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Sunday 18 February 2024

If you loved "The Clan of the Cave Bear"

 You should read The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron. I suspect this wonderful story owes a large debt to Jean Auel’s 1980s series Earth' Children, which began with Clan. The book’s structure is interesting, with the modern day archeologist narrator imagining the story behind her find of a Neanderthal skeleton and a modern day human buried side by side. The burial looks intentional, and would help her prove the interrelationship between our early ancestors and ourselves. The archeologist’s reputation is also at stake regarding her find, and pardon the horrible pun, but proving her thesis will help make her professional bones. 

Maya Angelou’s quote “You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you have been” is very applicable. From the prologue:

They were kind and clever. They had hands with opposable thumbs and a light dusting of hair on their backs.They had hearts that throbbed in their chests when they saw certain people, and this happened more than you might expect.  Their brains were larger than ours by about 10 percent. Many of us have inherited up to 4 percent of their DNA, and now that both genomes have been sequenced, we we know that theirs differs from ours by only about 0.12 percent.     

Claire Cameron very successfully interweaves the experiences of a modern day woman and that of a woman of forty thousand years ago. This tale isn’t as over the top as Clan, so in some ways it's more believable and credible. The modern day dialogue is so accurate that for an extended time one late night I forgot I was reading fiction.

Penguin Random House/Anchor Canada, 2017
275 pages

2017 Finalist Rogers Writers’ Trust 
A National Post Best Book of the Year
Canadian bestseller

The Last Neanderthal

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Dogs, Wolves and Quirky People with Wild Hearts


Wild Dogs by Helen Humphreys

HarperCollins, 2004

I took a year long break from reading books while recovering from a colon cancer operation and then a vicious dog attack. Not reading was a new experience after a lifetime of being a bookworm/writer//poet/librarian. A newly retired friend and I binge watched over a dozen TV series, and there are some great programs out there (some memorable favourites listed below). But now I'm catching up on reading books again, and eager to share discoveries.

Wild Dogs by Helen Humphreys is my recent one. It was a quick read, too quick and I binge read it in two nights. I told a close friend, also a retired librarian and dog lover, that she would enjoy it. I desperately wanted to tell her the roughest of outlines about the book, but she stopped me cold. She was right. This is a book by a poet, and it's too interwoven, too subtle and delicate to describe or paraphrase. Of course there is also a twist or two, and it would be a shame to do much more than recommend and leave it at that! As a book by an accomplished poet it's beautifully descriptive writing, but never once did I find it self-consciously "poetic", just addictive.

Now the list of binge watched series I remember most after several months of reflecting.

The Godfather of Harlem
Tegan and Sara's High School
Twisted Metal
Poker Face  

The Last of Us 

Sunday 11 February 2024

largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter on planet Earth?

from Win Without War newsletter today:

(duper bowl dumbday)

Chris: Climate events like atmospheric rivers, hurricanes, and heatwaves are only becoming more dangerous and deadly — but so far, our plans to address the crisis have had a giant Pentagon-shaped hole.

Quick recap: The Pentagon is the single largest institutional greenhouse gas emitter on the planet. According to recent estimates, the U.S. war machine pumps out more emissions than 140 other countries. Chris, ALL this pollution is exempt from our current climate goals.

Our trajectory is troubling, but a world on fire is not a foregone conclusion — and luckily, we have a crucial opportunity to change course today.

President Biden is putting the final touches on next year’s federal budget now. That means, he can reprioritize people and the planet, and decrease the worst effects of the Pentagon’s pollution with the stroke of a pen.

It’s a damning statement that instead of addressing this threat head-on, the U.S. government is helping to accelerate it. Sign now if you agree: President Biden’s budget needs to cut Pentagon emissions.

The warnings are clear, Chris:

To avoid the worst of climate change’s catastrophic effects, the world’s average temperature shouldn’t exceed more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial temps. Scientists reported this week that for the past 12 months, we’ve surpassed that crucial threshold.[1]

The problem? While outlets from Forbes to Fox News and more devote column inches to the environmental impact of the Super Bowl and Taylor Swift’s private jet emissions, there is one mega-polluter that rarely makes the headlines: the Pentagon.

