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Thursday, 28 April 2011

10 Reasons Not to Vote for Stephen Harper

A forward from my friend Sharon, plus a PDF list of my reasons.
Susan Ioannou

-- On Thu, 4/28/11, Sharon Singer wrote:
This may be the most important Canadian election of our lifetime. If you haven’t made up your mind, please consider the information below.
Feel free to edit and change and forward to anyone you know.
Let us stand on guard for the Canada we love.
All best wishes,
10 Reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives
1.       “YOU WON’T RECOGNIZE CANADA WHEN I GET THROUGH WITH IT,” said Stephen Harper in an ad in an earlier federal campaign. In this remark he revealed a secret agenda.  What did he mean? Perhaps this is an indication: for almost 20  years Harper was a member of the National Citizens Coalition founded to get rid of Medicare. 
2.       CUTTING CORPORATE TAXES: The cutting of taxes for corporations has left Ireland bankrupt. It could do the same to Canada. Financial experts have shown that cutting corporate taxes does not create jobs. The money saved by corporations ends up in the pockets of their executives. Lower personal and corporate taxes will not provide the same standard of living we are used to—how is government supposed to pay for health care, food inspection, old age pensions and other vital services? The lowering of corporate taxes puts the burden of taxes on the middle class.
3.       SLASH HEALTH CARE, SOCIAL PROGRAMS and end GOVERNMENT REGULATION :  Like President Reagan, Harper is against government regulation. Canadians need regulation  of the economy to protect consumers (bank regulation saved us from the worst of the sub-prime mortgage disaster); we need regulation so that we have safe food and water; we need regulation so that Canadian culture is preserved. Our health care is also in danger since Harper wants a two-tier health plan which would end up gutting Medicare.
4.       KING HARPER’S DESTRUCTION OF DEMOCRACY : Harper has said that one of his main goals is to destroy the Liberal Party, and no doubt all opposition. This can only be called what it is—FASCIST. Harper does not care about the idea of Canada that most Canadians espouse. He thinks of himself as an absolute monarch. He does not allow his MPs to talk to the media without his consent or express any view that is contrary to his position. John Meisel in the Toronto Star April 20/11, warns of the “Harperization” of our minds
5.       A VOTE FOR HARPER IS A VOTE FOR THE REFORM/ALLIANCE:  Harper leads a party that is called Conservative but is in actuality Reform/Alliance. Funded by right-wing Christian evangelicals who remain in the shadows, the Conservatives have tried to hid Harper’s fundamentalist beliefs. Witness the CRTC approval of the right-wing SUN TV, a clone of the US Fox Network. With a Conservative majority, the fundamentalist agenda would reveal itself with all flying colours – there would be an end to free-choice for women, no support for women’s groups or shelters, no same-sex marriages, no day care, and more money to keep women poor and pregnant.  [See Marci McDonald’s book “The Armageddon Factor”]
6.       THE ENVIRONMENT: Harper has slashed funding for climate change, air pollution, wildlife and toxic waste clean-up while one of the greatest ecological disasters is happening under our noses with the Alberta tar sands oil project.
7.       WAR MONGER: Harper is a war monger and has ordered more weapons and jet fighters for foreign wars. Canada always had a reputation as a peace maker, and this is the role that Canadians are comfortable with. We do not want to be Americans. We are not interested in fighting on foreign lands to support greedy corporations who want to exploit the resources of the globe for their own profit.
8.       SCARE TACTICS: What hasn’t Harper used to make Canadians afraid to elect any party but his own? With his attack ads he has created alarm and fear about the leadership abilities of the other contenders, and the possibility of a coalition, which he falsely calls “unconstitutional.”
9.       WASTED FUNDS INSTEAD OF SOCIAL SERVICES: Harper will spend any amount of money to make Canada seem like a world power—witness the disastrous G20 where fortunes were wasted on fake lakes and where people got arrested and brutalized not only for protesting, but also for merely walking down a street near the protestors. This occurred while financially strapped Canadians are ignored: single parents, the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly. Funding has been denied to the International Planned Parenthood Federation just when the world is teetering on a population explosion that the planet cannot sustain.

