Tag Archives: poetry

Death, You are No Stranger

Dr Lorne Harold Olson, my Dad Dec. 1 1941- Feb 11 2014, captured with a fisheye during Festivus, a few years back.

Sometime, as a child
A great uncle, a small suit
Staring into a larger hole
Remembering the smells forever

Sometimes the adults
Something about a black-and-white film star
Or a relative from Norway,
an Auntie from Ireland

Decades wrings life from hard years
Rambling into scenarios of loss
Some who wander are lost
Or get lost, indifferent to finding
Living with absence of fear

Once the guns report
Bullets smash into metal
Skimming past your flesh
You are not in charge

Delicate as we are
Sympathies are few
One by one
They leave

Vague words confuse and deceive
Deceased, passed on, gone
Kindly refrain from mentioning
A celestial birthday

We have no knowledge
Nor choice
Speculation is exercise
For the nervous and ill-informed

Resist the temptation to grieve and bereave
To celebrate & console
Death knows only the past and the future
There is no present tense
Just pain, from time to time.

Hard enough just to eat, brief, sleep, live
They are gone
Perhaps they loved you
Perhaps you loved them
Do not wait to know
There is no answer
Only absence

What legacy do we dream?
Laborious hours of tasks for others
Spawning our own creations
Brought to life for joy and for pain

Or to be warm in the coldest winter
In a land of endless foggy summer
Where the sea reaches out beyond comprehension
and airplanes magically appear from over a dusty hill

Or you, painted jolly with tankard
Hung above the fireplace
Books that open
on a mantlepiece

Or interred in plywood and white
Or abandoned as ashes
Or fertilizing knowledge
Through scalpels and agreements

##

I hold his tiny yellow bald head
Listening to the wheezes
Stopped 3:23 AM
“You must wait one hour to declare”
I clean his chin, lay him down
and close his eyes and mouth

Life in this instant is instinct
And survival
and gently sparing others
From grief and uncertainty

The four stand in a line
On cue, rain falls
We stand til the end — holding on
and watch them shovel and sweep

Then, you might collapse,
you might imbibe, you might justify,
you might pray out
to an imaginary friend

##

One by one, They leave
I remember each
Not for nostalgia or grief
But admiration unspoken

The rough one in leather and muscle cars
and bad decisions, I eagerly complied
Tiny pills at curling rinks
Fights and VW escapes at gas stations

Shaggy haired blonde guitarist
Talked to me like I mattered
13 rosy-cheeked and eager
In green mac jacket like his

The artist, far from home
Often confused and disappeared
Often singing about lusty ladies
and mad experiments in super eight

Long haired city sailor
Young retired from coding
To activism and discretion
Dominos with friends, aneurysm, the end

Ole Gramps and his 67 countries
Nicotine turns to morphine
Me and Uncle Walt
Read him to sleep

Meanwhile in Alabama
The sudden sadness comes, followed by
Deceit, struggle, reprehensible actions
and a litany of notary stamps

Both of the hasheater’s parents
The kind one went to cancer
The blue one, the hard way
I only remember kindness of both

No stranger to hospitals
The doctors’ eyes show bewilderment — and fear
They confer, they draw, they poke
They cannot admit confusion

##

The tsunami warning rings Tuesdays at 10
Would you run? Trampled by the eager and prepared
Or stare the waves down
Twitching legs and bleeding heart

Floods and fires, cold wind and water
Prepare yourself they say with portions and schemes
Or will you choose the present
Leaving sympathies for the past and the future

Do you think you have a choice?
Are you so noble to sacrifice
Running to save the small or the old
With adrenaline and action in your arms
You cannot know
Until the moment of despair

Or will you wait and avoid?
Never consider
Then perhaps
You will be truly
Surprised.

Troop us Away Then

Ready for marching orders.

Troop us away then!
We’ll follow in the full moonlight

“Your dossiers are in order”
says the leather glove
for the shaking ones,
a speech to strengthen

Gird up! We exchange
breathing for heartache
until we’ve all had enough or rather
someone calls a stop for the day

Fight for a freedom
which never arrives
Never is expected
and always promised
So no one’s disappointed.

Alchemists Confer with Hypnotists

Varying days
of bliss and malaise
I’m busy these days
chasing dubbies away

When the ache nears
the break and
light becomes a haze
your soul is so faded,
no hiding, so worn

The alchemists confer
and deny the hypnotists’
clinical opinions.
Retorting, “He simply needs
more magnesium
injected into his bones”

The past life regressions
of painters, loafers and pirates
offer no evidence –
only barroom stories
when envisioning a distant yourself

Consider generating kinetic watts
from my broken soul,
frantic heart and coiled brain.
Anxiety — i’ve plenty to power
all of Iowa — roller rinks and all.

