I Will Never See the Sun

I have always preferred to change trains at St. George rather than at Yonge whenever possible. This morning as I walked up its slippery stairs, I thought of how it was the station I exited during my year working at Whole Foods, when I first moved to Toronto and ran out of money and worked almost forty hours a week, unrecognizable from the many other immigrant and working class people in low-paying jobs. Then I used to change trains to go up to Downsview when I went back to school and finished my degree at York. Now I’m a funded grad student, exiting onto St. George, looking quickly for bikers before crossing and pressing the elevator in the grand old Jackman building. I have, it seems, a Toronto story; and St. George station would be one of its backdrops. I’ve been fortunate to come such a long way, through the turnstiles.

Some bits of writing news: I received in the mail the latest issue of Canadian Literature with my poem, “Yard Work”. I sent it a year ago, and revised it heavily at Banff, so it’s with mixed feelings that I reread it in its published form now. You can see Issue #206 here if it pleases you. Incidentally, I ended up sitting next to the outgoing poetry editor at the journal, Larissa Lai, who was on her way to be the writer-in-residence at Guelph. I recognized her vaguely from a brief introduction years ago, and waited until the flight was almost over and both of us had exhausted our reading material before speaking to her in case I was a bother. At this stage for me, any exchange with an older, asian and female poet also working in academia is so precious to me, and I’ve been a fan of her poetry and criticism for years.

I also had a poem longlisted for the inaugural Geist Magazine’s Jackpine Sonnet Contest, which alas I did not win a prize for, but it was still a fun contest and for a poem I wrote in half a day, I was happy to be included to such good company. I had one of those rare instances where the poem seemed to come out of its own accord.

Finally, I have my little bird poems coming out in Diaspora Dialogues’ TOK 6 anthology in the spring. I picked up earlier volumes of this anthology when I first moved to Toronto, and this is an organization under the visionary helm of Helen Walsh, with a deft staff as well. The launch should be at the Gladstone Hotel on April 21, and I’ll follow up with that date. I’ve been asked to read and to be on the panel. I’ve never sat on a panel before; it was with a lot of trepidation that I accepted. I have always started shaking even at the thought of lots of eyes upon me, but reading in front of people will be good for me, like getting a vaccine or taking vitamins. You only choke or wince for a moment, and then hopefully your body absorbs the good stuff.

Poets-in-residence at universities are often under-used resources; this year Ronna Bloom is at U of T. This morning she gave a workshop titled “Writing with History”, specifically for Medievalists seeking another way to enter into dialogues with their material and with the past. I make a brief mention to Bede in one of my poems so I felt beholden to sign up. The Lillian Massey building is on the corner of Bloor and University, and I felt purposeful walking up its stone steps. She led a generous workshop, and almost everyone shared their exercises. Particularly one exercise in which she had us imagine having a favourite meal with an author yielded writing that was full of detail, smells and tastes, evoking lots of good-natured chuckles. I felt I had more workshop experience than most present, so held back, preferring instead to listen. I’ll definitely try inviting another ghost for dinner. Often I used these in-class writing exercises to dredge up some old failed or abandoned poem, and attack it again from a new angle. I plan to send her my short pieces, about bringing Sylvia Plath my mother’s roast duck with cherry jam, for use if she wishes if on the Poet in Community site.

What a lot of name-dropping I’ve been guilty of in this entry! Today my creative writing workshop also met our new facilitator, Michael Winter, who loosened us up immediately and gave us permission to do lots of things with our writing that perhaps we imagined we weren’t allowed to. It feels solid and gratifying to start up the workshop again in the new year. What a lucky girl I am. Now, if I only needed less sleep, I could prepare my submissions to the Hart House Literary Contest, revise poems for the Writers’ Trust Bronwen Wallace Contest, finish my “Portage” for the Malahat Long Poem contest, put together an application to Blue Mountain residency retreat, and throw whatever pages I have left over at the Summer Literary Seminar in Montreal.

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