Indigenous Modern: the art of Doug Cranmer (Kesu’) / Truths of The Kwakʼwala-Speaking Peoples

 

ZP_Doug Cranmer_Ravens or Ravens in Nest_2005

ZP_Doug Cranmer_Ravens or Ravens in Nest_2005

Northwest-Coast Kwakwaka’wakw art is identifiable by its flamboyant and colourful carving and painting. Among the leading artists was Doug Cranmer (1927-2006), whose style was understated and elegant, and whose work found an international following from the 1960s onward. Kesu’ / Doug Cranmer was one of the very first Native artists in British Columbia to own his own gallery. A patient and dedicated teacher, he inspired a generation of younger Native artists in Alert Bay, B.C., and throughout the province.
.     .     .

Some Truths of The Kwakʼwala (Kwakiutl)-Speaking Peoples:

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When the Transformer (Creator), Ḵaniḵiʼlakw, travelled around the world, he eventually returned to the place where Gwaʼnalalis lived. In an earlier encounter, the Transformer had beaten Gwaʼnalalis, who was ready for his return. Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked, “Would you like to become a cedar tree?” Gwaʼnalalis replied, “No, cedar trees, when struck by lightning, split and fall. Then they rot away for as long as the days dawn in the world.” Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked again, “Would you like to become a mountain?” “No,” Gwaʼnalalis answered, “For mountains have slides and crumble away for as long as the days dawn in the world.” The Transformer asked a third question: “Would you like to become a large boulder?” Again Gwaʼnalalis answered, “No. Do not let me become a boulder, for I may crack in half and crumble away as long as the days dawn in the world.”
Finally, Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked, “Would you like to become a river?” “Yes, let me become a river, that I may flow for as long as the days shall dawn in the world,” Gwaʼnalalis replied. Putting his hand on Gwaʼnalalis’ forehead and pushing him down prone, Ḵaniḵiʼlakw said, “There, friend, you will be a river and many kinds of salmon will come to you to provide food for your decendants for as long as the days shall dawn in the world. And so the man Gwaʼnalalis became the river Gwaʼni.
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As told by: Pa̱lʼnakwa̱laga̱lis Waʼkas (Dan Cranmer), 1930
.     .     .

ZP_Doug Cranmer_Canoe_1996_photo by Vickie Jensen

ZP_Doug Cranmer_Canoe_1996_photo by Vickie Jensen

Before the time of the great flood, the Da̱ʼnaxdaʼx̱w of Dzawadi knew that it would happen and began to prepare for it. Some of the people tied four canoes together and put their provisions in these. Dzawadalalis built a home of small poles, which he covered with clay. The others laughed at him, but he knew that he and his four children would survive the flood. When the rains came, the others tied their canoes to an elderberry tree, while Dzawadalalis began moving his belongings into his clay-covered house. One of the men who had ridiculed him said, “Please let me come with you,” but Dzawadalalis refused, saying, “Go to the mountain, for that is what you said you would do. My children and I will be locked inside this house, for we are going underwater.” Shutting the door, he began to sing, “Take care of us. I am going where you told me to go.”
Those people who had made fun of him floated around in the flood, which had reached the tops of the highest mountains in Dzawadi. For some time, Dzawadalalis and his children lived in the underwater house. Then he sent a small bird out. It retured to their house with a small root in his mouth, and so Dzawadalalis knew that the waters were beginning to subside. He waited for some time, then sent another small bird out. Again, it returned with evidence that the waters were still going down. The third time he sent a bird out, it brought leaves back from a tree. Finally, the fourth small bird was sent out and it brought back blades of grass in its mouth. Dzawadalalis knew then that it was safe to leave his underwater house. He instructed his children to open the door and he thanked the Creator for saving them. They survived because they believed they would be saved.

.
As told by: Watlaxaʼas (Jack Peters), 1980
.     .     .

The G̱usgimukw first lived at a placed called Guseʼ. The Transformer, Hiłatusa̱la, visited there during his travels around the world. There were only two people in the village, an old woman and a child. When asked why they were alone, the old woman replied, “All of our people have been eaten up by a monster in the river. Whenever someone has gone to get water, the monster has eaten them.” Hiłatusa̱la then asked the child to get him some water, for he was thirsty. The child was afraid to go but Hiłatusa̱la told her she had nothing to fear. As he put his Sisiyutł belt around her, the child, still afraid, took a water bucket and began walking towards the river.
Buried in the sand was the huge tongue of the monster. Without knowing it, the child walked right onto the monster’s tongue and was swallowed. Hiłatusa̱la began to sing, which made the monster appear and vomit an immense pile of bones – as well as the child it had just swallowed. “Now we will get to work, so that your tribe will increase in size again,” Hiłatusa̱la said to the child. They began putting the bones together in the right way to form bodies. When they were finished, Hiłatusa̱la sprinkled his life-giving water on the assembled bones and the people whose bones had been lain upon the beach came to life and stood up. They said to each other, “I must have been sleeping a long time.” Hiłatusa̱la told them, “You weren’t sleeping! You were dead and I brought you back to life. Now I will rid the river of the monster.” He shouted at the monster to show himself again. It did so, and, taking hold of it, he flung it away, saying, “You will not come again; you will be gone!”
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As told by: Chief ʼWalas (James Wallas), 1980
.     .     .

