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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Read&Write: Sue Sinclair

An ode to small things:
Pencil: Soft pink nose & silver eye, o little mouse, o little muse.

If there was a prize for the cutest pencil in the world, then this pencil would surely win it. Pencil #9 features a tiny little appreciation from poet Sue Sinclair, whose books include The Drunken, Lovely Bird, Secrets of Weather and Hope, Mortal Arguments, and most recently, Breaker. I met Sue when I started working at Book City over six years ago. She quickly became one of my favourite people, and to this day she's a pretty big deal in my life. In those days, working with Sue meant dancing in the bookstore, reading poems out loud for everyone to hear whether they liked it or not, and ogling the occasional fashion magazine. Sue lives in New York now, where she reads and writes about beauty and aesthetics, so hanging out with her these days means lovely dinners, long walks, ice cream and lots of talking. She's the person that I confide in with all my fears and hopes and concerns, and after a couple hours with her my head is clear and somehow I know myself better. For instance, after telling her about some recent changes and fun things that have happened lately, she pointed out that I might just be a Feminist! Who knew! I certainly didn't! Sue got married this past summer (and she managed to compose her pencil poem while getting her hair done!) and at her shower all the guests shared a poem. I knew right away which poem I was gonna read - a poem that Sue had actually read to me when we were stuck working at the bookstore one New Years Day. The problem was I had no idea what the poem was called, but had vague memories of scribbling a line or two from it down in my Moleskine all those years ago. This prompted an excavation of every journal and notebook I've ever written in to try and find those lines, and eventually I found it in a datebook from 2006. Clearly it had stuck with me, and reading it at her shower was the first time I had ever read a poem out loud to anyone, let alone a group of people. And it felt good! Here's the stanza I read from Don Coles' K. in Love:

I was with a few people the other night / And made some lighthearted remarks / About you. Anybody would think / I cared about you only / To the usual degree. But / Every time I mentioned your name / I was holding onto the table.

I finally managed to find the actual poem (it's in a collection of Coles' first six books, called How We All Swiftly) and only just today read K. In Love in its entirety. Here are some other bits from it that I like:

Think if by some accident we now / Forgot each other, how would / Our huge uncompleted feelings / Ever find enough to do in the world?

There must be enormous areas of pressure / Like huge dim balloons / Bobbing around in different places, / The result of deaths of / People who didn't finish explaining / How they felt about somebody.

Of course it's far from necessary / To die in order to quicken / This sensation of unfinished business. / I have a lot of previous selves, / Most of them dissatisfied, who think / Everything they have ever felt / Is only a first draft of what they could have felt.

Damn, that last bit is killer! D. Coles, I hear you, brotha! (Hey! Did you know that Ghostface Killah is also really a D. Coles?! Dennis Coles. There's yer G-Uknit factoid for today). Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Sue's pencil. She was so excited when she read it to me that it killed me to tell her that the "soft pink nose" she described was actually white - the pencils I used for the project all have white erasers at the end - so it wouldn't make sense! But I liked her line so much that rather than change it, I changed the erasers. Sue is the kinda gal that stands out in a crowd, so there's no reason why her pencils shouldn't either.

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