Thursday, April 27, 2006

untitled love poem (see comments, suggestions welcome)


You rise out of flat stone
the shield
of your heart.
The moon crosses the sun.
Do we
become light
when we dream?

The folds of your corduroy
like ridges and hollows
furrows where the Spring runoff
sculpts a geology
in a landscape of tundra.

"passageways and connections that
happen deep within us when in relation
to another..." Nancy Otto

In our Klondike, cross and beams
hold the tunnels we dig through
to find the gold in each other,
rich veins tracing through the rock
like sunlight.


Spring is a tendril
of green;
the leaves a papery mass of veins unfolding.

Cliffs of grass by the old mine ripple
in the wind.

We are like those two trees
ancient, weathered, yet
our roots thoroughly

What is
is what holds us.

The deeper passageways
and connections.


I wear the crescent moon in my hair,
the cold northern air;
you are the sun buried in the land,
illumined from within.

The sharp edges
in each moment
bind us.

My Adoni, my Aholi,

even in this harsh typography
you are a landscape of love,
a cartography of desire.

©Brenda Clews 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Update on my life...

A few days ago, I spoke to the company that moved us from Vancouver to Toronto last year. Very good news. What I can afford the moving company will accept. Negotiations couldn't have gone better. Now my kids don't have to carry guilt over returning to TO (they did not want to stay in Vancouver, even for another year and even though I had a job), which is the only important thing, and the only real reason I'm picking up my burden of possessions and continuing on.

I just have to figure out housing, meaning more space, a lot more space than my daughter and I have at present, to move it all into in the next couple of months. Even if housing doesn't happen as soon as that, I'm still okay with the storage company and the monthly rental we agreed on (the original amount, not the $200./month they tacked on once my stuff got to their storage warehouse in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto).

Do I feel a sense of relief? Not really. More like I'm putting my heavy turtle shell back on and moving slowly ahead. That I can't just 'leave,' 'exit,' 'start over,' but have to continue on. It'll be nice to get my books back; I've missed them. And my clothes, oh yes. And my paintings - I'm not used to such bare walls as I have here. The family photographs. A dining room table. Stereo and TV. Kilim carpets. My Salton espresso/cappucino machine. Ah. And my yoga mat. My whole alter. Large desks. And bed. It's all nice to consider. Not necessary, as I know now, but nice. The comfort of my 17 year old sectional Italian leather couch from the Art Shoppe. The whole panoply unfolds. And my kids are happy that I've decided to reverse the loss, prevent it from happening, and to land, to stay.

Not there quite yet, but I'll figure it out. Along with some magic. For it's always ultimately about magic, isn't it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Alpha Beta of Scripts

We writers love our scripts. The shape of the letters that form our words are delightful in themselves. Don't you love the sensuality of writing little figures on paper and having them grouped together into meaning that someone else can read, meander, slide, buckle, careen off on? The sounds that those little scratchings correspond to is amazing too.

Our natural landscapes lie behind our alphabetic typographies. The fonts of our language reflect the pure forms of nature:

...scientists have pooled the common features of 100 different writing systems, including true alphabets such as Cyrillic, Korean Hangul and our own; so-called abjads that include Arabic and others that only use characters for consonants; Sanskrit, Tamil and other "abugidas", which use characters for consonants and accents for vowels; and Japanese and other syllabaries, which use symbols that approximate syllables, which make up words.

Remarkably, the study has concluded that the letters we use can be viewed as a mirror of the features of the natural world, from trees and mountains to meandering streams and urban cityscapes.

The shapes of letters are not dictated by the ease of writing them, economy of pen strokes and so on, but their underlying familiarity and the ease of recognizing them. We use certain letters because our brains are particularly good at seeing them, even if our hands find it hard to write them down. In turn, we are good at seeing certain shapes because they reflect common facets of the natural world.

from: Alphabets are as simple as...

In Arabic I see deserts and mirages, genies, a spirit that is as boundless as the open sky, tents under hot sun and blown by sandstorms, lyrical dwellings sculpted out of baked, whitewashed sandstone; I see the sinewy motion of Middle Eastern belly dancers, the crowded markets of barterers. In Hebraic I see a nomadic people, Hanukkah candles, the flame of an inner deified light. Chinese pictographs are as beautiful and intricate as the detailed landscapes of China, and in them I see also pagodas and monuments; they reveal a complexity of thought that I can only marvel at. If our letters mimic plains, mountains, streams, trees, branches, rocks and are shaped by our natural landscapes, our architecture is most certainly a gesture of the typographies of our alphabets.

We are drawing our world when we write.

Our architectures are our calligraphies writ large.

Meaningful marks on the page, jottings limning our natural environments, our sensory apparatus' translating our world into symbols that we can think through.

Arabic calligraphy and architecture

Chinese (Mandarin) pictograms and pagodas

(images courtesy of Google :)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dancing Clock

This inexpensive but clear clock gets a hammock of intricate interlacing metal filligree to tick in. The belly dancing belt that I bought at Dancing Days in Kensington Market has a place to hang.

