific explosion, it was incredibly lucky that was the case. 


The poem is a pantoum, a form adapted to French and then English but originally a Malaysian song form. Pantoums formally are composed of quatrains in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next. Often each stanza follow an ABAB rhyme scheme or use the same poetic meter. But in this instance the form has been modified in this poem. The rhyme scheme is broken once in the third line, there is a slant rhyme in stanza five with “ground” and “shroud” and the last stanza is only three lines using ABB rhyme with the very last line echoing the contents of the first line of the poem.


So why a pantoum for this topic? I wanted to try using this received form with its constraints to see if I could develop a commentary on the fossil fuel industry. The idea that the next stanza re-used material from the previous seemed perfect for the ecological content but more so it would force me in unexpected directions.  The constraint of the rhyme also would help me write material in a form I might not normally do in pure free verse. But I also was willing to break the constraints but not too much. After all the poem is both pantoum and ecopoetry. 


Continue reading “What Would I Say Then – The Pantoum and Ecopoetry”




First Day came out of material developed during that Key West workshop with Jane Hirshfield I mentioned in my last post. I had never done anything like what we did at that workshop. Jane would give us a prompt to write from and we would return in half an hour or so and read our poems to the group, for me a very scary situation with all the talent that was in the room. 


The first day I was astounded by what people brought back, I couldn’t believe the quality of what I was hearing. I felt totally inadequate. But Jane also said that what we were producing were not supposed to be finished poems, that the hope would be some of them would eventually turn into something we liked, a hope I hung on to as everyone else’s sounded very complete already. 


Continue reading “First Day – Work Poems and Poetic Truth (video #11)”

In January 2015, during that time many of us here in the mid-continent first heard the term “polar vortex”, I was down in Key West for the Key West Literary Seminar, specifically for a workshop I got into at the last minute with the poet Jane Hirshfield.  The weather was warm and sultry, and I was staying in the old town area of a place soaked in the past of literary giants like Hemingway and Elizabeth Bishop. That was my first time at a US literary event and I feel like that was a good prelude to the California adventure that started later that year. 


I also got to attend the Literary Seminar part of the event, which meant listening to a wide variety of great writers discuss many things on that year’s theme on panels as well as readings.  Jane was great, so well prepared for every discussion and her reading was also top notch.  There was another standout, who I didn’t know before, the poet Marie Howe.  She and Jane were the ones with the best insights, always prepared and their readings also stood out. 


In the workshop with Jane we learned many things. One key one was, ironically, that she felt people workshopped too much, “that they sanded the finish right off their poems” often leaving dull wood.  The other was that she felt one of the best poets writing dialogue in poems was Marie Howe.  Jane noted that the book What the Living Do was a spectacular example of that, the collection Marie wrote about her brother dying of AIDS.   


At one of Marie’s readings I was also struck by a poem full of dialogue, After the Movie.  Afterwards I decided to use that poem as a model to try and write a poem using similar moves. The poem I wrote is meant as an homage to that poem and the choices Marie makes.  So there is some similarity in the engine of the poem.  But different topic, characters, lines etc.  

Continue reading “After The Movie – Intertextuality and Self Reflexivity”

I’m currently in a Zoom poetry study run by the poets Hoa Nguyen and Kristin Prevallet on the poetry of Bob Kaufman, the San Francisco based Beat and Black Surrealist poet. The discussion over the last two weeks has been around how Kaufman’s poetry has a spiralling quality to it.  A lot of repetitions, especially unusual phrases, in the poems we read were phrases like “blue crackling” or “ancient water” that are repeated,  and how he sometimes turns away and comes back to a subject many times. 


It got me thinking about about what poem to choose to do this week as well as how to construct the video.  I choose the poem “while apple picking iv”.  It is a partly manufactured poem that does spiral with plenty of repetitions, relatively few words that are repeated often and juxtaposed in different combinations while there are also moments of clear syntax.  


Continue reading “while apple picking iv – spiralling poetry”


I was reading Matthew Zapruder’s book Why Poetry and I had just finished the chapter called “Dream Meaning” where Matthew talks about the use of associative leaps in poetry and how they are fundamental to writing poetry back all the way to Aristotle’s phrase that poets have “an eye for resemblances.” Matthew observes that  associative movement is described in “different ways throughout time and across different cultures.” and he discusses this using a number of poets.  One of which is Robert Hass and in particular Hass’ “Meditation at Lagunitas“. 


If you you know that poem already or just clicked that link you know it is a poem with many shifting modes, that makes leaps from the philosophical to the personal to the natural world and more. In the discussion in that book those modes are discussed particularly with regard to how the mind works and the fact the title of the poem uses the word “Meditation.  So I set out to write something that attempted movements similar to that, trying to mix the personal, the natural and a bit of philosophizing through associative movements.  


Continue reading “At A Slough In Eugene – Associative Movement and the Surreal (poem #8)”