A rose is a twig, a thorn, a leaf, a stem, a seed, seed fluff, bark, root, bud, wood and scent, and now, in early winter, the fruit. This is not, however, a period of fruition. Rather, it is an opening. The opening includes a bird dropping a seed, a seed leaf, a first root and stem and eventually a thorn, and a flower, opening as an invitation, sending its scent across the air to attract a bee or a beetle or a wasp. If a bird didn’t take the answering insect away and the flower was pollinated, the rose answers it back with a seed and the swelling of the stem around the seed. That swelling is the fruit, bright red to call birds out of the midwinter air. It is not that time yet, but in late January, when the fruit is fully ripened by the cold and the warming sun between a new moon and the snows of a full one, a bird will come, eat the fruit and drop the seed, multiplying the opening of the rose. There is no beginning here and no end, only bird and rose calling out and answering together, not with language or intent but with bodies that fit into each other like a leaf into the air. In human terms, that is, in effect, what poetry is, this opening in the world and this opening in the world again. It is not a text.
It is not the following, which is how the Ministry of Education looks on the lives of living things:
Despite the Ministry’s insistence, texts aren’t primary. The text no more starts a process of opening than does an intent. Communication does not begin with a self, a will or a human wish. The body in the world comes first. I, for one, learned to read the world before I learned to read books, and learned to prune fruit trees before I learned to write poetry. When I came to writing poetry, I treated it as a tree, a living thing I was in partnership with. It is not the usual path, but it is a human path. Here’s an example of the first book I read:
I read them as shapes in the darkness of my body and maps of the world. They are. You can read more about these ponderosa pines (for such are those shapes of bark) here, in Ponderosa Pine’s World, and here, in The Tree at the Heart of a People, and even here, in Humans and Pines are One. You can also read about them in my new book The Tree Whisperer, where this whole story is told and the consequences of the B.C. Ministry of Education’s inability to set its settler culture aside and to inhabit the land and people it lays claim to are explored in depth. This matters. Like a rose, it is blossom, bark, stem, wood, root, branch, bud, seed, fruit, and bee in one, and bears, too, which made the apples for us.
It’s a love story. You don’t tell a lover that your love is a text. For that, you’ll get stung. And apples, by the way, are roses. And, yes, these flowers are in the book, and stories of teaching people to learn to prune these trees by recognizing that these wooden bodies and ours are one, and trusting that knowledge. The book demonstrates how.
It is an opening that has been ongoing for 50,000 years, 10,000 of them including humans. I invite you to set this text aside, which is only an invitation and a record of fifty years of opening and join this ongoing opening at a bookstore near you, or here: https://okanaganokanogan.com/harold-rhenischs-shop/. Touch like this is what we do for ourselves on this Earth. It’s not school.
Poet’s Corner Reading Series
John La Greca and I are driving down the Fraser Canyon tomorrow to bring John’s poetry from the streets of Vernon to the streets of Vancouver. I will read from new work, including the first-ever reading of material from “The Black Queen” about oil pipelines, T-Rex and a wild night right through the city. The reading is at Massy Books, which is at 229 East Georgia Street, in Vancouver. Click that link for a map. It starts at 7 p.m. We look forward to having a chat with you there. John is going to be filmed for an up-coming film on poetry in the Okanagan. It should be lots of fun. Wish us good weather! Here’s Poet’s Corner’s info on the event:
Yes, we are having a reading in December! We can’t think of a better way to de-stress from the Holiday Season than by listening to some fine, fine poets and poetry. We have threefeatured poets stepping up to the microphone on December 19! All three are out-of-towners, so let’s welcome them and show our appreciation for their efforts to get here during a busy time of the year. We have to poet stalwarts and we’re introducing someone relatively new to the reading scene. Take a look at who’s coming and read their bio’s, here.
December’s First Featured Poet
Gary Geddes has written and edited close to 50 books of poetry, fiction, drama, non-fiction, criticism, translation, and anthologies and won a dozen national and international literary awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region), the Lt.-Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, and the Gabriela Mistral Prize, awarded simultaneously to Octavio Paz, Vaclav Havel, Ernesto Cardenal, Rafael Alberti, and Mario Benedetti. His non-fiction books include Letters from Managua, Sailing Home, Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things, Drink the Bitter Root. and Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care. His most recent books of poetry are Falsework, Swimming Ginger, What Does A House Want? and The Resumption of Play. Geddes has a PhD from U of T and has taught at Concordia, Western Washington University, and University of Missouri-St. Louis and has been writer-in-residence at U. of Alberta, UBC’s Green College, Ottawa U. and the Vancouver Public Library. He lives on Thetis Island, BC with his wife, the novelist Ann Eriksson.
December’s Second Featured Poet
Harold Rhenisch is the author of the critique of book culture, “The Art of Haying: a Journey to Iceland,” the sufic ghazals in “Two Minds,” the spellcraft of “The Spoken World” and twenty-seven other works of fiction, essays, poetry and environmental writing. He works as a professional editor in Vernon and does reviews for the Ormsby Review. He won awards in the CBC Literary Contest in 2007 and 2017 and won the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize twice. He met John la Greca while he was Writer in Residence at Okanagan Regional Library.