And the next time I dance to the earthy sounds of African drumming, I can become a tambourine and jingle can't I.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Story of Butterfat Cream

Pulling the tab on a small coffee cream, the last of the four I grabbed as a handful from the box in the fridge, my stainless steel half litre coffee mug sitting in the slot where it is receiving an individually brewed Columbian coffee, it breaks. I look at it in my hand, a butter yellow container of 10% cream, and think of getting a knife to pierce it. Instead I use my fingernail, pushing in one edge. The cream explodes, milk-white drops splatter the arm of my black jacket, slurps of thick cream slide across the faux green marble counter, and over the dark tile floor.

I think of the udder of the cow, of pastures, of bees, of lazy country days, even though I know the cows are milked by machines in highly proficient dairy farms.

Of Krishna, the butter thief who would steal and eat this cream by the thimble-full, even though I know the gods of India don't belong among the fierce warrior gods of capitalism.

Of the greening world flowing over its boundaries and seeping into the corporate surfaces of this high tech kitchen on the 20th floor of a skyscraper in the business core of downtown Toronto, even though nothing organic grows in this controlled environment.

Of gulping the pasteurized cream, the entire boxful, finger broken container by container, letting it pour down my chin, over my business suit, splattering, sliding, oozing.

But I don't. I contain myself, wipe my jacket, the counter, the floor, and pluck out one more cream, pull the tab off, pour it into my coffee.

It is enough that I tell the women that it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to walk home through the city.

They keep coming and asking me each day how it went, my walk, the air, the sun like dreams in the trains they take to and from this building to homes in the outer suburbs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Recycled, a hypertext

A whimsical but quite brilliant hypertext I found on my search for hypertexts:

RECYCLED by Giselle Beiguelman, 2001.

Postmodernim at its recycled, self-conscious re-construction of rubble (when the text is fully deconstructed surely we finally find the alphabet). A Borgesian script of cyberstream poetry. Everything is second hand, open source. I could play all day in this playground.

I found it through the Electronic Literature Organization:

In “Recycled,” Giselle Beiguelman has taken an “artifact” of electronic technology, the object-follow-cursor feature, and transposed it into a moving metaphor. Across a field of bright yellow, the letters RECYCLED enter the screen, track the cursor, disappear if gathered, and finally clump together and vanish, only to begin migrating, again, from the margins. The letters, then, are constantly being “recycled” — and the reader is the agent in effecting the transformation. Beiguelman’s piece is an example of the way in which minimal text can join with technological trope in a “reading” of e-lit.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hypertextualities of Web Browsing

(just diddling where I'm temping this week)

an exceeded body

internal links
a map of possibilities
on an ocean of connections
can I write in this
dislocated place

a sky swept
blue by clouds

non-sequential hypertext
departures & links
pixelated pages
of information
on randomly

a web of links

an abundance without
any centre to hold it

but my inclination to anchor

Friday, April 14, 2006

Eostre, Or Cross of Sheer Light

I found myself ebbing
away, and so I fasted.
When my commitment to
life renewed itself, I broke
my fast.

If you've ever been dead and come back to life,
been hopeless and found a way to continue,
thrown yourself into nothingness to find meaning.

An elusive tune,
slender wash of light,
bare opening in the wall,
a sliver, crescent through which.

Or what's a moment but a casting through.
If you've been too tired to get up and then you get up.
Filled with silent despair and then the will to.

Nothing's even, that's the problem. Many impermanent states.
All taking turns or colliding. Interpenetrating or scattering.
Flowing or stuck. Constraining or freeing.

I like to have clean thoughts because then I can live in my mind.
Sometimes the dust, anger, grime.
Throw what's scathing out.

I feel your bright and beautiful presence
even if you feel like you've disappeared into nothing.

The edges of the sky hang like an aurora borealis of silk.

The trompe l'oeil of the moment. Discreet packets of time.
If you didn't tell me I was going to die, I wouldn't believe it.

And then the scaffolding crashed, blocks fell apart,
what resisted melted, and it was time to resurrect.
Passing beyond memory into. Or the rising.

©Brenda Clews
Good Friday, 2006
photographic path: a photo I took of sheer fabric over light, cropped, layered on itself, rotated, made somewhat transparent; then I may have used a marque tool to crop the uppermost layer to better reveal the brocade ribbon below, or was that one of the trajectories I didn't use; various marque tools to crop the right & left edges of the uppermost layer on right angles; the stamp tool to fill in a line that was left over from who knows what process; the burn tool to darken the upper and bottom right corners for visual balance. A collage I composed after writing the poem...