Varley in Vancouver, Part 3: influencing and remixing art – join the G7

Originally published on Aug 17, 2014 at Vancouver Observer. Republished here intact for posterity.

##

What follows is Part 3 of a three-part series exploring the decade which Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley lived in Vancouver and played a pivotal role in the creation of a west coast art movement and sensibility. 

Trained in Belgium, and unlike the rest of the G7, primarily a portraitist, Varley explored his rugged new location – from a Jericho cabin to summer-long camps in Garbaldi – and often with a group of students and artists along, before moving to a cheap place in Lynn Canyon with his mistress. While there, broke and often drunk, he painted true masterpieces on insulation paper. Commemorated with only a trail along Lynn Creek, come along to learn about one of Vancouver’s (almost) unknown shapers. 

##

Cheakamus canyon by Frederick Varley
Art creates our future. When master craftsman skills, meet emotional intent, and is amplified by originality and integrity, a piece of the human experience – a chapter in the collective history – is minted.

As these artifacts are assembled and cherished by subsequent generations they inspire and demonstrate the struggles of existence, evolutions of culture, sagas and stories, and idealized figures, through paintings and other medium.

But art is not static – or shouldn’t be anyhow. In the best works, the influences and interpretations are able to inspire beyond generations. And of course, there is no end of stories about artists who are undiscovered or underappreciated in their own time.

Frederick Varley fell somewhere in between.

Early notoriety came with the  Group of 7 and adventures with Tom Thomson and the idea of hearty artists clambering mountains, canoeing rapids, and laying thick swaths of paint in free forms in the then emerging country. These painters created a new kind of  Canadian hero, artistic Coureur des bois, adventurers seeking views, rather than pelts.

Unlike his peers, Varley was a portraitist and a reluctant landscape painter. However his landscapes were often so stirring, when complete the images somehow “felt” like nature more than “resembled” nature. So it goes, the painting which defines Varley to many art historians and enthusiasts is “Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay” which hangs in the Canada’s National Gallery.

“Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay”  by Frederick Varley

The public (read: art dealers) always wanted more grand natural scenes like others of his Group produced – to great acclaim and often financial success. But Varley felt there was no challenge in landscapes, and since several other of his G7 colleagues had painted this same bay over the years, so he saw no point in creating an industry of this one location.

By any measure, during his time in BC, he produced his most transformative works. The mix of his eye and energy, coupled with the stunning, rugged vistas and interesting human faces, was a perfect match for Varley to create without restraint or direction from anyone. 

By fusing Chinese scroll paintings and unique perspectives, colour symbolism, and pushing the subject to the outside of the canvas, he created a purely original aesthetic which was unlike any paintings hitherto created on the rugged West coast. 

Though not a landscape painter per se, towards the end of his time in Vancouver area, flat broke living in Lynn Canyon he returned to landscapes because there were no other models besides the two of them, both of which he’d painted many times. 

Self portrait by Fredrick Varley

The results of these final months are often watercolour gouache on insulation backing paper, or odds and ends of colour tubes, and board. Yet even with scraps of supplies, his subtle technique captured both the tranquility and promise of unexplored nature, and the quiet potential power of the same nature around him.

Winter Lynn Valley by Frederick Varley

Remixing Varley

While your humble writer attended school diligently in then barely sprawling suburbs of Vancouver, stomped around Lynn Canyon (and the free suspension bridge!) with my brothers, as a scout hiked along the Baden Powell trail, at no point did I hear of Frederick Varley – until I moved to a new neighbourhood, and found a perfect trail which led me to learn who Varley was, and what he left behind. 

From a practical standpoint, he left debt to his partner in BC Arts College, his wife Maude and children (who later bought and lived in the Lynn Canyon house for many years until she died in 1975), his mistress/muse Vera Weatherbie, who after relationships with both Varley and Vanderpant, married Harold Mortimer-Lamb, a painter (whom Varley painted). 

Later in her life, Vera received more appreciation of her art but, by that time, she had left her artist life mostly behind and preferred to promote interest for her husband’s works. 

We know Varley left Vancouver towards Ottawa. We know he easily found art-minded ladies to be his patrons, he emerged for sketching and painting journeys to the Arctic, the USSR, and returned as far west as the Rocky Mountains. And he emerged for this film in 1953. Still somewhat spry, still somehow sad. But, tracing his steps amidst the neighbourhoods in Vancouver, where he captured his artistic lightning, i can’t help to feel like something of importance is missing from these seminal days of local art. A slice of the story, yet unpreserved or underused.

