Saturday, February 09, 2013


Out last night for hours trudging through snow banks in nearly empty streets hood pulled tight loving every blast of sparkly snow dust and when the fire engine backed up towards us to find enough traction to drive into the fire station those bright flashing lights were a bokeh of beauty in the white mounds heaped high. Me in my snowpants and sheepskin boots with cleats wrapped over the soles and my dog in her coat and bright blue rubber dog booties (first year ever, but she's old and the salt, oh it must sting) trundling rushing through the snow streets like emissaries of the wind arriving home my underclothes so wet I had to get entirely changed and wrapped up in blankets to watch the Three Monkeys by Ceylan (a Turkish filmmaker, thanks Jean) where I was thrown into a world of intensities far beyond the simplicity of my walk in the snow.

(We received about 30cm, and I hadn't realized how much I missed snow over the past few dry winters.)


The Table for Everything One Week Later

The Ikea NORDEN Gateleg folding table that I bought used through kijiji one week later. Le sigh.

(The right side is for writing; the left for drawing and painting smaller pieces, on paper, in sketchbooks; the middle for stacks of books, ones I'm reading as well as sketchbooks and notebooks. Since it's my living room, I chose this table since it folds to 10" wide for company.)

You can see the dog sleeping on an ottoman, and kitten toys on the floor, including a faux fur mouse that squeaks, yes it does.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Table for Everything

I am staring out at the dark snow-filled sky sitting at an Ikea NORDEN Gateleg folding table (both leaves fold so that the table is 10" wide), that I bought used through kijiji. On the leaf to the right, the 'writing' side, I am working on a poem; the other side is for painting on papers, in Moleskines and such, and has a table-top easel on it, jars of water, small plywood boards for inks and paints; in the middle are stacks of sketchbooks, notebooks and books of poetry. On my lap,  as I sit on a small folding chair that was a 'street find' last summer, is a small heated throw to keep electric heating costs down... it's cosy, quite lovely actually.


Another Illuminata Photo

I took the photo in direct sun on my dining room table, the Moleskine at a steep angle. You can see in the upper left corner that the glass the sun shines through is splotchy (in 6 years the landlord has not cleaned it once). This photo will not replace the one that looks like a go, but I may post different takes simply because I find the appearance of the gold (and copper and silver) leaf in different types of light interesting.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

'First Death in Nova Scotia': John Scott's adaptation of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop

direct link: First Death in Nova Scotia: an adaptation of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop

John Scott's new cinepoem is strange and haunting and beautiful: 'First Death in Nova Scotia,' a new adaptation of an Elizabeth Bishop poem. John wrote in an email:

"I would love it if you could spread the word on your facebook page or blog. We're seeking a wide audience for it in an effort to build energy and credibility for a longer documentary we want to make on the poet Elizabeth Bishop. I know that you're a busy person and your help is definitely appreciated!"

With a death in my family last year, my 89 year old mother passed away peacefully in a nearby nursing home, and memories of a deceased second cousin, a middle-aged man, lying in a coffin in a house in England when I was perhaps eight years old, this cinepoem moved me in that profound way that gazing upon someone who has died does. The whiteness, the life etched in the features, the form that is already dissolving. And of course the tragedy, and an unearthly peace. Yet, as Scott's cinepoem shows with the animation, the voiceover, the poet who gazes upon death is also in the strange and mysterious realm of art-making, of an imaginative excess that forms metaphors of living, and the ability to withstand through those metaphors. The paintings whose eyes move, the shot stuffed loon on its iced lake of white marble who watches with a knowing that the child understands, such metaphors (both verbally in Bishop's poem and visually in Scott's enactment) enable a coherence and meaning in the comprehension of our impermanent lives.


Friday, February 01, 2013

My chap book, the luminist poems, will be published by LyricalMyrical Press!

LyricalMyrical Press is publishing my chap book, 'the luminist poems'!! It's official! Wow. This really is very lovely - it will be my first published book.

LyricalMyrical publishes small runs of handmade chap books. They are beautiful little jewels, and I have bought a number of them. Very high quality writing. Luciano Iacobelli is an astute publisher, and a brilliant poet in his own right - he is also the founder and owner of the small,  new poetry cafe and bookshop in Toronto, Q Space. I am very honoured to join the select group at LyricalMyrical.