It’s time to face the truth that it requires an INCREDIBLE amount of energy to wage war across the globe — and almost all of it is derived from fossil fuels.

Just one jet in the Pentagon’s fleet, the B-52 Stratofortress, consumes about as much fuel in one hour as the average car driver uses in seven years. 76 of those planes will remain in service until at least 2050.

Chris, our addiction to war is fueling the climate crisis, but here’s why we won’t give up: Every single fraction of a degree of planetary warming we avoid matters. If we can cut even a percentage of the Pentagon’s emissions, we can save lives and protect ecosystems.

That’s why we’re speaking out, and we need you to join us: Add your name to tell the president to make these reductions a reality.

Whether you’re rooting for San Francisco or Kansas City, today you can help ensure we all win a cleaner, healthier future. Please take 30 seconds to act now.

Thank you for working for peace,
Sam, Shayna, Faith, and the Win Without War team


[1] CNN, "The world just marked a year above a critical climate limit scientists have warned about"


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Saturday 27 January 2024

Pathfinder: Story of his father's air force experiences during WWll by Lionel Bennett

 Pathfinder cover

His priority of getting to WW2 became bringing everyone home
by Lionel Bennett

In the spring of 1940, on a path barely lit by a thin, crescent moon, a schoolteacher with a hard-held dream sets out on a sixteen-mile trek through Ontario bush. Arriving in time to catch the midnight train, he settles in for the ride to Winnipeg, where he intends to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force. His journey is just beginning. The schoolteacher is Gordon Wellington Bennett, a young man whose passion for flight and determination to serve lead him to pilot training, then overseas to England, where he becomes a flying instructor—and meets the love of his life, Stella, and starts a family. But all of this fades to a blurry background as the war intensifies. When Gordon is tasked as a bomber pilot, his family expands to include his crew—six young men, all seeking honour and glory, all grappling with the horrific realities of war. From here, Gordon’s journey becomes one of dogged survival. At the centre of it all is the impossible question of morality. Confounded by his role in the devastation, Gordon, a secular humanist, seeks answers with the guidance of Father Charles Brimley, a retired Anglican priest who becomes an important mentor. Based on true events, Pathfinder tells the heartbreaking coming-of-age of one young Canadian man, a man whose gallantry earns him a Distinguished Flying Cross, a man with a dream and a unique story, just like every other man who served his country during the deadliest conflict in human history.

Lionel Bennett is the son of Officer Gordon Bennett. Using logbooks, squadron debriefing notes, written accounts of WWII experiences, and personal interview material gleaned over drams of Sheep Dip in Gordon’s eighty-eighth year, Lionel began to formulate a story based on the true events of his father’s life. Pathfinder is the striking result. A member of the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum, a flight enthusiast, and a sailor, Lionel finds home just outside of Marmora, Ontario with his wife, Laurane, where they enjoy the local wildlife and their blended family of three sons, two daughters, and ten grandchildren.


Lionel Bennett
Alex Schultz

Monday 22 January 2024

A Great Read: Olivia Chow's autobiography "My Journey"

 Front Cover

Last week I ventured into the Marmora Library for the first time in ages, thirsty for a good winter read. They didn't have any of Ian Hamilton's Ava Lee thrillers, so I lugged home Olivia Chow's 2014 autobio My Journey and Joe Fiorito's 2002 first novel,The Song Beneath the Ice. I decided to start with Olivia's book, as she's back in the news in a big way as the recently elected Mayor of our national city-state, Toronto.

I wasn't expecting much, maybe just a bit of political nostalgia from my days living in TO, from 1974 until I moved to the edge of the Kawarthas in 1989. I sure didn't expect a book I couldn't put down at night, and then held off reading the final four pages just so  I'd have an excuse to pick it up again. Yep, the book is a good read for anybody, and of course a great read for political junkies. It combines her insightful and exciting life story, including the fairy tale romance and marriage with Jack Layton, the man who should have been our Prime Minister. He almost was until cancer took its nasty toll at the last minute.

