Wednesday, 12 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: Joy Kagawa

What Do I Remember of the Evacuation

What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember my father telling Tim and me
About the mountains and the train
And the excitement of going on a trip
What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember my mother wrapping
A blanket around me and my
Pretending to fall asleep so she would be happy
Though I was so excited I couldn't sleep
(I hear there were people herded
Into the Hastings Park like cattle.
Families were made to move in two hours
Abandoning everything, leaving pets
And possessions at gun point
I hear families were broken up
Men were forced to work. I heard
it whispered late at nights
That here was suffering) and
I missed my dolls.
What do I remember of the evacuation?
I remember Miss Foster and Miss Tucker
Who still live in Vancouver
And who did what they could
And loved the children and who gave me
A puzzle to play with on the train.
And I remember the mountains and I was
Six years old and I swear I saw a giant
Gulliver of Gulliver's Travels scanning the horizon
And when I told my mother she believed it too
And I remember how careful my parents were
Not to bruise us with bitterness
And I remember the puzzle of Lorraine Life
Who said "Don't insult me" when I
Proudly wrote my name in Japanese
And how Tim flew the Union Jack
When the war was over but Lorraine
And her friends spat on us anyway
And I prayed to the God who loves
All the children in his sight
That I might be white.

- Joy Kagawa: Vancouver Soul of a City

Tuesday, 11 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: Frank Davey


I watch the workmen
take the steel braces
from between the frail concrete
of a new building,
while next door
an old redbrick one
is battered into slag
and burnt.

Years ago there was a tent here
- you see the picture in the Centennial Anthology -
then the campfire ashes
were kicked aside
and frame and clapboard
- still scented with the breath
of first- seen timber -
hammered together.

grey stone brought in from somewhere east
shining bricks
                      from Clayburn
- short years of barter
bringing it about
short years of human eyes
regarding one strip
of sterile dirt.

        In the mountains you can see
        the ghost
        the ghostly towns abound:
                            a skeleton of noble streets,
                            a green- hung
        grey- board mummy,
                      some grassed- in ashes
        pheonix moved on.

But here
the ashes are made
and hurried away,
by generations of men
whose children
fight to build castles
daily in the sand.

(see Frank Davey's blog here)

Monday, 10 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: Robin Blaser


Sacred to the Memory of
who died Sept. 24, 1923
Beloved Wife of Late
Chief Tom
of the Squamish band of Indians
Her Father
Chief George Capilano
who met Captain Cook in A.D. 1782
and was first to meet, welcome
and escort Captain Vancouver into
Burrard Inlet on the 14th June
A.D. 1792. He advised his people
to follow his example in welcoming
the adventurers

(North Vancouver)

- from: Vancouver - Soul of a City, ed. Gary Geddes

(nb the historical record noted in this poem is oddly mistaken, time conflated - "Chief George Capilano" could not have been her father if he had met Capt. Vancouver or Capt. Cook - further research required)

Sunday, 9 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: George Bowering


Sometimes in mid-April we fill our hot-tubs
with Perrier water, we are so pacific, west
coasting through spring, casting not a thought
to our poor cousins in Toronto, slogging

through dirty snow to their cute restaurants
with nifty names. Casting not a thought
but delivering an image if we can, posing
wisely as the people who were foresighted enough

to create a city with warm winters. Would anyone,
they ask in gelid Ottawa, live on the edge out there
except for the weather? This will make
a good enough question for a gentle poem to pose.

(Even in something that sounds like prose.)
Sitting in my Perrier water, nibbling on sushi,
I will respond-in time, in time. But first,
pass the pale wine. Listen to the peaceful wind

in the glass chimes. Put war from your mind.
Note yon billboard-it was commissioned
by an eastern firm. It tells us to buy snow tires
for a Canadian winter. It is a pretty billboard,

I like it. I just have no time for the fancy man
who insists our season past was not
Canadian. Not Canadian, he says, hardly glancing
at the Japanese plum blossoms. Not really Canadian,

that pretty whale. Not interesting, your poems
with no snow, no stoic drone. Take off your pants,
I say, and step into this tub. Oh no you dont,
he says, I know every stereotype in your town.