Monday, 25 April 2011

shaman shack at ZenRiver Gardens (photo John Hamley/"snowflea") 2010

The Rising Dark/Katherine L. Gordon/poem re need for CanHeroes

The Rising Dark
April came dim and aged
skimming a dingy pall
over the puff of cold birds
her purse of promises empty,
black oil filling green veins
poisoning all seasons.
Priests and politicians
of tired old schools
worked to conjure
a new god or hero
to change the course
of dark tides,
stand for us in the fury
of rising seas,
use a sword of light
to vanquish drought and hunger
the rapeful greed of autocrats,
restore balance for another eon.
All the old heroes lie dead of the task
leaving us in the raging dark.
Gandalf, Jesus, Merlin, Finn,
rise again.
Katherine L. Gordon, April 25th, 2011.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

the Uncles are bird spirits now (poem for Milt & Al)

The Uncles are bird spirits now 


For Milt & Al                                                                               

the Uncles are bird spirits now
flying thru realms
tricksters, obvious in their choices

Milt, the raven spirit
and Al,
the gawky blue heron

your poems foretold this
Milt cawing angrily at the dense humans;
Al, more sanguine
more grounded,  multi-dimensional:
heron lives in water
air the daily flightpath home

these only two of the incarnations
you love to fool us with now …
Uncles, so many days you visit
flying, laughing free
through the spirit world
only poets & shaman
can begin to comprehend

we earthbound beings
yearn to fly with your flocks

raven, heron floating above
trickster turtles swimming with awkward strokes
sun basking in A-burgh’s millpond

poet friends transform
before my inner eye …
Jim D. chooses heron
as does John B.
while Larwill is the new raven king

the sun shines too brightly
through your new kingdoms
water transparent
as these words

heron zazen stalks
while turtles meditate
all deeply carved
into the teaching rocks
at Petroglyphs Park

we would miss you
except you visit so often
you are almost as annoying
in the next world
as you were in this one 

Chris Faiers

From my blog: Riffs & Ripples from ZenRiver Gardens

Friday, 15 April 2011

the day I lost Milton Acorn

the day I lost Milton Acorn
… continuation of “Milt as Elder and Shaman …” memoir

Chris Faiers

We sat on the small ridge at Ashbridges Bay listening to the birds until Milt got thirsty, likely caused by his diabetic condition. I directed Milt to one of the nearby water
fountains, and remained contentedly listening to the cawing while people-watching the throngs strolling the Beaches boardwalk below our perch.

After ten minutes I began to wonder where Milt was. It should have taken him just a few minutes to get his drink. Eventually I began to worry,  remembering other adventures of Milt’s when he had been unaccompanied. My God, I had lost Canada’s foremost poet – drowned, perhaps, in the inviting blue waters filled with pretty women in bikinis. Or kidnapped! – by whom I couldn’t imagine – Yankee imperialist agents? CSIS?  The dreaded Trots?

Aimlessly I searched through the sunburned crowd, kicking sand in frustration. No sign of Milt anywhere – finally I wandered back to our tiny house on
Rhodes Avenue
. I began making dinner, but still no sign of Milt.

Hours after he had wandered off came a loud knock at the front door, and a cabby’s friendly face asking if this was where “DOCTOR ACORN” resided. National treasure be damned – Milt had found his way home just in time for supper. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Milt as Elder and Shaman for People's Poetry Tribe

Milt as Elder and Shaman for the Tribe of People’s Poetry

Chris Faiers
(note: this anecdote has been send to Terry Barker for possible inclusion and/or reference in a book Barker is editing on the life and poetry of Milton Acorn)

Towards the end of Milt’s life I believe he matured into the overlapping roles of poetry tribal elder and shaman. James Deahl has noted that Ted Plantos came to this realization of what Canadian poets are – a tribe. Milt’s friends from that time well remember his repetitive rants – perhaps a holdover from his political and polemicist days – rants, or more accurately, constantly repeated lectures on Zulu warriors, anti-abortion and especially ravens and Milt’s newfound ability to converse with them. I fondly remember his impromptu lectures as the wisdom sharing of an elder and a shaman-in-the-making.