Prose poems on light and love and their complexities.

Below a possible cover.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Poets Series: Art Bar, Jan 29th

Sketches of featured poets reading at the Art Bar Tuesday night at Q Space in Toronto. One likely done; the other I may tinker with. A new style seems to be emerging for these 'Poets Series.'


The first one, The Poet Is Loose, and the second one, Cryptic Readings, 2013, are both 9"x 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, mixed media on 80lb archival Strathmore drawing paper.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A novelist at Nik Beat's HOWL at Q Space

A novelist at Nik Beat's HOWL at Q Space on Jan 27, 2013, by Brenda Clews, 9"x 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, art pens on 80lb archival Strathmore drawing paper.

While the second drawing I did was posted yesterday, this was the first one. I wasn't going to share it, but after working on it for a bit decided to.

He read a chapter from his novel. He spoke of characters; I saw figures around him.


Monday, January 28, 2013

A poet at Nik Beat's HOWL at Q Space

A poet at Nik Beat's HOWL at Q Space on Jan 27, 2013, by Brenda Clews, 9"x 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, art pens on 80lb archival Strathmore drawing paper. (Original sketch and the final with some red pencil in the hair done the next day - scanned images.)

A new style for drawing at poetry readings. And I would like to stay away from naming the poets because that frees me from representation, which has become too much of a burden. Given the dim lighting, that I generally forget my distance glasses, the angle of the poet from where I'm sitting, that there is often a big microphone covering their mouth and so on doing a more realistic sketch is too onerous.

The only thing I will say about this one is that the poet is 'into' zombies and when I showed her after and laughed, saying, 'It's you with zombie influences...' she said she loved it, but was probably only being nice. She has Salem red hair.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

the poets are coming

Trying a different style because I need to find another way to draw at poetry readings. Relying on the style that is developing for life-drawing sessions, as I have been, is not working - poets giving readings of their work don't pose, the angle is usually not interesting, and so on. Today I picked up some art markers, the kind with fine points at one end and brushes at the other and which use archival permanent inks. I think I will work with my ongoing theme of multiples, multiplicity.

the poets are coming, 2013, 9"x 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, art markers on 80lb archival Strathmore drawing paper.

Character, Theme, or Plot?

The question was, 'Which is of greater importance: Character, Theme, or Plot? What do you think?'

While I cannot consider Aristotle on plot and character, nor whether 'Waiting for Godot' calls these aspects of written art, drama, novels, into question, I can speak from personal experience.

Plot is the design of a life. However that might be construed. Character is the individual thrust, how the person handles what's thrown at them.

Ok. So plot is narrative. Suspense. What grabs and holds. Character creates plot, I guess. Even in Aristotelian terms. Hubris. Or, oppositely, the magic miracle.

And really, plot, narrative, is what 'sells.' It keeps us hooked on the unfolding of events that may or may not be caused by the characters of the central characters.

In 'Waiting for Godot,' Beckett creates a situation in which the characters await a central narrative, a dominant metaphor, a Godot, who never appears, and yet, like them, we wait, we wait to see if the meaning of it all will manifest and therefore we are thrust into a narrative that holds us in suspense.

What can leave narrative? Plot? The structure of a story that unfolds through action? Setting, elements, crisis, resolution, and so on. I would say poetry.

The writer or director of poetry abandons plot, and yet never fully abandons character. The narrator exists; the narrator through whom the poem is told.

I think of Tarkovsky, whose Stalker I put on last night, and which was criticized as an 'art movie' with no real plot, nothing to grip and hold the viewer.

Yet Stalker is all character, and the movement of the plot is driven by character, the needs, knowledge and desires of character.

Character, plot, theme. It is an unanswerable question. It depends on your preferences.


Narrative is certainly part of what constitutes the plot. It's the story, isn't it. And the story is the action, its trajectory through the time it takes to read the book or watch the film. The plot can be plotted, in fact.

But I am speaking of poetry, which often can and has to break free of the normative constraints of an interwoven net of plot, character, theme. Poetry surely is where narrative can break free of plot? Isn't 'Waiting for Godot' more of a work of poetry in this regard?

A poet works with themes and images, and the narratorial voice can be anywhere, there are no rules.

