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Monday, 10 October 2016

50 years of publishing poetry - Burning the Words

Thanksgiving 2016

Hi Sheila,
A quick note on Thanksgiving day . . . guess this is a time of reflection  ;  )

I'm planning to do a post on my blog about uncluttering my house of all my old poetry mss, correspondence, chapbooks, etc. . The tentative title is 'uncluttering, archiving, reminiscing' - that could almost be a senryu!

Anyway, I vaguely remember you wrote an excellent poem on this subject a number of years ago. I'd love to include your poem (if my memory is functioning correctly, and you did write such a poem) along with my post.

Trust all well with you and your new life on the west coast? All well with me, altho life is very quiet and I'm enjoying a sabbatical from the poetry world.


Burning the Words


I’m up to the Ws now

All these poets
whose letters I thought important
to keep
- in cabinets
- in drawers
- in boxes

Thirty years
of their cover letters
with submissions
and carbon copies of my replies
with the old manual typewriter
the e slightly higher than the other characters
moving on to electric
then electronic word processor
finally the computer

In these folders
are cards of thanks
from grateful beginners
whom I published
or interviewed on the radio

There are names here
I neither recognize nor remember
not hard to toss those
to watch words curl upward
in a grey spiral
freedom by fire

But some writers I got to know
quite well by mail
and saw more than a few move on to fame
such as it is for literature
Liliane Welch is in this batch
she sends me postcards from Europe every summer
Roger White, who sent me witty epistles
as he commenced his journey toward death
Dick Woollatt, also deceased
whose chapbook I produced

It was tempting to read the contents of those files
but I resisted - I would have wanted to keep them
and this is an exercise in unloading

Hard to believe I hauled it all
through half a dozen relocations
taking up precious space in attics and basements
thinking of how universities would fight
to acquire these old papers
and would pay my descendants huge sums
for the privilege

I’m saving them the job by disposal
I feel liberated watching these words disappear
see only a tiny hint of remorse
in the ashes

Sheila Martindale
from her book Portraits & Still Life (2004)

Image result for pic of burning books

                                                           ~   ~   ~   ~

Thanks, Sheila, for letting me post your poem. You said what I'm feeling now, and you said it perfectly and poetically. I'm in the process of trying to find new homes in various archives for the literary ephemera I've gathered in the half century (!) I've been a publishing poet.

It's hard to believe that it was 50 years ago, 1967, that Eric Amann published some of my haiku in his seminal mag, Haiku. Eric died this spring, and I still haven't managed to lift myself from creative lethargy to create a  tribute to Eric.

I did contact Terry Barker last week to see if he's interested in adding some of our correspondence to his archives at York University. Terry approved of the idea, and about a kilogram of letters, manuscripts and postcards are now heading towards a new home. I'll give Terry a short breather, and then more packages will be on their way.

Last spring I did follow your initiative and began burning some of my correspondence as the publisher of the small lit press, Unfinished Monument Press. I spent half an hour stuffing the chiminea in my backyard before my conscience took hold, and some of the material heading for York U will have singe marks on the margins  : )-

Of course some of my personal books and correspondence are already in established archives. Haiku materials are in both the Haiku Canada archives and the big California haiku archives. For several years Marvin Orbach (RIP) printed copies of all my poetry related email correspondence for his special archives at the University of Calgary. So much of the last several years of the Purdy Country Litfests (PurdyFests) correspondence I coordinated (with Terry Barker) are being well preserved and catalogued.

I feel lighter and less burdened as the packages go out, and some folders will doubtless still head for a visitation with the chiminea. If any reader of this blog is interested in a random batch of chapbooks, I'll gladly send a miscellaneous batch for postage costs (about $15 inclusive).

                                                               .     .    .    .

On 2016-10-10, at 7:52 PM, anna yin wrote:

sad to read that....and think life is like that...

Yet, when I feel low, i read haiku, write haiku... then I feel better.  here is my Thank you haiku

cards from friends
today’s rain
in a soft melody

all day thinking of you
the numbers I dial
ring a moon river tune

feast of thanksgiving
on your fingertips
the roast turkey’s scent

midnight goodbye
thank-you message
so much unsaid



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