Notes on My Mother's Death (from my Moleskine)

[from my Moleskine, dated March 27th, 2013]

[I have not posted poetry here in ages because of some problems with some of my 'hidden' readers. To them: Do *not steal away my images *or their intent without crediting me or else I will stop posting poetry publicly on this site for good - those of you who do this likely think I don't know but you are wrong - even if it's 6 months later, I know exactly what you are doing, so stop it]

Postscript: Sorry, I am not able to post my poetry here anymore due to [these] people who think Oscar Wilde himself stole, when he merely made a joke


Passing the Cemetery in a Train 28 Years Later

throw yellow roses
on your coffin, long, smooth, polished sheen
              maple, insignia
of the country we have come to

throw yellow roses
on your coffin

you, dead inside
you, body


throw long-stemmed
roses, fresh, soft perfect petals, sun bright

on your coffin

as it slides
into the fires

             as if death
             were a passion

of the flame

In memory of my father,
Dr. D. Richard Clews, 1922-1984

Written in Toronto, May 25, 2012

single yellow rose
image thanks to Corrie Barklimore on Flickr


Tell it with split tongues
and lightning flicker
in bleary, bloodshot eyes.

The black flood of night.

Remember the never-healing wound
of the fisher king,
I know it well.

Clots like rocks in the flowing black river
of the volcano within.

I want my words to rise like incantations.

On the fumes rising above the tripod
where the Oracle of Delphi sits knowing,
knowing she knows...

I almost don't care about you who are reading this.

It's a life and death struggle within myself.

It's very private.

Pulling the curtain back slightly, I hear
no birdsong at this dark hour,
no glimmering dawn.

In the void, I throw the antidote in.


that would undo the spell if it were a spell.

Probably it isn't a spell,

probably it's

Words to split the earth apart,
change the dismal landscape,
re-orient the black 
burning spots.

pieced together from words spoken into a voice memo during a sleepless night,
final draft written July 8, 2012 in Toronto

In case of misunderstanding, I need to say that this poem is not bleak but very positive.

Can You Be Fired or Laid Off Without Notice?

Cling to the thin breast
of stars grazing your hair;
starlight shines vacant 
in your eyes.

On this globe revolving in mad
abundance, careening

in our dreams

where spiders feed us silk
from their mandibles;
and the strawberries are sour

studded with green eyes
watching from red lanterns.

What light to see by is this?

Scattered unripe fruit, the world
overtaken by insects.

Push the shopping cart through
the storm of shredded light.

Let breaking branches scratch
your face. The wind is your voice.

Night spins hallucinating
a starry nest.

We are broken illuminations

Dust of starlight.

Caught in a web
spun in silk fire fibres.

Pull your hair
from your dirty face.
Wipe off stardust, like grime.

Magic is a spider eye
in a world of compound debt.

Survival, man, woman,

is the song
to spin singing

on dangling
Comments (2)

Retreat to Beautiful Objects

direct link: Retreat to Beautiful Objects

When I retreated to my world of beautiful objects.

She was a dream, not the mask but how I composed her in Tangled Garden.

A vegetative force, Nature, birth, life, death, decay, mulch, compost. Beautiful and frightening. Strange dreams, the unknowable body itself. Life consuming life to live, plant or animal. Cells fuse to make new life, new connections, new hybrids. Wood/trees; metal/circuitry; bone/grafts; skin/love. Teeming presence.

I come from a jungle, the nature I write of is not pastoral, pretty. A fibrous network of vast connections. Natural processes. We are Nature looking at herself through her own eyes. This slip of consciousness viewing the universe for a knowing moment, soon to be lost. How can we forget the hungry ghosts, the floral opera singing in us?

An ecology of consciousness. An understanding of the parasitical and angelic. Leave the savageries. Our worlds of beautiful objects call us to retreat.


What I wrote at YouTube: celebrate the unexpected popularity of my long videopoem, Tangled Garden,, a slow art film of a triptych of earth poems, Surreal, mythopoetic, a rhizoma of images, metaphors, explorations, philosophies (with English subtitles). I had originally thought to paint a Tangled Garden painting to give away when the video reached 1500 views (my daughter's claimed the painting, so some other celebratory gift), and began making a video of the process of the painting.