But it's many other stories - that of a Chinese immigrant from Hong Kong, born upper middle class (e.g. 'halfway up the mountain'). The family move to Canada wasn't the success her parents had imagined, and hard times followed. And it's the story of a talented artist (sculptor) who found her ultimate calling via the circultous ladder of progressive volunteerism and on into municipal politics. The book could definitely act as a step by step manual for wannabe politicos, and it's an historical tour guide of 1990s - 2000s Toronto and its cultural, political and progressive movements. There's feminism, LGBT+ rights, going back to the bath house raids my poet friend David Reed was swept up in. There are battles with the TO police union and surprisingly (to me) her creative assistance in organizing a giant rave in TO's Nathan Phillips City Square.

I recommended the book to my friend Sylvia, who lived in TO during most of Olivia and Jack's early decades of progressive organizing. She was reminded of sending her kids to Woodgreen Community Centre Daycare and when Jack Layton was her city councillor. Initially we both wondered how someone not known as a writer managed to write such an engaging and yet well organized book, and if she'd used a ghost writer. Well, Olivia followed the same template she's done all her life organizing. She put together a team who helped her organize the book and to give gentle guidance on what details to leave in, and what to omit. I wasn't surprised when I learned one of her helpers was journalist extraordinaire Victor Malarek. I remember reading his autobio, Hey Malarek!, when I first started working at the Main Street Library in east end Toronto.

Her book was published in 2014, but we know how the story continues, with Olivia Chow just elected the Mayor of Toronto (with strong powers - thanks Doug Ford). If you want to get some idea of where our national city-state is headed, My Journey will give the reader some great clues.

Harper Collins, 2014
328 pages
(great pic section as well)

                                                        ~    ~    ~

an afterthought: A brief haibun of mine was included in the artists' tribute to Jack Layton, Jack Layton: Art in Action, Penn Kemp, editor, Quattro Books, Inc.  2013. 

Wind Horses

Given how Jack championed wind power, it seems appropriate that prayer flags are called Wind Horses in Tibetan. Here is Chris Faiers's Prayer Flag Haibun for the occasion.

Regarding the vigil for Jack and hanging the prayer flags, I wanted to do something more uplifting (pun intended) than draw another chalk memorial on the concrete of Nathan Phillips. So  I bobbled around the fixtures of the skating rink, frantically trying to tie down the prayer flags in the downtown wind tunnel effect. An elderly couple stopped to encourage my efforts. They were possibly from India, and after I accomplished the hanging, they thanked me for displaying the prayer flags. They also  felt the flags were a most appropriate spiritual honour for Jack. 

city winds

carry our prayers

over Lake Ontario  


Friday 19 January 2024

1989 letter from Elizabeth Searle Lamb (Frogpond Editor, etc.)

 E.S. Lamb, Editor
970 Acequia Madrre
Santa Fe, NM  87501


September 29, 89

Dear Chris Faiers:

In today's mail I received the 'permission request'
for use of one of your haiku (actually request for your
address) along with three others, forwarded from New
York City.

I enclose Toshimi Horiuchi's request*, plus some Canadian
stamps and hope if this letter reaches you that you will
respond to him/her (?)  promptly.  I have also sent your
address, hoping this one is current, to Toshimi Horiuchi.

Two other requests were for Alan Fisher and Gregory D.
Cottrell. Unfortunately I know neither of them and so
could not help. If by chance you know them . . . . .

A fourth request was regarding Jose Tablada - - and
there I could at least say that he was a Mexican poet
who died in 1945 - - and the haiku used in Mainichi Daily
was a translation from the Spanish original.

To other things - - I always enjoy your work when I see it - -
for instance, your Haiku Canada Sheet "Mr. Library Man."

