I studied with Clark at Iowa (and I was born in 1967!). I'll never forget his lesson about the "then moment" of stories. I've used it a number of times. Also, a moment in one of his seminars stands out...we were discussing Cheever's "The Swimmer," and Clark said that he believed writers often put themselves in their own stories, somewhere, hiding. He asked the class where Cheever was hiding in "The Swimmer." No one answered. Finally, Clark pressed upon me for an answer. Bear in mind, I was very, very young at Iowa -- 22, when the average age was closer to 29. But I knew where Cheever was. He's in a small plane, flying overhead very early in the story, observing everything from afar, above it. "He's in the plane," I said. "Yes," Clark said, and we went on.

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So very different, this. In 1969 I was 11 years old. It was a decade that was coming to a tumultuous end. I was having breakfast with my brother this morning, and we actually had a discussion about the 60s in a round-about way. I said how I remembered the things that stood out for me, and how the Viet Nam War was the first war they actually televised without censoring. They showed it as it really was. A big mistake I said, because the world saw it as well. Remember all the riots taking place? Washington, Kent State, Paris? I said I remembered when that monk lit himself on fire in the streets of Saigon. He said the thing he took with him was when that North Vietnamese soldier was shot in the head. It traumatized him, he said. He's six years older than me. It's the first time he told me that.So strange the things we take with us. My biggest take in the 60s was 1969 and the moon landing, not because of the moon landing itself, but because my neighbour was 75 years old and told me he remembered going to the theatre in Saskatoon to watch that famous clip of the Wright brothers flying for the first time...and now they're landing on the moon., he said. It's funny the things we take with us. We never really leave anything behind though, do we? That Buddhist monk; that Viet-Kong soldier; the Civil Rights Movement and the water canons on the streets; the cops beating protesters in Chicago. And through it all, I remember wandering through Coles bookstore and looking at the one single shelf they had for Canadian literature...and seeing your books of poetry there...but then, what proper 11 year old read Canadian literature, let alone, poetry? I was looking for TARZAN!

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Land grab crony capitalism has set me back too. Right here in Ontario where I thought this was laid to rest a couple of generations ago. Corruption is the death knell of democracy IMHO. No trust then. So we soldier on and complain loudly. Thanks for “modelling that behaviour”… as they say.

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I lived in Montreal in those years. It was an exciting city to be in Ray Fraser published a poetry magazine (?) called “. Intercourse”. Many up and coming Canadian writers submitted poems to Intercourse. I’m proud to say we published one edition on the Gesetner in our basement apartment when Ray and Sharon went to Spain. They also left us their unneutered male cat, who got into the furnace ducts and pissed. The apartment smelled of cat piss for months. Loved those days. Love your piece.

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The Blind Climber

Sometimes I feel a great disconnection between action and thought -

This widening gap with no name or description, an attempt at coping with it all.

Strangely amusing in a “whistling in the dark’ kind of way.

“Look, look there is nothing there, what a hoot!” I travelled to nowhere,

Not even home. To start again.

It’s a bit like a blind woman who has taken up mountaineering

In her dotage.

What is the point of this climb?

The stones get so big along the way. It takes so long to get around and past them.

I can no longer take in the view – beautiful or otherwise.

There was such a deep sombre wall of fog before the light slipped away.

Oh dear, what a whining old hag I have become!

Perhaps the wind will help. I can still hear it singing, feel it buffeting my body.

As I slowly climb - - - a torrent of air, the breath of the mountain is pushing, probing –

A fierce, elemental process of energy.

It seems to get stronger, more aggressive, more focused with each step.

Perhaps it will describe the panorama for me. I always did like prospects and views

When I was younger and stronger.

I am listening now. It has taken a while, my whole life.

But I am listening intently now.

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Keep at it Maggie....stories of the dark past need to be told...

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Just to correct Margaret Atwood’s statement about “creative writing” not being taught in Canada in 1967 except a single example in BC …

University of New Brunswick in Fredericton had a well-established course in Creative Writing which I attended in 1960 as part of an Arts degree. Dr. Desmond Pacey taught the course. Fiddlehead was the literary journal published at the same time at UNB.

Susan Stanley


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This Time, That Place - on hold, 4th in line at the Calgary Public Library!!

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By the early 70s Anansi, Coach House, M&S filled my shelves overtime along with City Lights, Shambhala, and houseless chapbooks.

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Thank you: I absolutely loved reading this!

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Sold. I've purchased a copy of the book and am enjoying these little nuggets.

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Montreal, 1967. Now there is a time and a place that marked my young psyche, being a rural kid living on a farm on the Ottawa River on Highway 17, 1 hour outside of Quebec. This article was so interesting. Please write more! Happy New Year!

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That’s interesting - thanks for the post!

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Enjoying these stories from your past very much. What a life you have had. Happy holidays, Margaret

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Why do we want to belong? Now that’s a question I want to think about more deeply. Lots of prompts for storytelling in your posts, Margaret. Keep them coming. Happy holidays!

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Thank you for this, it reminded me of why I became a painter. Simple communication.

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