ZP_Doug Cranmer at work on a carving, 1961

ZP_Doug Cranmer at work on a carving, 1961

Doug Cranmer_Mask_Chief of the Undersea Kingdom_1974_photo by Ken Mayer

Doug Cranmer_Mask_Chief of the Undersea Kingdom_1974_photo by Ken Mayer

The first man came down at T̕a̱ka, Topaz Harbour on the mainland. His name was Weḵa’yi. Lakata̱sa̱n is the name of the mountain there. After some time, a long time, the great flood was to come. So the people made cedar rope from the top of the mountain down to the salt water at the ocean. With this long rope they made an anchor and tied it to the mountain to secure their canoes during the flood. They fastened two canoes together and lots of people came. The flood lasted for a very long time, and it is said the tides were really strong and the weather was very bad. Because of the rough weather the canoes started to bang together and he feared the canoes would split and they would drown. Therefore Weḵa’yi cut off the people in the other canoe and they drifted away – and now they are the Kitimaat people. Then the great flood went down and he looked around and realized that he was in a different place. He had drifted up into Knight Inlet.
There was a woman named T̕łisda’ḵ and she had wings on her back. Weḵa’yi began to put stakes in the river to build a salmon trap and the woman asked him what he was doing. She told him that this was her river. Weḵa’yi argued and said it was his river and he had been there first. To test Weḵa’yi, the woman asked him, “If it is truly your river, then what type of fish return here?” Weḵa’yi replied and said, “Sockeye salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon, Spring salmon, Chum salmon and Steelhead salmon”. The woman told Weḵa’yi that if he really owned the river, then he would have known about the valuable eulachon that comes to this river. The woman and Weḵa’yi continued to argue over the ownership of the river and only in this version does Weḵa’yi win against her. She called them dzaxwa̱n or “candle fish”. She eventually allowed him to build a house there and make t̕łi’na or “eulachon grease” every spring.
After a while, people began to increase in numbers everywhere. Weḵa’yi called the people from all over. He put the grease into kelp bottles. He sold grease for slaves and became a great Chief. He also lived at Xwa̱lkw at Gwa’ni or Nimpkish River where there are logs piled up for the foundation of dwellings there. Weḵa’yi’s wife was a woman from Gilford Island named K̕ix̱waḵ̕a̱’nakw. He married her and got a copper named T̕łaḵwola.
There are many tribes and clans amongst the Ligwiłda’x̱w. But there are mainly two tribes today sharing common ancestry, beginning with Weḵa’yi and his family and their survival of the great Flood.
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From the Ligwiłda’x̱w, as told by: Chief Billy Assu

.     .     .
Kwakwaka’wakw Truths:  from U’mista Cultural Society, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada
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Jacob Nibenegenesabe: “Shaking the Pumpkin”: Narrative Poems from the Swampy Cree ᓀᐦᐃᓇᐍᐏᐣ

 

Jackson Beardy, Oji-Cree painter (1944 -1984): "Bird Calls", 1977

Jackson Beardy, Oji-Cree painter (1944 -1984): “Bird Calls”, 1977

Jacob Nibenegenesabe_a poem from The Wishing Bone Cycle: Narrative Poems from the Swampy Cree Indians_Translated by Howard A. Norman, 1976

Jacob Nibenegenesabe_a poem from The Wishing Bone Cycle: Narrative Poems from the Swampy Cree Indians_Translated by Howard A. Norman, 1976

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Swampy Cree /ᓀᐦᐃᓇᐍᐏᐣ (which has sometimes been known as Maskekon, Omaškêkowak, or anglicized as Omushkego) is a variety of the more widespread Algonquian language – Cree.  Swampy Cree has been spoken in Northern Manitoba, central to northeast Saskatchewan, and along the coast of Hudson Bay and James Bay in Northern Ontario. Approximately thirty years ago Swampy Cree had about 4500 native speakers; that number may be as low as 100 today (2014).

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Jacob Nibenegenesabe
“Shaking the Pumpkin”
Translation from Swampy Cree:  Howard Norman

.
One time I wanted two moons
in the sky.
But I needed someone to look up and see
those two moons
because I wanted to hear him
try and convince the others in the village
of what he saw.
I knew it would be funny.
So, I did it.
I wished another moon up!
There it was, across the sky from the old moon.
Along came a man.
Of course I wished him down that open path.
He looked up in the sky.
He had to see that other moon!
One moon for each of his eyes!
He stood looking
up in the sky
a long time.
Then he suspected me, I think.
He looked into the trees
where he thought I might be.
But he could not see me
since I was disguised as the whole night itself!
Sometimes
I wished myself into looking like the whole day,
but this time
I was dressed like the whole night.
Then he said,
“There is something strange
in the sky tonight.”
He said it out loud.
I heard it clearly.
Then he hurried home
and I followed him.
He told the others, “You will not believe this,
but there are ONLY two moons
in the sky tonight.”
He had a funny look on his face.
Then all the others began looking into the woods.
Looking for me, no doubt!
“Only two moons, ha! Who will believe you?
We won’t fall for that!” they all said to him.
They were trying to send the trick back at me!
That was clear to me!
So, I quickly wished a third moon up there
in the sky.
They looked up and saw three moons.
They had to see them!
Then one man
said out loud, “Ah, there, look up!
up there!
There is only one moon!
Well, let’s go sleep on this
and in the morning
we will try and figure it out.”
They all agreed, and went in their houses
to sleep.
I was left standing there
with three moons shining on me.
There were three . . . I was sure of it.

.
One time
all the noises met.
All the noises in the world
met in one place
and I was there
because they met in my house.
My wife said, “Who sent them?”
I said, “Fox or Rabbit,
yes one of those two.
They’re both out for tricking me back today.
Both of them
are mad at me.
Rabbit is mad because I pulled
his brother’s ear
and held him up that way.
Then I ate him.
And Fox is mad because he wanted
to do those things first.”

“Yes, it had to be one of them,”
my wife said.

So, all the noises
were there.
These things happen.
Falling-tree noise was there.
Falling-rock noise was there.
Otter-mud-sliding noise was there.
All those noises, and more,
in my house.

“How long do you expect to stay?”
my wife asked them. “We need some sleep!”

They all answered at once!

That’s how my wife and I
sometimes can’t hear well!
I should have wished them all away
first thing.

.     .     .