This is a photopoem: I've digitally embedded the poem in the image along with copyright information.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Where, or The State Of

Undo History:
  • open
  • rotate
  • crop
  • auto color correction
  • lighting effects (style: flashlight; light type: omni; intensity: 46; properties: matte, plastic, exposure -27, ambience -23; texture channel: none)
  • replace color
  • color cast

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The clipped post

On the post that was up, I didn't think it a good idea. Nothing yet. I'm working tomorrow and all next week, so I'm not sure when. I'll let you know the outcome, however it goes.

Go read Justin Whitaker's blog on the self and other, love and aversion, being and freedom and possession: 'Sartre on love, with Kant, and Buddhist rejoiners.' Now if I had my library, I could (re)read the section, "Concrete Relations with Others," in Being and Nothingness... ah. Somehow it will work out, I know it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On Why I've Chosen the Hermetic Path...

When I'm trying to fathom a relationship, especially the romantic kind, where I have a sustainability problem, I use multiple approaches. Besides what's said and done, and the feel of bodies, I carry on a dialogue with angelic beings and plummet my dream imagery, which are often at obverse variance. It never lasts anyway, so it becomes a continuing inner story of love that gets told through multiple fallings-in-love, most of which are never fully realized. Perhaps it's because I'm fickle by nature, or deeply afraid of vulnerability, or that no-one's quite figured out how to deal with the multiple levels of my personality that are attached to the multiple viewpoints. Paradox and ambiguity don't bother me at all. But what can you definitively say when you are saying entirely opposite things? And how confusing is that to the other person? I'd like to flow in one direction, to know what that's like, instead of a general current with trajectories flying off all over the place in very contradictory motions. Attempting to have a relatioship with me, I would suspect, and finally see, could be a most puzzling thing. Since I don't know where I ultimately stand, being in the centre of this contradictorily moving current, where spiritual and unconscious wisdom are at variance, and intellectual probings provide other insights and contexts, too, never mind the emotional floods or the physical raptures, or the loose wire that causes minor explosions now and then, would be a nearly impossible thing. I play no games; but I don't think I'm very containable either. Any suggestions on what I should do?

Meaning I'm ready to leave the hermetic path, although I'm not sure that is entirely responsible of me.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mint Tea Leaves

On a gorgeous Spring day, why would I post a photograph that's on this side of 'abject'? Something slightly unsavoury, that you draw back from? Perhaps I am in minor rebellion, posting an image of wilted flowers amidst the massive blossoming of flowers in the blogosphere, and now of used mint leaves, drenched, bleached-of-flavour and colour. They hardly look appetizing. I could have asked you to guess what it was. But didn't. Instead I'm going to share some of my process in creating an image.

Barely a meat eater, I do need some meat now and then and bought some lamb chops from a local butcher. He brought out an entire diaphram of ribs, which caught me in surprise, standing behind the counter watching, feeling the size of the lamb whose life had been cast for this. I silently thanked the lamb. After he wrapped six thin chops in brown paper and I purchased them I ambled to a small grocery store. My daughter's been on a vegetable and fruit diet, and I, too, have been enjoying more fresh produce. I buy strawberries, green grapes, green beans, granny smith apples, baby carrots, red pepper, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, and, just as I'm paying, grab a bag of fresh mint. At home the mint gets washed thoroughly and, except for a few sprigs, chopped finely, put in a small glass jar, vinegar and sugar and salt added. It will be the condiment for the lamb dinner I'll have the next day.

The remaining mint leaves are plunged into a half-litre thermos mug of boiling water, a lid screwed tightly on, and left for perhaps an hour. A little sugar, and the cup of mint tea is delicious.

Why did I photograph the remnants? My dog happily ate the bones from the lamb, a rare treat. I didn't photograph that. Instead I offer a sense of decay, a whiff, of something used, that you can't quite figure out in the photograph, but which I'm telling you about so you know.

Of the three photographs, I used two. One had a better rim, the other a more focussed view of the drenched, bleached-of-flavour mint. I use a marque tool to cut out the leaves from one photograph and transposed them to the other, laying them overtop of the less-in-focus wilted leaves. Then I used the rectangular marque tool to stretch the layer forwards, so that the leaves are longer vertically than in the original image, and don't quite fit into the rim of the cup. They are almost spilling out, but not naturally, it's a deliberate imposition, a photographic decision. Then I used the selection brush tool and drew a crude line around the rim of the mug, which was too bright since I'd used a flash, and bothered me. I set the foreground colour to a bright red and used the paint bucket tool to fill in the area marked by the brush tool. I set the foreground colour to black and used the paint bucket tool on the area around the cup, thus masking the parquet floor I had put the cup of drenched mint leaves on. Using the foregound colour tool I picked up the brown that was left in the background and set it as background colour and cropped the image slightly larger than the original so that the brown background colour became a border.

It was a beautifully scented and delicious cup of tea, and I enjoyed every sip. The mint imparted its delicate flavour to the boiling water and onto my appreciative taste buds with a lovely aroma. The simplicity of this. And what's in the cup is what was left afterwards, a memory, the leaves laying far away from the sunlight they grew in, the soil that nourished them, having given their minted essence to me, who remembers them in this photograph.

