So long Strathcona County Library…

With a mixture of sadness and excitement, my last day at Strathcona County Library Strathcona-1draws to a close.  I’ve had a wonderful four-month chapter here at the library – I’ve met so many wonderful people and attended some truly lovely and meaningful events.

Thank you to all who’ve come to me for consultations and evening presentations.  Thank you to the great staff of this great library.  It’s been an honour and a privilege.

Yesterday, I made the trek from my alma mater, nearby Salisbury Composite High School, to the front of my adolescent home in the “bird” section of Sherwood Park.  It took all of twelve minutes to traipse across a field I remember walking so many times, many of them solitary, even lonely.  Twelve minutes to think and sort and reflect on the way to school, and another twelve on the way home.  I passed by the homes where I babysat, where my first boyfriend lived, and over to my friend Jon’s.  I tried to find the footprints of that adolescent girl:

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But of course, they are gone.

 

 

I sang a few snippets of songs, just as I used to do when I was fifteen.  And Beth Nielsen Chapman‘s wonderful ballad, “Years,” came to mind:

“And I thought about years/ How they take so long, and they go so fast.”

Years have come and gone since I lived here in the Park.  I wrote some of my most wretched love songs and poetry.  And I met my dear, dear friend and mentor, my teacher, Duane Stewart, himself a singer-songwriter with the stage moniker of Duane Davis, in a past life.Slide37 copy

Suffice to say, he changed mine.  I am a writer, a poet, a lover of literature, because of him and our English classes together at SAL.  I am better because I know Mr. Stewart.

Not to wax too sentimental or nostalgic, though I still am and am not that lonely adolescent girl, I leave this place with a happier heart.  This residency has been a homecoming of sorts, a chance to relive the old and welcome the new.  I have more stories to tell because of my time here at SCL, maybe some songs and poems, too.

I wish I could find those twelve minutes twice every day, five times a week to do some reflecting and soul-searching.  I wish we all could.

I hope we all do.

Namaste.

Writing Quote:  “The Greek word for ‘return’ is nostos. Algos means ‘suffering.’ So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
– Milan Kundera, novelist (b. 1929)
Writing Tip: “Sentimental fiction is a kind of pablum: Excessive amounts can spoil the appetite for reality, or at least for more fibrous forms of art.” – Zoe Heller, English journalist and novelist  (For further insights, see this excellent NYT article on sentimentality.)

Sentimental Writing Prompt:  She meant more to him than the stars ever could. (Your challenge: not to create pablum.)

Nostalgic Writing Prompt:  What is your character nostalgic for and why?

Happy birthday, Will!

shakes_bday_2009People often ask me to name writers who have influenced or informed my writing.  Hands down, that writer is Shakespeare. At last count, I’ve read 2/3 of his plays (all of the tragedies, most of the comedies, and a number of the histories) and all of his sonnets – some of these works multiple times, as I’ve taught many of them.  The bard’s words and rhythms infuse my own.  On several occasions, I’ve stolen directly from him:

  • a title as in A Winter’s Tale
  • lines of poetry (“by the pricking of my thumbs/ something wicked this way comes” and “’tis now the witching time of night” which I borrowed for In the Graveyard)
  • quoted lines used by characters such as Anise in Gravity Journal, who, as she cuts, cites Lady Macbeth’s famous lament:

    What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine eyes.                                             Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood                                                         Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather                                                    The multitudinous seas incarnadine                                                                      Making the green one red.     (Macbeth, II.ii.56-60)

I am an ardent fan. I marvel at his genius. I’d like to invite him to dinner or for a pint (my treat). But alack, he has “shuffled off this mortal coil” and “the rest is silence.”

You may find this interactive widget from Oxford English Dictionaries a lark!

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Or you may find Stephen Marche’s book, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, enlightening (here’s a short overview.)

 

 

 

All jests aside, I do believe that reading Shakespeare makes one a better poet.  So often I am astonished by the number of poets who do not read poetry, the number of aspiring authors who do not read prose, the number of people who read neither.  Quite simply, as you no doubt know because you are reading this blog, a writer reads.  Widely.  Often. Across genres.

Today on Shakespeare’s birthday, in this month of poetry, it’s important we remember that poets in many places are revered and have been advocates for freedom, for the people, for social justice.  Some have been blacklisted or censored; some have been tortured or murdered. Why is that? Because a poet’s pen has power.

