parkdale-7

mad late, but here are the haikus from last week before today’s last workshop:

the theme was “autumn turning into winter in parkdale”:

it’s too hot inside
smells of man are very ripe
polyester-no.

dark days turn frosty
leaves are more wet than crunchy
ground down into slush

farmer’s market done
tacos are all year round, though
faces-stuffed and starved

this time, they’re all about nature (maybe the theme set us up for success)-and i know that rule now.

time flies when you’re having fun.

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parkdale, 6.

“sometimes, you have to kill your puppies”

sometimes, the advice that you get in writing workshop confirms everything that is happening in your life.

i have been feeling some rage lately-i just want people to be better, and know how to express their feelings without hiding behind grossly re-imagined texts and emails. i left work just early enough to slide into the abbott for tea and got the satisfaction of stamping all the paper cups and ranting to the lovely katherine.

first, the quotes of my amazing and talented co-writers for further pondering:

“we periodically take her on a magical mystery tour”

“it sounds like a shortcut to creativity”

and now, my poetry of the night-the faux sestinas, first from my free write, and then from everyone’s free writes. this time, i contributed “grimace” because “pork hock” was not accepted:

pork is a tough sell
it inspires grimaces, religious and secular
with stalkery byproducts-check your marshmallows
though flexibly delicious atop all of the starches
rice, potato, perogy, bread, noodles
an unintentional service announcement
merely a statement of facts as i have no hocks to hawk

so frustrated
trying to livestream
the octopus
hiding in water
inspires only grimaces
what is the formula?!

we started editing, and it was nice to look back on all of our writings, and i did find a piece to develop for the parkdale time capsule, but it’s more of a piecing together of many writings, rather than one to be edited.

(i forgot to find the emotional centre).

oops.

once again, i’m so great-full for the time and space and writings shared with this group.

parkdale-five

though heavily carb-motivated, i felt much better about my efficiency last evening.

i let off some steam with a rant about pronunciation choices, and learned a lot through the group share about things going on in the city and things going on in brains. here are some lovely things to think further on:

“vampirate”
second-hand pens
nominating monsters

our prompts came out of books that were based in parkdale (what a great idea) and the ink flowed freely.

this is from our last exercise of the night-the personification of the neighborhood, which is the perfect merging of writing characters and writing the city as a character. here it is, with some flash morning edits:

Pro-noun

They’re not subtle, that’s for sure. But they’re definitely a they: non-conforming to gender, class, race or mass. Perfect in their imperfections, hypocritical in their contradictions, they’re never fully gentrified-with a smile. They never fit in, and therefore fit in perfectly. Their personalities, schedules, alternative professions, ducks-cannot be fully explained but somehow make sense within the borders of the neighbourhood, like those giant stuffed tigers at The Ex. It’s all fun and games until you have to wrassle it onto a crowded express bus to Dundas West station. Are they done counting how many days it’s been since last sugar was tasted? When did they alter the Elm Grove bus stop to read “Elmo Grover”? Do people who are assigned to recruit there as Witnesses actually fear being invited into their homes? Their mounting beef with the police includes the oversight of the bylaw that states that you must clean up after your pet, as horses casually trot and drop mementos one tonne at a time on the residential street west of busy Dufferin. It’s a good thing they move slowly enough to receive the clear disapproval, straight through the eyes.

parkdale-4

i think we were all a bit tired last night.

we did exercises on character, switching gears from place, and i found it challenging for this reason:

“I think it’s easier for me to write about place than character in this neighbourhood because the hood is a character, and so full of real ones, that it’s hard to imagine one in.

Perhaps I should personify the tamarind balls that I forgot are for sale in that OG general store.”

and, so.

perhaps i was just too full of baked onion rings.

we’ll try again next week.

parkdale love letters-week three

for the first time last week, i left the workshop with a piece that needed work and re/work. i knew from the free write that it would be the night that i pay tribute to dov, and i had just come from jim wong-chu’s memorial the night before, so i was feeling a bit bittersweet and tender. but that’s the thing about writing-it’s always got me through.

i lit some incense for these friends and mentors yesterday, imperfect as they were, and went out into my community to celebrate strong women and also to cry in the ceremonial space that was walking with our sisters-it’s kind of hard to fully celebrate when the misogyny and art that comes from healing is so real. the top part of a moccasin is called a vamp (i learned this), and a gymnasium full of decorated yet not sewn into a full shoe (to represent the unfinished lives of the missing and murdered indigenous women) was so power-full and so shame-full (hey, canada). i crumbled at the first baby one, and cried angry tears at the ones that had dates-1971 stands out-some people have been waiting for justice for their loved ones for 8 years before i was born, and many more have been waiting so much longer. one set were covered in garbage bags and stated “we are precious. we are not your disposable garbage”. the beadwork, the needlework, the mourning, and the artistry that came out of the creativity necessary for survival was flooring and another reminder of the inequality between women and men, because even when we are navigating the most violent of circumstances, we are the ones shouldering the responsibility of educating and coping, all while our bodies are the battleground.