But my photograph is about the abject, what borders on decay, what's used and cast aside to recycle in the natural processes that overtake our refuse. They were shaken into the organic recycling bin, forgotten.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Trajectories in Photoshop

With Photoshop, I can play with an image, adjusting the colour, lighting, adding and taking out bits, layering, and doing and undoing sequences at an alarming rate until I get something I can live with. The route is impossible to reproduce because it is full of possiblilites and wrong turns, undone histories, duplicated and deleted layers, filters pushed to 100% opacity or retracted to 25% transparency, and there's no master memory of the process. A single photopoem takes an average of 4-5 hours to produce, once the rough draft for the writing is composed. Those hours are spent trying this, and trying that, just to see. It's all exploration, there isn't a 'effect' I'm after; preferring, instead, to trust my aesthetic intuition. Sometimes I make notes of where I ended up in case I want to change something (as in the one on the left for A Dozen Cherry Trees), but that's rare.

The crucial point in the process is where I reduce the size and resolution to post. I have to do that on the original, and save a new .jpg version. If I forget to undo that re-sizing on the original, and inadverdently save it, I've lost something that can become a print. It's happened. How many times have I thought something was finished only to find myself still obsessively working on it, re-sizing and saving over and over until somehow the original gets lost. I'm trying to learn to save multiple copies as I go along, although that takes up a lot of disc space. What I've posted here is one of the earlier trajectories of the 2nd image I posted in the last post. It's just that one of the beams doesn't curve enough... and the lighting filter I used wouldn't let me bend it after I'd saved it, so another perhaps half a dozen versions happened as I attempted to bend the light...

Another day, if perhaps inspiration hits, I'll try again to reproduce the original, though probably it'll be fruitless hours spent on a task that can't be done. Thanks for the feedback, though!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Drawing Down the Muse

The thing is, I sold Disappearing Into Each Other, and promised a print of this too. Only I took and played with lighting on the image last Summer when I was without a computer and didn't save the original, and large, version. Meaning I can't get a clear 7" x 5" print out of it. So I spent 3 hours today trying to duplicate the lighting, approaching it, but...

Not quite. Should I try again tomorrow, or is this good enough?

Older Version, popular, downloaded nearly 900 times at another site, but not enough resolution for a print

Newer Version, in a high enough resolution for a print

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Discussion on the muse for a woman artist

In response to the two comments from the last post on the muse:

Thank you, Laurieglynn, and MB. You've both enabled me to see that my concept of the muse is in need of drastic revision. For me, yes very definitely, my muse is connected deeply to the man I'm in love with. He's my connection to the world, I guess. I write for him, whoever he is, because if I didn't, I wouldn't write. Am I then chauvinistic? A female 'Picasso' sort? My relationships colour my writing, most certainly. But then, I am a lyrical poet, and I work best with the I/Thou structure. Perhaps I ought to work on freeing myself from this muse-addiction, and find deeper roots, as you so eloquently indicate MB, and a place alone from where I can write, as you say with such deep wisdom Laurieglynn.

Who we write for, besides ourselves, is a crucial topic for me and any insights you can offer are welcomed.

When there is no relationship I can dry up. Someone I talked to about this years ago said that when a man loves a woman he fertilizes her. That happens for me creatively.

Sometimes I need to take a break to catch up, but always it comes back to this.

Whoever I am in love with becomes a figure around which my dreams collect.

It might not even be an actual relationship, either. But more of an imaginary one. The smarter and more creative my 'muse,' the better my work. Perhaps it has to do with potential audience, who you're speaking to and at what level the discourse occurs. For me that figure is never generalized, but always particular. A specific 'thou,' a sacred someone.

Sometimes, because of the all too often rigid distinctions between the sexes culturally, and not receiving the kind of support that might happen in a less hegemonic world, I wonder if my muse were female if it would be any easier.

Many women have a female muse. Alas, I don't.

I love men. No way around it.

More discussion, please...


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Muse Man...

A muse is important in a woman's creative life. He inspires her to do her best work, to produce her finest pieces. He is the embodiment of the man who she can love fully, openly and with complete trust. A woman is passionately open with her muse man. She'd write epics for him; fill books of lyrical poetry with him. She loves his sensitivity and his strength. She loves how he attracts her, makes her frenzed with desire. She is enamoured with how soft and gentle she becomes with him. He gives her total freedom to create, to think, to be. She only wants to adore him, fully, completely, without reservation. She'd like to be his muse too...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Red Chinese Silk

An experiment in informal writing...

Where are you gonna run to? Type and run. The word as bullet?

Screeching off into the distance... license plate just out of reach... oh, those words.

It's been a long time since I've thought of a particular metaphor for what words are.

Words are always reaching into what is disappearing.
Or perhaps are expelled at the last moment from the ultimate mystery.
I'm writing a poem, how about you? It's fair if we use our own words in other words but not each other's words...

