27 August 2005

Some won't believe

Self-portrait in Banff Centre student accomodation bathroom, 1985. Photo by Joe Blades
"Self-portrait in Banff Centre student accomodation bathroom, 1985."

That's me a few weeks before my birthday 20 years ago. Short, self-cut hair, barb wire and blood sleeveless T-shirt, back in Banff, Alberta. This time for a 6-week Writing (poetry) workshop. Had just quit my part-time job at Chateau Halifax because the holes there wouldn't give me leave to take the course. I've survived Foundation and the rest of year one at art college.

The Banff Centre's writing program at that time was led by the great W.O. Mitchell. Poetry was led by Richard Lemm (whom I already knew through his poetry book(s) published by Leslie Choyce's Pottersfield Press and from lit events in Nova Scotia). The program instructors included Alistair MacLeod, Sylvia Fraser, Bruce Hunter and numerous guest authors. My fellow participants included Lesley-Anne Bourne, Deidre Dwyer, and Janice Kuylek Keefer. Because it was Bill (W.O.)'s program a main component of the work was the expectation that we participants write (type) and submit 5–10 pages of new "free-fall" rough writings every morning [Obsessive blogging can come close to that level of output, but it seems to not be as automatically written, nor (generally) as raw and not edited.]

Soundscape by the Sex Pistols, Grateful Dead (that stunning going-on-forever "Fire on the Mountain" jam from a concert in Toronto—thanx to Howard!), The Clash, Talking Heads, K.D. Lang & the Reclines, Pointer Sisters (having to move with the other 20-something writers to "Neutron Dance" in the bar overlooking the Banff Centre's new exercise facility swimming pool), Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley, Neil Young, Ferron, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Bob Dylan, Siouxi & the Banshees, Tom Waits . . .

Writing late, late into the night. Drinking cups of tea alternating with whisky to stimulate and keep going through the dark hours on the side of Tunnel Mountain a mile above sea level, mule deer at the studio room's screen door looking in at us word freaks. It was such an ordeal sometimes. Sheet of paper in the typewriter. Named and dated, numbered:

Sigh. Start. How? I don't know what to write. I don't want to write. I want to go to sleep. This is all stupid. I want to dance, I want to run, to run screaming. I want to go home! I want to be inspired. I've goint my typewriter and paper, single malt, tea, tea and more tea, quiet tunes because I cant disturb my neighbours. I wonder who else is working/writing down here in the basement/gnd flor ofices writeright now? Stop the editor! I could goo check, I suppose, but I shouldn't. I need to write. What can I write about? 5 freaking pages again! They like my crow references, images. Do I have other crow stuff in my head? What else do I . . .
It was a crazy intense, good, menorable, formative experience. Not just for being introduced to banana-raspberry, or avacado omlettes, (Howard was an inspired omlette-making fiend on Saturday morning once we discovered that as a group on campus we could get food supplies from the main kitchen and book a function room with it's own kitchen where we could cook some of our own meals). Not for the morning that half of us in the course, all of a common age and all being friendly familiar with single malt scotch, took bottles of our favourite to the cafeteria dinng room and drank scotch with our breakfast . . .

The people and the exposure to different approaches to writing (how to do it, ways to discover diamonds in the rough dreck of words, ways to edit, to work in secret when necessary, to work/write in public when necessary, to work together, to be a peer to other writers, to be an extension of themselves working on the challenges and problems in their writing (and, sometimes, in their lives—yes, there were meltdowns), ways to trick oneself into writing, to turn one's writing on when needed, how to let loose as and party together to release the serpents) have all helped shape me into the writing and publishing fool that I am today.

So why am I writing about this? Don't know . . .
a) Because my birthday's coming 'round again on the guitar.
b) Because, while that here newspaper article stated "Blades is exactly the kind of youth New Brunswick needs and is a reflection of a creative and energetic age group [...] even though he's old enough to be my dad", i maintain that today's real youth (even youth leaders) are more likely to be half my age—so why not show an image of the f&@#-up that I was closer to that age.
c) Because people tell me that they can't visualize me with short hair or that I've ever had my head there since being a kid. Is that my lack, or problem, or . . .?
d) Because Broken Jaw Press had jhust moved beyond name only. My set of four eurotrip postcards (Broken Jaw Press, 1985) with my own photos/artwork from 1983 had just been typeset (w/ lead type) and printed by me in the summer session Graphic Technology course @ NSCAD. I'd started the monthly Bourbon Street Journal (No. 4 was published—photocopier job + 3-colour cover offset printed in that NSCAD course) while I was @ the Banff Centre).
e) Because it feels like it might time for a change.
f) Because it might be good to acknowledge more of what I've done and how I got here.
g) Because nothing lasts forever.
h) Because I'm thinking too much about the health and state of my parents & grandmother.
i) None of the above.
j) All of the above.

T-shirt: The Writers' Union of Canada, "Celebrating 30 years of Canadian Writers"
Loc: fredvalleyflashback
temp: 22 Celsius
Sound: 1. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (Warner, 1977). 2. Never Mind the Pollocks, Here's the Histrionics (Revolver, 2003)

1 comment:

Broken Joe said...

That blockquote is made up—in the spirit of how it was, how I felt, how I started the day's writing after the other workshop session, the peer and individual crits, the social and the necessary stuff. I don't know if I still have the real freefall writing—some stuff survived, some didn't. Know I don't have my personal journal started and completed during those six weeks (it was a victim of the marriage breakup) but I do have the Bourbon Street Journal issue and some other stuff.