Author’s Resources

Link Library: Further Frederick Varley reading: This link library contains dozens of links to Varley bios, critiques, histories, plus anecdotes from local historians and hikers. 

Film: In 1953, Varley played himself in a 16-minute film directed by Allan Wargon and produced by the National Film Board. 

In the film which really has no dialogue, we see Varley returning from a hike in the hills. He hitchhikes back into town and into a small apartment and studio with canvases in various states of completion. Fred mutters and fumbles around before going out for bread and cheese. Soon after a nibble, he finds his spark, his flow, his inspiration and begins a new creation. 

In the background, you’ll notice the his late masterpiece, the translucent and radiant “Liberation”. A skeletal man in a state of bliss or transcendence – or perhaps he is suffering?

Varley by Allan Wargon, National Film Board of Canada

The film also available for download or on DVD. 

CBC Interview: A Visit to Frederick Varley” was again created by Allan Wargon. While not available for embedding or downloading, this interview which aired on CBC on April 20, 1965 (4 years before his death), is likely the last video footage of Varley. In this clip he candidly discusses his technique for painting portraits – including his opinion about beautiful people.

Book: Frederick Varley: Portraits into the Light (available as Google eBook)

A voluminous tome with great care given his artistic legacy and includes many rare sketches of Inuit from his trip to the Arctic. 

Ephemera: Illustrated Vancouver’s Fred Varley tag — @JMV’s carefully curated collection of murals, folkart, beer labels and lost fine art and pointed out Varley’s sketch of, what looks like, a lady on a laptop.

Blogger: Eve Lazurus in Spacing.ca also turns in a charming personal account of hiking around Varley’s Lynn Canyon home (and also stopping in at End of the Line cafe) in her Frederick Varley’s Vancouver. 

Photographs: Kris Krug displays his favourites Kodachromes from the exploration of addresses on Flickr, KK Varley tag.

Megaphone Magazine: Published a 1500 word version of my discourse as  Varley’s Vancouver, Discovering the City’s Artistic Hearts in Frederick Varley’s Past

Gallery: There is a Varley Art Gallery in as part of the Varley-McKay Art Foundation of Markham, Ontario and a street in Unionville, Ontario bears his name. McKay refers to a patron who supporting Varley later in life. 

VAG: Vancouver Art Gallery has collected 19 Varley paintings or sketches as well as a fond of personal papers including some illuminating letters from his son who became an art dealer and was agent for selling the elder Varley’s work. 

Varley paintings at Vancouver Art Gallery 

Portrait of H. Mortimer-Lamb, c.1930
Untitled Figure Study, 1939
Dawn, 1929
Steeple Mountain, Kootenay Lake, 1956
Sketch of Garrow Bay, c.1935
Mountain Vista, B.C., 1929
Untitled, 1929
Untitled, 1929
Untitled, 1929
Swimming Pool at Lumberman’s Arch, 1932
Untitled (Vera and Mr. Weatherbie), 1929
Young Artist at Work, 1924
Ice Floes, Low Tide, Cape Dorset, 1938
Blue Ridge, Upper Lynn, 1931
Bridge Over Lynn, 1932
Girl’s Head, c. 1931
Evening-Georgian Bay, c.1920
Mount Garibaldi, 1927-1928

Letters from Varley’s son (who became an art dealer and was agent for selling the elder Varley’s work).

Artists influenced by Varley

 Along with the aforementioned Ms. Weatherbie, other painters influenced by Frederick Varley – either as students or contemporaries – include: Emily Carr, Charles Scott, Jock MacDonald, Irene Hoffar Reid, Beatrice Lennie.

Varley Remixes

There is a variety of ways to connect your contemporary experience with Varley’s era. Whether you  paint, record, dance, hike, write or otherwise, find a way to create and share your work. 

Below are more examples, resources, ideas, ephemera and creative prompts to inspire and celebrate the birth of a Vancouver art culture, and the renegades who shaped it, and us.

Poem: 

“Varley at Jericho”

Two swimmers, heads bobbing way out there beyond the buoys
Varley solid after a bottle of red
with gaggle of glowing students
striving for direction and inspiration about how to go beyond
~ what is the level above?

when human and nature,
face and landscape  portrait
and treatment are lost ~
all forgotten in the sublime asymmetry

 Vanderpant and his photos showing more than
just the realness – tell the story beyond the moment –
the river doesn’t stop after the shutter closes
where did the rivers without end begin?