They flirt, promise, offer, take you almost all the way there, and then slip off into silence, perfume left by the moment that just passed.

Words tumble, collide, roll, quiver, they never STOP.

They slide under the tongue, sweet as .............. oh, okay. You talk.

Later, we can retrieve them from this rough draft and polish them into bracelets that we can wear while we dance.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Peahen Peacock Mannequin Lady

Reading of this poem (2:05min): Hi-fi (high speed internet); Lo-fi (dial-up).

Image Hosted by

click on the image to enlarge

Friday, March 31, 2006

The meme of 39 things

Joining Tamar and Jean: this was fun!

1) Who is the last person you high-fived?
My dog; she shakes my paw whenever I ask and she’s good about high-fives too.

2) If you were drafted into a war, would you survive?
I’d never allow myself to be drafted into a war. If I joined the medical corps, I'd suffer hugely from PTSD, but that's the only area I'd go if absolutely forced. I don't think I'd do jail.

3) Do you sleep with the TV on?
I’ve never had a TV in my room. I need quietness and darkness to sleep, use earplugs actually.

4) Have you ever drunk milk straight out of the carton?
I may have once tried from a small carton; the milk on the edge of the waxed cardboard wasn’t very appetizing.

5) Have you ever won a spelling bee?
Never been in one; I’m not a great speller.

6) Have you ever been stung by a bee?

7) How fast can you type?
Probably around 60 wpm – not fast (self-taught typist, lots of mistakes).

8) Are you afraid of the dark?
Never been afraid of the dark, that I can recall. I love being wrapped in darkness.

9) What colour are your eyes?
Blue. With brown flecks around the pupils, I'm told.

10) Have you ever made out at a drive-in?
I’m sure I have. But we're going back a ways...

11) When is the last time you chose a bath over a shower?
A few nights ago – bubble bath, tealight candles all around the edges of the bathtub, beautiful.

12) Do you knock on wood?
Yes. Wood feels so good under the knuckles, grounding, earthy, wise.

13) Do you floss daily?
Every single day. But then I have to.

14) Can you hula hoop?
Yes, and it’s still fun. When I was seven I was the Hula Hoop Champion of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

15) Are you good at keeping secrets?
Yes. I completely forget what someone’s told me in confidence until I’m talking to them again.

16) What do you want for Christmas?
That’s a long way away.

17) Do you know the Muffin Man?
No. I'm not much of a Muffin Woman either.

18) Do you talk in your sleep?
I think I utter obscure phrases now and then.

19) Who wrote the book of love?
Rumi, oh, but there is no other poet who comes close to Rumi’s vision of love.

20) Have you ever flown a kite?
When I was a kid and lived in England for a bit we’d go to parks and fly kites. Not in Canada though.

21) Do you wish on your fallen lashes?
That’s a new one.

22) Do you consider yourself successful?
Yes and no. On personal terms, yes, hugely; in societal terms, no. So I try not to think in those terms...

23) How many people are on your contact list of your mobile?
Before I let the battery completely and utterly die? Perhaps six dozen; don’t know. Now? A handful.

24) Have you ever asked for a pony?

25) Plans for tomorrow?
Busy with writing.

26) Can you juggle?
I’ve tried, can do 2 things at a time for short snatches.

27) Are you missing someone now?
Yes. My son, who turns 19 this weekend. He's living at his Dad's in another city.

28) When was the last time you told someone I Love You?
Today. This morning.

29) And truly meant it?

30) How often do you drink?
Not often enough. I used to go through one box of red wine a month, a quarter of a glass every night, oh how teeny and fairy-like, my thimbles of wine. But they don't sell wine that way in Ontario (unlike BC with its mountains and camping) and it takes me too long to finish a bottle -:)

31) How are you feeling today?
Pressured. Artistically pressured. To create anything, a poem, a photopoem, a drawing, a dance, anything... to write that paper I have to write... to submit some abstracts for an upcoming conference (oh, deadline's today)-

32) What do you say too much?

33) Have you ever been suspended or expelled from school?
Sigh, no. I haven't lived enough have I?

34) What are you looking forward to?
I’m not sure if there’s anything in particular. More unfolding.

35) Have you ever crawled through a window?
Yes, last Summer when I was locked out of the house. I used the ladder from next door, climbed onto the roof over the kitchen and in through a bedroom window. It was a hot, humid, melting day, but I got in. My dog barked frenetically throughout.

36) Have you ever eaten dog food?
Yes – a few crumbs once of home-baked gourmet peanut butter dog treats. The Ikea recipe (whole wheat flour, wheat germ). It tasted like biscuit without the sugar.

37) Can you handle the truth?
Yes, far more than I can handle dubious fabrications.

38) Do you like green eggs and ham?
Still haven’t figured out what this is!

39) Do you have any cool scars?
A smile-shaped scar on my right shin from running into a corner of corrugated metal roofing in Kafue National Game Park in Zambia at age four. We lived 200 hundred miles from the nearest town. So I didn’t get any stitches.

