Friday, February 22, 2008

The Winning Poem

Of course I forgot to mention which poem I had submitted. Here it is.

The Poem On Your Body

I traced out a poem on your body
With a Japanese brush.
The first uneasy drop
Spread on your shoulder blade
Like a star.

Along your side I wrote the size and span of your wings.
At the base of your back
I catalogued the examples of your courage.
On your inner thigh
I wrote the details of your secrets.
Down your arms
was a list of your desires
and on the soles of your feet
in tiny letters
I chronicled your dreams.
Each word, each letter brushed
spelled out my love.

Our august sweat washed it all illegible.
Rubbing into our pores
the words reduced to m’s and r’s and s’es,
no longer words at all.
Then was the cohesion
when the poem became.
The knitting of cells and ink
braided the poem real
and such a soliloquy can never be spoken.

I (kinda) won!

So I got an e-mail about a month ago from Descant magazine. They are a Canadian mag out of Toronto that publishes literature and art. The e-mail said that the poem I had submitted to the "Winston Collins- Best Canadian Poem" award had made it onto the short list. The e-mail asked if I would go to Toronto and attend the award soirée. It said the short list had 17 other finalists on it.
I was surprised to be a finalist but didn't figure I was going to win and travelling mid-week to TO was not a convenient thing to do so I put it all in the back of my mind. About a week later I got another e-mail saying "You haven't told us if you are coming." So I replied that, officially and unequivocally, I was not attending. A few days later I got a phone call from the editor-in-chief. "Are you sure you can't come?" So I explained that having made the 5-6 hour car trip to Toronto once with a toddler had been a real trial and I was wise enough from the ordeal not to repeat it. Also I work (granted I could take a laptop and work en route but I didn't mention that). She asked if I had a web-cam to "virtually" attend. I said no but offered to make a video poem of myself reading the submitted piece which they could show at the event. She said that would be great. So I memorized the poem, set up my little camera in a quiet spot and did about 3 million takes. When I finally had read it through smoothly I took one look at it and went to bed feeling puffy, lispy, stoned-looking, and unwarrantably pretentious. The next day I sent it anyway because I knew most of my insecurities were in my head and would not be so glaring to strangers.
I figured that was the end of it. But the very same day I got another e-mail from the editor saying that someone else was coming from Montreal with a toddler and maybe we could travel together. I called the editor (as she had kindly given me her personal number) and said "Really I would love to come but will not drive it. The train is a great way to go but I can't afford it. I would strongly suggest you recommend this option to the other people travelling there with a child. Thanks for putting me on the short list, blah blah blah."
To which she replied "Are you really sure you can't come? I shouldn't tell you this but you are on the short list..."
"You mean a shorter short list?"
"Yes. And we really hope you can make it to the event."
"Well as I said, I would come by train but I can't afford it."
I had also previous to all this called a friend or two (because, really, I did want to go, even if I had to do some creative financing later) to see if Morgan and I could be put up for a night but it seemed like all of Toronto was leaving that very day for Cuba!
She e-mailed me yet again that day to say that Descant magazine would pay my train fare.
Well hell. They really do want me there. So I made one last attempt to contact someone in Toronto to stay with. It was a go. It turned out that I would not have any work the two days I would be away anyway so it looked like the universe was giving me a cosmic shove.
Morgan and I made the trip. I gotta say, travelling with a kid really makes me empathize a LOT with single moms-it is not easy doing stuff with a kid in tow!
So all this long pre-amble to say I won "honourable mention", which translates as one of two runners up for the prize. The title comes with publication in the summer issue, a year's subscription, a bouquet, a certificate, a bottle of champagne and $250. Heehee.
This is my first lit prize and only my third or so publication.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Help me, Buddha

This morning while I changed her diaper, Monkey looked over at the mantle and spied someone who might be able to free her from the horrible mommy-monster's wipes-filled embrace.
"Help me, Buddha" she called plaintively. "Help,Buddha!"
As any good offspring of hippies would, I rejoiced in the idea that my little angel recognised the deeper elements of the statuette on the mantle but my plans to enroll her into some kind of spiritual practise in India were cut short when she changed her tactics and started beseeching assistance from the moose figurine sitting next to Buddha. Ah well. We can't all be enlightened every moment of the day, right? Any Roshi will tell ya that.