I do collect haiku books, and I am wondering about any
of yours.  Are any of those little early things available?
Even a xerox copy put together . . . . I would be glad to buy or
to trade (Casting into a Cloud; Southwest Haiku; Lines
for my Mother, dying, and 39 Blossoms
are the ones available
and of those Casting . . . .  is the most substantial). Anyway,
I would be happy to hear from you.

Enclosing also the current Information Sheet of HSA. Of
course we would always be happy to have you as a member
if you wished to join.

May this autumn season bring you joy,

Elizabeth Lamb

(handwritten note)
A friend keeps me more
than supplied with
Canadian stamps, so I'm
just putting in 'a bunch'.

(hand drawn smiley face)

*The request from Toshimi Horiuchi was permission to include my haiku:

Green garden hose


a rainbow

In his book Synesthesia in Haiku and Other Essays

copyright 1990, University of the Philippines Printery


Tuesday 16 January 2024

haiku correspondence Elizabeth Searle Lamb and 1990 Cordova Mines haiku


Elizabeth Searle Lamb

Elizabeth Searle Lamb

American poet
Elizabeth Searle Lamb was an American poet. She is known for writing English-language haiku. Raymond Roseliep called her the "First Lady of American haiku". Her work has been translated into other languages. Wikipedia
Born: January 22, 1917, Topeka, Kansas, United States
Died: February 16, 2005, Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States
                                                 ~    ~    ~    ~
from me to Elizabeth Searle Lamb Jan. 31, 1990
Cordova Mines, Ontario

Elizabeth Lamb
970 Acequia Madre
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for your letter (of Oct.27) and the Christmas card.
Sorry to take so long replying; I had my first attack of kidney
stones in ten years over the holidays. Combined with a bout of the
flu, all activities were stopped in their tracks. Now I'm
feeling a lot better, taking lots of hikes back on the snowmobile
trails with my boarder's dog - there are beaver dams (& lodges),
deer tracks, snowshoe rabbits and last week I flushed about
thirty grouse.

Really enjoyed CASTING INTO A CLOUD. My favourite so far is:

all night
singing in the bathroom
autumn crickets

I was pleased to note that you published it with Bill Higginson's
press. Bill and I corresponded back in the late sixties, and
recently we have begun corresponding again (well, at least every
few years). Thanks also for signing my copy, and I was overwhelmed
with your dedication.

Last week I sent you a copy of my collection FOOT THROUGH THE CEILING.
It's my first major collection so far, and it includes longer poems
as well as haiku/senryu. I also put together a dummy of my first
chapbook, CRICKET FORMATIONS. "Cricket" was my nom de plume in the

I'm enclosing some unpublished haiku with this letter for your con-
sideration for FROGPOND. They are all about life here in Cordova
Mines. They are so recent to me, I'm not 100% sure of their quality,
so it'll be interesting to me to see if you think any are worthy
of publication.

Work is proceeding well on the haibun. I have copytyped all but five
of the twenty-eight or so vignettes. Will send you a draft copy as
soon as I finish.


in the hamlet
my rubbish fire
more fun than TV

burning rubbish
smoke and neighbour
follow me

birds chirp
in the shared garage
until the door opens

distant smoky line
becomes a V of ducks
returning north

bright yellow
on my empty clothesline
a wild canary

after the rainstorm
  turtle trapped
in the middle of the road

after the rain
Stones on the stereo
wild canary lands

garter snakes
on my front stoop

new canoe
paddling cautiously
among fall leaves

after canoeing
writing haiku
instead of my novel

our car scares up
buzzard feeding
raccoon roadkill

painting my canoe green
snake slithers away
through high grass

blue flowers
  up the hill
     vacant cottage

searching for moth eggs
her jeans

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

to be published in next members'
anthology of Haiku Canada:

crickets invade
haikuist's house

& submitted to theJapan Air Lines contest:

orange leaves
drained hatchery beds

temp job
outside the fence
wild grapes

early snowfall
in stretched twilight
kids roll snowmen

In a letter from me to Elizabeth on August 2, 1990 I thank her for accepting 3 of the above haiku for publication in Frogpond. Which 3 I don't have a clue  ;  )-