Commentary:

Trickster stories go far back in Cree culture (as elsewhere), but the figure here has been specifically invented by storyteller Jacob Nibenegenesabe, “who lived for some ninety-four years northeast of Lake Winnipeg, Canada.” Nibenegenesabe was also a teller (achimoo) of older trickster narratives, the continuity between old & new never being in question. But the move in the Wishing Bone series is toward a rapidity of plot development & changes, plus a switch into first-person narration as a form of enactment. In the frame for these stories, the trickster figure “has found a wishbone of a snow goose who has wandered into the Swampy Cree region and been killed by a lynx. This person now has a wand of metamorphosis allowing him to wish anything into existence, himself into any situation.” Howard Norman’s method of translation, in turn, involves “first listening to the narratives over & over in the source language, then re-creating them in the same context, story, etc., if notable, ultimately to get a translation word for word.”

[Originally printed in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. The book, first published by Doubleday in 1972 & later by University of New Mexico Press in 1986 & 1992, has now been out of print for several years. The full gathering of Howard Norman’s Swampy Cree translations, The Wishing Bone Cycle: Narrative Poems from the Swampy Cree Indians, was published by Ross-Erikson Publishing, Santa Barbara, & went out of print with the demise of that press.]

.     .     .

Three 21st-century Swampy Cree artists:

Phyllis Sinclair, folksinger

Phyllis Sinclair, folksinger

Kevin Lee Burton, filmmaker

Kevin Lee Burton, filmmaker

David Alexander Robertson, author of the graphic novel series Tales from Big Spirit

David Alexander Robertson, author of the graphic novel series Tales from Big Spirit


Itee Pootoogook (1951-2014): A Tribute in Poems

Itee Pootoogook_After Midnight_coloured pencil_2007

Itee Pootoogook_After Midnight_coloured pencil_2007

Itee Pootoogook, an Inuk and artist from Kimmirut, Baffin Island, was born in 1951 to Ishuhungitok and Paulassie Pootoogook. His drawings are characterized by an uncluttered gaze that sees what is directly before it, and an ability to find the profound in the simple. He died earlier this month of cancer; he was 63 years old.
Some artists are rooted in a place;  this was Itee Pootoogook, very much so, and his drawings depict life in Nunavut. But great art travels, becomes universal. And so we have gathered poems from Germany, Russia, India and the USA, to accompany a selection of Itee’s drawings…

.     .     .

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
On a Journey
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Don’t be downcast, soon the night will come,
When we can see the cool moon laughing in secret
Over the faint countryside,
And we rest, hand in hand.
.
Don’t be downcast, the time will soon come
When we can have rest. Our small crosses will stand
On the bright edge of the road together,
And rain falls, and snow falls,
And the winds come and go.

.     .     .
Hermann Hesse
How Heavy the Days
.
How heavy the days are,
There’s not a fire that can warm me,
Not a sun to laugh with me,
Everything bare,
Everything cold and merciless,
And even the beloved, clear
Stars look desolately down
– Since I learned in my heart that
Love can die.

.
Translations from the German: James Wright
.     .     .

Itee Pootoogook_Floe Edge, Winter

Itee Pootoogook_Floe Edge, Winter

Mohan Rana (born 1964, Delhi, India)
After Midnight
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I saw the stars far off,
as far as I was from them,
in this moment I saw them,
in a moment of the twinkling past.
In the boundless depths of darkness,
these hours hunt the morning through the night.
.
And I can’t make up my mind:
am I living this life for the first time?
Or repeating it, forgetting as I live,
that first breath – every time?
.
Does the fish too drink water?
Does the sun feel the heat?
Does light see the dark?
Does the rain also get wet?
Do dreams ask questions about sleep – as I do?
.
I walked a long, long way…
and when I saw, I saw the stars – close by.
Today it rained all day long
and words washed away from your face.
.
Translation from Hindi: Lucy Rosenstein and Bernard O’Donoghue

.     .     .

Itee Pootoogook_The ground is wet for it's been raining during the night...It is early fall and it's early morning_pencil crayon on paper_2010

Itee Pootoogook_The ground is wet for it’s been raining during the night…It is early fall and it’s early morning_pencil crayon on paper_2010

Itee Pootoogook_Water and Ice_coloured pencil on paper_2012

Itee Pootoogook_Water and Ice_coloured pencil on paper_2012

Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)
from: Poems for Blok (1916)
.
Your name is a—bird in my hand,
a piece of ice on my tongue.
The lips’ quick opening.
Your name—four letters.
A ball caught in flight,
a silver bell in my mouth.

A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
—your name.
Your name at my temple
—sharp click of a cocked gun.

Your name—impossible—
kiss on my eyes,
the chill of closed eyelids.
Your name—a kiss of snow.
Blue gulp of icy spring water.
With your name—sleep deepens.

.
Translation from the Russian original: Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

.     .     .
Angelyn Hays (Texas/Florida, USA)
One of the Cardinal Seasons

After the hardest snow of the year
the birches huddle in rows.
Ice breaks their wooden bones,
and hangs them by the thumbs
in a March sun too weak to heal them.
Birds call to each other
from the tangle of bare arms.
A red-dark Cardinal feasts in my backyard,
singing to warm his lungs. He enters
just as I am ready to leave.
I had stopped the clock,
put away my mother’s china,
and wanted to sink to timeless black.
But the bird came for me,
signaling me to rise, recall his password.
The window is framed by trees, no longer trees,
sky, no longer sky, but now a watch
by which I measure my days.
Shouting the weight of his pleasure
from fevered beak, he rolls a black eye
and we click off the minute.
Then he swoops over my white garden,
drunk as Li Po, his floating path
a dance on an empty swingset of wind.

Itee Pootoogook_Electric fan in an abandoned shack_2012

Itee Pootoogook_Electric fan in an abandoned shack_2012

Itee Pootoogook_Frozen Tarp_coloured pencil_2013

Itee Pootoogook_Frozen Tarp_coloured pencil_2013

Michael Valentine (Maryland, USA)
A Meadow in March
.
Early Spring snowfall
dusts late Winter bloom
crystalline fractals piling gently
all around
to rest upon vibrant petal
leaf
stem
and ground.
The field now
a riot of pixelated colour
struggling to be seen under
blank canvas tarp of
Winter’s last throes.
Portrait of Nature’s perfect balance
Yin meeting Yang
flowing together
each becoming the other
flower melts snow into water flowing into flower.
Demonstration of Tao
in this limbo-time between the seasons
that is no longer Winter
and not yet Spring,
when the Universe gives lessons
to remind us that
there is no such thing as
“impossible”.

