The Daily Blend

Writing to make connections

Janet L Fraser published on Bywords.ca

face and body of a dark reptile with yellow markings

photo by Christopher Shearly

It was gratifying to come home from a Fall vacation and find that one of my poems has been published, under the name Janet L Fraser, in the Ottawa on-line journal Bywords.ca. Why the formality of using my middle initial? There are a number of Janet Frasers in this world (a surprising number just in the Ottawa area) and an award winning poet named Janet Fraser in New Brunswick. Hmm, perhaps a pen name would makes sense for me.

Having a poem selected for publication for the first time begins a new stage of development for me as a writer. Up to this point, very few people I don’t know personally have read my work – I and my work have lived in a relatively safe semi-public space. From this point onward I’m guessing I have to be prepared to experience “slings and arrows”, however modest, just like any other public figure. A prospect at once exhilarating and terrifying for an introvert such as me.

Being published follows my start into public reading at the Tree Reading Series open mic in October. Reading my work to people I’d just barely met reminded me of a Canterbury High School t-shirt for the students in the non-performing arts: the slogan began Don’t look at me – my own first thought about reading in public. However, like many before me, I discovered that people in an audience are mostly friendly and supportive. People mostly contribute to a positive vibe and send waves of energy to me as I speak. How does that happen? As in other forms of theatre, it’s a mystery.

Here, then, is my poem Predators I Have Known, first published in the November issue of Bywords.ca. 

next door in his tower
lived the handsome wolf
dangling sweet guitar and song
“come up and hear me play”
how lucky for me:
my innocence, like a sturdy woodsman,
split open his belly and I walked free

into a bedroom in his house
crept the agile weasel
familiar face a masquerade
“hey honey, how ya’ doin’ t’night?”
how lucky for me:
my aunt, like a fairy god-mother,
appeared in an instant and I slept safe

down the hall in his classroom
floated the smiling crocodile
solitude and a mentor’s warmth
“visit here as often as you like”
how lucky for me:
my knowing friend, like a woodland sprite,
lead him away and I moved on

across the quad in his dorm room
lived the silky python
mesmerizing with bookish charm
(what did he say, exactly?)
lucky for me:
my head and heart, now budding alchemists,
used salt water and turned dross into gold

 

Val des Monts January 2017

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Revised edition of “First Chapbook – Proof” now available

street scene with large tree and bright sun for a revised edition

ethereal Elgin for a revised edition

Why a revised edition?

Each of us moves in our our own way and in our own direction through this life due to personal experience and current situation. This can create confusion and conflict when people we’re close to move differently from the way we do.

When I first wrote the poem You Think You Know Me I followed my muse through a specific door, in a specific way, on a specific vector. Some months ago I realized that the door had been swinging in the wrong direction when I went through it so I’ve made a new poem by turning around and going through the door the other way. This new poem is a replacement for the old and reflects a clearer and deeper understanding of myself and of the world around me. My sincere apologies to those of you who may have been dismayed or offended by my first attempt to translate that particular musing onto paper.

For your enjoyment, here is the new poem and a revised edition of my First Chapbook – Proof with the new poem in place of the old.

You Think You Know Her

You think you know her,
angry young man
who shifts his weight
leans just a bit,
and bumps her shoulder
to knock her off balance
in passing
on a suburban city sidewalk.
(just some old white hetero bitch)

what you don’t know is
when the girl from the only Jehovah’s Witness family
in her neighbourhood stood alone
every day in the school yard,
she was the one who went over and made friends

what you don’t know is
a closeted queer guy was her best friend,
and in high school they were seen as a couple
so she never, not once, got asked on a date
‘cause she was not gonna be the one to out him to anyone

what you don’t know is
of all the variety of guys who were her friends
and who she dated over the years,
an immigrant from a different culture and language
was her first love and her first lover

what you don’t know is
when same-sex “couples” prom tickets
were debated and voted down by the student council
she was the one who called out her friends
and walked out of the meeting

what you don’t know is
when the first black department manager
was hired to help run her family business
working with him on the leadership team
came as naturally to her as breathing

Your anger may be righteous, young man,
but what you don’t know is
if you open your fist, she will shake your hand.

Val des Monts March 2017

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Book review: Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them

Deep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. ThemDeep Diversity: Overcoming Us vs. Them by Shakil Choudhury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to read this book. Assuming everyone wants to live a life full of rewarding and healthy relationships with everyone they meet.  The author makes a convincing case for changing ourselves to spark systemic change. He shows how searching our own attitudes and assumptions helps us see systemic biases. Biases that disadvantage ourselves and others. He provides specific exercises and action each of us can take to do two things. He believes we can overcome our innate negative bias. He believes we can teach ourselves to welcome the differences in others. The differences that enrich us and our communities.

One of the most striking points Choudhury makes is the following:

” In the Deep Diversity framework, personal power and the potential for change it represents can serve as a catalyst for system-wide change. There is always a dialogue, a creative tension, between recognizing the influence of institutions on the individual and of the individual on the system. The trick is holding this tension and not getting caught in the either/or polarity. This is the balance point, both emotionally and intellectually.”

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