Monday, June 3, 2013

Life of a Poet ~ Kay Davies

Kids, I'm sure you have come across this poet in the blogosphere - she gets around, for all she says she's an "unfittie" when it comes to travel. Kay blogs at An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel (Getting around the world when it's very often hard getting around the house).  I was enjoying Kay's writing long before we discovered we were both born in the same year, and had both grown up in Kelowna, B.C., though we went to different high schools. AND she worked at the Kelowna Daily Courier, as did I, as a feature writer and reporter, only she was there one year after me. I had fled to the city of Vancouver before the ink was dry on my high school diploma! I thought you all would enjoy a visit with her as much as I did. So gather ' round. I think Kay has the kettle on.

Poets United: Kay, give us a snapshot of your life growing up. Especially the years in Kelowna, and a bit about your homesteading years. (I re-read your interview at Real Toads, and am fascinated by the homesteading. Your folks sound like the coolest people!)

Kay: LOL, Sherry. My folks were the coolest people, but we weren’t homesteading. Dad bought 6 acres (going straight up) on the back of Knox Mountain. There was one flat spot suitable for a house about halfway up. Dad hired a dowser, who found water, but away down by the original road. So Dad had to build a zig-zag path, edged by poles cut from our own trees, from the flat area down to the well. Water was brought up in the backs of trucks and cars, or fetched by one of us kids in a 1-gallon A&W root beer jug.

P.U.: You mention having been a journeyman printer by trade. Was that in the days when print was set by hand in the back room of the dailies and “stop the presses!” actually got yelled fairly often? 

Kay: No, Sherry, I’m not that old. You and I were born in the same year! The dailies used linotype machines for almost everything, but sometimes used hand-set type for big headlines like “War declared” and “Kennedy dead”!

P.U.: Well, when I worked there, men were setting something in type, that they could read backwards and upside down. And the editor  did yell "Stop the presses!" when I unwittingly handed in a scoop about the orchard harvest being doomed. He asked me, "where's your nose for news?" (Deep mortification!) 

Kay: Well, yes, printers read upside down and backwards, because that's the way type is set in a composing stick and it's also the way it comes out of a linotype, so that when it is inked, it appears the right way 'round. 

I never did learn to run a linotype, but they were in use for 100 years or more.
Of course, now it's all done on computers and it's wysiwyg — what you see is what you get. 

Most weeklies and twice-weeklies still have compositors, but they're mostly owned by big companies (like Lord Thompson of Fleet, who owned the Courier when we were young) and everything will be centralized, just as the presswork has been for the last umpteen years. (You have to leave in the part that says we were born in the same year, remember. LOL)

I asked for coulee photos, since she lives near one. 
Kay said, "A coulee is really just a hole in the prairie."

P.U.: I did (smiles). When you finished high school, what was your dream, and did life turn out anything like those dreams?

Kay, 1963~same big smile

Kay: Nothing like it at all. I wanted to get a PhD in English Lit. but didn’t get past second year university, because we had moved to White Rock, BC, where my parents were running a small printing shop and I was going to school part-time and apprenticing part-time. There was no public transit from White Rock to UBC in Vancouver, or to the new Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. I did go to work for the dailies: first the ill-fated Vancouver Times where I was slated to work on the women’s pages just as the paper went out of business, then the Vancouver Sun, where I was a copyrunner. 

I spent one summer as a feature writer back in Kelowna, for the Daily Courier, but couldn’t afford to pay rent and buy a car. Begging, borrowing, and stealing cars soon became exhausting, so I moved home to White Rock, and returned to The Sun in a variety of clerical positions. I becamer a journeyman compositor after I went back to the family shop, and was able to return, yet again, to The Sun, this time to the composing room.

P.U.: I envy you working at The Sun.  I wasnt brave enough to apply there. I worked for a trade newspaper, which was really boring. Where do you live these days? Would you tell us about your life today, with your intrepid photographer husband Richard? And of course the famous Lindy, whose photo alone will likely steal the interview. I am one of the many who say they followed her photo to your blog, and never left!

"The two of us in the Dominican Republic.
I refuse to let my hair grow that long again.
Fuss 'n bother. That's Dick on the left. Lol."

Kay: We live in a small town near Medicine Hat, Alberta. My intrepid photographer taught school for 29 years but, when I met him, had retired from teaching and gone into the field of  Registered Education Savings Plans, which families buy for children’s post-secondary education.

"A coulee is just a hole in the prairie, 
with wonderful surprises at the bottom."

"And beautiful things at the top of the coulee, too, 
sometimes, like a smiling Golden!"

P.U.: Lovely Lindy! I wish I could ask her to tell me a funny story about you. From your humorous writing, I suspect you are quite fun to live with! Would you like to tell us how your blog came to be, and what its original purpose was?

Kay: The original purpose of my blog was to be a how-to book on travel, for people who are disabled or, as I prefer to refer to myself, unfit, and thus the word “unfittie” came into being. The theme is “it’s better to go than not go, even if it hurts”! When I hit a wall, I started posting to memes, and then to Real Toads, so as to be near my computer when the writer’s block finally departs.

"Me on my folding chair/cane on the Galapagos Islands"

P.U.: Your cane is intriguing. (You know you're getting older when, in a travel photo, your eyes go right to the chair/cane!) How has blogging impacted your writing?