In the brief week or two that Milt shared my little house on
Rhodes Avenue
in Toronto – he joked that we were Rhodes scholars – "raven knowing" was my favourite lesson from the master poet.

One sunny afternoon Milt and I walked to nearby Ashbridges Bay – a landscaped landfill
at the western edge of the beautiful Beaches. We perched on a small ridge, the long expanse of white beaches and boardwalk on our left, Lake Ontario’s shades of blue and green completing the vista. Milt jovially insisted on calling the lake an ocean, it reminded him so strongly of his native Prince Edward Island, and he soon would repeat our afternoon, Island bound for his final days, perched on a sand dune above true salt water.

A flock of ravens perched in the hardwood park, noisy above the picnickers and couples on colourful beach blankets. Milt cocked his head to listen closely, and insisted I do the same. ‘We can learn a lot from the ravens, listen to them’. Decades later I realize that a wise elder was instructing me, and frequently on my daily hikes here in ‘Purdy Country’ on the edge of the Canadian Shield, I encounter ravens and crows. I have learned to listen, and some experiences I’ve had with the bird clan, especially owls and crows, are undoubtedly encounters with the shamanic realm.

Milt ‘taught’ the way Zen master Thich Thong Tri, “Thay”, of nearby Zen Forest monastery, ‘teaches’. Sit quietly, observe, lose your ‘self’ in nature while maintaining focused awareness. Milt mastered the art of written and oral poetry, and he was simultaneously learning and mentoring the adept’s skills of direct knowledge transmission at the end of his life. It is an incredible honour to have lived in the presence of such supportive and wise elders and shaman as Milt and Thay. Our little orb is increasingly desperate for more such beings to evolve and manifest.

* revised April 14, 2011 - reflecting on the upcoming celebration of Milt and Joe Wallace at Cafe Taste in Toronto

“You Growing”

By Milton Acorn

You growing and your thought threading
The delicate strength of your focus
Out of a clamour of voices
Demanding faces and noises
Apart from me but vivid
As when I kissed you and chuckled

Wherever you are be fearless
And wherever I am I hope to know
You’re moving vivid beyond me
So I grow by the strength
Of you fighting for yourself, many selves
Your life, many lives, your people    

Saturday, 9 April 2011

ZEN/blog power!: 50 book orders/pols follow advice!!!/hydro hours changed

blog power! received this just now from Marco, the editor of Haiku Canada's newsletter. Thanks, Marco, for sending my review of Arthur Breverman's book, Living and Dying in ZaZen, as a HC newsflash. 50 orders! - yeah, the dude owes me a beer or three  : )

(apologies, readers, for the above large & bold type - still learning all these internet techniques) 

The two 'rants' I recently published on my blog were also published as letters-to-the-editors of both NOW Magazine (big Toronto entertianment weekly) and my local paper, which is a member of a conglomerate newspaper chain. Almost a million readers in total. Having the blog encouraged me to organized my thoughts for posting, & then I sent them on as letters. It's synchronicity (of course) but both my rants achieved results (Blue Helmet UN action re Libya; and Ontario Hydro has changed its cheapest rate from 9 pm to 7 pm afer my rant about how a friend could only afford to cook on weekends under the old restrictive Hydro time frames).

I'm definitely a convert to blogging. It's ironic, but I've caused far more overt changes thru my letters-to-the-editors than thru my poetry, but of course, poetry is meant to change the spiritual and visionary fabric of society, while the rants & letters DO seem to have a substantial effect on day-today realities - far more efficiently than voting in our pseudo-democracy   : ( 

  • Zen and the internet‏

  •  Haiku Canada Newsletter
    To Chris Faiers
    From:Haiku Canada Newsletter (
    Sent:April 9, 2011 2:46:20 PM
    To: Chris Faiers (
    Hi Chris,
    Just thought that you'd like  to know that as a result of your review (which I sent out as a HC Newsflash), Howard Lee Kilby ordered 50 copies of the book (see below).
    Tell Arthur Braverman he owes you a beer.