.     .     .
Mitchell Walters (Temecula, California, USA)
The Shack
.
I walked to the river and back.
Something told me I should.
I saw things I hadn’t seen before:
A dog.  A deer.  A stream.
.
I saw an old abandoned shack.
It was made entirely of wood.
I walked to the shack and opened the door.
And that was the start of my dream.

.     .     .     .     .


Kerbel, Terada, Nauman: three Wordy conceptual artists – But Wait, There’s More!

Janice Kerbel_one page of A letter by Rodolphe Boulanger de Huchette to Emma Bovary written by Gustave Flaubert in my hand

Janice Kerbel_one page of A letter by Rodolphe Boulanger de Huchette to Emma Bovary written by Gustave Flaubert in my hand

Currently, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada, there are works from the permanent collection on view by three conceptual artists who use words – just a phrase, or a crammed page – as the locus of their art.  The artists are:  Janice Kerbel (born 1969, Canada, now living in London, England);  Ron Terada (also 1969, Canada); and Bruce Nauman (born 1941, USA).

Kerbel’s 5-poster series Remarkable, from 2007, presents the viewer with silkscreened prints on what is known as campaign poster paper – something used for 19th-century traveling circus billboard “announcements” or for election hoardings. Using bold black letters on white, Kerbel describes The Regurgitating Lady and The Human Firefly, as if inviting us in to a carnival side-show. Yet her characters are imaginary and so we become completely involved in the artist’s sometimes archaic use of language and her strong typographical arrangements.

Janice Kerbel_silkscreen print on campaign poster paper_The Temperamental Barometric Contortionist_2007

Janice Kerbel_silkscreen print on campaign poster paper_The Temperamental Barometric Contortionist_2007

Vancouver-based Ron Terada has been very precisely focused in his art on phrases, sentences, written presentation. Twenty years ago he did a series of “ad paintings” that were a branching out of monochromatic minimalism in visual art. He worked in other media for several years then returned in 2010 with the large-scale white-on-black chapter pages of “Jack” (from a biography of painter Jack Goldstein, Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia). Each chapter page is a painting – not a print. To the individual pages of a book, Terada brings the discipline of a serious painter.

Ron Terada_Jack_2010_acrylic on canvas

Ron Terada_Jack_2010_acrylic on canvas

Ron Terada_born 1969_neon text sculpture_It is what it is It was what it was

Ron Terada_born 1969_neon text sculpture_It is what it is It was what it was

Ron Terada’s neon text sculpture, It Is What It Is, It Was What It Was, reflects on present-day use of language, offering a general critique of complacency in society.  Severe High makes reference to threat definitions for Homeland Security in the USA.

A Ron Terada neon word sculpture that comments on Homeland Security in the USA

Bruce Nauman is a multimedia artist who has been heavy on “concept” and “performance”. The online, user-driven encyclopedia Wikipedia describes Nauman’s “practice” as being “characterized by an interest in language, often manifesting itself in a playful, mischievous manner.” And: [Nauman is] fascinated by the nature of communication and language’s inherent problems, as well as the role of the artist as a supposed communicator and manipulator of visual symbols.”
Among the A.G.O.’s pieces are two lithographs, Ah Ha (1975) and Pay Attention (1973):

Bruce Nauman_AH HA_1975 screenprint on wove paperBruce Nauman_Pay attention Motherfuckers_1973 Lithograph_38 inches by 28 inches
The reproduction of Pay Attention shown here (copied many times around the internet) is marred by the lack of print clarity in the word attention, which affects the viewer’s – reader’s ! – ability to quickly “get it”, that is, the power of the statement itself: Pay Attention, Motherfuckers! Interestingly, the print of Pay Attention that belongs to the A.G.O. is much clearer, so that all four words hit the mark. Which is important, especially since the statement is presented to us as a mirror image i.e. backwards.
Some of Nauman’s works now seem dated or stilted, but others have a fresh power in 2014 that comes out of our being awash now in “text” – as all words seem to be called these days – and “text” often without “context”. People’s ubiquitous use of :-) and, most especially, ;-), is indicative of the fact that words and phrases themselves are no longer adequate. What’s the tone – what’s the tone? It’s there you’ll find the meaning. The most effective of all the Nauman works at the A.G.O. is a 1985 videotape installation, Good Boy Bad Boy.  There are two older-model TV sets side by side, and each shows its own videocassette of a man – mid-40s black guy, and a woman – mid-40s, white – each of whom speaks a set group of short sentences which are statements, and then does it all over again, but altering the vocal tone. To hear each of them “perform” these statements twice, changing his/her tone, is a simple and clear demonstration of the complexity and muddiness of Language. The man says: I was a bad girl. You were a bad girl. We were baaad girls. We were baaaaad! And he’s enjoying remembering being a slut. The woman says the same things and she is a scolding puritan;  she may be speaking of a pet dog who pooped on the Persian carpet, or of two 12 year olds caught smoking cigarettes. Same phrases – entirely different meanings. A good contemporary example of this is two words: Hello and Whatever. Both have pleasant or neutral uses in conversation but both also can be altered via tonal change, pitch, even syllable stress, to communicate irate impatience or deliberate rudeness (Hello);  and casual defiance or a kind of hybrid attitude of blasé and crass (Whatever).

Nauman is quoted at the A.G.O. exhibit: “When language begins to break down a little bit it becomes exciting and communicates in nearly the simplest way that it can function. You are forced to be aware of the sounds and the poetic parts of words.”

