shadows & light: a poetry/art celebration

‘They are found in sun-kissed storm clouds, along frost-etched mountain sides, and in the silvery line separating ocean from cliff. Shadow and light – they are found in the murky depths of the delta, the dappled cool of a forest floor, and the subterranean dreams of poets. ‘
Thus begins the preface written by Martha Swinn in Writers North of 540’s fourth anthology, ‘shadows & light.’

This was an exciting creation for our group as we ventured on a year long collaboration with artist Joan Turecki. Her atmospheric and dense paintings were a rich opportunity for us to stretch our comfort zones with poetry while our dialogue inspired Joan’s exploration in pigment.

In this conversation between painting and poem, our group explored metaphors and images  from Joan’s work.

Changing Light

With Changing Light Harold Feddersen’s poem “Estuary” reminds us of the edge we rub up against with growth: “your safe birth stream/now too small/downstream/into the estuary/a transition space/between former/and future you” while I, Joan Conway, consider the image of separation: “Your fingers reach out/but never quite touch/wanting to/part the silence,/undo the silk curtain of secrets,/allow intimacy’s tender hold/to bring you closer.”

Quiet Solitude: Pine Lake Walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In response to “Quiet Solitude: Pine Lake Walk” Solveig Adair acknowledges the deep intimacy of trees withlet me be a/root let me sink deep into/soil knowing light/only by the whispers of/Raindrops.” while Norma Kerby responds to this painting with her homage “old trees/veterans from a/vanquished civilization of wood/artifact of an ancient forest/remnants fading back to shadows.

Fading Light

In response to “Fading Light” Martha Swinn explores the relationship of mountains with rain forest in “Tangled Dreams”, “A scud of mist trickling over seedy stalks and lifting to tree tops/Sganist – solid, grey, forever silent – cold tipped from last night/Rising above the mist to the sky; a pause of breath” while Jesse McCloskey examines her own identity with the vastness of mountains: “A wish to be relevant to the earth;/true and real./Sanity dances at the edge of reason./A stillness comes —/foreboding mountains speak:/Be careful,/There are no guarantees.”

Morning Mist in Valley
In response to “Morning Mist in Valley” Baxter Huston replies with the metaphor “All our summer dreams are illusory it seems, /and yet they chase the shadows from the corner./There’s always one more dream around the corner.”

And so thank you Joan Turecki for this opportunity to deepen our poetic experience with this collaboration. Your paintings remind us of the immense diversity and stunning beauty of this wild land in which we are blessed to live and give voice to.

Joan Turecki’s art exhibit ‘Shadow and Light’ opened at the Terrace Art Gallery for the month of November, 2018.

 

Left to right: Solveig Adair, Martha Swinn, Joan Turecki, Joan Conway, Harold Feddersen, Baxter Huston, Norma Kerby. Missing from photo: Jesse McCloskey

 

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Metal Element: A Time of Reaping and Reflection

This afternoon I spent a few hours in the garden heeling in some potted rose bushes, mulching others with a layer of sodden leaves. The odd branch from our surrounding birch trees wave with a few lingering leaves, yellow against the lead gray sky. I stop to watch them and am hit with my own melancholic wave. I am letting go of all that was abundant throughout the year as I continue my preparations for winter.

I learn from Cheri Reidy that autumn is the season of the Metal Element in Chinese Medicine. A time associated with the emotion of grief. There is also great potential in this period of lose. It is possible to mine the nuggets, just as trees are transformed into austere beauty,  I too can let go of what I no longer need so that I can see what is precious in my life.

 

 

Metal Element
Colour: white
Season: Autumn
Environment: Dry
Emotion: Grief
Organs: Lungs & Large Intestines

 

I resonate with poet and philosopher, Mark Nepo in times of grief. His book, ‘Seven Thousand Ways To Listen’ was a companion when I did not know which way to go.  His words encouraged me to go inward, for it is there I can recognize what feels sacred in my life.