    Dear Marco,

    Arthur Braverman impressed me so much with  Living and Dying in Zazen.
    That I ordered

    National Al Purdy Day: April 21st/"picnic with Al" poem/notes & babblings

    A couple of years ago The League of Candian Poets established April 21st as National Al Purdy Day.
    Purdy, "the Voice of the Land", died on April 21, 2000 at age 82. If you don't know big Al's poetic story and legacy, you probably shouldn't be reading this blog.

    I moved to north Hastings Couny exactly 22 years ago - and Purdy and his poetry, esp. his classic poem, The Country North of Belleville, had much to do with my desire to move to this wild and redneck rural area of Ontario.  

    For the past two years I've celebrated National Al Purdy Day with small groups of friends. In 2009 a group of Marmora area poets gathered on the covered bridge beside the Crowe River and took turns reading Purdy poems to each other. Last year both Doctor Johns and I drove to the little conservation area in Ameliasburgh where Big Al is buried, and celebrated his day with teacher Michelle L-M's high skool students. Gentle readers, I suggest you do the same. If there isn't a commemoration near you, perhaps just sit in a quiet park or corner of your yard and read some of Purdy's many classic poems.

    Following is my tribute to Big Al. It's all true, based on events at the first Purdy Country LitFest (PurdyFest) held in 2007.

    Picnic  with  Al

    Al, you tough brilliant old bastard
    you’ve been dead for what,
    6    7 years now?
    And yet your spirit still soars thru
    this godforsaken country north of Belleville
    permeating the equally godforsaken Canadian poetry scene

    We, your people’s poetry progeny
    miss you and Uncle Milt so much
    we’ve organized a festival with your name all that’s necessary
    to announce our intentions

    Now the formal parts of the festival are over
    It’s time for beer and finger food and
    real poetry in the graveyard where your
    spirit keeps company with failed Loyalist ancestors

    Today you’ve got us to lift your spirits
    one crazy old hippie poet (me)
    is ringing a Buddhist temple bell
    reminding you not to be late for the feast
    of poets reading your poetry
    all beer sodden, chicken smeared
    and better for it

    This early August day in A-burgh’s settler cemetery is perfect
    sunny, the wind coming up as the bell chimes
    its invocation: animals may appear I intone
    & sure enough, a second turtle pops onto the log
    from the millpond’s cool depths

    I remember the wake in Belleville
    in the posh private school dining hall
    more Hogwartz than the owners realized
    Halfway through the turgid readings
    you flew from the rafters
    in the form of a bat
    swooping among your guests
    and all recognized your spirit
    with authentic laughs

    Melanie reads your poem “The Buddhist Bell”
    after the goofy invocation
    and as our vision clears
    we see the turtles smile
    as Jeff Seffinga appropriately reads “At The Quinte Hotel”
    all of us joining to chorus “for I am a sensitive man!”

    James Deahl lounges on your tombstone
    carved in the shape of an open poetry book
    his arm is draped as if over your shoulder
    while he props on this convenient lectern
    reading your words of drunken wisdom

    Suddenly rude crows caw above the pond
    Uncle Milty with his raven clan
    clangour their guttural approval
    People’s Poetry is alive and well
    laughing from beyond the grave
    mingling pitch perfect with Jim’s voice

    Chris Faiers

    Dedicated to James (Jim) Deahl
    About the Aug. 6/07 picnic celebration in Ameliasburgh by Al Purdy’s grave

    published in ZenRiver: Poems & Haibun (2008)

    And Left a PLace to Stand On: Poems and Essays on Al Purdy (2009)

    both collections published by Hidden Brook Press
    special thanks to publisher Richard 'Tai' Grove

    Tuesday, 5 April 2011

    Fishing with Big Blue: a shaman haibun


     Fishing with Big Blue

    (Malone, by the upper Moira River  -  August 7th, 2006)

    To celebrate the August holiday Monday, I hung out at my Malone property. The heat wave was starting to break, & as there were no outstanding projects for me to do around the shack, I decided to fish. There's a shallow pool just to the right below the shack, & on my third or fourth cast I caught a pan-size smallmouth. It was a great feeling knowing I can catch my dinner within yards of the cooking area. But as always I put the little fighter back.