Some of Honest Ed's iconic handpainted signs on display in 2012_Wayne Reuben has been, for decades, that man with the calligraphy brush and the poster paints.

Some of Honest Ed’s iconic handpainted signs on display in 2012_Wayne Reuben has been, for decades, that man with the calligraphy brush and the poster paints.

Honest Ed's signpainter, Wayne Reuben, at work in July 2013_photograph by Darren Calabrese, National Post

Honest Ed’s signpainter, Wayne Reuben, at work in July 2013_photograph by Darren Calabrese, National Post

To whom shall we give the last Word? Why, Wayne Reuben – of course!
Wayne Reuben is the man behind the sometimes wacky ads, proclamations, commands and price cards at Honest Ed’s discount store, the building structure of which is a vivid Toronto landmark, what with the thousands of marquee bulbs that light up its red and yellow exterior. It’s Reuben’s handiwork when, out on the sidewalk, you read: Come In And Get Lost! And it’s Reuben’s blue and red paint letters that tell you, once you’re inside: Don’t Just Stand There – Buy Something!
Two weeks ago, hundreds of Torontonians lined up around the block to get the chance to pore over Mr. Reuben’s thousand-plus handpainted signs that Ed’s never trashed over the decades. The lucky buyer might’ve come away with Fancy Panties or Men’s Mesh Tops, a sign in the shape of a Hallowe’en pumpkin that reads WIGS $6.99, lovingly handpainted price boards for tinned sardines, coconut milk, hair grease or pomades – even Justin Bieber-photosilkscreened pyjamas. Along with Doug Kerr, the left-handed Reuben writes/paints in something like a serif font (and sans serif), to spell out Ed’s commercial message; and the tempera paint palette is strong and basic: blue, red, yellow, black.
So why would people line up to buy ephemeral signboards for 5 to 40 dollars? Is it nostalgia for the handmade? Or the curvilinear ease of Reuben’s brushstroke? No. It’s because Honest Ed Is For The Birds: Cheap Cheap Cheap!

;-)


Haiku harusamu 寒き春(さむきはる) / Haiku for This Cold Spring…Kyoshi & Issa

Toronto Canada 2014_Haiku harusamu

Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959)

Translations by Katsuya Hiromoto

.

春風や闘志いだきて丘に立つ 

harukaze ya / tohshi idaki te / oka ni tatsu

.

Spring wind:

Full of fight

I stand on the hill

.

眼つむれば若き我あり春の宵 

Me tsumureba / wakaki ware ari / haru no yoi

.

Shutting my eyes

I find a young me found

In the spring evening

.

この庭の遅日の石のいつまでも 

Kono niwa no / chijitsu no ishi no / itsumademo

.

The rocks in this garden

Remain forever

In the lengthening days of spring

.

何事も知らずと答へ老の春 

Nanigoto mo / shirazu to kotae / oi no haru

.

I know nothing”

Is my answer:

Spring in my old age

.

これよりは恋や事業や水温む 

kore-yori wa / koi ya jigyoh ya / mizu nurumu

.

From this time on

Love, enterprise, and such:

Water has warmed up

.     .     .

The following haiku by Kyoshi were translated by Aya Nagayama and James W. Henry:

.

時ものを解決するや春を待つ


Toki mono o kaiketsu suru ya haru o matsu

.
May time solve
Worries and difficulties –
Awaiting the spring


(1914)

.

金の輪の春の眠りにはひりけり


Kin no wa no haru no nemuri ni hairikeri

.
I have entered
The golden circle of
Spring slumber

(1942)

.

闘志尚存して春の風を見る


Tohshi nao sonshite haru no kaze o miru

.
Steadfast in my soul
My fighting spirit remains
And I see the spring breeze

(1950)

.

独り句の推敲をして遅き日を


Hitori ku no suikou o shite osoki hi o
.
In your solitude
Honing and perfecting your haiku –
On a slow spring day

(1959)

.     .     .

Plus: two by Issa – to have with your cup of tea :-)

(Issa was the haiku pen-name of Kobayashi Nobuyuki Yataro. Issa means Cup of Tea.)

Issa / 一茶 (1763-1828)

.

まん六の春と成りけり門の雪

manroku no haru to nari keri kado no yuki

.

some “proper spring”
this is!
snow at the gate

(1822)

.

春立や愚の上に又愚にかへる

haru tatsu ya gu no ue ni mata gu ni kaeru

.

spring begins –
more foolishness
for this fool

(1823)

.     .     .     .     .


Thomas Moore: “A Canadian Boat Song”

Irish songbook_published in 1892 in the USA, with an engraving of Thomas Moore on the cover

Irish songbook_published in 1892 in the USA, with an engraving of Thomas Moore on the cover

.

Thomas Moore (Irish poet, singer, songwriter, born Dublin, 1779-1853)

A Canadian Boat Song” (1804)

Faintly as tolls the evening chime
Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time.
Soon as the woods on shore look dim,
We’ll sing at St. Anne’s* our parting hymn.
Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
The Rapids are near and the daylight’s past!
Why should we yet our sail unfurl?
There is not a breath the blue wave to curl;
But, when the wind blows off the shore,
Oh! sweetly we’ll rest our weary oar.
Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast,
The Rapids are near and the daylight’s past!
.
Utawa’s* tide! this trembling moon
Shall see us float over thy surges soon.
Saint of this green isle*! hear our prayers,
Oh, grant us cool heavens and favouring airs.
Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast,
The Rapids are near and the daylight’s past!

.     .     .

Thomas Moore, who would later be renowned for poems and songs such as “The Minstrel Boy”, “The Last Rose of Summer” and “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms”, visited Canada when he was 25 years old. He wrote “A Canadian Boat Song” during his time here in 1804.

.

*St. Anne’s:   Moore visited this church – Ste-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’îlelocated in the town of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, on the tip of Montreal Island where the St. Lawrence River joins the Ottawa River.