December’s Third Featured Poet
John La Greca. I’m 64. I’ve been a client of government social agencies since I was 13. I cracked up when I was 17. It wasn’t until 1980 that I got hospitalized in a psychiatric ward. I’ve been off and on Welfare ever since. I studied at Okanagan College, McGill, Guelph and UBC. Everything that came after, including six months of homelessness, can be seen in the light of an oppressed individual in the social welfare and psychiatric gulag that is present in Canada. I write because the rich and the beautiful and the connected have the monopoly on communication access and distribution. Cultural marginalization cannot kill my essence.
Because we will have three featured poets for this reading, there will be a shortened Open Mic segment for this reading, so if you want a chance to deliver one of your best poems, get there early. Doors open at 6:40pm. See you all at December’s Poets Corner reading on Wednesday, December 19. We’re underway at 7:00 p.m. sharp.
See you there!
George Ryga, considered by many as Canada’s most important English language playwright, lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987.
His prolific multifaceted writings includes stage plays, radio, TV and film scripts, novels, short stories and novellas, critical essays, travelogues, music and song lyrics, and poetry.
Most of Ryga’s creative output originated from his home in Summerland, including The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which was published to critical acclaim in 1967 and remains the best-selling Canadian play of all time.
Born in 1932, Ryga was raised poor in the Ukrainian farming community near the town of Athabasca. Despite having to leave school at the age of 13, he soon won a scholarship to the prestigious Banff School of Fine Arts on the strength of one of his very first stories.
George Ryga first found national fame when CBC television produced his play Indian, and soon two of his novels were published in England. In 1963 he and his wife Norma brought their young family to Summerland, where they bought a small orchard on Caldwell Street. It was here that Ryga came to write his most famous works, including The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1967), which awakened a nation celebrating its centennial to the continuing tragedy of its Indigenous Peoples. Two years later the play was revived to open the new National Arts Centre in Ottawa, an event attended by the prime minister and all ten provincial premiers. As the late great director John Juliani wrote, George Ryga should be remembered and celebrated for “bringing the contemporary age to the Canadian stage.”
I will be talking about one place where all of this comes together, the heart of the Plateau, Palouse Falls:
Since before its first occupation 8,000 years ago, this has been a living human space. We serve ourselves well to enter it. I hope to see you in Summerland!
Humans, are you feeling trapped by the book? Are you tired of trolls like this?
Well, there’s help. I’m giving a talk about all this at Cottage Bistro in Vancouver on Sunday, February 28, at 5 pm. Here are some slides from the book, with their original captions.
Do you feel that books fill your heads with thoughts and lead you down the garden path to a field choked with thoughts and then locks the gate and you can’t even figure out the darned latch?
Do they not even bring you any sugar cubes anymore?
Well, you’re not alone.
The performance is at Cottage Bistro, at 4470 Main Street in Vancouver. Their phone is 604-876-6138. The show is at 5 p.m., Sunday, February 28.
Here’s a hint of the story I’m going to tell from my new book, the Art of Haying.
I didn’t find this story. It found me on the Camino through the dark forest of Germany, where I lost my identity right about here …
…was give a temporary identity to ride to keep me going, now that I didn’t have a book to hold me …
… and then met the Afrad (one of “The Chosen Ones”) Khedr when I was completely emptied out. He appears now on the cover of my new book of poems, Two Minds, a series of sufic ghazals, conjuring consciousness out of the winds of the world. That’s what Khedr does. He is the force of the world.
I’ll be talking about him on Sunday. He dropped me in Iceland a few days later.
They taught me that humans build farms under the cliffs, and keep sheep, and that this is a form of writing but writing in the world, not writing on sheepskin or paper. They taught me that I already knew this, and that there are creatures who are keeping these farms, so that humans keep sheep, because these creatures love sheep. They me that I am a kept thing, within these books. They taught me that I am prey.
And so in Iceland I learned to see the pens and fenced pastures of the book. Here’s a collection of such books, including human house, abandoned turf houses, elf house and farm, and in the background, looking out over the fjord, a troll.
Here’s a young Icelandic reader learning her craft with a machine that is killing her, while gentler machines on display in this agricultural college are calling to her: “Go get a horse, dear! We can do that for you.” But she doesn’t hear over the machine.
And so I learned the way out of the pastures of the book into a new wildness.
I learned to read the modern creative individual, the kind that Creative Writing programs are designed to craft (somehow, it didn’t take on me) …
… and the lures that book set to draw humans into domesticated fields …
… and I met many people, many ultra modern people, of the book’s fields. This guy in Reykjavik, for instance. Yes, he is a blockhead.
And this woman in Seyðisfjörður, after her body set her aside to dry in the sun after a hard day shovelling snow.
I learned that identities can be put on and taken off when they come to the end of their usefulness for the book trolls who run the farm. Here’s an art gallery of human book identities in downtown Reykjavik.