There's lots of aspects here - from the drawing and painting itself to photos of the making of the papier-mache mask, to a dance in the woods which inspired the figures in the painting. The fishnet gloves - don't you adore them! - will now be featured in any future art videos. I just love them!

The writing came out of a dream I was having during a nap when I was considering what to say in the video. It's more of a piece about the poetic process in the poems in Tangled Garden, what sort of consciousness is holding sway. I woke up laughing. I felt a bit strange laughing all by myself in a dark room late at night for the recording for sure!

Prefer the video without the subtitles, but they're there for the hearing impaired, those who like to read along, and for YouTube automatic translation into one of 25 languages if the viewer is not fully conversant in English.

Music is Pierre-Marie Cœdès' 'Whirling Thoughts,' from his album, "Insomnia": (with his permission). It is a great album, do go and listen.

Videopoem: 'Tangled Garden, a triptych of nature poems'

direct link: Tangled Garden, a triptych of nature poems by Brenda Clews, 2012.

Tangled Garden: a triptych of nature poems, a video/filmpoem by Brenda Clews

-A Floral Opera (2011)
-In the Hands of the Garden Gods (1979)
-Slipstream, the Tangled Garden (2006)

(with impromtu speaking between the poems, which each end with ~~~ in the subtitle track.)

Beautiful singing by the musician, Catherine Corelli mixed from her album, Seraphic Tears (2010) on Jamendo (with her permission).

Note: This video is subtitled. Click on the CC on the play bar to activate or de-activate the subtitles. YouTube will also automatically translate the subtitles into 25 languages if English is not your main language and you would like to get the gist of the poetry.

In contrast to the zippy, fast cuts and commercial-like flavours of many video/filmpoems, Tangled Garden is a slow virtually single-shot video. It is an 'art film.' It is 22 minutes of slowed-down footage. It does move through a process that is Surreal and dream-like. Not much happens, but a lot passes by, if you know what I mean. Tangled Garden is the opposite of an action film.

It has taken 9 months to produce this video. I used some of the footage - you might recognize it - for two 'Solstice' videopoems, non-religious celebrations, one commemorating the beginning of my favourite season, Summer, 'Green Goddess' Masque and one celebrating finding the light in the darkness of Winter, Shadow Cave, because I liked the dance clips, but they were always intended for this videopoem. Tangled Garden is a major piece for me.

Tangled Garden unfolds in a spatial and painterly way; it is not narratorial or linear. I often work with doubles, dopplegängers and reflections, with subjectivities, the selves that compose us, and there is little of that here, but minimally. Rather, the focus is the poetry itself. Three nature poems are spoken as a voiceover, poems that span 30 years. I made a subtitle track (that took 3 days with lots of subsequent corrections), so you can read along if you like.

Three clips form the visual tracks of the video poem. The initial background was shot in early May 2011 in Niagara Falls and the two dance clips on different days in High Park in Toronto (accompanied by my daughter who read while the tripod held the camera videoing me dancing) in June 2011. Both of the dance clips have been worked extensively in Final Cut to arrive at the visual patterns that you see here. As an artist, my video work is very painterly, and I find I compose video canvases based on the static, pictorial vision of a painting. Perhaps they are paintings in motion.

After I shot the initial footage of the plant foliage on May 9, 2011, during a sleepless night on that trip I watched the clip over and over on the small viewfinder of my video camera, wondering what I would do with it. Without seeing earth or sky, a breeze blowing through the tangle of leaves and stalks, light breaking through when the wind was stronger, I found it very rhizome-like, and it reminded me of my memories of my life in that I could enter or exit anywhere and still arrive at an understanding of who I am.

I wrote 'A Floral Opera' (2011) for that initial footage, and for Catherine Corelli's voice in her incredible neoclassical metal album, Seraphic Tears, which I had listened to enroute to Niagara Falls.