*Utawa:   an 18th/early 19th-century spelling of Ottawa

*“this green isle”:  Montreal Island (L’île de Montréal )

The Lachine Rapids, near Montreal Island_early 20th century postcard_These are The Rapids that Thomas Moore wrote about in his A Canadian Boat Song.

The Lachine Rapids, near Montreal Island_early 20th century postcard_These are The Rapids that Thomas Moore wrote about in his A Canadian Boat Song.

.     .     .

Zocalo Poets Editor’s Note:

My mother Eileen is a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, though her family emigrated to Canada more than sixty years ago. Ma is in her eighties now, and she most definitely lives in the “here and now”. Yet she has powerful memories of those early years in the new country. She tells me: “I learned A Canadian Boat Song in the early 1950s, after coming to Canada. It was a camp song for the Eaton’s Girls’ Club up at Shadow Lake near Uxbridge. …I also have a memory from back in Ireland: the sound of a marching flute band going by. As children, we simply followed the band, and whistled and sang, as they marched along. They were playing “The Minstrel Boy” by Thomas Moore – and all of it on flutes!”

.

For more favourite poems of my mother, click on the following ZP link:

https://zocalopoets.com/2013/03/17/poems-for-saint-patricks-day-favourites-of-me-ma/

.

Montreal celebrated its 191st St.Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday, March 16th, 2014.

Montreal celebrated its 191st St.Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 16th, 2014.

.     .     .     .     .


Seamus Heaney: ”El Subterráneo”: versión de Óscar Paúl Castro

1980s photograph from Bob Mazzer's decades-long "camera journal" about London's subway system a.k.a. The Underground_Bob Mazzer, fotógrafo_foto del Metro o Subterráneo de Londres, años 1980

1980s photograph from Bob Mazzer’s decades-long “camera journal” about London’s subway system a.k.a. The Underground_Bob Mazzer, fotógrafo_foto del Metro o Subterráneo de Londres, años 1980

Seamus Heaney (Poeta irlandés, 1939-2013)

El Subterráneo” (versión de Óscar Paúl Castro)

.
Corríamos envueltos por la bóveda del túnel,
Tú ibas adelante, llevabas puesto tu abrigo bueno,
Y yo, como un ágil dios, ya casi lograba darte alcance
Cuando repentinamente viraste al advertir una brizna de hierba

.

O alguna una blanca flor reciénnacida, jaspeada de rojo,
Tu abrigo se plegó con violencia y uno tras otro
Se desprendieron los botones, marcando el camino
Que va del Subterráneo al Albert Hall.

.

Era nuestra luna de miel, pasamos el día vagando y se nos hizo
Tarde para el concierto de los Proms, el eco de nuestros pasos aún
Muere en ese corredor; por eso ahora vuelvo, como Hansel bajo la luz
De la luna desandando el camino de piedras, recogiendo botón tras botón

.

Hasta llegar a esta fría estación iluminada con luz artificial
De la que ya han partido todos los trenes, las desnudas vías ―como mi ser―
Están tensas y empapadas, toda mi atención concentrada en el eco
De tus pasos tras de mí, la maldición caerá sobre nosotros si miro atrás.

.     .     .

Óscar Paúl Castro, traductor (Culiacán, México,1979):  Sr. Castro ha publicado traducciones en las revistas TextoS, Punto de Partida, Periódico de Poesía de la UNAM, en Refundación, Espiral y Timonel.

.

Bob Mazzer, photographer_from his London subway series, 1980s_Bob Mazzer, fotógrafo_foto del Metro o Subterráneo de Londres, años 1980

Bob Mazzer, photographer_from his London subway series, 1980s_Bob Mazzer, fotógrafo_foto del Metro o Subterráneo de Londres, años 1980

 

The Underground” (1984)

.

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

.

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

.

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

.     .     .     .     .


Seamus Heaney: “Ruedas dentro de ruedas”: versión de Miguel A. Montezanti

Impossible Object number 36_from Made By Monkeys_Electronics Weekly_February 2013

Un extracto del comentario por el traductor Miguel A. Montezanti:

La traducción debería presentarse por sí sola, criatura libre…Pero diré que Seamus Heaney es un poeta difícil de traducir: apenas puede aspirarse a reproducir lo que dice, lo cual en poesía, como se sabe, puede no ser lo más importante. [Importan mucho] su autorreferencialidad lingüística, asentada sobre la dialéctica sutil entre el gaélico y el inglés, su riqueza sonora, y su rescate de formas sucintas pero complejas…”

.

Seamus Heaney

(nacido en Mossbawn”, Castledawson, Condado de Londonderry, Irlanda del Norte, 1939-2013)

Ruedas dentro de ruedas

I.

La primera captación en serio que tuve de las cosas.
fue cuando aprendí el arte de pedalear
(con la mano) una bici, colocada al revés
e impulsé la rueda trasera preternaturalmente ligero.
Yo amaba la desaparición de los rayos
el modo como el hueco entre el eje y la llanta
susurraba transparente. Si le arrojabas
una papa, el aire enmarcado en el aro
revolvía papilla y te la salpicaba en la cara;
si lo tocabas con una paja, la pajita chasqueaba.
Algo acerca del modo de esos impulsos pedaleros
funcionaba al principio muy palpablemente en tu contra
y luego comenzaba a impeler tu mano hacia delante
hacia un envión nuevo…; todo eso entraba en mí
como un acceso de poder libre, como si la fe
capturara y revolviera los objetos de la fe
en una órbita lindera con la añoranza.

II

Pero lo bastante no era bastante. ¿Quién ha visto
alguna vez el límite de lo otorgado?
En unos  campos más allá de casa había un pozo
(lo llamábamos “El pozo”. Era más que un agujero
con agua, con espinos pequeños
de un lado, y del otro, un fango cenagoso
todo pisoteado por ganado).
También amaba eso. Amaba el olor turbio,
la vida sumidera del lugar como aceite viejo de cadena.
Allí, acto seguido, llevé la bicicleta.
coloqué el asiento y el manubrio
en el fondo suave, hice que las cubiertas
tocaran la superficie del agua y luego di vuelta los pedales
hasta que, como una rueda de molino arrojando con el pedaleo,
(pero aquí a la inversa y azotando una cola de caballo)
la rueda trasera sumergida, refrescando el mundo
revolvía un rociado y espuma de suciedad ante mis ojos
y me bañaba con mis propios barros regenerados.
Durante semanas hice un nimbo de viejo destello.
Luego el eje se engranó, las llantas se oxidaron, la cadena se cortó.