Look closely across the inlet
and you can see where to wander to find the first
drops of melting cascading over lichen and rock,
filters through alpine moss & gravel into a ravine, the
gullies collect the raw material
to begin the rivers which continue to flow until they find their end

Blackberries grow where Varley sat
Jericho now leisure-time activities
weddings for international industrialists
sandy for blue- haired lounger – leathery from routine
silhouette of grey and green, cypress to seymour divots for Capilano and Lynn
the horseshoe toes slipping into the sound
the only clears for the sky

island and headlands
fjords and freshers
lighthouses & old growth anoint the end of land
give away to the space in between

higher now they climb
wooden pioneers drifted into the concrete and glass
cantilevered over cliffs craning
to see what is directly ahead.

the veranda hosted parties
fraternized student faculty
late conversations with wine
moving rugged frontier forms and
vocabularies of culture
not contrived, not crafted
but not wrestled,
– coaxed from the confluence of river, sea and land
sit with your tools
where were you when no one was here but beachcombers and
outliers and occasional picnicers

 the ferries would carry you from Jericho to Ambleside, forays and for day of weekend holiday respite
but the more, someone needs to the tell the story of how the tree became logs and people grow into the land and emerged after exploration and surrender – well affected

Varley Residence & Studio Map: 

Artist Joanna Ambrosio remixed the Google Map into something more “Varley-ish”.
 

Choogle On with Uncle Weed, audio podcast: Portrait of Varley 

Parallel Parked in an Alternate Universe

Double parked

on a parallel highway

Broke down and hazy

on an alternate byway

 

I called out God,

Odin and Buddha

All i learn’d is

they all are much taller

 

Parallel parked on an

galactic spacepod

Where mustangs roam freely

if you promise to return

 

Floating far above any water

drinking only mud and mire

Chasing fireflies in ditches

tangled cactus and barbwire

 

I’ll build up on a lost slab

a hut of cow dung and roadkill

I’ll meditate on the lizards

and wait for the signal

 

Magnollas and hibiscus

it’s was sure nice to meet us

i’ll send live oak telegrams

with greetings from the forge.

en route to the Matsuri

En route to the matsuri in Japantown
the Asahis are playing and
they’re carrying that golden shrine around

to the bus driver he pesters – well actually, was a trolley
“trouble on fraser st on the powell line”
today?

“well with the in-site riot and a festival ahead

(tbc …)

Varley at Jericho

the two swimmers, heads bobbing way out there beyond the buoys

Varley solid after a bottle of red

with gaggle of glowing students

striving for direction and inspiration about how to go beyond

~ what is the level above?

when human and nature,

face and landscape  portrait

and treatment are lost ~

all forgotten in the sublime asymmetry

 

Vanderpant and his photos showing more than

just the realness – tell the story beyond the moment –

the river doesn’t stop after the shutter closes

where did the rivers without end begin?

 

Look closely across the inlet

and you can see where to wander to find the first drops of melting cascading over lichen and rock,

filters through alpine moss & gravel into a ravine, the

gullies collect the raw material

to begin the rivers which continue to flow until they find their end

 

Blackberries grow where Varley sat

Jericho now leisure-time activities

weddings for international industrialists

 

sandy for blue- haired lounger – leathery from routine

silhouette of grey and green, cypress to seymour

 

divots for Capilano and Lynn

the horseshoe toes slipping into the sound

the only clears for the sky

 

island and headlands

fjords and freshers

lighthouses & old growth anoint the end of land

give away to the space in between

 

higher now they climb

wooden pioneers drifted into the concrete and glass

cantilevered over cliffs craning

to see whats directly ahead.

 

the veranda hosted parties

fraternized student faculty

late conversations with wine

moving rugged frontier forms and

vocabularies of culture

not contrived, not crafted

but not wrestled,

– coaxed from the confluence of river, sea and land

sit with your tools

where were you when no one was here but beachcombers and

outliers and occasional picnicers

the ferries would carry you from Jericho to Ambleside, forays and for day of weekend holiday respite

how the tree became logs and people grow into the land and emerged after exploration and surrender – well affected

I’ve Held the Globe – Poetry Cycle for Ole Gramps

Published on Apr 25, 2014

A cycle of freeverse poems written for/about my Grandpa Robert L Stevenson during his final days, and in the wake of his death as i reflected about our adventures together.

Of all my relations, i am perhaps the most like him in many ways: we loved roadtrips, foreign travel, good conversations and stories, and wearing glasses.

Company in the free verse are a variety of photos of him and me and other bids which remind me of this remarkable man who clicked off 67 countries and 80 something years.

Download and print your own if so inclined. Enjoy.

