wordcurrents’ 11th anniversary

Deadlines are often seen as a scourge: they create stress and are often viewed as unreasonable demands by the poor striving minions who work under them. I know that, because when I was sixteen years old, I faced the deadline of having to produce two columns per week for our local daily newspaper, The Northern Daily News. For five cents per column inch, I stood, Monday and Wednesday evenings after supper, at the big cast-iron Underwood typewriter that stood on my bedroom dresser and pounded out items of interest for my fellow students, for my column, entitled “Collegiate Chatter”. I discovered early on, that the more names I dropped, the greater my readership. I did that for two years until I left for University.

With that experience behind me, I was ready for essay deadlines, which for me, were child’s play, at zero cents per column inch. And, after all, the deadlines were usually about a month apart.

For many years, when I was teaching, I rose at 5:30 AM to write, sadly, without a deadline except for breakfast, when I had to stop, eat, shave and get ready for work.
It was not until I retired in 1993 that I had the wonderful leisure of being able to write during any part of the day, as I pleased.

But I found I was writing all over the place, without much intent, focusing on writing plays. I experienced a turning point when I was invited to become part of the Playwrights Unit in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, where I was under contract for a year. During that year, I was one of nine playwrights who met with dramaturg Lise Ann Johnson and occasionally Arthur Milner every second Sunday afternoon to share and critique each other’s work.

The experience was exhilarating. I discovered deadlines all over again, and found my writing was blooming.

After that heady experience, which culminated in public staged readings of excerpts from our scripts — by Equity actors, no less — at The Great Canadian Theatre Company and Arts Court, I returned to writing without deadlines, and found myself lamenting the lack thereof.

For number of years I continued writing, but found I was getting nowhere. I needed a deadline, obviously; but until I had an editor or a publisher demanding that I finish work on time, that was not going to happen. I contemplated trying to find an agent who could get me an editor or publisher, but I just did not want to spend the effort doing that, when I could be writing. I faced a paradox: my writing would go nowhere without a deadline, but I was to preoccupied or lazy to do what I need to do to get me a deadline.

Along came blogging. I started reading blogs as they became popular. It took me a few months to realize that I could write a blog, and it could become my deadline if I stated publicly that I had one. So that is what I did. I stated at the top of my blog that I was intending to write a new poem every day.

On Valentine’s Day, 2006, I wrote my first poem for wordcurrents, and posted it here.

I did that, religiously, every day for about three years. I stopped doing that, and turned to novel writing — but that is a different story.

So, here I am, 1148 poems in eleven years later. Scourge? Hardly. Incentive, blessing, even? Most definitely.

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The Silence

In the evening, we surrender to our
screens: they command, we submit.
Sound-cancelling headphones for me;
some use earbuds. No one speaks.

Beautiful lady, may I
slide my fingers into your ears?
You do not hear me: your earbuds
block my fingers. No one speaks.

Too intimate you say
—would say, if I could enter you.
Wait: a child is dying; her
mother and I weep, on Netflix.
No one speaks.

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Stone Cold Love

Again snot-nosed kid
in snowsuit squirms,
screams. Woman smacks,
almost knocks him out
of his stinking squalor
in the shopping cart.
Hard eyes confront.
Silence for a preschooler
on Thursday afternoon.

Were he to lie bleeding
under that cart
or a careless car,
would she wail and bleat
her fists against
her leaking eyes?

Oh, yes.

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