"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Monday, August 31, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop documentary by Barbara Hammer screening at Atlantic Film Festival

On Saturday, 19 September 2015, at 1:00 p.m., at Park Lane Cinemas in Halifax, American film-maker Barbara Hammer’s documentary about Elizabeth Bishop, “Welcome to this House,” will screen at the Atlantic Film Festival. Part of this film was shot in Great Village, N.S.

This day also happens to be Word on the Street in Halifax, so I know that a good part of the literary community will be tied up at that event, but pass this notice on to anyone you think might be interested in attending.

You can find out  more details about the screening of “Welcome to This House” on the Atlantic FilmFestival website. For the main page for the AFF website schedule of film, click here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

RIP Elizabeth Jones (1934-2015)

Word has reached us of the unexpected death on August 20 of our dear friend and faithful contributor, poet-scholar Elizabeth Jones, whose erudition, wit, kindness, and boundless love for poetry brought joy to all who knew her.   We will write of her at length presently, but for now, a poem from her 1972 book Castings, in her memory:

Bare Truth

Too many leaves
a surplus of sunlight
       make for
profuse complexities
of birdsong and shadow.

Let the trees be stripped
to eternity and the design
       stand clear;
I always knew when I died
    I would know all.

Was this what I wanted? --
These question marks etched
       by a steel pen,
wrought-iron portals
swinging open
on cemeteries of snow?

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 7

During the afternoon of the EB Festival (8 August 2015), two conversations took place in the sanctuary of St. James Church. Billed as "Writing the World" and "Painting the World," these conversations brought together eight amazing artists to talk about their creative process (always with a nod to Elizabeth Bishop and our love for her work). I had the great privilege of moderating the conversation with writers John Barnstead, Binnie Brennan, Carole Langille and Harry Thurston. Fine Arts professor and curator Anne Koval (from Mount Allison University) moderated the conversation with visual artists Linda Rae Dornan, Emma FitzGerald, Carol Laing and Joy Laking. Here are the panels in action.

(l. to r.) Sandra Barry, Binnie Brennan, John Barnstead, 
Carole Langille, Harry Thurston.

(l. to r.) Anne Koval, Emma FitzGerald, Joy Laking, 
Linda Rae Dornan, Carol Laing.
Thank you to all these artists for giving us a glimpse into their creative process. It was fascinating.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 6

One of the morning events at the festival was a storytelling hour with amazing Halifax storyteller Claire Miller. Though the audience was small, those gathered were spell-bound by Claire's fascinating stories (and she even sang for us!), which were both funny and deeply moving. Claire has been a special supporter of all thing Bishop for some years. In 2011, she kindly did an audio recording of Bishop's beloved story "In the Village."

I was able to attend Claire's session that morning at the festival. I was uplifted and inspired, and will always remember "the golden ball" and how one must pass on and lose sight of a gift -- and then, miraculously, it returns to you!
Claire Miller telling her wonderful stories in the sanctuary of St. James Church.

Claire will be collaborating with Halifax singer Clary Croft and fiddler Kate Dunlay to present a rendition of "Blind MacNair" (a story of old Nova Scotia by Thomas Raddall) at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax. 5500 Inglis St., Halifax, on Saturday, 17 October, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. If you are in Halifax, you don't want to miss this event!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 5

The idea of the festival was triggered when the St. James Church Preservation Society asked the EBSNS to do an event that would help support the "In the Village" Cafe, set up by the Preservation Society to help raise funds to maintain the church building itself. The cafe opened in 2014 and had a successful summer, so the society wanted to build on that success. The EBSNS felt that the festival was in the spirit of what the society had already done, especially harkening back to 2011 and the big arts festival in that Bishop centenary year. The EBSNS hopes that the cafe, and the Preservation Society, did well that day. The cafe provided all the food for the festival: breakfast, lunch, supper. The cafe staff worked very hard preparing for the large number of hungry festival participants and attendees. The cafe is open until October, I think. If you can get there, I highly recommend it. 
Here are a couple of images of the cafe staff the day of the festival.

Thanks to Margaret and all the staff at the cafe for doing a great job and providing delicious food.

The lunch line-up.

Lots of good conversations around the antique tables happened the day of the festival.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Thank you to our funders and patrons

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival could not have happened without the generous support of patrons and funders. The EBSNS extends heartfelt gratitude to:

The Municipality of Colchester County
Nova Scotia Tourism (and the Central Nova Tourist Association)
Nova Scotia Communities, Culture and Heritage

As well as individual patrons (alphabetically):
Dolores Barnstead
Joe and Carolyn Cooper
Nancy Corrigan
Peter Dodge
Joy Graham
Arthur Haskins
Charles and Mary MacLennan Foundation
Millen Farms Ltd.
David Staines

Thank you!

At the Open Heart Farming table at the Festival Market, there was an invitation to create an impromptu poem, which began: "A Seed is...." This photo shows the inspirational thoughts of those who participated.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 4

The EB Festival organizing committee consisted of yours truly and Laurie Gunn (EBSNS President) and Patti Sharpe (EBSNS Vice President). It is always the greatest pleasure and inspiration to work with these creative and capable women. And if I do say so myself, we make a good team. I hope they agree.

(I'm not sure who took this delightful photo of Laurie
-- a rare treat, as she's always behind the lens.)
Here is Laurie, our intrepid leader, luring in folks to the "Fun Photo Booth," where you could dress in costume and have her take your photos. Laurie is an amazing photographer. 

(Photo by Mary Ellen Sullivan)
Here is Patti and her daughter April at the "Independent" book table at the Festival Market. You may wonder what they are eating: Appleton Chocolates -- and believe me, they are DELICIOUS!