    It was now the heat of the day, & not the smartest time to lug pails of water for my transplanted evergreens. I decided to fish the upstream pool above the flat rocks through the sacred cedar grove. As always the cool shady beauty of the cedars exerted its calming effect, & when I emerged into sunlight the silvery mineral veins glinted on the old lava flow. For the first time I caught a smallmouth in this pristine spot. After a few more unsuccessful casts I stopped fishing to roam the drought-dry riverbed and admire the dozens of kettle holes pockings. The narrowed river swirled from mini waterfall - pool - waterfall. Everywhere suiseki stones revealed their millennia-shaped beauty which would make one a millionaire in Japan.

    Time to head back to the shack & drink more Gatorade & gin (the beer store being closed for the hol). Rounding the final bend in the trail a subtle motion across the river made me stop. The great blue heron also paused to eye his fellow fisherman, & deciding I was no challenge, resumed his Zen slow stalking:

    great blue heron
    eyes his competition's
    dangling lure
    Slooow high step by high step the heron continued his search along the far bank for his lunch. Earlier I had been musing on the universal desire to penetrate the other elements, in my case fishing for fun rather than food, but still the primitive urge to search for a connection through the levels of being.

    I returned to my perch on the shack's porch, sipped my horrible drink, and watched Big Blue's methodical approach:

    small drops flash
    as the minnow disappears
    down the heron's bill
    For half an hour Big Blue stalked with zazen patience while I sat in semi-stoned awe. In and out of secret pockets and across shallows, until with no warning he took flight.

    A neighbour visited, and hours of fishing & chatting followed, Big Blue forgotten, not even mentioned. My guest departed, & halfway through my dinner's sub sandwich, a swoosh of greyblue wings announced Big Blue's return - exactly to the spot he'd left hours before.

    Chris Faiers
    Box 69
    Marmora, Ontario, Canada

    An Appreciation by Katherine Gordon

    "Good to share the ephemeral connections to fish, flight, water, blue beauty and the orphanage of humanity on this tree of life.  I live in the Eramosa River valley, hear the great blue and little green, watch the intricate balance of river life and sometimes integrate all my molecules with this vibrant chain, shaman-like in transformation.  Such a summer-slice you have sent us.  I will cherish it.  Appreciatively, Katherine.
    Notes: My webmaster, Weed, kindly posted this online some years ago. Weed is very tech knowledgeable, and he created the tag reference for "shaman haibun" I believe. Fishing with Big Blue has remained the top listing for shaman haibun in Google ever since - I suspect Weed and I have coined a new literary genre, the shaman haibun. I googled this yesterday, and there are now over 2,000 sites listed under this topic.

    Fishing with Big Blue is included in my 2008 book, ZenRiver: Poems & Haibun, published by Hidden Brook Press in 2008.

    published in The Link, Summer Solstice issue 2013, page 12
    (with thanks to Ursula Pflug, literary editor)


    Monday, 4 April 2011

    meditation: a final literary frontier?

    Meditation: a final literary frontier?

    My last posting was a book review of Living and Dying in Zazen. Conrad Didiodato kindly replied that he’d like to know more of my impressions on Japanese Zen practices, and also my thoughts on a possible relationship between Eastern meditation practices and First Nations shamanism.

    Meditation: a final literary frontier?
    Perhaps writing about personal meditation experiences is one of the last literary frontiers. D. H. Lawrence and others crashed thru the literary sexual barriers in the 1930s, and books on personal finances have become bestsellers in recent decades. Reading about either now should bore the pants off anyone who has passed thru their teen years and learned to balance a chequebook.  

    If you are a meditator, as I have been for most of my adult life (ages 19 to 62), you will likely find these ramblings on meditation unnecessary and redundant. But if you haven’t
    explored meditation yourself, these thoughts may provide some insight and guidelines to the WHY AND HOW of meditation.

