Friday, August 29, 2014

The Owl Book obituary


This was likely gifted to me sometime in 2010 but it’s hard to say with certainty. I’ve received a lot of blank-paged books over the years and taken a ritualistic stance regarding when a fresh one can be opened. That said, I can pinpoint the first entry – a quick impression of Sauble Beach’s dull roar – to October 1st, 2012. Ever since, the "Owl Book" has covered readings and reviews, all the while surviving its share of bad stanzas.

I see frantic scribbles following Grey Borders Reading Series’ 2012/2013 season, Lit Live’s recent gatherings and some gritLIT activity. I see rough drafts for Ottawa Poetry Newsletter and articles for Town Crier, not to mention point-form pages on Anita Lahey’s The Mystery Shopping Cart, Chris Pannell’s A Nervous City and the last few issues of Broken Pencil – all of which have yet to culminate into worthwhile examinations. Notes from my poetry course with Catherine Graham collect in the back-end while crib notes from Eli Mandel’s lectures on literary criticism sit bookmarked in the middle. So many plans inching or in stasis. Somewhere in here is the first sonnet I’ve ever written (just two weeks ago!) but certain pages are tougher to find.

Even though I moved to Hamilton eight months ago, the Owl Book has maintained its Niagara connection on account of my job there. Before and after work each day, scribbled notes and schemes. With that long-running business, as of yesterday, closed up for good, it’s fitting that the last fully vacant page I write in should serve as an obituary – to idle time in St Catharines and my steady companion throughout. But now that the book feels twice its weight in ink, what are my responsibilities? Do I wring the book of every unused idea, or stack it unseen in a shoebox of old chapbooks?

Suddenly I’m overprotective. This Owl Book is a page-by-page retelling of my thoughts in clumsy disorder; what I’m reading and writing but also phone numbers with no associated names, lists of favourite records in a given year or season, manifestos on philosophical or cultural ideas I wanted to clarify (if only for myself), and so on. It maps out my brain-patterns with alarming precision. Is this my mourning period? I make the necessary arrangements, choosing archive over cremation, and wonder when the right occasion will permit me to face the crisp white of a new beginning. Given that I'm now a full-time Hamiltonian, let's say that occasion is now. 

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