“Bay of Flashing Darters” in bentlily | One poem a day

Dave Thorvald Olson | Samantha’s daily poem | bentlily | One poem a day.

BAY OF FLASHING DARTERS 

Sailboats carving patterns

darters into waves which

don’t seem to mind

Leaning over sideways

to control both power and time

Flocking into clusters

brushing past the buoys

like galaxies swirling

spun by translucent kite-strings

Leaving tracers to catch a gaze

the stone mason

experiment invites

me and strangers to rest awhile

only at lowtide when the waves release

a rusted boxspring fence and

gives way to me, the barnacles

and the bay of flashing darters.

##

OlsonD

DAVE THORVALD OLSON

Dave Thorvald Olson is VP of Community at HootSuite where he crafts programs and initiatives to spark the company’s rapid international growth.

 

Poet, podcaster, public-policy pundit and chronic documentarian from his earliest days, world-rambling Dave has spent his time writing, painting and listening to old vinyl albums on the back porch. Published in magazines and journals, he is most proud of his handmade literary chapbooks, static montage art, and audio hi-jinks.

 

Poetic Stories about Goalies – Postcard #62

Poetic Stories about Goalies

Poet Randall Maggs discusses his book “Night Work” about the troubled soul of legendary hockey goalie Terry Sawchuk plus the nuances of story-telling, conversations with goaltenders, Sawchuk’s Ukrainian heritage and convergence of history and hockey with host Dave Thorvald Olson at the Robson Square covered outdoor rink in Vancouver following a poetry reading promoted by publisher Brick Books.

Lace em up for Poetic Stories about Goalies – Postcard #62 (.mp3, 36:02, 33MB, stereo)

Episode cover art designed by Bread the Producer, photo by Dave O

Book

Night Work – The Sawchuk Poems by Randall Maggs, published by Brick Books — includes links to reviews

Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems purchase via Amazon

Snaps

From Hockey Hall of Fame by Dave

IMG_2746 IMG_2747 IMG_2748 IMG_2749

Special Thanks

Mike Vardy of Eventualism fame

Rob Cottingham and his cartoons: Noise to Signal

Kitty Lewis General Manager (corrected from audio) of Brick Books

Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio podcast

Bread the Producer for audio mix and episode art

Maggs and Bachinsky, poets ~ Photo by Sean Cranbury

Music etc.

The Drive-by Truckers “Daddy Needs a Drink” live 2007-07-17 – World Cafe Live via Archive.org

The Black Tories “Cleft Palette”

Various crowd recordings from 2010 Winter Olympics games

Interviewing poet Randall Maggs at robson square

More Mr. Maggs

NIGHT WORK: THE SAWCHUK POEMS BY RANDALL MAGGS – INFO DOSSIER on Uncle Weed’s Roundup

An interview with Randall Maggs, the Sawchuk Poet

Randall Maggs Recipient of $25,000 Kobzar Literary Award for 2010

Cutting Down the Angles

In time for the Stanley Cup Finals, a Q&A with Randall Maggs, author of the first great book of hockey poetry.

Night Work – A Sawchuk Poem Video

Legends of Hockey Terry Sawchuk

Randall’s brother Darryl Maggs on Hockeydb.com

Randall Maggs’ Vancouver history:

“On the Vancouver question, that is my birthplace and, though I haven’t lived there in a long while, I still think of it as home. The Canucks are my team. Over the years I have travelled back to the city often to visit my relatives and family. My grandparents lived in South Burnaby off Kingsway pretty much all their adult lives, my grandfather being a millwright and playing an important role in building many of the lumber mills in and around the city. A couple of summers ago my mother and I were having lunch on a terrace on Granville Island and my mother pointed out the remnants of one of my grandfather’s mills. Even after his retirement he’d be called back in to solve a problem that university-trained engineers couldn’t handle. He’d give mill officials fits, scrambling up long ladders long past the age of 80. I attended grade school in South Burnaby, I think Strathmillan School. After her years of following my Air Force father back and forth across the country, my mother went home to live in Surrey and White Rock where she lives at present. My son has been living out there as much as in Newfoundland for most of the past dozen years, having done an MA in Piano Performance with Jane Coop at UBC and working on his PhD in the Arts and Sustainability with John Robinson at UBC.”

Subscribe

Grab the Postcard from Gravelly Beach podcast RSS feed and/or subscribe via iTunes

Follow along via Twitter @uncleweed

Gear

I use Koss SterophonesM-Audio MicroTrack IIM-Audio Solo audio interfaceGriffin iMic and Sony Microphone – in case you were wondering.