and they call us crazy.

well.

there were a lot of feels that came out of life last week, so here’s to starting this one with some process:

i chose two pictures tonight
because of their warmth
no one was in the frames
but lights were the sign of life

i took a picture of you once
at the Cadillac Lounge
whisky was in the frame
but no physical copy exists
you’re as tangible as you ever were

drawn to your smoky drawl
country in the city
art on your arms and music in your heart
i suppose i chose warmth thrice

i once saw you cry because
your wall was covered
immediately after you painted it
and i am still moved
when i hear that old soul singer
you introduced me to
now especially

frozen water
still water
live

reflecting the light
evidence that we were here
but also that we’re not

you went back to the ocean
home forever
except the part of your essence
that remains in Parkdale

i hold space.

parkdale inspires-day two (the dog)

last night, our lovely little parkdale-loving writing group met for the second time, up a few members.

i didn’t come out of the session with as many gems, though my comment of “i didn’t get much further than ‘defiant ducks'” garnered the response “that’s going to be my next album title” from the person who also said, “i’ve got some nonsense”. so.

one of the new members introduced herself by stating: “my last poem was about a cat…who looks like he’s wearing a tuxedo!”, which is charming as all fuck.

anyway, here’s the takeaway (after a quick morning edit):

i walk down the steps of death into the day. on my way to the bus stop, my eyes automatically scan the abandoned and overgrown lot to focus on that guy who sometimes slips behind the fence to just sit there. we wave and say hi, never talking about the dog that’s always with him, even though it’s always a different dog.

no momos yet, tito ness-i can’t force it. but six more weeks for the planted seed to come to fruition….

the mortality of jim wong-chu

“did you know jim wong-chu?”

“yea, did he die?”

“yes, two days ago”

“of course i knew him from the RP days and he was also my mailman”

“oh yea, he was a mailman”

“and then he called me a bridge-burning lesbian”

“WHAT?!”

i mean, this was less of a big deal to me than the person who informed me of jim’s passing over text, and jim himself. he definitely had a problem with lesbians.

and bridge-burning.

admittedly, i was always on the outskirts of his legacy, even when i lived in vancouver, and moved into the neighborhood that the ricepaper office was in that also happened to be his route (no accidents). i was a freshly minted women’s studies (under)grad and oh so worldly because i spent a year in viet nam immersing myself in “my culture”-i was ready to claim my place amongst the great magazine writers of the world.

so i got a retail job. because no writer can make it just writing, right?

well, jim started an asian-canadian arts and culture magazine so that we could not only see ourselves reflected, but we also had a platform to create our own culture, and document it as it was happening. it wasn’t perfect, but it was/is.

he also started a grant (that i’ve been meaning to apply for) so that we could ensure our place in the canadian literary canon.

he also had a day job, and stayed at it because hey-writers gotta eat, and he chose one that allowed him to be not only publisher and literal distributor (he put my copies right into my mailbox, and probably saved on postage too!) but also to hang around the office and suggest wild article ideas to any young writer trapped in asian filial politesse he could see.

there were people-editors, directors, managers between jim and me, and most of them at one time or another had an estranged relationship with him, and to be honest, i think i forgot he was the founder and publisher until i googled the death announcement this morning, two days late.

as i write this, i’m in a text conversation with a RP affiliate that i’ve been meaning to see for some time now. this is not the reason that i envisioned that would bring us together. but it is the one that brought us together officially.

i lost track of jim when i left vancouver (presumably to become a bridge-burning lesbian) for montreal, but i thought he would always be there. i would hear about him from time to time, and even asked about him.

he was born two years after my father, so he died at 68.

it would seem that i haven’t asked about him in some time. and i haven’t heard.

but here’s to the legacy of jim wong-chu. i will forever respect his hustle and his humility to disappear into the footnotes, never use his own platform to write all the stories about the bands of acrobatic asian janitors that he met, and all the times he offered his own money to one (or all) of us to eat.

i’m great-full to him for never checking me, as i’m old enough now to know that i should’ve been checked many times over. i’m sure that there are many who can testify more intimately to the ways their lives and careers have been touched by jim wong-chu, but i offer this peripheral blink.

thank you, jim, for the reminder of impact, vision, and the importance of taking up space because it’s not a high school dance.

the next time i’m at main and broadway, i’ll pour out a little congee for you. unless they’ve razed my congee joint too. (sigh).

as much as i was lost in a self-absorbed fog of how i had to leave vancouver, it was perfect at that time of my life, and i was exactly where i needed to be. this reminder comes not a minute too soon, here in this city that i’ve finally reached after idealizing it for so long from there.

things are pretty freaking good here and now, too.