I also learned there is something else that is stronger than that identity and remains when it is stripped away, as mine was on the pilgrimage path through the German Revolution of 1989, and the Celtic Revolution of … well, long before that.
There is a form of creativity that predates the modern age and is stronger than it. It is still alive in Iceland. Khedr led me to it. It’s time to talk about these things. There’s a way out of that field, my friend.
Does that look like you, living on an elf hill, sniffing the grass in my hand, as I stand beneath the sacred rowans of the graveyard that is always beside an elf hill? Yes, it is! Come on, let’s go to Iceland. I’ll give you the key to that gate.
calls out orders
over the sound of retarder brakes
Cassy’s startling and life-affirming stories rise from the Celtic tradition after long experience as a performer and story teller. Click here for a review of Cassy’s book. Cassy and I were on stage in Lethbridge last fall and had a blast telling stories with each other. It’s your turn to be charmed. I will be telling stories from my book The Art of Haying: a Journey to Iceland, including encounters with elves, trolls, the Green Man, a dragon and others on a pilgrimage through the German forest and escape to the volcanic remnant of Atlantis in the North Atlantic. This is a love story and a tribute to the beauty of Iceland. I’m bringing a collection of photographs from the book to show you all the top of the world.
The performance is at Cottage Bistro, at 4470 Main Street in Vancouver. Their phone is 604-876-6138.
The show is at 5 pm. We’ll have you home in time for dinner with the elves.
Wayne is going to talk about the costs of the domestication of people. Andrew is going to speak about the costs of technology on people and the world. I am going to speak about an alternate form of creativity that re-wilds the self and provides tools for repairing human-earth relationships. To keep it real, I’m going to include passages from The Art of Haying, my book on Icelandic creativity, and link my vision to Roderick Haig-Brown. Three powerful perspectives, based on lifetimes of combined experience. Well four, if we include Rod.
We’ve set aside a lot of time for discussion, between each other, and with you. I hope to speak with you there. The red balloon marks the spot. Easy to find!
I will be reading from my book of sufic ghazals, Two Minds, on Friday, February 5, 2016, at The Planet Earth Poetry reading series at Hillside Coffee and Tea, 1633 Hillside Ave (across from Bolen Books), in Victoria. The evening begins at 7:30 with an open mic.
I am looking forward to sharing these poems and stories of being initiated by the Sufic spirit Khedr (that’s him on the cover, from a pleasure palace in Saxony) on my pilgrimage to the Northern Orient in 2010.
Readings in Regina, Edmonton and Calgary in the fall were a lot of fun. I hope you can come out.
The poems began in 1977, with conversations with P.K. Page and the rich trove of Eastern material she poured into my head in those few weeks she taught at UVic and I was lucky enough to be there. These are the poems I wrote for myself for thirty years, and which fell into place when I was living in Campbell River in 2008, between the mountains and the sea. Thank you to the B.C. Arts Council for the grant which brought three decades together like this.
On February 7, I will be reading at the Centre for Spiritual Living in Yaletown, Vancouver. You can read about that reading here.
The Centre for Spiritual Living in Yaletown will be hosting me at 10 a.m. on February 7 to talk about my most recent book of poetry – Two Minds. Here’s a spiritual review of the book, by Susan McCaslin. Fellowship begins at 9:30 a.m.
The book is a meditation on Sufic verse inspired by my travels on the northern Camino passage through Europe. The event includes opportunities to experience affirmative prayer and meditation, and takes place Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Centre’s weekly Intention Service held at the Cinematheque theatre at 1131 Howe Street.
“Last year we launched our series Inspired Word, which highlights authors whose work in some way touches on spirituality in whatever form it takes,” says Rev. Karin Wilson, Spiritual Director of CSL Yaletown. “Harold Rhenisch’s Two Minds provides us with a window on Eastern spiritual traditions that are often overlooked.”
I was introduced to Sufic verse by one of my literary mentors P.K. Page, who received the Governor General Award, and was awarded the Order of Canada for her poetry. My book of lyrical poetry, known as ghazals, arose from his transformative experience while walking the German portion of the Camino in 2008 and again in 2010 where I met Khezr, the Hidden Prophet also known as the Green Man of Sufism.
“This section of the Camino is quite different from the south,” I told Karin. “You’re going into these dark places and receiving unexpected guidance. What I experienced on that pilgrimage led directly to this book.” In truth, it changed my life.
I have published 12 full length books of poetry, edited the posthumous poetry of Robin Skelton, and won the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize as well as the CBC Literary Award for poetry and the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature for his book The Wolves of Evelyn.
“This event is designed to awaken and connect us to our ancient heart, which is universal and knows no boundaries,” Wilson says. “It’s often through literature that we get to access these truths. We’re very honoured to have Harold come and share his words and images with us.”
I’m thrilled to be going. I hope you can join us.
For more information, please contact Rev. Karin Wilson Ph: 778-877-2883 Email: <email@example.com>.