Halifax Trip

I recently returned from a few days in Halifax. I had a reading at Saint Mary’s University with Tammy Armstrong, a fabulous poet originally from New Brunswick who now lives in Nova Scotia. Tammy and I both have chapbooks in Frog Hollow Press‘s NB Chapbook Series (hers is #5; mine is #3), edited by Shane Neilson, and this reading was conceived as a celebration of chapbooks and New Brunswick poetry.

The trip was filled with great food, great conversations, a few great craft beers, and an out-of-town hike. Brian Bartlett took me to Polly Cove for an afternoon hike. Polly Cove is about 2 kms from Peggy’s Cove. The landscape was populated with erratics; vegetation grew very close to the ground; and haunting honks of geese made it feel like the edge of the world. Brian has written about this place in his absolutely splendid Branches Over Ripples (Gaspereau Press, 2017), where he says it is a place “for feeling and imagining deep time.” Indeed, that does accurately capture the feeling of being in the landscape. For all its starkness, there is wild variety, which Brian delves into (Pitcher Plants, spiders, terns, etc.) in the book (see the feature photo, for example, which I took of such varied colours). Brian’s book is a gem that I cannot recommend enough.

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The stark landscape of Polly Cove, reminiscent of harsh northern landscapes.

Toronto Blue Jays Season — 10 Games In

The 2018 MLB season is well under way and the Blue Jays have played 10 games, going a respectable 6-4 (2-2 vs. Yankees, 2-1 series wins over White Sox and Rangers). Which answers one question I had going into the season: would they improve on their atrocious start of last year? At this point in 2017, they were 1-9, the worst start in the previous 20 years. It took them 20 games to reach 6 wins last year. Playing .500 ball is the mark of a good team, and the 2017 Jays were doomed from the beginning.

Before 2018 began, as a franchise, the Jays were a cumulative 31 games below .500. See my graph below (blue denotes how many games above of below the Jays were each season; the orange denotes the season-by-season totals). So as of now, they are a cumulative 29 games below .500.

Blue Jays_cumulative record 1977-2017

Another question I had before the season started was about Justin Smoak: would he repeat his performance of a year ago. So far, he seems to be on pace to having another great year. His stat line for the first 10 games of 2018 is impressive: 2 HR, 10 RBIs, .432 OBP .351 AVG, .649 SLG, 1.080 OPS.

Some other observations thus far: starting pitching has been great. Roberto Osuna has been great with 4 saves so far, tied for MLB best (though at time of writing, the Mets-Nationals game was not finished). They’ve turned 16 double plays so far. Josh Donaldson can throw again, after starting the season with a “dead arm.”

Highlight so far was Kevin Pillar’s 3 stolen bases (2nd, 3rd, and home) in the 8th inning of  Game 3 vs. the Yankees’ Dellin Betances. First time in franchise history that a player stole 3 bases in one inning. That was a thrill to watch.

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Photo from Sportsnet

Hammond River Brewing

On my way home today from my writing retreat, I stopped in Rothesay to visit Hammond River Brewing, one of New Brunswick’s fine craft breweries. I had sampled a few of their brews before and each one was very tasty. They make great beer. So this was a great opportunity to sample a few more. Pictured above are “1914 Czech Pilsner,” “Blood Orange Hefeweizen,” “Java Moose Coffee Porter,” and one of their newest brews “Cordelia” (America-style IPA). Of these, I liked the porter the most — it had a lovely roasted coffee flavour. But they were all great. And if you’re in an ANBL store, there are a few of their brews available in bottles. Pick up their California Steam Ale, the “Gammie” — you won’t be disappointed!

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The tasting room!

St. Martins, NB

Greetings from my week-long writing retreat in beautiful St. Martins by the Bay of Fundy. I took a much-needed break from the daily grind to recharge creatively. I brought plenty of books and a few writing projects. It’s nice to have such a long stretch of time to think, read, and write. I have done a little exploring, too (something I intend to do more of — there’s so much beauty in New Brunswick). Yesterday I visited the famous sea caves at low tide. There were still vestiges of high tide, as it was very cold and some retreating waves froze in layers (see pictures below). Some sea foam also froze as it churned the red sand. It was a bit tricky to access the caves because of streams . . . tricky because I didn’t want to get wet (it was cold, remember). But I managed. There were impressive stalactites of ice on the ceiling.

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First Event of 2017

I had the privilege and honour to read a new poem at the Lieutenant-Govenor’s New Year’s Levee today. After a proclamation by Her Honour Jocelyn Roy-Vienneau to open the levee, I read my poem “New Year’s Day, Fredericton,” which was followed by Jennifer Houle’s reading of the French version, translated by Marie-Claude Hébert. It was quite moving to hear my poem in French; Marie-Claude did a wonderful job, and Jennifer read it superbly. It was first time to the levee, which was a very festive event: we walked around afterward to look through the galleries, and Wyatt collected all the brochures available.

January 1, 2017

Reflecting on 2016

There was a lot to mourn in 2016, but it was an incredible year for me in many ways, so I want to take a moment to reflect. In February I was appointed Cultural Laureate of Fredericton. In July, Sherry and I celebrated 10 years or marriage. I worked hard on editing a special retrospective section of The Fiddlehead summer poetry issue on the career of Les Murray, and in October I read by invitation in New York City at the Bowery Poetry Club. And those are just the highlights. I’m looking forward to 2017, and I wish all my friends and family a very happy year filled with health and all good things!

(The pic is of Sonnet L’Abbé and I at the Bowery Club, NYC)