I’ve been poking away at various local histories. Finished a couple. It’s good to clean the palate with straight-up language. Poetry can try to be difficult and claim the art is the being difficult. It’s touching earth to have people talk about events and people instead of ideas.
I say I don’t read novels and it’s largely true. It’s like people having wine with their meals. It’s easier to say that I don’t drink than to explain that I might a handful of times per year or over a few years.
My mom reads a novel a day. I might read a novel or two some years. Basically I light up for poetry. Or essays about poetry. Or memoirs by poets. But I like to keep variety in poetry and in genre. So,
120. Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action, edited by Susan McMaster (Penumbra Press, 2002)
(seen references to here and there, finally tracked down a copy thru the editor)
The book was part of a process of approaching Members of Parliament petitioning them to be aware of the wages of war and to raise consciousness about peace, giving them abstract visual art and poems.
Roger Nash asks about lines, jingoism vs. steering well clear of anything risky. Where do we fall?
The poetry is not about how to do peace but largely complaining about war being destructive and hurtful. To torque a phrase, peace is not the opposing of war but the presence of seeking a difficult compassion and solution.
I actually liked the essays much more than the poetry. Sarah Klassen’s in particular as she got at the core of my understanding of what the book’s work is, to “propose an alternative to aggression”. I have a book of her poetry that I’ve never read. May have to crack that spine.
121. 20 Most Asked Questions about the Amish and Mennonites by Merle & Phyllis Good (Good Books, 1975, 1995)
(The Ottawa heart institute has a May Court Library and a library cart and accept donations to any information desk or nurses’ station there.)
The authors are articulate in belief, “Each group draws its boundary lines differently–but no less sincerely” (p. 25) and cover food and gender relations, and formation.
This didn’t exactly cover its subject of answering the questions of why the appeal of farming but there are a million of Amish or Mennonite people worldwide across various continents, more outside Europe than in it, the most in Africa now, especially Zaire (136,000) and Ethiopia (50,000). the Caribbean, Central and South America, most concentrated in Paraguay (22,000) and Mexico (20,000). There’s a lot of diversity and each community self-governs, isn’t a central top-down system.
The old order conservative of each group have more in common than the more liberal orders. Some use motorcars, buttons and the internet, selectively and enter trades. They are often a parallel society with their own system for childcare and care of the elderly and in some regions have exemptions from the military.
From p. 4-5,
“It is impossible to summarize these peoples’ lives in one short sentence.[...] It is impossible to interpret the lives of a people—any people—in one or two quick sentences. It sees a violent act.”
I had forgotten what I used to know about the anabaptists. There was violence for belief and a response 400+ years long.
122. The House of the Black Goat by R.M. Ferrier (self-published, 2015)
(written by son of dad’s friend, passed thru family)
This is twisted and odd and every few pages made my head hurt. A lot of gods in these machines. Back story revealed by conversations. A lot of generational incest.
Spoiler: It became a ghost story around page 70. There’s a ghost who aged which is something I hadn’t seen before. Her green eyes cried so much her eyes became colorless/black.
At the same time, without spoilers, villains become more noble and heroes become villainous. It spans the better part of a century so whole generations die. The landscape is as much a character as anyone living or dead in the book with its boggy morass that eats whole herds of cattle.
It’s got a gothic feel. Warning: there is a late scene of women slut-shaming each other. Maybe the language is a little anachronistic here ad there, but it has a momentum hooking forward. The language was strikingly poetic at times.
I jotted quotes but (glitch) often almost entirely illegibly. p. 51 in light of a death of a child, “The old plastered and varnished pine walls warp around in eloquence”, p. 113 “these memories have been left to drown in a pool of their own vagueness”, p 115 “he makes the finest of gestures by biting his lip and presenting his teeth most amiably”.
123. The Boy from the Farm by Frank Hedley Arnold (Epic Press, 2002)
(book by the neighbour of a man my dad used to sell horses to who came and sold the book.)
Interesting person. A real go-getting who hopped from career to career in agriculture but I wish it had been fleshed out more. Here’s a sentence summary of a story. Next story. No, that was an upshot of what could be an interesting story which you just skipped. Bah. Frustrating.
But odd things turned up, like how he met his wife. He was in England in line to see a movie in 1946 and the wicket ticket fellow asked the woman ahead of him if there was someone she knew she could sit with. (blink). The writer volunteered. The date went well. They married the next year.
He ran a milk route and expanded and sub-contracted out part. He managed a plant. When the factory closed, he hopped to something seemingly random. He and his wife ran a factory putting caramel on apples and expanded it. He had a nose for opportunity and a tough gut to go for it. He wasn’t opposed to working flat out for years, but drove himself to 2 heart attack and exhaustion. He was fervently anti-union feeling it was an impediment to getting things done. In a factory when something broke, he applied his mechanical skill to get the assembly line running with minimal interruption but was called on the red carpet because proper procedure was to get a union mechanic to come out and do it.