    A highly educated friend teased me a few years ago with the rhetorical question, “What do you meditate on, nothing?” He thought he was being clever and putting me on the spot. I should have replied, “Try thinking of nothing. I’ll bet you a hundred dollars you can’t think of nothing for more than a second or two!”

    Zazen: just sitting   “nobody doing nothing”
    This was the main instruction from all five Japanese Zen teachers in this book: the primacy and necessity of just sitting in zazen, meditation, as often as possible. No goals, no expectations, no magic – just quietly sitting.

    The author, Arthur Braverman, writes of his initial difficulty in doing this seemingly simple task. He tells of following his daily thoughts and their meaninglessness during his zazen training with the monks.

    Kundalini/bardos/siddhis/bodhisattvas/nirvana/enlightenment – even haiku   : )
    According to Braverman, Japanese Zen teachers don’t concern themselves with these more exotic aspects of Buddhism, which are usually associated with Tibetan Buddhism.
    I don’t remember reading one of these words in the entire book. Japanese Zen Buddhism struck me as very basic, even simplistic. We Westerners want to get onto the real stuff after we’ve bent ourselves into knots practicing yoga and reading New Age gurus. But the Japanese practitioners keep returning to the purest aspects of meditation – ‘when sitting in meditation, one sits with Buddha’ … nothing more, nothing less.

    Some personal experiences and evolving practice (even shamanism)
    Enough blather for one day – will attempt this in a future posting. 

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    "Living and Dying in Zazen": Arthur Braverman (book review by Chris Faiers/cricket)

    Living and Dying in Zazen:
    Five Zen Masters of Modern Japan

    By Arthur Braverman

    First edition, 2003
    Weatherhill, Inc.
    41 Monroe Turnpike
    Trumbull, CT  06611

    174 pages
    *widely available on Amazon in new & used editions

    This book was kindly gifted to me by Theodore Tsaousidis, the steward of Snow Lion Meditation Shop (Toronto, across from Pape subway station) at Purdy Country LitFest #4 last summer. 

    Arthur Braverman could be a personal alter ego – he went to Japan in June of 1969 to study Zen, while that same month and year I resisted the draft for the Vietnam War and ended up living in London, England.

    To his credit, Braverman is hardly present in what could have been a self-indulgent biography. Instead, he thoughtfully presents the life histories of five very different Zen teachers:
    Kodo Sawaki
    Sodo Yokoyama
    Kozan Kato
    Motoko Ikebe
    Kosho Uchiyama.

    Arthur was fortunate to quickly connect with a temple abbot, Kosho Uchiyama, who accepted and encouraged this sixties wave of questing neophyte Westerners. Through Braverman’s unobtrusive observations the reader learns of the two main schools of Zen. There is the more laid-back Soto sect, which three of the Zen priests follow, and the hard-assed and militaristic Rinzai sect.

    Interestingly, for me the most appealing of the teachers was the laywoman Zen teacher and artist Moto Ikebe.

    The core of Japanese Zen, repeated by each of these teachers, is the practice of zazen: sitting = meditation. “Nobody doing nothing” is how one of the teachers expresses this.

    When Braverman discusses this with one of his friends, the seeming pointlessness of “just sitting”, his Western friend comprehends that in our human situation, perhaps being harmless, just ‘doing nothing’, is a far loftier goal than the seeking and striving which is endemic to our modern world.


    I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Buddhism, particularly Japanese Zen Buddhism. Buddhism is the fastest growing spirituality/religion in the West, and Braverman’s thoughtful account gives us insight into the Zen experience through the lives of his teachers, as well as through his personal insights gained in lifelong practice of Zen.

    *** I hope to soon do a posting of my personal reflections on this book, its influences on me, Zen Buddhism, and possibly some insights into the direction Buddhism may take as its practice evolves in North America (“Turtle Island”). It is my belief that our First Nations shamans experienced states of consciousness very parallel with Buddhist meditation.

    Chris Faiers
    Lifelong haijin (haiku poet) and meditator, steward of ZenRiver Gardens retreat