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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market: Profile of woodworker Garry Shears

One of the main activities of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival taking place in Great Village, N.S., on 8 August 2015 is the “Festival Market” where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of Great Village woodworker Garry Shears.
Garry Shears has his great-grandfather’s tools used in his trade as a copper. He owns furniture that his grandfather made from his own trees. Garry grew up with the idea that if you needed something made, you made it yourself. He makes things from his own trees simply for the pleasure of doing so. 
[Ed. note: Garry makes things as small as spoons and as large as cabinets. I have two of his beautiful cutting boards which have made baking so much easier and a real pleasure.]

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Writing the World: Conversations with writers at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

One of the afternoon events at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village, N.S., on 8 August 2015, is a conversation with four exceptional writers: John Barnstead, Binnie Brennan, Carole Langille and Harry Thurston. This conversation will be moderated by yours truly. This post features is a profile of writer and naturalist Harry Thurston.
The Chronicle Herald rightly declares Harry Thurston as “One of Canada’s greatest writers about the natural world.”

Harry Thurston’s most recent poetry collections include The Deer Yard (with Allan Cooper) and Animals Of My Own Kind. His environmental writing has been published in many of North America’s leading magazines, including Audubon, Canadian Geographic and National Geographic. He has been awarded numerous writing prizes in both Canada and the United States, including the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Lane Anderson Award and the Evelyn Richardson Literary Award. Harry lives in Tidnish, Nova Scotia.

Harry has a new collection of poetry coming out this spring with Gaspereau Press:
Harry was involved in many Elizabeth Bishop Centenary events, including performing with Suzie LeBlanc and Tempest Baroque Ensemble during their “At the Fishhouses” tour for Musique Royale in August 2011. He joined myself, Suzie and John Barnstead in a reading of Joelle Biele’s play “These Fine Mornings,” based on Elizabeth Bishop’s letters with her New Yorker editors, in Great Village in July 2011. He guided a memorable bus tour along “The Moose” route in October 2011. We are thrilled that Harry will return to Great Village for the Elizabeth Bishop Festival.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Be a “Patron of the Festival” – The Elizabeth Bishop Festival fund-raiser

It takes a lot of resources – time, energy, materials, money – to put on a big event. The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia is committing its many of its own resources to The Elizabeth Bishop Festival on 8 August 2015. It is also seeking some funding from the Municipality of Colchester and the provincial government. The society has also initiated a “Patron of the Festival” fund-raiser. We hope you will take time to read this notice and consider supporting the festival (please click on the image to enlarge). For a donation of $100, you can  become a "Patron of the Festival" and receive a small thank you gift and a tax receipt.  You can become a patron by donating on the EBSNS website (www.elizabethbishopns.org) or by sending a cheque to EBSNS P.O. Box 138, Great Village, N.S., B0M 1L0, Canada. Thank you.
Our board and volunteers are working hard to organize a lively, interactive, creative day in Great Village. We hope to see you “In the Village” on 8 August 2015.

Alas, we are able to issue tax receipts only for Canadian donations.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival program

Everyone is welcome to join the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia and the residents of Great Village for The Elizabeth Bishop Festival on 8 August 2015. From morning to night the village will be a lively place with lots of fun activities and thought-provoking conversations. Join us and be inspired and entertained.
 Here is the program (click to enlarge). We will be printing and distributing the program later this spring.

Keep checking the blog for more artist profiles and information about all the activities. We look forward to seeing you "In the Village" on 8 August.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Gathering Place for Expression: The Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market

One of the main features of the EB Festival taking place in GV on 8 August 2015 is the “Festival Market” where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of quilter Wanda Frizzle.
The daughter of a well-known quilter, Wanda developed an interest in her mothers craft during childhood. Her mother made her last quilt at age 93, but Wanda has carried on the family tradition. Even Donnie, her husband, works with her except on the actual quilting. Although she gave the first quilts she made as gifts to family members, Wanda has been making quilts for sale for the last 25 years

She finds quilting relaxing. Selecting the pattern and then the right materials to complement is like painting a picture, but the hours of intricate stitching makes the completed quilt a work of art.
Most of Wanda’s quilts are sold from her own home, although she does display her work at various quilt and craft shows. She has sold to people from across Canada and in many states including California, Florida, Alaska, and even in Japan

A good eye for color, a love of sewing and lots of patience make this time consuming work a source of enjoyment and achievement, when another quilt is finished.
[Ed. note: Elizabeth Bishop’s great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Black Hutchinson Gourley was a quilter and Bishop inherited one of them. One of Elizabeth Hutchinson Bulmer (Bishop’s grandmother)’s quilts is in the Bulmer family collection at Acadia University: http://openarchive.acadiau.ca/cdm/singleitem/collection/acadiaAnnap/id/2439/rec/36]

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Painting the World: Conversations with Visual Artists at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

One of the afternoon events at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village, N.S., on 8 August 2015, will be a conversation with four exceptional visual artists: Emma FitzGerald, Carol Laing, Joy Laking and Linda Rae Dornan. This conversation will be moderated by writer and Mount Allison Fine Arts professor Anne Koval. This post profiles Sackville, N.B., artist Linda Rae Dornan.