He jumped on opportunities to improve process on farms where he was a milkhand, and to run farms for others on vacation. He built up his reputation a business in Canada called Agricultural Labour Service where he would supply himself or other people to allow a farmer a vacation. The Agricultural Labour Pool still exists. What a good service. Most farmers never get an hour’s vacation over a lifetime. He would have his guys shadow the farmer to learn how that person ran things so the farmer could be sure the substitute would do thing his way.
He competing in international plowing matches with horses and tractors and naturally rose to chairman since his habit is absorb something completely, then manage from the top.
124. Arden Blackburn’s Mail Route: The Early Days at Christie Lake by John A. McKenty (Wheels Gone Bye, 2012)
(book that is about dad’s cousin in part)
The title was the organizing factor— who was on the mailroute around Christie Lake 15 clicks from Perth. There’s little about Arden or the mail route, even in chapters titled after them. Once he was on the route, he ran mail 6 days a week, and whatever items people wanted, whether grocery pickup (since he was in town anyway) to a stove or giving someone a ride in.
Apart from tidbits like before there was a mail route who had mail at the town post office knew that from a notice in the newspaper. Once there was a postmaster station on the lake in 1914, George Noonan was named postmaster although it was actually his wife who did it but women weren’t legally allowed to be postmasters. (p. 204) 30 years later George received a government medal for longtime service instead of her.
From sentence to sentence the subject and year change even when there’s a narrow subject chapter heading. And sometimes unanswered questions. Amelia Rancier worked for the Noonans from 1895 as a house cleaner, nanny, maid, cowherd, and then at some undated time members of the Methodist church arrived with the sheriff and took her to work at the Matheson House as a maid. She bolted back to the farm ad when the sheriff came back Noonan ordered the sheriff off the property or face consequences. The sheriff left. The servant (worker? slave?) stayed.
A game warden complained that he was shot at for trespassing by George’s grandsons. George asked, did they hit you? The warden said no so George said, those are no grandsons of mine then. (p. 205-206)
There was a school for poor boys and girls and sports teams, race days for boats and swimming, a phase of sports fishing, and a stream of cottages built, sold, closed, used for scrap to rebuild, expanded, etc.
There was the story of putting the railway through Mud Lake in 1913. It was 2 or 3 feet deep but below that was 20 feet of muck and then clay and sand. To find bedrock they had to set a pier a 103 feet below water level with concrete footings poured on site.
There was a whole Hollywood North sort of scene in the 1930s-1960s with a choreographer and ballet director for the Rockettes. It was a theatre colony for the off-season with the Marks Brothers and their friends of the touring theatre road shows. Strauss who wrote documentaries on Marilyn Monroe and Jascque Cousteau summered here. (Chapter 8).
Part of Chapter 11 is on Dickie Patterson who was profoundly mentally challenged and lived at the dump in a shack he built himself and hoarded in. People brought him meals, even built him a toilet but he destroyed it and went back to the log he was used to. He was a character who didn’t understand money but worked odd jobs and errands and was watched out for by the community.
It has fascinating information but is terribly arranged in the common manner of local histories. It’s like the book was cut to pieces and then pasted together randomly by machine. Photos and years and people are all scattered. Good material, good anecdotes. Good for bathroom reading where you don’t expect you can sit through a whole chapter or book so don’t need continuity.
125. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster, 2000)
This is recommended from various directions, lists of what to read, recommended at Author for Indies day, a couple friends said it was worthwhile.
What I took away wasn’t anything I’d seen quoted. For example, a tip given to him that the second draft should be 10% smaller than the first draft. Or that to overexplain is rooted in fear of not being understood. In writing as in theatre, nothing should be on stage that doesn’t serve. And if you didn’t put it on stage in act 1, it’s inelegant and ill-advised to lob it in late as surprise.
Independently of each other he and Jeffrey Skinner (in The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets) talk about how alcoholism and drug addiction aren’t mandates of creativity but impede living. And how art is to make life better; life is not to make art better.
He talks about how if you love words, how can there be an excuse to not read or write at any time? There is no muse. Drop that. Show up 3 hours a day and if the muse wants to find you, it knows where you are. You’re working on your quota of words.
He didn’t think much of workshops as they flatter without trying to cut the fat. He learned more in a few black lines of a newspaper editor than in two workshops. Curious that Alden Nowlan wrote so astutely and came from newspaper world, carrying forward the lessons of what works for comprehension.
I’ve never read his novel. I first heard of him in grade 7. A classmate consumed book after book standing on the front porch at lunch reading Thinner and Carrie.
It was interesting how he locked into horror from a very young age. People lock in early. Girls in 4H with me were mad about horses. 30 years later they compete in rodeos. I was ambivalent on horses but scribbled poems during 4H. Now look where we all are still.
King lives a fascinating life and it is an easy and lively read. Long but it doesn’t feel bloated. I’d pass on the recommendation.
Worth a read and a re-read.