Tangled Garden is composed of three earth poems. 'A Floral Opera' is, I feel, one of my most successful poems. Later in the year, having collected 20 years worth of my journals in a large basket, I began going through them, and found a poem written in 1979 based on a dream I had had. 'In the Hands of the Garden Gods' (1979) describes that dream, and it seemed to match the footage and was another approach to the themes 'A Floral Opera' alluded to. I decided to include the older poem. Currently I live near the rooming house where I had rented a small ground floor apartment as a graduate student and where I wrote 'Garden Gods,' and one night, quite far along in the editing of the filmpoem, I had a 'Eureka moment' on the street corner near the house where I once lived: the strange central figure that I have created in the video, the one who moves slowly through the 22 minutes, almost exactly duplicates the transforming earth muse figure, the "lady, lady, lady" who appeared in the dream I had in 1979! Our lives are a strange unity. The final poem that I included was another earth poem, 'Slipstream, the Tangled Garden,' (2006) about hungry ghosts, time, death and the resurrection of life that continues through us even if when we shall no longer exist.

In between the three poems is some ad-libbed talking that I initially did while watching the footage and which my daughter encouraged me to include in the final version. The impromptu speaking is a bit repetitive, but perhaps that's a welcome refrain from the densely packed imagery of each of the poems. After each of the 'official' poems I have put '~~~' in the subtitle track to note their ending and that what follows is a speaking between poems.

The themes in the poems are quite complex, but also they are rich with imagery that I hope holds your attention. They are strange, Surreal, dream-like, body-based, earth-centred, full of reflection, passion, living. The three poems together cover the span of a lifetime of rumination on Nature, the meaning of being alive, having a woman body, birth, life, death, amidst the heritage of our intellectual culture and the extraordinary creativity of our planet which I call the "green fire." A planet we are busy overrunning with our extreme fertility as a species and our polluted ways. I don't, however, push the 6th mass extinction that we are in, though the outlook for our species is gloomy. Emphatically, the "green fire" is far stronger than us. We are merely representations, minuscule embodiments of the earth's creative energy. I embrace the earth's deep and fecund creativity. In the tangled garden of our lives on our natal earth there is beauty, grace, love, compassion, sorrow, fear, caring, and sweetness, sweetness.

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Nik Beat at Free Times Cafe - live & uncut

direct link: Nik Beat at Free Times Cafe - live and uncut

An evening of Nik Beat and Friends at the Free Times Cafe in Toronto, Canada on September 16, 2011. An uncut set playing in real time, we see Nik at his disarmingly charming best between beautiful songs and poems. This is as close as it gets to being there. We adore you Nik! Enjoy the show!

Nik sings some of his new recorded songs and poetry from his book, "The Tyranny of Love." Joining him are Michael Ratt, Pat Kelly, Michael MarianJoani Paige, and Willie Anicic .

From Seraphim Editions, the publisher of his book of poetry, "The Tyranny of Love": "Born in 1956, Nik Beat (née Michael Barry) toiled in the rock and roll field for a number of years until he quit and took the moniker Nik Beat. This native Torontonian has for the past 20 years been a writer/poet published in numerous anthologies. He has been profiled on Much Music and TVO's Imprint as well as in an upcoming CBC radio appearance. He currently hosts the HOWL spoken word radio show on CIUT 89.5 FM. He lives in the quiet doldrums of the famous Beaches area, where he not only commandeers a Words and Music show at the Renaissance Café but is also an accomplished collage artist."

The Free Times Cafe performance videoed and edited by me, Brenda Clews.

Nik Beat's voice, to my ear, is softer, richer, more modulated than ever. Perhaps mellowed is the word.  Like the heart beats in the vocal chords, irradiating songs with feelings, feelings that connect us all. In the clip, he's singing emotional textures -that move us the way birdsong in the trees moves us. My video is a set of his atand is uncut, only a filter of strong contrasts added....I love the sound track. He's in top form. Really fine set, so glad I taped it. It's open in another browser window as I listen for the 20th time to the track!

William Leighton wrote: "Very well done. Loved the simplicity of it and the refrain from constant motion. Nik definitely is a pilgrim on a journey and he invites people to hear from those travels. What we believe is paramount to who we become and where we end up and the heart is the compass of that journey. Truth does lie at the end of the journey for us all though. Travel safely and wisely."

Good Night Girl was awesome, as Willie Anicic said, and many of us mentioned how that song played in our minds for days afterwards. A beautiful paean to his beloved Linda Mercer, who passed away this year.