Linda Rae Dornan’s art practice is performative across a range of media including video, performance, drawing, sound, installation and writing (http://www.lindaraedornan.ca/). Exploring the complex systems of language through visuals, sound, performativity and embodied text are the formal materials of her practice about place, memory and being—how we live. Experimentation, making mistakes to discover possibilities, is an integral element of her work process.

A recently published artist bookwork, It Speaks You, was built poetically from the script of an earlier performance about losing one’s ability to speak. It explores, in an inter-textual context, whether text has human form, using a cyclical structure, a chorus, and visual play. Calling the Cuckoo is a compilation of performance shorts about language as body, voice, space and movement, which Linda performed at 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art in Toronto last fall. Language and text was both spoken out loud, sung, written on a wall and on her body, and words and ideas were torn apart and reassembled. In 2013, Linda produced Walking with EB: Adventures in Newfoundland 1932 & 2008. The video documented her and Suzie LeBlanc retracing Elizabeth Bishop’s journal across the Avalon Peninsula by walking. It was included with Suzie’s award-winning CD “I am in need of Music” (http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/77772).
Linda speaking at launch of "I am in need of music"
at Massey College in Toronto, October 2013
In a continuing project of three years, Linda has been walking along the shoreline of the Bay of Fundy filming its geological diversity and history, and her own physical and vocal responses to it for a new performance video.  Topophilia (meaning love of place) from 2012, is a video score about the Tantramar marshes and the Bay of Fundy where Linda lives, and was created to be interpreted musically by the New Brunswick group Motion Ensemble. It was to ask, how does the written word and how do images sing the land?
Unsolicited Gift installation (see Linda's website for more information)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop House — “Whither is Spring?” 2015 Update

On 2 April 2014 I shovelled snow – the latest I’d ever shovelled snow that I could remember. Well, on 7 April 2015, I shovelled snow for the umpteenth time: four or five inches fell on top of what was still on the ground, which was considerable. February and March of 2015 were perhaps the snowiest two months in living memory for us in the Maritimes. Many snowfall records were broken. If no records were broken in Great Village, still, a great deal of snow fell and fell and fell. The other main feature about the winter of 2015 was the cold, which only reluctantly began to moderate as April arrived (but the morning of 6 April again broke cold temperature records in many Nova Scotia communities).
Believe it or not, this was taken on 12 April 2015, looking across
the back field to the river. It could be January (photo by yours truly).
As a result of all this winter, the Elizabeth Bishop House was in a state of hibernation throughout. In spite of storm after storm, fierce winds, cracking cold, the dear old house managed to get through relatively unscathed. We are holding our breath for a gradual thaw, so that the massive amounts of snow will melt slowly and not cause serious flooding in the river.
EB House slumbering under a great weight of snow,
19 February 2015 (photo by Patti Sharpe).
This shoveling was done by Patti and Harold. Thank you!
I want to thank Patti and Harold Sharpe of Great Village for their thoughtful attention to the house, checking on it often. I also want to thank Cory Spencer for ploughing and ploughing and ploughing the driveway (13 times!). But in the end, even his truck plough was no match for the mountain of snow, and Harold kindly took his tractor to the house and moved the mountain.
The mountain of snow Harold moved on 23 March 2015 (photo by Patti Sharpe)
The house remained on the market, but the for sale sign, like countless for sale signs (and mail boxes, and cars for that matter) across the province, ended up being buried under three, four, five feet of snow. With at least one blizzard every week, or two, or even three, few people were out and about looking at properties (well, you couldn’t see any yards for the longest time, hidden behind the alps that the highway ploughs pushed up in front).
 The for sale sign has emerged, but the yard
is still entombed (photo by yours truly)
Gradually, winter is letting its grip ease, but it could be May before all the snow is gone. Spring is late indeed. For most of the decade that we have owned the house, there has been scilla already in bloom by the end of March. Not this year.
 We see some ground! (photo by yours truly, 12 April 2015)
On 12 April 2015 the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia met at the house, its first board meeting of the year. I took some photos that day, which are scattered throughout this post. John brought a most delicious traditional dessert to mark Russian Easter. All those who gathered indulged with pleasure!
John himself was not behind the bush either. Diving in with gusto!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Our Needham, Massachusetts Correspondent Writes:

North Hill Senior Community Presents “The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