Five words to describe ourselves

My friend Prudy had a most interesting dialogue at her site. She had her readers pick five words to describe themselves. And in the next post she responded to everyone's description, see here. Relationships in the blogging world can be as rich and complex as day-to-day connections!

My five words were hard. I wanted to describe my life at present, my state of mind. But qualities are more fixed, stones in the sweeping current, places where you can safely put your feet as you cross. The five words feel vague and, oh, here they are: responsible, careful, creative, compassionate, sensual.

Prudy's response: "I know this woman pretty well, as I've read her closely for about as long as I've been on here and I've talked with her several times. I was surprised by her description and she's the first one to do so. There isn't anything this woman can't write. I prefer her in first person but she is stubborn. And I know I'm supposed to pick five words and then shut up but this one is going to take some time. She gets the most generous commenter award, I think we'd all agree. I once told her I waited for her to tell me what I'd written. When I first read her she was writing poetry. I think it became more prose poetry. Rich is what I called it. Then she started a book. Then she started doing Podcasts of essays and some of her poetry. The minute her voice hit the words they became jewels. What I liked just as much were the extemporaneous preludes she charmed us with, her voice lilting, laughing. I don't know why but I was surprised by her keen intellect and academic prowess. I think she must have toned it down for me:)

All along she'd been painting. She does amazing work with vibrant color and with subjects to my taste as she is similarly spiritual and sensual. Okay. Lyrical, brave, open, compassionate, joyful."

Posted 3/30/2006 at 12:39 AM by ydurp

I have been so low these last days that this picked me up and I thank you, Pru. For being the friend you are...

You can leave five words to describe yourself here. I'll respond as best as I can.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Prayer Ribbons

MP3 recording of this poem: Hi-fi; Lo-fi.

Where your prayers are, hidden on the inside, invisible. Between you and your God, or the life force itself. Prayer is because of what continues. Prayer is not disruptive thought, fragmented living, but the song of it all. In the quietness of the intimacy of the holy.

a peace tree
where the wind moves
pieces of woven material
lanterns of love

And then I lifted myself, and it was bright.

And I saw them flutter
collected against a plum wall
a rainbow of ribbons, banners
prayer flags, lungta.

Weavings of spirit and meaning, desire and effort, care and consideration, and tears. Knot us, our dreams and hopes and those we love, together; please don't separate us...

Here is my prayer ribbon, gentle reminder to the great spiritual forces that I am here, needing too.

On trees all over the world, prayers for peace. I tie white prayer flags onto the trees out back. For all the wars, conflagrations, battles, arguments, violences.

I pray for inner peace.

To be knitted into my world; to be woven into the continuous strands of the sacred song that our prayers are.

Hold me tight.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Friday, March 24, 2006

Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice

Two abstracts were accepted for the upcoming Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice Conference at York.

This one's at 9am on May 6th, a Saturday morning:

Caregiving and Evolutionary Ethics: The guardians who undergird culture.

"For a moment, during their conversation, feeling the desperations they spoke of, the difficulties, she felt connected to millions of women over the globe who struggle with poverty, grief, racism, violence, but who keep going. Women who are the emotional centres for their families, who are anchors, who place food on the table miraculously out of almost nothing, who somehow dress their children, their spouses, themselves, who clean and maintain their homes, who work for menial wages, where they are essentially labourers, who never allow themselves to succumb to madness, or drugs, or a furious destruction of the world around them, who keep loving their families in profound ways. They grieve, yes, there is sadness, but they have hearts of compassion. It was here that she felt a bond with the strength of women throughout the ages. She knew she was alive, living in her generation, carrying the flame of continuous love through the marathon that history is, only because her foremothers had also carried it and passed it on. If mothering is a stable, conservative force, if that's what happens to women as they take on the responsibility and role of motherhood, then she was grateful for it. This was where there was meaning, the staying-with-it through everything, the power to endure, to continue." Brenda Clews, The Move.

Caregiving is a core ethical value. Unfortunately care of others, especially the most vulnerable and important for the future of 'the race,' children, often falls to women who are mothers, and who, one might say, because of this role, become the keepers of the continuous flame of evolution. Such processes as "natural selection" could not, I would argue, produce a highly complex species without the continuous care provided by women who take on the caregiving role, and so become, not just metaphorically but in a very real sense, 'guardians' who undergird the enterprise of culture. In this talk I will align caregiving with a discussion of evolutionary ethics and read a short selection from my unfinished novel, The Move.

Bio: Brenda Clews is a writer, artist, dancer and single mother living in Toronto. She has degrees in Fine Arts and English Literature from York, and an unfinished Interdisciplinary Studies thesis on the maternal body. She is currently writing an autobiographical novel about living in uncertainty, and about existing outside the dominant discourses, entitled, The Move.