It’s as if what is unbreakable
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.
— Mark Nepo

 

 

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Heartwood: Poems For The Love Of Trees

As dawn rises I look out of my window; am constantly appreciative of the trees that surround me. Their dark silhouettes like many arms reach out to embrace, ask little, and yet their presence nets me in a continuum. I am held within a complex system, supported by their life-giving essence.

This connection is honoured in The League of Canadian Poets’ Anthology, ‘Heartwood: For The Love Of Trees.’ The very title speaks to this place. Heartwood at its most basic level is in the centre providing adequate support for the tree. Just as our organ transports life nutrients, trees are crucial to our well being and survival.

Leslie Strutt, editor of this anthology, feels passionately about the place trees hold. This sparked her vision to call forward poets from every province and territory, as Amazon states, “to celebrate the immeasurable value trees have for the environment and the soul.”

“Trees matter,” wrote Strutt from the 288-page anthology, “and we have written about them with the windows of our hearts open, breathing in the good air that the forests provide.”

Diana Beresford-Kroeger from her forward writes “The entire music of the universe is held in the trees. It is amplified again, again, and again within the forest. To listen to this music is to meditate. Taken alone, this is sufficient reason to make all forests sacred. And us accountable.”

I was therefore thrilled to have one of my poems selected for the anthology, which joined local poet Norma Kerby with her poem ‘Punk tree’ and Harold Feddersen.  The anthology was announced at the recent Rural Writers Retreat, where Harold read his poem, “Windfall.”

My own poem, ‘Survival’ was in conversation with local artist/writer/creative soul Noreen Spence whose work continues to inspire our northern town. Her mural, in collaboration with other artists, speaks to the place trees hold for us.

I am lucky enough to have one of her works in my reading nook titled, ‘The Myth of Skin.’ Noreen quotes Audrey Grescoe,  “The roots of coast redwood trees extend four to six feet down and 125 feet out from the tree….In one experiment, marked water put into one redwood was detected in another 500 feet away.” With this information Noreen provocs us with the question, “Where do you end off and I begin” in the relationship we have with our autonomy.  I leave you with this inquiry. We are not separate. We need to take care of our trees as if our life depends on it, which it does.

 

 

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Earth Element: A Time of Abundance

Once again, I share in the explorations of the Five Element Theory with acupuncturist  Cheri Reidy.  I learn that late summer is the Earth element, a time to harvest the abundance of what is provided. The Earth element is closely associated with the archetype of the Mother, or Mother Earth. It is the mother who feeds and sustains us.

I grow to understand that when I am balanced in the Earth element I feel secure in knowing that I have enough. I can stand in the center and comfortably hold all that is going on around me with a recognition that life is bountiful.

Trusting that I have enough, or am enough, is an ongoing practice.  It is no simple task for me to be stay away from fearful walls built from  feelings of scarcity. With trust I can keep grounded and am more able to support and nurture myself, then I can also give more easily to others.

 

The color of the Earth element is yellow. The odor associated with Earth is fragrant, while the sound is singing, and the emotion is sympathy.

 

 

 

 

Earth energy is also a time for community building and connecting with others. It was an amazing gift to be able to come together in the glorious heat of late summer to do our creative explorations. I hold this close to my heart, and will lean into the memory of this experience during times when I need to acknowledge that the harvest is rich.

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Leaving Your Mark

‘How humbled I am to live in the north. Witness black bears gorge on first feedings of skunk cabbage. Feed bold Grey Jays where I’ve hiked steep terrains. Even though I have lived here for 35 years I am still a new comer. My hope- if I slow to the ancient rhythms of this powerful region- is that I will see with clearer eyes. Know where my responsibilities lie. Pen in hand, I mark my way in my own small way.’

This is the last paragraph in an article that I wrote for Thimbleberry‘s second edition.

How aware am I of my imprint is a question that I continually ask myself? I understand that we leave our mark whether it be intentional or not and so it can be easy to feel weighed down by the blundering of being human.
The answer seems to coincide with the question, how do I see what is before me, be sensitive to the land and find my place in this complex interconnecting system? It is mostly when I shift a feeling of separation, that I better know how to be and then know what I can offer.