Today I remember these…
Ken Saro-Wiwa
Pablo Neruda
Victor Jara
Thomas McGrath
Langston Hughes
Pete Seeger
Dorothy Parker
Anna Akhmatova
Susana Chávez Castillo
Nadia Anjuman
Liu Xia
San San Nweh
and so many others…

Writing Quote:  “I keep reminding people that an editorial in rhyme is not a song. A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think.” – Pete Seeger, American folksinger and activist (1919-2014)
Writing Tip: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” – Dorothy Parker, American poet, short story writer, essayist (1893-1967)

Writing Prompt:  Take the lyrics to a popular song and rearrange them into Shakespearean sonnet.

Requirements:

  • Rhyme Scheme: ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG
  • Each line shoudl be 10 syllables long or 5 feet in length (pentameter)
  • The first two quatrains should be a question and then 7 lines of potential answers/reasonings
  • The third quatrain should be a twist
  • Include a rhyming couplet at the end that summarizes the sonnet as a whole

 

April is all about poetry (and song) pilgrimages…

Yes, indeed!  As Chaucer himself, said:1414477077

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

Prologue, Canterbury Tales

 

Please join me and friends in a poetry pilgrimage this week.

Tuesday, April 14 at 7 pm at Strathcona County Library

SonBlake_sie_covergs of Innocence and Experience:  In celebration of National Poetry Month, explore the connections between rhythm and rhyme, poetry and song. Join Gail (who’s also a professional singer) and special musical guests, Angela Flatekval, Kevin McCann and Geoff McMaster, to talk about how these forms are interconnected, and how poets and songwriters can inform and enrich each other’s writing practice and performance.

 

Saturday, April 18th at 7 pm at Strathcona County Library

9th Annual Evening of Poetry:  As a continuation of our National Poetry Month celebrations, join us for an evening of poetry, featuring readings from Writer in Residence, Gail Sidonie Sobat, Mark Kozub (The Alberta Beatnik) and Mary Pinkoski (Edmonton’s Poet Laureate). The evening will also include an open mic session for those who are interested in sharing their own work. Wine and cheese will be served. Note: this is an adult-only program.

Purchase tickets at the Check Out Desk or at the door, $5 each.

mark-polaroid-2Mary+Pinkoski+-+web
Mark Kozub                                               Mary Pinkoski
Writing Quote:  “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second.  I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” – Bob Dylan, American poet/ musician (born 1941)
Writing Tip: “Nothing’s wrong with rhyming poetry. Some people… really enjoy it. It’s wonderful to read good rhymes, and challenging to write them. I like to use rhyme to surprise readers by emphasizing interestingly paired words.  That said, many people put together predictable, Hallmark-style rhymes (usually paired with forced meter) and flood poetry contests and magazines with them. Publishers get annoyed (I’ve even seen some specify “no rhyming” in their submission guidelines).” – writersbeat.com

Writing Prompt:  Find an unpublished poem of yours that you haven’t looked at in years. Randomly choose three lines from the poem. Write a completely different poem using those lines.

April Fools

april foolsApril Fools

 

so it is spring

so it is snowing

bewildered we turn up our collars

gaze at the skies to question

why and wherefore and whatnot

falling on deaf ears

so we scrape and swear

so we gripe and grimace

grit our teeth against harsh wild winds

blowing across fields

cheekily into the city

where we think we’re immune to

the elemental truths

of life on a prairie

in the snow

in the spring

 

© 2015 Gail Sidonie Sobat

 

A Dozen Songs About Fools (with YouTube links – this was such fun!)

1. “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” – Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers

2. “Fools Rush In” – Peggy Lee (and so many others)

3. “Fool on the Hill” – The Beatles and a great version by Sergio Mendes and Brazill 66

4.”Fool If You Think It’s Over” – Chris Rea

5. “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” – Elvin Bishop

6. “Everybody Plays the Fool” – The Main Ingredient

7. “Chain of Fools” – Aretha Franklin

8. “Poor Little Fool” – Ricky Nelson

9. “Fools in Love” – Joe Jackson

10. “What a Fool Believes” – Doobie Brothers

11. “Ordinary Fool” – Paul Williams

12. “Foolish” – Ashanti

12. “Foolish Games” – Jewel   (oops that’s 13 – April Fools!)

 

Gail will be out of the office from April 2 – 7, 2015.  Have a lovely Easter weekend!

 

Writing Quote: “Writing is communication, not self-expression; nobody in this world wants to read your diary, except your mother.” – Richard Peck, novelist (b. 1934)

Writing Tip:  “As for ‘Write what you know,’ I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them. I got my knowledge of them, as I got whatever knowledge I have of the hearts and minds of human beings, through imagination working on observation. Like any other novelist. All this rule needs is a good definition of ‘know.'” – Ursula K. Le Guin, novelist (b. 1929)

Writing Prompt:  And so the day began, with a whisper of spring and a faint promise of summer…