WHAT: “The Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop,” a discussion with North Hill senior community resident Patricia Feddersen and Smith College Professor of English Language and Literature Michael Thurston. Analyze some of the poet’s most familiar and best loved poems with an eye to the poet’s eye in order to understand how Bishop presents the world.
The discussion precedes the opening reception of a new North Hill Art Gallery exhibit, “To See the Sun the Other Way Around,” featuring the oil paintings of artist Nan Hass Feldman.
The complimentary event is part of the True North Spring 2015 Courses and Events and is open to all Boston Metrowest seniors.
WHEN: Thursday, April 9, 2015 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
WHERE: North Hill senior community, 865 Central Avenue, Needham, MA 02492
COST: Free
RSVP: Seating is limited and RSVP’s are required: Email RSVP@NorthHill.org or call 781-433-6400

Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop

Mark Hamilton paints during the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

Mark Hamilton began exhibiting visual art in 1985 with the Surrealist group “An Episode of Sparrows,” and has since shown in a range of visual media at NSCAD, Dalhousie University, private galleries, and extensively through online “virtual” galleries. You can find him at https://www.facebook.com/markhamiltonart
Mark and his good friend John Barnstead (our esteemed collaborator on this blog and another festival artist) in the kitchen of the Elizabeth Bishop House. [Ed. Note: They are delightful goofs, 
AND two of the smartest guys you will ever meet.]
Mark studied drawing and sculpture at NSCAD and has been painting for 30 years. His work is represented in collections in Canada, the United States, Russia and New Zealand. He currently manages an open studio (The Art Barn) at Brookfield, N.S., where he lives with his wife and two daughters. His favourite poem is “The Moose.”
 One of Mark's amazing abstracts
Mark will be painting en plein air during the festival. He will join musician Joanne Hatfield, his partner in life and creativity.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Suzie LeBlanc sings her Elizabeth Bishop songs in Victoria

An alert for all our west coast friends in Victoria, B.C. Suzie LeBlanc will be singing some of her Elizabeth Bishop songs (settings of poems she commissioned in 2011 for the Bishop centenary) with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Here are the particulars:
A Celebration of Poetry: I am in need of music
Victoria Symphony Orchestra
18 April 2015
For more information see:
The Bishop songs she will singing:
Silken Water: The Elizabeth Bishop Suite by Alasdair MacLean

Four Songs on Poems by Elizabeth Bishop by Christos Hatzis

These and several other settings (by John Plant and Emily Doolittle) were recorded as “I am in need of music,” launched by Centre Discs (http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/77772 ) in 2013 and winner of an East Coast Music Award in 2014.
Here Suzie performs with Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax, N.S.,
on 29 March 2015
For our east coast friends in Nova Scotia, Suzie will be back in Halifax on 24 May 2015 to perform in a fund-raising concert for St. George’s Church (the Round Church). We will provide more details early in May.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Painting the World: Conversations with Visual Artists at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

One of the afternoon events at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village, N.S., on 8 August 2015, will be a conversation with four exceptional visual artists: Emma FitzGerald, Carol Laing, Joy Laking and Linda Rae Dornan. This conversation will be moderated by writer and Mount Allison Fine Arts professor Anne Koval. This post profiles Carol Laing, or more particularly, it presents Carol’s artist statement about a fascinating Bishop project that will be on exhibit during the festival in the Elizabeth Bishop House.
Carol in front of her Bishop "ghost drawings"

The Ghost Drawings: Haunting Elizabeth Bishop
18 drawings, graphite on mylar by Carol Laing

At its simplest the series of 18 graphite drawings I call “The Ghost Drawings: Haunting Elizabeth Bishop” is an extended series of ‘Conversation Pieces’ in the art historical sense: small informal scenes with people set indoors or outdoors. Here the scenes — and the people in them — all derive from photographs taken across the arc of Bishop’s life, from babyhood to death. Bishop is a constant, and changing, presence. The people and the locations also change. And because the sources of the drawings are photographs there is a balance between presence and absence: it is as if ‘everything’ becomes level as she — in the drawings — comes back to us. She is an elusive subject ‘caught’ by the camera. The elusive subject who balanced — in her last completed poem Sonnet — being “Caught” and being “Freed.”