 

I leave you with images from local photographer Jeanine Philippe  who’s passion for the north is evident in all of her images. She is attuned to the wildness, and to the magic of where we live.

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Fire Element: Opening the Heart

I learn through my collaborations with acupuncturist Cheri Reidy that Fire is the energy of early summer and like Fire we are infused with the ability to stretch to our full potential. In the Five Element Theory, the emotion associated with Fire is joy, which, when in balance, represents an overflowing enthusiasm for life. The color associated with Fire is red; the climate is hot; and the sound connected with Fire is the sound of laughter

Fire is the energy of the Heart Meridian – the King or Queen of the body’s Kingdom. Through Cheri’s instruction we learn that the Heart has but one desire and one filter setting, Love. Thirteenth Century poet, Rumi, writes, ‘ Of all the offerings on the table of Life how can I drink only from the cup of Love and how can I share of this cup with others?’ Much of Rumi’s poetry was believed to have been composed in a state of ecstasy, induced by the music of the flute or drums.  He often accompanied his verses by a whirling dance, and so many of his poems were composed to be sung in Sufi musical gatherings; much like Fire, they were infused with divine love.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear, ‘One Hundred Ways To Kiss The Ground’ – Renowned Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks & master musicians perform at St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church in Vancouver. To be able to attend was nothing less than pure magical synchronicity as it was a time of deep loss in my life. While I sat in the church surrounded by so many offerings of beauty from the table of life, the effect of Rumi’s poems, the accompanying musicians and whirling dervishes, split me open. Long after the performance was over, I was unable to leave. My heart was painfully wide open, my grief so at the surface of my being, I could not deny the intensity of that burning fire of love. 

 And so, I leave you with my collage which has Rumi’s poem written on it

May your heart open in love

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”

Rumi

 

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All Things Poetry, April 26th

Imagine for a moment living in a society where poetry is a part of the mainstream rather than residing with an obscure artistic subculture. Where it would not be unusual to find street poets reading on  corners, in front of supermarkets, or at local fairs. If you could regularly hear spoken word poets in coffee shops, perhaps alongside musicians to help create a deeper atmosphere. See more frequently poems combined with images  in photography, or collage. Poems exhibited alongside paintings in art galleries.

After all, poetry is strong stuff. It can make you laugh, cry, cause people to throw their arms around you in appreciation.Why then do we not work harder to have fun with poetry, to make it more accessible.

This is the spirit of Poem in Your Pocket on April 26th. The message for this day is beautiful: keep it simple! It can be as easy as selecting a poem, carrying it with you, and sharing it with others. The League of Canadian Poets has many creative ideas on how to celebrate this event.

I am thrilled to have one of my poems selected for the League’s 2018 booklet. Here is my offering:

Joans poem in pocket

Swamp Zone” by Joan Conway
from the 2018 Poem in Your Pocket Day booklet

That summer the swamp was our world
I rowed with my sister
among bulrushes and pond lilies
waxy cups, a floating garden
flat disk of leaves
platforms for dragonflies
black veined wings
iridescent in sunlight.

That summer my uncle fried up frog legs.
‘Just like chicken’ he declared
them sitting on a plate coated in flour
at night I dream of slippery bodies surrounding the cabin
throat pouch ballooning taught
vociferous croaking call missing partners.

My mother would stretch out
on smooth curved rocks
sunning herself
rubbing lotion on her creamy white thighs
wet and slippery
my uncle massaging oil onto her back
laughing down at her
and told us kids to go play.

In the swamp zone searching for frogs
how they would lie perfectly still
if you stroked their belly
legs dangling open in some private rapture.

Where I crouched
stranded amongst the reeds
long taper of leaves surrounding me,
closer to shore
roots left high and dry
by the end of that summer.

Let’s imagine that we can bring poetry to the forefront of our society. Lets keep it real.

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