(Imagined Image #1 – A katydid, pale green and translucent, cupped in a human palm.)

I haven’t written about gardening in some time, not because I’ve been in the garden any less, but because I’ve been writing about everything less, and also because I feel like my approach to writing doesn’t lend itself to gardening. Writing on gardening needs pictures. It’s best in glossy magazines on coffee tables and endlessly scrollable posts of images on social media. I don’t generally photograph the garden at all, and I never include pictures in posts, so I’m poorly suited to garden writing.

(Imagined Image #2 – Screenshot of my defunct gardening blog.)

I did try once. I started a second blog, now long defunct (I won’t bother providing a link), where I tried to write in this way. For a brief time a took pictures in the garden, or linked to suitable pictures from the web, and I made an attempt at a pretty gardening blog. But it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t long before I let it die.

The thing is, there are times when I’d like a space to write like that, on a site where the posts have a space in the header for a screen-wide image, and where the post templates are actually centred around images, because I do love the garden, and there are parts of it I’d like to share.

(Imagined Image #3 – My front and sideyard from the street, angled to follow the path that curves up from the sidewalk to the flagstone patio, flanked by various trees and shrubs and flowers.)

For example, as the years have passed here on Dublin Street (almost fifteen years now), and as I’ve added ever more plants (mostly native, mostly edible, and entirely perennial), we’ve discovered an ever great variety of animals in the garden.

(Imagined Image #4 – Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, close-up, sitting on a plant leaf.)

This year we’ve seen Meadow Fritillary, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, and Mourning Cloak butterflies, along with the usual Monarchs and Coppers. We’ve seen Katydids and Spur-throated Grasshoppers. We’ve seen fireflies and any number of other unidentified beetles and bugs. We’ve seen Finches and Flickers and Flycatchers, along with our regular Cardinals and Robins and Chickadees.

(Imagined Image #5 – Woodpile with Ironweed growing behind and Pink Lady Slippers (now withered) in front.)

And I really would like to share them with you, rather than forcing you to imagine them. I guess, you’ll just need to drop by and see them for yourself.

Jack Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard
Karen Houle’s Ballast
Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs’ And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
Lynn Crosbie’s Queen Rat
Alessandro Barricco’s Ocean Sea
Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband
Felipe Alfau’s Locos
Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband
Paul Tyler’s A Short History of Forgetting
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis
Jay Ruzesky’s Painting the Yellow House Blue

So, I did a funny thing. Or funny to me anyway. I made a critical edition of Jim Theis’s The Eye of Argon.

The Eye of Argon (for those of you unfortunate enough never to have encountered it) is a story written by Jim Theis at the age of sixteen and first published in the fanzine, Osfan #10, in 1970. It became infamous as an example of sublimely awful writing, and it was widely read at science fiction conventions.

It’s a sword and sorcery tale of the Conan the Barbarian variety. It’s hero has rippling muscles and flowing hair. He rescues a maiden in fantastically impractical clothing. He fights nasty monsters and evil priests and tyrannical rulers. And he claims the mystical gem, the Eye of Argon. All good stuff.

And it seemed to me like the hilariously perfect subject for an experiment where I would take a piece of overwritten fiction and pretend that it was a historical text, a long lost document of an ancient civilization, several times translated. So I developed a whole critical conversation around it, complete with fictitious books, journals, universities, and even professors bickering over the petty details’ of Theis’s manuscript. I wrote an introduction, copious footnotes, frequent marginal corrections, and an annotated bibliography, all of it entirely imaginary.

If you also think that’s a funny thing, you can get your copy here – https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/jim-theis-and-j-l-hill/the-eye-of-argon/paperback/product-qq8ye8.html.

Okay, at the risk of offending a certain demographic, I need to admit that I don’t love Jack Kerouac.

Maybe it’s that I came to his work too late in life (not until my mid-thirties). Maybe it’s that I haven’t lived a life much related to the one that Kerouac describes in his loosely fictionalized memoir. I don’t know. But I find his characters shallow and his narrators detached in a way that disengages me, and his prose is so pared that it lacks all musicality to my ear, except sometimes when he speaks of jazz music.

But… I just read Kerouac’s Visions of Gerard, and I love it.

The book is typical Kerouac autofiction in its structure, but it’s unique in that it returns to his childhood to explore memories of his brother who died of an unnamed illness at just nine years old. Here, the characters – sickly Gerard, Ma, and Poppa – are anything but flat and shallow, depicted with a sensitivity and depth that is often heartbreaking. Here, the narrator is anything but detached, revealing himself and his emotions with affective intimacy. Here, the prose is anything but spare, allowing itself flights of mystical language that at times approaches the sensibility of prose poetry.

What a book! How wonderfully contrary to my expectations! Go read it!

B. Catling’s The Vorrh
B. Catling’s The Erstwhile
B. Catling’s The Cloven
Barbara Gowdy’s The White Bone
Robyn Sarah’s Wherever We Were Meant to Be
Matthew Walsh’s These are not the potatoes of my youth
Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Warrior Woman
Julian Barnes’ Levels of Life
Joan Didion’s Savador
Dominique Janicaud’s On the Human Condition

Train: a poetry journal posted “Dean Jocelyn” today <http://trainpoetryjournal.blogspot.com/2021/03/dean-jocelin.html>, one of the poems from my “I Am What They Make Of Me”series, each of which is written from the perspective of a character in a novel who has influenced me over the years. Three other poems in the series – “Chick Mallison”, “Chief Bromden”, and “Cornelius Suttree” will appear in the upcoming print edition of the journal.

Here’s what’s I’ve been reading since Christmas –

  • Douglas Glover’s The Life and Times of Captain N.
  • Sylvia Legris’ Circuitry of Veins
  • Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Lady’s Man
  • Jay MillAr’s The Ghosts of Jay MillAr
  • R. B. Young’s Crimes of Disrespect
  • George Saunders’s Tenth of December
  • Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers
  • Shane Arbuthnott’s Terra Nova
  • Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Here’s what I’ve been reading the last month, including a bunch of poetry that I picked up at Old Goat Books in uptown Waterloo (which you should totally check out, by the way).

  • Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For
  • Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
  • Rienzi Crusz’s Elephant and Ice
  • Junie Desil’s eat salt | gaze at the ocean
  • rob mclennon’s bagne, or Criteria for Heaven
  • rob mclennon’s What’s Left
  • Ayelet Tsabari’s The Best Place on Earth
  • Wayne Clifford’s On Abducting the Cello