III

Nada igualó esa ocasión después de aquello
hasta que en el circo, entre tambores y
spots,
chicas vaqueras giraron, cada una inmaculada
en el centro inmóvil de un lazo.
Perpetuum mobile. Pura pirueta
Acróbatas, funambuleros. Volteretas.
Stet!

.     .     .

Wheels within wheels

I / The first real grip I ever got on things / Was when I learned the art of pedalling / (By hand) a bike turned upside down, and drove / Its back wheel preternaturally fast. / I loved the disappearance of the spokes, / The way the space between the hub and rim / Hummed with transparency. If you threw / A potato into it, the hooped air / Spun mush and drizzle back into your face; / If you touched it with a straw, the straw frittered. / Something about the way those pedal treads / Worked very palpably ay first against you / And then began to sweep your hand ahead / Into a new momentum – that all entered me / Like an access of free power, as if relief / Caught up and spun the objects of belief / In an orbit coterminous with longing.

II / But enough was not enough. Who ever saw / The limit in the given anyhow? / In fields beyond our house there was a well / (‘The well’ we called it. It was more a hole / With water in it, with small hawthorn trees / On one side, a muddy, dungy ooze / On the other, all tramped through by cattle). / I loved that too. I loved the turbid smell, / The sump-life of the place like old chain oil. / And there, next thing, I brought my bicycle. / I stood its saddle and its handlebars / Into the soft bottom, I touched the tyres / To the water’s surface, then turned the pedals / Until like a mill-wheel pouring at the treadles / (But here reversed and lashing a mare’s tail) / The world-refreshing and immersed back wheel / Spun lace and dirt-suds there before my eyes / And showered me in my own regenerate clays. / For weeks I made a nimbus of old glit. / Then the hub jammed, rims rusted, the chain snapped.

III / Nothing rose to the occasion after that / Until, in a circus ring, drumrolled and spotlit, / Cowgirls wheeled in, each one immaculate / At the still centre of a lariat. / Perpetuum mobile. Sheer pirouette. / Tumblers, jongleurs. Ring-a-rosies. Stet !

.     .     .     .     .


Robert Leighton & Henry Van Dyke: “Late Spring” / John Clare: “The Winter’s Spring”

Mid March in Toronto B

Robert Leighton (born Dundee, Scotland, 1822-1869)

Late Spring

.

Spring is with us by the sun,
Yet it has not given us one
Little snow-drop to remind us
That the flowery days are near:
For the winds are blowing chilly,
And the firstling of the year
Slumbers with the sleeping lily,
‘Neath their coverlet, the sere
And sodden mortcloth that old Autumn
Lay with on her bier.

.

Spring is with us by the date,
And
Winter cancell’d: yet we wait
Balmly fingers to unbind us,
Roots and budlets to unfold.
But the herald larks are roaming
Up the heights of blue and gold:
They can see the Spring a-coming
While we shiver in the cold.
Hark! they sing to Him who taught them
Notes so sweet and bold.

Mid March in Toronto D

Henry Van Dyke (born Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA, 1852-1933)

Late Spring (excerpt)

 

Come, put your hand in mine,
True love, long sought and found at last,
And lead me deep into the Spring divine
That makes amends for all the wintry past.
For all the flowers and songs I feared to miss
Arrive with you;
And in the lingering pressure of your kiss
My dreams come true;
And in the promise of your generous eyes
I read the mystic sign
Of joy more perfect made
Because so long delayed,
And bliss enhanced by rapture of surprise.
Ah, think not early love alone is strong;
He loveth best whose heart has learned to wait:
Dear messenger of Spring that tarried long,
You’re doubly dear because you come so late.

Mid March in Toronto E

John Clare (born Helpston, Northamptonshire, England, 1793-1864)

The Winter’s Spring

.

The winter comes; I walk alone,
I want no bird to sing;
To those who keep their hearts their own
The winter is the spring.
No flowers to please–no bees to hum–
The coming spring’s already come.
.
I never want the Christmas rose
To come before its time;
The seasons, each as God bestows,
Are simple and sublime.
I love to see the snowstorm hing;
‘Tis but the winter garb of spring.
.
I never want the grass to bloom:
The snowstorm’s best in white.
I love to see the tempest come
And love its piercing light.
The dazzled eyes that love to cling
O’er snow-white meadows see the spring.
.
I love the snow, the crumpling snow
That hangs on everything,
It covers everything below
Like white dove’s brooding wing,
A landscape to the aching sight,
A vast expanse of dazzling light.
.
It is the foliage of the woods
That winters bring–the dress,
White Easter of the year in bud,
That makes the winter Spring.
The frost and snow his posies bring,
Nature’s white spurts of the spring.


Las Desaparecidas canadienses: El Día Internacional de la Mujer 2014 / International Women’s Day 2014

Ceremonia de Fresa (“Baya de Corazón”) por Las Mujeres Indígenas – Desaparecidas o Matadas – en Canadá_Lugar: en frente de la sede central de policía en Toronto_14 de febrero, 2014_Strawberry Ceremony 2014_For Missing or Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada_Toronto, Canada

Ceremonia de Fresa (“Baya de Corazón”) por Las Mujeres Indígenas – Desaparecidas o Matadas – en Canadá_Lugar: en frente de la sede central de policía en Toronto_14 de febrero, 2014_Strawberry Ceremony 2014_For Missing or Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada_Toronto, Canada

.

Anna Marie Sewell

Lavando el Mundo”

.

