Making Light: Pandemic Winter

Haiku letter #1
Dec. 21, 2020
Dear Oxygen–
I began writing a haiku a day on April 2, 2020. I had very little experience, and only a rudimentary understanding of the form. In the months since, it has become my primary writing and reading practice. I consider myself very much someone who is in haiku training.

The haiku began as a bit of a lark–I sent one as a text to help cheer someone up in those earliest days of Covid lockdown. Very quickly I realized it was helping me cope (and I think it still helps the original correspondent, who continues to be the first reader). I have kept that basic format as a sort of found-poem constraint — an image that is more snapshot than photo, along with a haiku based on an observation from that day, presented as a text-message. The image and the haiku may or may not have a direct reference to each other.

Throughout this period since April 2, a few other daily routines related to the haiku have ebbed and flowed — 87 consecutive snapshots of the sunrise from my window; a daily comic I drew for a while. I hope to cultivate and share some of these activities during my residency at the Oxygen Art Centre.

The Oxygen Art Centre Residency begins on the solstice, also the day of the great conjunction. Since April, I have looked at the sky more often than I have for decades — and what a spectacular year; a comet, all the naked-eye planets –Mercury before sunrise, bright Venus for so many mornings, Mars as it went through retrograde bigger and redder than I ever remember seeing it, the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. As of today, the days begin adding light. There is a vaccine for Covid — even as the virus rages on.

Here’s to Making Light: Pandemic Winter.Love,

Haiku letter #2
Dec 28, 2020.     
Dear Oxygen—

Here are the haiku from the past week.

In the so-called festive season, the feelings engine seems to work overtime cranking out anxiety ions. So many highs and lows for so many reasons.

Keep thinking I should re-read Daniel Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year.” Then I just live it instead.

It’s a bright sunny day; the neighborhood crows and magpies are busy, both foraging and keeping a truce.



Haiku letter #3

January 4, 2021

Dear Oxygen—

Here are the haiku from last week.

“Happy New Year,” we say to others and ourselves. The passing of one year and the beginning of the next is rarely a “happy” time for me. It’s not exactly “sad” — But my mood at this time of year is often unsettled.

The police helicopter is carving circles in the sky over my neighbourhood right now, beating at air.



Haiku letter #4

January 11, 2021

Dear Oxygen—

Here are the haiku from the past week.

“Poetry makes nothing happen,” Auden slyly observed. I have been learning these past months that haiku slyly makes nothing happen — takes moments of nothing(ness) and  activates them — verbing the nouns of observation and experience.

But then again, nothing happens. Seventeen (or fewer) syllables seem inadequate to confront violences, injustice, malevolence, tyranny — or disease and despair.

A dog lives nearby (near enough to hear but not so near that I can determine with any precision where it lives) whose high-pitched and ringing bark sometimes sounds mechanical, like the way a steel cable zings when tension is released.



[view all of Making Light: Pandemic Winter, W. Mark Giles via Oxygen’s Instagram page]

Bio: W. Mark Giles

I live on Turtle Island, at Mohkinstsis, on the traditional territory of the the Kainai, Piikani, and Siksika Nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and also the traditional territory of the Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations. One might also say I live in the neighbourhood of Garrison Woods, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, North America — but people were here a long time before I showed up, and the land sustained and taught them. Treaty 7 was signed at Blackfoot Crossing in 1877 and now encompasses the traditional lands of these First Nations. That’s where Calgary is now. My (his)story of colonial settlement cannot overwrite the(ir) story of continuous habitation. It is our story now. In _The Making Treaty 7_ project, the late Narcisse Blood and the late Michael Green shared the belief that “We are all treaty people.”

I offer acknowledgement to the original dwellers and keepers, and my gratitude. I hope I can learn to learn from this land too.

I have written two books of fiction, _Knucklehead_ and _Seep_, both published by the amazing Brian Kaufman and his gang at Anvil Press in Vancouver. _Knucklehead_ won the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Award, and was nominated for the Howard O’Hagan Award. _Seep_ was nominated for the Amazon First Novel Award. About _Seep_, E.H. of Kelowna, B.C., had this to say: “I read the scene with the dog on an airplane and got the stink eye from my seat partner.” I have published stories and poems, presented visual poetry, and performed theatre in venues in Canada and the U.S.A.

anvil press:
Instagram: @w_mark_giles_haiku

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