Here's the story: there's no more truth in that story
than there is music in this poem. Why dont I
buckle down and fix it? Maybe I will, but
not right now-let's have a spinach salad

with avocado. Let's encourage those bristling
folk on Bloor Street, let them fancy we never think
but dance, never put on our pants, let chance
and the Japanese current whisper when our ship

comes in. Laden with little foreign cars. Light
as the touch of our soft flowing guilt.

 - unpublished, 1999

Saturday, 8 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: Earle Birney


About me the night       moonless      wimples the mountains
wraps ocean      land      air      and mounting
sucks at the stars      The city      throbbing below
webs the sable peninsula      The golden
strands overleap the seajet      by bridge and buoy
vault the shears of the inlet      climb the woods
toward me      falter      and halt      Across to the firefly
haze of a ship on the gulps erased horizon
roll the lambent spokes of a lighthouse

Through the feckless years we have come to the time
when to look on this quilt of lamps is a troubling delight
Welling from Europe's bog      through Africa flowing
and Asia      drowning the lonely lumes on the oceans
tiding up over Halifax      now to this winking
outpost comes flooding the primal ink

On this mountain's brutish forehead with terror of space
I stir      of the changeless night and the stark ranges
of nothing      pulsing down from beyond and between
the fragile planets      We are a spark beleaguered
by darkness      this twinkle we make in a corner of emptiness
how shall we utter our fear that the black Experimentress
will never in the range of her microscope find it?      Our Phoebus
himself is a bubble that dries on Her slide      while the Nubian
wears for an evening's whim a necklace of nebulae

Yet we must speak      we the unique glowworms
Out of the waters and rocks of our little world
we conjured these flames      hooped these sparks
by our will      From blankness and cold we fashioned stars
to our size      and signalled Aldebaran
This must we say      whoever may be to hear us
if murk devour      and none weave again in gossamer:

                                                These rays were ours
we made and unmade them      Not the shudder of continents
doused us      the moon's passion      nor crash of comets
In the fathomless heat of our dwarfdom      our dream's combustion
we contrived the power      the blast that snuffed us
No one bound Prometheus      Himself he chained
and consumed his own bright liver      O stranger
Plutonian      descendant      or beast in the stretching night--
there was light

- 1941

Earle Birney: from Fall by Fury

Friday, 7 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: Earle Birney



a hundred million years
for mountains to heave
suffer valleys
the incubus of ice
grow soil-skin

twenty thousand for firs to mass
send living shafts out of rock


with saw of flame
vice of thong
jade axe
the first builders contrived their truce
with sea and hill

out of high cedar slid the longboats
out of sweet wood the windslivered homes
set tight against the rain's thin fingers
a prose for endurance

out of human fear and joy
came the Shapes beyond lust
the Fin totemic
the incomputable rhythms
the song beyond need


set down a century only
for the man on the spar-top
the pelt of pavement
quick thicket of boxes
the petrified phalli
out of the stone

in the screaming chainsaws
we hushed the old dreamers
in the hullabaloo of bulldozers
dynamite dynamo crane dredge combustion
buried them deeper than all computation

walking alone now
in the grandiloquent glitter
we are lost for a way
for a line
bent for the mere eye's pleasure
a form beyond need

is there a rhythm drumming from vision?
shall we tower into art     or ashes?

it is our dreams will decide
& we are their Shapers

-Earle Birney: Vancouver Soul of a City

Thursday, 6 December 2018


Vancouver Writing: Ethel Wilson


You can drive from Vancouver to New Westminster along a highway bright with motor hotels, large motor car parks, small shops, factories of various sizes. At night everything is bright with lights and Neon dazzle. In the daytime you will see that some of these motor hotels are set in old orchards, and among the rows of neat homogeneous dwellings stand old cherry trees, sprawling and frothing with white blossoms in the spring. Later, when the blossoms fall, the gnarled trees in their ingenuous beauty remind the urbanites and suburbanites, speeding past, of another kind of place. The delicate impression is crowded out and vanishes, obliterated by every modern convenience.

-Ethel Wilson: from Swamp Angel 

The swamp angel was an 8-inch 200 pound gun used during the US Civil War circa 1863; also, the name of a small revolver manufactured by Forehand and Wadsworth.