En la oscuridad al fin de este año,

hay tanto amontanado contra la luz entre nosotros,

contra las “apuestas”,

a pesar de las lágrimas, en el viento amargo de esta estación;

Escucha el sueño en que las abuelas se mantienen

hombro con hombro –

al borde de una colina,

inclinándose al unísono, agarrando una cosa – juntas.

Pregúntales, en su mundo de sueños: ¿Porqué lloran ustedes?

Y te mostraron sus chales en muchos colores, extenderán sus alas,

te barrerán dentro de ellas para enseñarte como

una vez, cada año –

cuando hace el tiempo más oscuro,

lavamos el mundo entero durante solamente un día.

Un día para llorar.

.

De un alba al próximo:

recordando a los caídos,

lamentando a los destrozados,

gimiendo por nuestros arrepentimientos.

El amor perdido, las palabras injustas y acciones malas;

momentos desequilibrados…

y todas las rajaduras entre corazón y corazón,

entre padre y criatura,

entre el amante y su querida amiga,

entre nación y nación,

animal – y animal del otro tipo.

.

Por lo que escogemos y lo que descuidamos,

por lo que deseamos que habíamos sabido,

por cada mano soltado / cada lengua desenfrenada,

un susurro quedándose corto y inaúdito;

el pan lejos del hambre;

la disculpa;

el desconcierto;

el camino fracturado.

.

Estas cosas que recogemos en esta cobija

pardo, carmelito, canela –

Lavamos el Mundo, y entre nosotros

agarramos la cobija, llenándola con lágrimas.

Y cuando hemos llorado

de un alba al próximo –

pues subiremos y bailaremos,

acunando un océano de tinieblas amargas que nos cura.

.

Déjales poner tus manos sobre la verdad de una belleza perdida

intensa pero blanda como musgo –

y esta cobija lleno de las lágrimas del polvo y de los moribundos

se vuelve

al momento que llega la luz del amanecer –

la promesa lavada y limpia por nuestra pena.

No es – tanto – la redención

sino la lógica de las estaciones que

clama por la justicia, para recuperar el ritmo.

Algun día, los legisladores tendrán que salir de sus salones de ecos, y

juntarse con la danza de la abuela,

para llevarla y llorarla – limpiada – hasta que

la luz pasa a través de sus cuerpos y

traduce a un arco de iris a lo largo de la tierra.

Ella me dice éso – y sus ojos están rojos.

Y encoge los hombros.

Y camina arduamente por el manto profundo de nieve

que cubre este resto de un otro año

esperando.

.

Versión de Alexander Best

.     .     .

Anna Marie Sewell

Washing the World”

.

In the dark at this end of the year,

so much stacked up against the light

between us, against the odds,

despite the tears, in this season’s bitter wind,

listen to a dream

in which grandmothers stand

shoulder to shoulder, on the rim of a hill,

they bend as one, and grasp one thing together.

Ask them, in the dream world, why

do they cry?

And they will show you in reply:

their shawls of many colours, spread these wings,

sweep you in and teach you how

once a year, in the dark of the year,

we wash the whole world in a day.

For one day, we cry.

.

From one dawn to the next:

remembering the fallen

mourning for the broken

wailing for regrets.

Love lost, wrong words, wrong actions,

unbalanced moments and all the cracks

between heart and heart, parent and child,

lover and beloved friend, nation and nation,

creature, and creature of another kind.

.

For what we choose and what we neglect to choose,

for what we wish we’d known,

for each hand unclasped,

the tongue unbridled,

one whisper falling short of heard,

the bread far from the hunger,

the apology,

the confusion,

the broken road.

.

These things we gather in this blanket,

brown and sand and beige,

we wash the world, between us

we hold this blanket, fill it with our tears,

and when we have cried

from one dawn to the next,

then we will rise, and we dance

cradling this ocean, bitter, healing, dark.

Let them lay your hands upon the truth of beauty lost,

heavy, soft as moss,

this blanket full of tears and dust and dying

becomes, as the light is returning,

the promise,

washed clean

by our sorrow.

Not so much redemption

as the logic of seasons

calls for justice, to restore the rhythm

one day, the lawmakers must exit

their echoing halls, fall in

with the grandmother’s

dancing,

carrying it,

cry it clean,

until light through their bodies

translates to rainbows strung over the land.

She tells me that – her eyes all red.

And shrugs.

And trudges off through the deep

snow blanket that covers

this end of another year

waiting.

.     .     .

Anna Marie Sewell is Ojibway, and Mi’kmaw from Listuguj Mi’kmaw First Nation in Québec – Polish, too! She is the author of Fifth World Drum (Frontenac House, 2009) and was Edmonton’s 4th Poet Laureate (2011-2013). She has other work as well – as part of The Learning Centre Literacy Association at http://prairiepomes.com/tag/anna-marie-sewell/.

Sewell will be opening for Joy Harjo at the Edmonton Poetry Festival – April 20th, 2014.

.

As with Las Mujeres de Juarez in México, so too in Canada, Native Women who are poor and therefore invisible become “Las Desaparecidas canadienses” (The Vanished Canadian Women). They are our oh-so-progressive country’s Open-Secret Shame. Women from small towns and Reserves, faceless in big Canadian cities; the roll call of missing or dead along British Columbia’s “Highway of Tears”…There are eight hundred Native and Inuk women who have gone missing – or have been found murdered – often without resolution of the crime – in the last two decades in Canada. This has occurred in a nation with statistically low murder rates nationally.  The pattern is a systemic one; the disappearance of these women and girls is not important enough in Canadian society for a concerted effort at crime-solving; their lives are expendable because they are not “mainstream”.  With all due respect to her untimely end, they are no Jane Creba.

Jorge Antonio Vallejos, a.k.a. Black Coffee Poet, has been concerned with just such human-rights issues for several years now. For a committed perspective about this national tragedy – violence against women – visit Vallejos’ site: http://blackcoffeepoet.com/.

.     .     .     .     .