The content of the drawings moves from photographic positive to negative formats, and back. There is a play between ‘normal’ and ‘inverted’ values, the darks reversing into lights, and the lights into darks. Their sequencing sometimes telescopes, and sometimes elides time, and time passing. We are in the realm of what John Keats called “negative capability” where what is true is a balance between the factual and “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts.” We are also in the realm of an “unconfined consciousness” that keeps things fluid, and moving. The drawings show an affinity for water and remind us that Elizabeth Bishop was born with the ocean at her door. A restlessness is visible too — and a tension between the desire to travel and a fierce desire to have a home…

I borrowed the word “haunting” from Virginia Woolf’s marvelous 1930 essay “Street Haunting: A London Adventure.” In the essay Woolf walks out into the London streets one evening in winter. Her pretext is to buy “a lead pencil” but the appetite is for life and the world. In the end she finds, and buys, her pencil. I like to think I’ve used one of that pencil’s myriad successors to make “The Ghost Drawings: Haunting Elizabeth  Bishop.” And I remain delighted — and grateful — that I was able to begin these  drawings during an artist’s residency in Elizabeth Bishop’s grandmother’s house.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lifting Yesterday – Supplement – Chapter 5: In search of a shipwreck

I have often been asked, in one way or another, whether being so immersed in one subject for so long (i.e., Elizabeth Bishop for over 20 years) is limiting. I can appreciate why someone might think this to be the case, but the truth is quite the opposite. If you are engaged in a deep study of just about anything, you find yourself travelling (metaphorically and literally) to all sorts of places you never expected.

I am particularly fortunate that my subject (one of them, that is) — Elizabeth Bishop — happens to possess an astonishing range, a remarkable latitude of context. Not only was her art diverse and her life complex and fascinating, her own interests were abundant. So, my immersion in the study of Elizabeth Bishop’s life and art has taken me on voyages that I would never have imagined (including, for example, an actual journey to Brazil, and the discovery of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins).

My interest in the history of my own province long predated my encounter with Elizabeth Bishop (I have two degrees in history and worked for over five years in the Nova Scotia Archives). But when I embarked on a study of Bishop’s connections to Nova Scotia and the Maritimes, in many ways I immersed even more deeply in the history of this region. It was as if I acquired a third history degree.

Chapter Five of Lifting Yesterday is the first of three chapters (Five, Six and Seven) which comprise a mini-biography of Bishop. The first four chapters explored powerful Nova Scotia influences on Bishop (place, ancestors/family and her mother). The next three chapters look at how those influences manifested in her life. The way I decided to chart the impact of these influences was through a more conventional chronological narrative. Thus, what Chapters Five through Seven offer is a biography within a biography. Leave it to me to complicate structure, but Lifting Yesterday’s form seemed simply to emerge out of my immersion.

I have always contended that Bishop’s childhood held many keys and clues to “Bishop the adult” and “Bishop the poet.” So, Chapter Five is a direct account of what I see as significant in the earliest years of her life. I focus on only a few themes, as I provide a basic narrative of these years. One thing from these earliest years I’m quite proud of is my discovery that Bishop, fascinated by shipwrecks her whole life, experienced her own shipwreck in 1919.

The discovery happened this way: I spent months in the Nova Scotia Archives reading the “Newsy Notes” of Great Village in the Truro Daily News (a motherlode of information). One day I came across a note that said (I’m paraphrasing): “Miss Grace Boomer and her friend [name forgotten by me] and little Miss Elizabeth Bishop returned home for the summer. They were aboard the ill-fated North Star.” Thought I: “Ill-fated North Star! What is that?!”
North Star (Yarmouth County Museum)
One small reference sent me off on a delightful journey — first through more records in the archives, where I discovered that the steamer North Star went aground off the coast of Nova Scotia on a trip from Boston to Yarmouth. That Bishop never directly mentions this event (she was eight years old at the time) in anything I have ever read was disappointing to me, but I still felt that this experience was vital. How could being on a shipwreck not affect you?
 North Star aground on Green Island (Yarmouth County Museum)
After I’d mined the archives for information, I learned that the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives (http://yarmouthcountymuseum.ca/) had more information. So, one day, my father and I drove to Yarmouth to visit the museum. The archivist, whose name also escapes me, showed me a number of North Star artefacts. The most impressive of them, I felt sure, would have thrilled Bishop: the great ship’s bell (which I got to ring!) and its wheel.
The wheel of the North Star (my own photo)
As we talked, the archivist said that sometime in the 1970s an elderly woman, who had been a child on the North Star on that fateful day, came to the museum seeking information about the shipwreck. She was sure that the archivist at the time had alerted the local paper and there was a photo of this woman. You can imagine what I thought. I knew Bishop had passed through Yarmouth in the mid-1970s when she and Alice Methfessel had taken the ferry Prince of Fundy to and from Portland/Yarmouth and drove to Great Village. Might Bishop have gone to the museum? The archivist went off to find the photograph, returning about fifteen minutes later with it. Alas, it was not Bishop; but as I looked at the photo, it was amazing to think that this woman had shared that experience with Bishop.
Survivor of the North Star with Yarmouth County Museum archivist
Chapter Five of Lifting Yesterday has a detailed account of what happened on the North Star on that “ill-fated” day.

I incorporated the North Star experience into an essay I wrote that was published in The Dalhousie Review, “Shipwrecks of the Soul.” I’d be happy to send you a pdf of that essay, if you are interested.
Yarmouth County Museum Facebook page