I left my desk a few minutes ago and saw this pot of forsythia lit up by the sunlight flooding into the kitchen.
The camera kept warning, Backlight, backlight, as though that was something you wouldn’t want. We’ve waited a long time for this sunlight and I’m not going to filter it out now.
Anyway, there was such clarity in the colours — the yellow forsythia, the deep blue glass pot. (The brown clay tiles on the kitchen counter…) And I wanted such clarity. All morning I’ve been struggling with some writing, trying to write about Pascal’s triangle (I do understand this: it’s a triangular representation of binomial coefficients) and how (I think) it can also be used as a model for talking about heredity. I’m trying to work backwards on a particular element of genetics, tracing how a certain member of my family has been gifted with an ability for which there doesn’t seem to be a precedent. So I look at these diagrams and their attendant theorems and feel lost at sea somehow. But I do mean to figure it out.
In the meantime, spring is everywhere. Earlier this morning I went out to peek at the garden and realized I was hearing the first varied thrush song of the season. I thought of Don McKay, much easier for my brain to understand than the binomial theorem, and his beautiful poem, “Song for the Song of the Varied Thrush”:
vibrato waking up the pause
which follows, then
once more on a lower or a higher pitch…
Before I began voice lessons 6 years ago, I wouldn’t have understood the slight shifts in pitch, or vibrato, so maybe there’s hope.
The other evening, John had the honour of speaking at the Alcuin Society’s Annual General Meeting in Vancouver. His topic: “The Printing of Poetry, the Poetry of Printing”. In 1980, he went with a friend to Prince George in a rented van and brought home an ancient Chandler and Price platen press which became the basis of our High Ground Press. John’s idea was to print poetry broadsheets in limited editions and for 30 years he’s done this in the belief that “poems warrant singular lives in the light, no less contemplative (and as compelling) as their lives in books, voice or imagination.”
It was interesting for me to watch as he showed images of our print-shop,
our presses (for the C&P was joined by a small Adana from England a few summers ago),
and a couple of the broadsheets he’s printed. This one was part of our second series of broadsheets and the image isn’t particularly crisp but the poem, by Jan Zwicky, is beautiful and I love the design:
And this broadsheet is from our Companions Series, for which we asked Canadian poets to respond to a poem in the canon. Sue Wheeler chose a poem by Don McKay (who had a poem in an earlier series so the sense of companionship extends into our printing history as well as in this series…):
In Mnemonic: A Book of Trees, I write about the history of printing and type in an chapter about my grandfather’s origins in Bukovina, and I say this about John: “My husband labours in our print-shop over type, chases, ornaments, and the unwieldy nature of ink. There are far more convenient ways to transfer texts to paper, this suits his meditative nature, and mine too, for I love to think of the slow work of poetry finding its way to a broadsheet. Paper impressed with ink, like a kiss, a tattoo.”