Thank you Laurie and Patti for being such great collaborators on the EB Festival. I look forward to working with you on the next EBSNS project or event (though the EBSNS is going to take a break from festivals for a little while).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 3

One of the most popular activities at the EB100 Arts Festival in August 2011 was unquestionably the horse and wagon ride up Scrabble Hill Road. Gordon Lewis was back again this year for The Elizabeth Bishop Festival (8 August 2015) with his colourful wagon and his beautiful horses. He was quite busy all morning and I heard that some folks even got to take the reins and guide the horses!

Gordon and horses -- with some passengers (Photo by Laurie Gunn)

We want to extend heartfelt thanks the Great Village Fire Brigade for helping us with traffic control while Gordon was doing rides. Thanks, guys!

(Barrett Jenkins (l) and Larry Kinsman (r). Photo by Laurie Gunn)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 2

One of the main morning activities was the Festival Market in the Great Village Legion. We had over a dozen artists and artisans present selling and sharing their work. It was a popular spot and by many accounts from the vendors, they had a great time meeting and talking with people. And they even sold some things, too!

Janet Maybee at the book table. Thanks to Bookmark in Halifax
for providing so many wonderful books.

Friday, August 14, 2015

An Elizabeth Bishop Festival: Memory 1

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival on 8 August 2015 started off with a community breakfast. The twist on this steadfast tradition was the addition of stand up comedy presented by Cape Breton comedians Kenzie Gunn and Colin Dumphy. These delightful young guys, quite out of their temporal element (midnight is more their milieu than 8:30 a.m.), kept us laughing and groaning for a nearly an hour. They had done their homework, too -- that is, they had looked into Elizabeth Bishop's life and it so impressed them that Kenzie and Colin each wrote and recited a poem. This impressed me a great deal! Thanks, guys, for making us laugh so early in the morning. None of us laughs as much as we should!

Neil Gunn, Kenzie Gunn, Colin Dunphy (aren't they just sweet!)
Photo by Laurie Gunn, Kenzie's aunt

Kenzie and Colin podcast a show out of Halifax and they recorded their Great Village routine for a podcast. I don't have a link at the moment for their show, but perhaps John can find it. Kenzie is busy on Twitter and he announced the EB Festival show this way:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Remembering The Elizabeth Bishop Festival, 8 August 2015

Our young and capable social media guru Laura Sharpe has posted lots of EB Festival photos on the Festival Facebook and Twitter pages. You can see the collage there. Here, I am going to post some one at a time -- just to reflect on particulars, and to keep the memory of a fun day, a meaningful day, going a bit longer. Many hands made this festival happen. Heartfelt thank you to all the wonderful artists who participated, all the generous volunteers who helped to plan and pull off the day. And an especial thank you to all our funders and donors. I'll be mentioning them in particular in the coming days. Thank you all, so very much!

For today, I give you:

"Make me a ring, Nate!" (Photo: Laurie Gunn)

Blacksmith Tom Spence spent part of the day working at a portable forge in the yard of the EB House and made wonderful horseshoe nail rings (I came away with one, myself). "Nate" (Mayhew "Mate" T. Fisher) made one for Bishop all those years ago.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Just a note to say there will be a brief pause in the "Today in Bishop" and "Today's Video" features here, while we all gather in Great Village this weekend for the Elizabeth Bishop Festival.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village, N.S., 8 August 2015

As our wonderful social media guru Laura Sharpe has said, The Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village, N.S., is just "three sleeps" away. Just to remind you of some of the events happening that day, here is the program. We hope to see you "In the Village"! (click on the images to enlarge)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lifting Yesterday — Supplement — Chapters 9 and 10: Old volcanoes

Since Chapters Nine and Ten of Lifting Yesterday are relatively short, since we are at the end of this subscription, I thought that I would send them together to my subscribers. Concluding this process during the last month of summer, and just as the Elizabeth Bishop Festival is about to happen (on 8 August 2015 in Great Village, N.S.), seems to make sense. When September rolls around, we all turn back to our autumnal rhythms.

Chapter Nine is another exploration of several Bishop works, looking at them through the lens I set up in the preceeding chapters. Chapter Ten turns the lens on Bishop herself, which I do using her late great poem “Crusoe in England,” included in her final collection Georgraphy III.

Thinking about what sort of supplement I might offer, I decided on just a couple of photographs, recently taken at the house by my sister, Brenda – photos of old newspaper that is still attached to the walls of the attic room on the second floor. At one time, newspaper would have covered the walls of this room – insulation. I have no doubt that Bishop spent time playing in this room covered with text (quite literally “writing on the wall”).

When people see this room, they are amazed and immediately can connect what are now only the barest remnants to various themes, interests, aspects of EB’s work. This tiny room with its open beams and boards, tucked at the back of the house, is, in my view, a vital space in Bishop iconography. Some of which I explore in these two chapters.

For example, two of the most prominent mentions of volcanoes in Bishop’s work are found in “In the Waiting Room” and “Crusoe in England,” both in Geography III. Bishop encountered images of volcanoes in the 1918 National Georgraphic that seeded “In the Waiting Room.” I encountered a vivid description of a Russian island being born because of a volcano in an issue of the Truro Daily News in the late 1910s, a piece that I could well imagine Pa Bulmer reading to the family after tea on one of those quiet evenings during the last days of Gertrude’s time with the family, before she went into the hospital. “Crusoe in England” begins with the image of an island being born from a volcano. Did that early article help seed this very late poem?

But, perhaps Bishop’s earliest encounter with an erupting volcano was on the walls of the attic room at the EB House.
Caption on image: "Vesuvius in Eruption" (Photo by Brenda Barry)