This one's at 2:30 that afternoon:

The creative writing piece:

Towels hung on the door, an accidental spectrum

In these photopoems, I explore my daughter's relationship to her body. As a feminist and as a woman who struggled with bulimia many years ago as I came to terms with my own female body, it is hard to witness my daughter undergoing the same struggles. At 15 she is radiant as the sun who cannot see its own beauty. These prose poems explore the difficulties girls face with media and peer pressure to sculpt themselves into more perfect images of what is considered beautiful by the general culture.

I wrote to her... "Please use the same bio I sent with the other abstract. Am I aiming for 10-15 minutes of reading here?"

I've barely written anything. The first talk is 15-20 min, that's easy. The second panel seems to consist of only two of us, which means an hour and 15 minutes each! I had thought of writing 4 pieces, taking up 12 -15 minutes, so this is going to require some planning. I'll probably take a disc of my photopoesis pieces, or dig up some old work... though, oh dear, I can't. Lost in storage...

There are so many writers and poets and artists out there, how come this panel is so under-represented? The last time I joined a creative writing panel at one of these conferences, it was packed, with writers and audience, and we each got 10 minutes to read... some of those pieces were incredibly moving and became the highlight of the entire weekend.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Last night I made some really hot curry and just had some for lunch, and whew, blow...

Today I'm considering engagement. It's important. Sometimes you do things without really doing them. Meditation this last week has been difficult because I've done the meditation without really doing it. If you know what I mean. It's about engagement. In meditation and in my work. By focusing some good intent on my book, and even having it beside me while I sleep, seems to have re-charged my relationship to it. I finally have an ending, and not the one I expected, but it is congruent with the text. As I re-read, editing, how painful the narrative is. Yet with so many unfinished manuscripts and thesis's (two and two), bringing something to completion is of particular importance. That's a meditation in itself: the hexagram of completion.

Engagement isn't completion, they're two different processes with two different purposes. Engagement is being in the present, fully participating in whatever it is you're doing. Full focus; undivided attention; the complete synaesthesia possible for any particular connection. But engagement is needed for completion, especially when the mind wanders, creating posts on why we write in blogs and spending copious hours photoshopping a photo, recording a reading that didn't work until giving up and going for the sweetness of the yoga teacher's voice, ooh la, should I tell you that? Today the manuscript lies open before me, and have I spent as much a one second looking at it? I've had a breakfast of 12 grain bread and melted cheese, mugs of coffee, erased the grey in my hair with colour, showered, had curry for lunch already and it's not even noon!

I've hugged the dog lots, eaten grapes, wiped counters, done dishes, laundry, sent emails, considered all my relationships, focused on what I need at the present to continue, collected my life, you know the song.

Oh, did I tell you about the fresh strawberries, almost over-ripe, that you slice into a bowl and put a good-sized dollop of cream cheese on and sprinkle generously with raw sugar? In the microwave for 40 seconds, mix it all up, and it's almost like having cheesecake! Instantly, that is.

Do I have 2 hours a day for my book? Of course I do. Now that I know the ending, I can focus the writing.



Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Why Do You Write?

MP3 recording: hi-fi, or lo-fi.

How can I take the reader's perspective into account when I write? I write from excess, from overflow, from abundance, a plethora, a cyclone of words. Aren't we all on journeys, discovering our way as we go? Mine isn't a journey of logic, nor do I know the path or the map that'll finally result from it all. I don't have a specific set of interests to write about. Though I do favour prose poetry and exploring emotional landscapes. My lifewriting is often hidden in metaphors, obscured with fictions, offered as a tie-dyed garment of brightly coloured silk, fragile and soft as the morning sun, or as dense dark broadcloth heavy with grime and flung before you. For I don't know who you are. I can only guess. With your writing at your sites, in comments, I create a sense of you that is surely only a part of who you are. We dance together, oh, yes, we do this, in our writing, our interconnections, and it's fun, most enjoyable, but I wonder about the intersections, parallels, curvatures, and parabolas of our intertextual writing. We share our core values, deeper selves, revealing who we are in ways that we might not in social situations, we let each other overhear us, our soliloquys, yet we are always cognizant of each other, and each other's perspectives. We love the dialogues we have. Small sitting rooms for writers writing on writing, where the style of the saying counts, not just what is said. Let's share fine champagne and fresh strawberries and talk of art and literature and philosophy and each other's joys and travails with the perfection that a purely writerly existence affords. It's a luxury, living through words like this. We can be true to our most generous, loving selves. Posts fall like golden leaves, etched with our words, disappearing into the world, a world that is surely far richer for what we are sharing.

I write out of excess. I write because
I'm too full. Over-ripe. Spilling out.

The corset of silence too tight.

I write because I'm pregnant and have

to give birth.

It's the extravagance of living.

The fertility of words.

Because I carry around
a wild dictionary in my head.

Because of the aesthetics of expression,

how satisfying it is to compose, to share.

A thought, a heart motion, a poem, a gift.

From me, but to you.