I wanted Nik to see the set uncut before I did anything (well, except the filter I added), but he liked it and said to go ahead and make it public, which I did. Watch like you're sitting at a table with a drink listening. It's dark and your friends are with you. Enjoy!

ps I linked Nik to a Google search on his name since he's all over the place. :)

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Variations on a Ghost Theme

moon light from the window seeps around the ghost envelops it in a milky aura folds into its body as it glides through walls in a cowl of ghosts, I would twirl in slow motion around their twirling pirouettes their disconnected hands and feet dangling from bodies that radiate a white gauze of light, the fingernails of silver scratches that graze the furniture hovering in the air of our mutual dreams

Dave wrote a ghost poem, and then it became a prompt for a gang of ghost poems in the comments: If there were such things as ghosts

I'm joining the Ganga line with this ghostly poem. [thinking of the Hindu Goddess Gaṅgā who reincarnated as the Ganges River.]

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"Prose Services"

A woman with an old Olivetti
on the street corner. Brunswick and Bloor, across from
Future Bakery. She wore a floral dress of orange and
pink flowers on black. I wasn't sure she was real,
her sign read, "Prose Services." A man had
paid, and she was typing.

Surely a prose poem with the heat of the city's
pavement coiling in tendrils of green ivy, sweat
dampening the pulse points under her dress. Her
hair, red and swept back like Lucille Ball's, her lips full
and dark as an espionage spy.

What can a writer offer passersby for a few
coins in the cap?

I almost asked to take a picture of her clacking
away on the old typewriter keys, but thought she'd
charge me, demand toll from the faint
woman disappearing into the moon
hanging in half
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Comments (2)

In the Hands of the Garden Gods

One of the poems I'll be reciting in the video poem I am still working on, "Tangled Garden." I wrote In the Hands of the Garden Gods when I was 27 years old, and it fits beautifully. I guess I've been working with the themes of a Tangled Garden most of my life. It will be the poem in the middle, after A Floral Opera, and before, Tangled Garden. The video poem is 21 minutes long, and I have been working on it for quite awhile. As many hours, days, go into it I see it emerge slowly, slowly.

You'll have to email me for the password.

Encrypted poem:

Still from my video poem, Tangled Garden, which I'm currently working on.
(click on image for larger size)

A draft form of the video is up at YouTube (update Thurs June 16th).

direct link: Garden Gods

This video is not finished. It has no title or credits and is 'Unlisted' at YouTube. The final version will be much higher resolution. I've posted it for critique purposes only.

It is a clip from a long video poem, Tangled Garden, that is 22 minutes. The footage is mostly all like this cut. There are three poems: 'A Floral Opera,' which I recently wrote; 'In the Hands of the Garden Gods,' which I wrote when I was 27; and 'Tangled Garden,' which I wrote in 2006. This clip is the 'Garden Gods' one. It's still quite raw. I am seeking feedback, critique.

From my perspective - the dance in the background needs to be re-done. I need to get my costume and myself back to High Park for another round, perhaps without my daughter. Though can I go and dance alone? I'm hesitating. There are very few people I'd feel comfortable with doing this. If I manage it, it'll be like the one here, only perhaps a little better (I hope).

The voiceover poem was done one night, reading straight from the journal I wrote the poem in so many years ago. It probably needs to be re-done too. I'm not sure about the saturation of the voice and whether it distorts. The reading itself, though, is just about right in emotional tone, so I'm not sure I should do another.

Since this is an 'art' video I am not worrying about catering to any kind of popular taste. Um, I guess I move to my own drumbeat, or something like that.

What I am looking for are responses, and ideas that I may incorporate into the final version.


Music, 'First Night (Lilith's Seduction)' from Catherine Corelli's album, 'Seraphic Tears':

Another update:

I realized it's better full screen, also 720p. Tonight I walked by the house where I rented a small bachelor's back when I had the dream that became this poem. And as the dream itself comes back, I realize that the way I've done the footage of the Garden God (or goddess) is incredibly close to the dream I had so many years ago. That was a wow moment, on the street corner tonight.
Comments (1)
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