Writer’s Retreat

Blog No. 63

If you are from my home town, or just really interested in all things Adventure Worlds, the online magazine Windsorite wrote an article on us.  (http://windsorite.ca/2014/01/local-writers-invite-you-to-adventure-worlds/).

So far we have seen a small spike in our readers and our Facebook followers.  It’s one of the many ways we are pushing readership (and making sure we keep up our pace) this year.  If things continue like this our zine will be out sooner than later.

But back to this week’s regularly scheduled blog.  It’s no secret that one of my favourite writers is Al Purdy.  In my first year of university I did a biography project on the poet and was smitten.  I initially intended to take some info off the internet then scan through his autobiography for a couple of quotes to support the information I gathered, but I found that after I picked the book I up, I couldn’t put it down.  My project (and my studies from there on) benefited from it, but I think what was really changed for the best were my sensibilities.  He exemplifies everything I love about Canadian poetry and Canadian poets (at least the guys).  They were a bunch of manly men who road the rails and fought bears and wrote beautiful poems.  It’s an amusing contrast that can be seen in the poems.  (Both in the subject and the words).  Al Purdy specifically built a small house in the wilds of Ontario near Ameliasburgh.  It was his writer’s retreat.  I can only assume it’s where he went to escape the world and find his inner wordsmith.

He built it with his own hands he drank beer and probably rye and sat on the porch and wrote.  There is something magical about a place in the wilderness.  (Anything you make yourself is somehow special).  It’s very man against the wild (which is at the heart of a lot of early Canadian poetry).  Currently the cottage being renovated as a writer’s retreat for some of Canada’s current writers (the kind who have publishers and get nominated for Governor General’s awards).  Recently during renovations they found a poem hidden in the wall.  It’s thought that he did it on purpose and his wife knew about it.  It was found in the kitchen behind some renovations he made in the 70s (I think).  It’s a little off topic, but it’s a neat find and it says something about the work done in the cottage reflecting the building itself.  Or if that’s too much of a stretch for you, both the poetry and the building reflects the man.

In a certain way, we always reflect our surroundings, at least in our reaction to them.  Both physically and emotionally we are changed by where we are.  If that’s true, my writing, being a reflection of me, would go through the same process.  Writing in my room is more stifled than at the coffee shop.  I can only imagine how great it would be sitting on the porch of a cottage with a beer sweating next to me and a lake just over the top of my page.

My group has talked about going on our own writer’s retreat some time this year.  If we have time and money we thought about finding a cabin or cottage (my thoughts are near Tobermory but that’s not speaking for the group) where we can go and try to embody our writing for a week or long weekend.  It’s a great thought, but may not be in the realm of current possibilities.  It’s become more and more clear how much easier it is to write when I am out of the house and with at least one member of the group (after we waste and hour talking about movies or something).  It may be that completely removing myself from the city (and civilization as a whole) would be an even better boon to my writing.  I can imagine the early morning breakfast followed by a brisk hike (maybe a canoe jaunt around the lake) then a rigorous session of writing broken only by a game of horseshoes on my way back from getting a new beer and a hardy evening’s dinner.  Then more writing with a quiet cup of tea before the group sits around the fire roasting marshmallows and talking about what we’re working on.

My idea of a vacation has always been a cabin on a lake.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of tropical islands and sandy beaches, but there is something about a cottage that I find extra relaxing.  The lifestyle is appealing to me.  Everything slows down and there isn’t a rushed panicky feeling that you may not be having enough fun.  I went to the Dominican with my brother and had a great time, but I felt like I was wasting the vacation if I just sat in the room relaxing.  At a cottage, you can do what you feel like.  It’s only a drive and a long weekend away.  (And the money I suppose).  I hope we get to go this year, but if not, there is always next year.

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