To be sure, there are so-called narrative poets, even last night I was reading Maxine Kumin's 'Where I Live,' a book of poems, and to my mind she is a narratorial poet, a commenter on culture and so on, and while the farm life she describes is presented beautifully and poignantly in her poetry, I wasn't attracted to her stories because the language isn't that interesting, she doesn't call her own judgments and image-making capacities into question, and she remains solidly in the 'controlling metaphor' tradition for structural coherence.

I couldn't finish the book, and will likely pass it on at a used bookstore. Then I opened Laura Kasischke's 'Space, in Chains,' and was immediately fascinated, intrigued, and found my perceptions opened in the inner poetic landscape of the writer, a distantly surreal flux of images that remain contextual, an inner story of a life.

Making me think that while narrative is naturally inclined to plot, though it can be wrestled from it, fragmented or hidden or obscured, context is really the poet's domain.

In some ways, I truly think context is everything.

Context is how we arrive at understanding subjective truth, our positioning in any viewpoint. Context is neither character, nor plot, nor theme (or meaning). When we say there is no objective truth it is because we understand we are always 'in context of.' And I think context is central to creating coherence in poetry, but is not necessarily quite so important in the prose traditions (like fables, short stories, novels, plays, popular films, etc).


Friday, January 25, 2013

On sketching from life or using photographs

In response to a question at Facebook about whether I sketch from life or use photographs:
...sketches are either from life, or directly from my imagination. Occasionally, I take a reference shot with my iPhone if I have a good start on the drawing itself. The camera turns 3D space into 2D and sees it in a way that an artist might not if they were to turn the same scene into a flat picture. Often a drawing made from a photograph looks like a drawing made from a photograph and lacks the energy that doing it from real life would impart. If you use photographs, stop using them at a certain point in the process of drawing or painting and let the energy of the scene speak directly to you. Don't fully rely on them and don't duplicate them - make your own interpretation. Just my take on it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Art Bar last night

Photo taken at the Art Bar last night by Norman.

...I like to give credit for photos if I can... barely know Norman - he's a fellow poet and artist, and a naturopath. Seems a very nice man, a good friend of a friend. We exchanged phone numbers and he apparently always takes an identifying photo. We both did open mic - his was a sound poem; I like his work very much. I've been trying to go to the Art Bar - weekly poetry readings with an open mic - for 6 months, and made it in -20C weather last night. I love poetry! I love Q Space! :))

Below two quick charcoal sketches I did, absolutely untouched, and of course thinking prolly both women would hate them, so no names for the Internet browsers to catch. :)

Poets reading at the Art Bar at Q Space, 2013, Brenda Clews, 9" 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, charcoal sketches, finished drawing is mixed media, on 80lb archival Strathmore drawing paper.

And below is a little pic from the Portobello poetry reading on January 5th, the day I started coming down with the nasty influenza bug I am still recovering from. My young poet and artist friend, Jacques, was there. Bänoo Zan was one of the features, an Iranian poet, and she's terrific. And Robert Priest sang, and read one poem. It was a lovely afternoon of poetry and music.

I'm going to be a feature there in July, which will be lovely - such a nice crowd, and the host, Linda Stitt, is a really special woman.


Monday, January 21, 2013

#4 drawing from the final Keyhole Life-Drawing Session finished

This is the drawing I did last night, and that I'm not too happy with. I used conte crayons and some pastel pencils on what is really a watercolour paper, so the texture of the paper peeps through. I finished a sketch (which I included here) from the very last Keyhole Life-Drawing session whose theme was 'Fight Club.'

4-final, Keyhole Sessions, 12013, Brenda Clews, 15" x 11", charcoal, conte crayon, pastel pencils, 130lb archival paper.

I accomplished my main, really my only, New Year's Resolution yesterday, and then last night did a really bad drawing. Wonder if they're related? Lol. I'll try to fix it as best I can and post later. :)))))


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Woman in a Sketchbook

I guess it was 3am when I finished this little 'test sketch.' I mostly used conte crayon, which is awkward to make fine lines with, and am now wondering if conte comes in pencil form. Anyone know?

A Woman in a Sketchbook, 2013, 6" x 6.5", charcoal, conte crayon in Moleskine A3 sketchbook.