Why do you write?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Abandoned Bouquet

Push-pull confuses me. Especially the push-away.

We hurt each other with rejection.

The force with which we can expel each other. Turning the other into an object of non-importance, an unwanted essence. The ability to savour, to honour, to love: the self, others, the world, damaged. But love doesn't happen in isolation. Maybe some have their lists of good and bad. But it's not that easy. It's not that this person, or people, state of mind, area of interest is safe, acceptable and all else needs to be distanced. Isn't that possession? And possessions can be lost. If they're people, they can leave; if they're belief systems or areas, we can become profoundly disenchanted. Then where are we? In angry rebuttal to the world that we clearly divided between acceptable and not. Between people who counted and those who didn't. Between an arbitrary definition of the good and the not-good. So what do we do? Do we cling more tightly to our safe constructed categories of who is and who isn't even when they might betray us, or do we give way and open out to the mystery that has no name, is amorphous, all-pervading, without judgement? A light that shines everywhere without discrimination. If we could spend one year of our lives not rejecting what would happen? Would it open out in magnificent ways, this ability to love?

Or would be we overwhelmed? Is the push-pull, rejection-acceptance, necessary for homeostasis, for balance?

Breathe in; breathe out.

As I tell my yoga students, make sure your in-breath and out-breath are equal - that what you take in and what you give out balance.

But. Push-pull. Wound-heal. Why do I do this? Is there no other way?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels

An MP3 recording of this piece:
Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels: Lo
Rose Mandala, or the Whorls of Angels: Hi

I am with you like an angel. Can you feel kisses, a caress of breeze perhaps, or a sudden warmth that lightens your spirit? I hold you enfolded in my wings when you weep, inconsolable, disappointed. Can you sense a blessing of radiance about you? My wings, woven of sun and moonlight on veins like leaves. Surely you see their shimmer breaking through what separates us. You are my prayer, my vigil.

But I am an earthy woman who laughs, storms, cries, rants, pesters, and loves.

And I am unable to settle, come into being in one place, crystallize. Can I play in the garden palaces of the heart? And retire in solitude when the day is done, to rest?

Even as I sweep across the sky of your consciousness, a roseate sunset, mandala whorl of sun, the choral clouds, like a hymn, a sacred song, something ebullient and therefore holy, I am racing away into the night and disappearing.

I offer you a guardian, a keeper of the flame of your heart, a high priestess who holds your innermost secrets, a temple to honour your prayers on love, but it's ephemeral, Akashic, in the place where everything is recorded, where what we are, our memories, our dreams, are held safe. Nothing you could hold onto, nothing at all.

I am here; but you cannot see me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


One set of beliefs though which you define yourself. Is this fundamentalism? That set of beliefs is also a formulae. A code in a sacred text; the ordinances of the ordinated; a belief in the reward of rightness. Happiness to be on the one path to salvation, whatever it may be. In every movement, surge of social beliefs, group with a purpose, religion, are fundamentalists. Those who place whatever doesn't agree with their creed into a category of evil to be opposed with all force, vehemently. Fundamentalism is the opposite of acceptance. Fundamentalism takes the complexity out of living. It replaces a sensitive tuner, an ethic of compassion, a cognizance of difference, shades of infinite grey, with certainty. Instead of the vast and perplexing mystery of living, one set of beliefs through which a person defines themselves and others. One path to walk. One goal to achieve. One perspective on those who follow the "illumined path" and those who don't. Fundamentalism is an escape from the responsibility of living. Of living in the impossibility of time, with uncertainty, in the flux of ideas, events, emotions, unpredictable happenings with a mass of people who are equally unknown. Fundamentalism is like the virus that invades to overtake the whole system and make it its own. In its success it kills the very spirit that gave it life.

Monday, March 13, 2006


We always knew it was a mix of what you were born with and the life you lived: genetics and environment. In a world of perpetual change, of nature's endless recycling of everything, how could there be any absolutes? It turns out that even our DNA is not absolute. Our genes have switches that respond to our living in the world and in turn affect our lives, their unfolding. If we didn't have philosophical underpinnings, a knowing that we're born with certain predispositions but that our environment shapes much of what emerges, would our epigenetic scientists have known what to look for? This is exciting research; I was riveted: even when an environment has not been conducive, a smoker's lungs, toxic metals in the water system, and there is disease, it might still be possible to heal the person by fixing the genetic response to the maladaptation. To go in and 'fix the operating system.' Turning back on the gene switch that stops tumor growth, thereby preventing metastasis. Medical science appears more and more miraculous. One hopes the techniques are used wisely and not ever for a eugenic agenda...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

How did we meet...?

A meme, at Body Electric, which I couldn't resist:

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often or don't really know each other) please post a comment and tell the story of a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory connecting you and me . It can be anything you want - good or bad ("good" is better for me, however) - BUT IT HAS TO BE FICTION. When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you!

I'd love to meet you all! Imagine stories for us...