Monthly Archives: March 2013

What collaboration looks like.

Kerry Barber - a 40 week journal Corrected (1)-1 copy

Here’s a little teaser from Fools Love: 40 Week Journal. A few days ago, Kerry sent me an email with the title 40 week journal corrections. There was a PDF attached.

Now, I can take feedback like a champ, but corrections? Now? The film is set to screen this weekend, and I certainly don’t have time to be making changes, and WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN, CORRECTIONS? There are no MISTAKES in this poem! This is not a test!

So, yeah, my hackles went up.

Kerry, an expert in dealing with sensitive artist types, had anticipated my stiff-backed response. “I don’t want you to change your poem-” the first line of the email, “but some of the details aren’t true to life.”

I bemoaned the vagaries of long-distance collaboration. Readied my speech on poetic license and on how fictionalization can add a comfortable buffer zone between an artist and her piece. Especially when it’s emotionally charged. I had a feeling she knew this. I recalled times when I was about to read a new poem or story and suffered an eleventh-hour panic attack, believing that everything needed to be different-Iambic hexameter enforced, names changed to protect the guilty.

Then just read the rest of the damn email.

“I just want my daughter to understand exactly what happened, one day when she’s old enough. I want a copy of your poem with all the facts straight.” I opened the PDF. What I found was a running commentary, and the inclusion of a few dates. There were no big red X marks, no F- at the top. I hadn’t failed. Kerry didn’t want to change the poem, but this was her poem, her story, facilitated by me. She needed to put her mark on it. The last word- for the record. I could appreciate that.

Update on “Fools Love: 40 Week Journal” at Dawson short film fest.

w_Fools Love

Dawson City International Short Film Fest 2013 program is online! Fools Love is part of the Cold Cuts section of the festival, under the Yukon and Beyond heading, and will screen on March 29. 

Kerry had already completed the film when she contacted me to see if I had any poetry on young, foolish love that she could use as voiceover. Much to my surprise, I had a ton. Turns out the only time I really write about love, it’s of the foolish variety. So I sent her everything I had. But this piece is very close to Kerry’s heart, being somewhat auto-biographical, and It soon became obvious that we were going to have to write something that told Kerry’s story.

This was a challenge. Nearly all my writing is auto-biographical. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to get into strange character’s heads, because most of my characters are an extension of me. Now I was going to get inside a real person’s head, a friend who had suffered a serious betrayal at a vulnerable time in her life. Arguably, the most vulnerable time of her life.  I told Kerry to write out the entire story and send it to me, to not worry about spelling or punctuation or structure. I wanted the Journal entry version. Raw.

And that is exactly what I received: a sprawling email complete with irrational anger, petty thoughts, and the odd F-bomb. Kerry is a brutally honest and fearless storyteller. The email also contained some useful, 20/20 vision hindsight on the forty week journey I was about to chronicle. A talented artist, Kerry gave me her blog address, so I was able to take a look at how she expressed herself visually during this time. After a look through this material, I was primed.

That’s all I want to say right now, since I don’t want to get into spoiler territory. Working on the poem was difficult and emotionally wrenching and really, really rewarding. I’m honoured to have been included. Big thanks to Kerry, and I wish I could be there for your sparkly moment. You’re going to kill ’em.

Thai Travelogue. Teacher Ka-Lee gets into hug position.


Teaching English in Chiang Mai in exchange for room and board. The kids probably think I’m weird, but it’s because I love them, like, I’m really crazy about them. I can’t stop smiling at them. It’s got nothing to do with biological clocks. I still don’t want a kid of my own.

But these kids.

These kids with their polite gooood mahhning teachuuh Ka-Lee and the way they let their little hand rest on your leg when they show you their drawings. Their Angry Birds themed, over-dressed, long-sleeved bathing attire, and matching bathing caps. And their smiles: shy, semi-toothless, genuine. I don’t know how to talk about smiles without getting all cliché on you, but I’d heard there was something special about the Thai brand of smile, and I heard right. It’s not just a routine tightening of facial musculature, it’s an event. A little bit of good passes into you. And you can give some back, if you remember to be present while it’s happening. This isn’t easy for me. I often forget to be present during hugs, too. I had a friend who used to get me into hug position, and then remind me to pay attention to what was happening. Hugging. He was a good friend.

I’m very homesick lately, and homesickness isn’t pretty. Sometimes it manifests as a complete refusal to accept what is going on around me, this exotic other-ness I traveled so far to experience. Sometimes it’s pure panic: when the air gets too hot and too close, and I can’t see the landscape for the smog. Today, I want to cry. That’s it, I want to cry, and I’m embarrassed because this is “vacation,” and vacation is supposed to be perfect and I’m lucky to be here, and what the hell is wrong with me. Selfish. #Firstworldproblems. All of those things. I still want to cry. One lonely thought cascades into the next, and pretty soon home is a paradise beyond compare- and way beyond reality.

But I’m less alone here than I’ve been this whole trip. I’ve got an entire class of Thai kids who aren’t quite sure what to make of this Godzilla-sized Farang with the black hair and the light skin, who just keeps asking them to repeat “I like rice soup” over and over and over. And over. And smiling.

Dawson City International Short Film Fest.


Kerry Barber’s experimental short film, Fool’s Love, will be screened at the Dawson City International Short Film Festival March 28-31. The film features two of my poems, 40 Week Journal, which I wrote specifically for the project and Randy and Evi. Congrats, Kerry!

Photo Credit.

Vancouver is Awesome.

Interviewed by Vancouver is Awesome for their Read All Over series:

Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.

What are you currently reading? Your thoughts on it?

I just finished The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. I love Gonzo journalism and Hunter Thompson. I love it when crazed drug addicts try to take on everything that’s wrong in the world — the white knights of the apocalypse — because they seem as qualified for the job as the next guy. And when you read Thompson, you get to ride side-saddle into the fire. But I really liked Wolfe’s significantly more sober approach to the swinging sixties. He managed to buy in to the movement enough to get inside it, but you could tell he was winking at you the entire time, nudge nudge, woah, like isn’t this trippy? This measure of perspective would have pissed me off at the age that I was probably supposed to read this book, but I’m 35 now. I’m aware that psychedelics didn’t exactly live up to expectation. So when a story like Ken Kesey’s is being related by a relatively sane person, I get the opportunity to look into all the dark corners.

Read more at Vancouver is Awesome. com