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”



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”


Uji River Cormorant Fishing © Uji City Tourism Association Licensed under CC BY 4.0)


This poem comes from a discussion in a class I was in where we had read and then were discussing Robert Hass’ wonderful book “The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashō, Buson, & Issa ” and we were talking about the poetics of Bashō, who Hass calls “one of the world’s greatest lyric poets”. One of the key concepts Bashō, who was a master poet and teacher in 17th century Japan, developed in his lifetime was the idea of the “poetics of scent”. 


Traditionally in the linked poems of the time the mode that was used for linking verses were either “lexical”, words with classical or cultural association, or “content”, where the linked verse expanded or extended the material of the previous verse explicitly. But Bashō proposed that instead the linkage should be less direct, the linkage should be more of overtone or aesthetic. He called this linking by “scent”.  


Continue reading “Cormorants Diving – Poetics of Scent (poem #5)”