Kay: I hadn’t been writing much before I started my blog. My parents were living on Vancouver Island, and then were in a care facility in White Rock, and I was focused on them when we weren’t traveling. They were great believers in travel, having spent some 30 years driving back and forth to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

Medicine Hat

P.U.: I know you started writing at age six. When did you begin writing poetry? What is it about poetry that satisfies you in a different way from prose? What do you love about it?

Kay: Oh, Sherry, this is a confession, and probably won’t impress your colleagues at Poets United, but I started writing poetry in Junior High because it was the only thing I could do that nobody else could. So it gave me a place, not a place of honor by any means, but a place where I could entertain other students who just saw me as a little kid. 

P.U.: In your life, who would you say has been the most significant influence on your writing? Did your father, himself a published author, encourage you? Was he proud of your writing? 

Kay: Oh, of course Dad encouraged me and was proud of my writing, but he wasn’t a published author until he was 50-something, and I edited and proofread his books for him. He considered us equals by then, but when we were children, he and Mom encouraged all of us in whatever skills we possessed. Dad and Mom were a team, always, until dementia stole them from one another.

One of my brothers is much younger than the rest of us, and an artist. When he was young, about five or six, he asked me, very seriously. “Kay, where did I get my artistic talent from?” and I replied, “From your dad.” Rob looked at me and asked, “Where did you get your writing talent from?” and I said, “From Dad.” Looking puzzled, but hopeful, he asked, “Then where did Clint get his musical talent from?” to which I replied, again, “From Dad.” Looking sad, Rob said, “Oh, poor Mom. Can’t she do anything?” When I replied that yes, she was a very good mother, he brightened up, and went out to play with his friends. He might be an artist, but he’s very pragmatic.

P.U.: I love that story! Hilarious! Do you think you will return to your proposed book on travel and complete it? When you travel with Richard do you make notes with a view towards writing more chapters? 

"Us with the Terra Cotta Army in China."

Kay: No, I seldom make notes. I bring home pamphlets, and so does he. Between those and our photographs, I have plenty of reminders scattered around the house.

P.U.: Richard is a very talented photographer. Do you enjoy photography as well?

Kay: Oh dear, Sherry, that’s a tough question. I used to enjoy photography very much, for many years, with my dad, and also with my kid brother who is an artist, but my eyes aren’t very good any more. I’ve had cataract surgery in both eyes. The artificial lenses are fixed focus, and they make my eyes extremely sensitive to sunlight, so I snap a few shots here and there, when I can, but I leave the bulk of the photography to Dick. 

Medicine Hat, with added benefit
of pronghorn antelope

When I first knew him, photography was the last thing on his mind. One day we had stopped at a scenic overlook in the mountains of British Columbia, and he saw me snapping away, and asked, “Do you want me in your picture?” When I said “no” he looked very surprised. “Then why are you taking pictures?” My husband is not a self-made photographer. He’s wife-made. But he has developed a very good eye for a shot, and for colour, and for framing, and has purchased some excellent equipment for himself.

P.U.: We have lived through a lot of “movements” – feminism, the anti-war movement (Viet Nam), the nuclear threat, the hippy movement (I remember all the adults being scandalized by the appearance of two hippies in City Park in Kelowna in the early 60’s which, in Kelowna, was still more like the 50’s, and the satisfaction in their voices when they said the Law had run them out of town and told them not to come back!), and, more recently, the environmental movement. Is there one of these that spoke especially to you, that hit you at exactly the right time?

Kay: Well, the first one to hit me was the anti-segregation movement in the US. I was appalled by the thought of segregation, and wanted to rush right out and march. Fortunately, I was still quite young, and my parents saved me from myself. However, it burned in my soul because segregation ran counter to everything I was raised to believe. My father believed completely in racial equality, but seldom spoke of it, because that belief was just part of who he was, and therefore became part of who we were.

P.U.: Yes, how could I have missed listing it? The civil rights movement was a huge one for me, too, and still is. 

"Ancient pyramids alongside modern residences 
in Tenerife, Canary Islands."

Kay: Feminism was fun, I thought, and of course it needed leaders but, once again, I had been raised to believe in sexual equality as well. I was told I could do and become whatever I wanted, that I was as good as any man, or any woman. I wish I had felt that a little bit more when I found myself in Junior High at the age of 10. I believed it, but just couldn’t believe it, except in areas in which I excelled (such as poetry).

Because of being ahead of myself in school, I didn’t become a hippy, because my friends were two or three years older. I went through a beatnik phase for a while, but didn’t look good in black, although I enjoyed that era because of the poetry and music.

The next big movement, to me, was and is the environmental movement. I am, like you, Sherry, a serious tree-hugger, and want to save everything: from polar bears, whales and baby seals in Canada, to penguins in the Galapagos, and pandas in China.

P.U.: Ultimately, this is the most crucial "movement" of all, if we are to survive as a species, and a planet. Do you have a favourite poem we can include here?

Kay: I think I’ve talked too much to allow for the inclusion of a poem,  especially Kipling’s Ballad of East and West, but I can include a link to my favourite somewhat-shorter poem, this one, by don marquis:

P.U.: I actually meant a favourite poem written by you.

Kay: Okay, here's one I wrote when I was 16, about the top of our hill.  

By Kay Davies

poets speak
of birds
and trees
and flowers
when Spring comes.
not I —
I love
a rock,
new warmed
by mountain sun.
that in
the night
becomes a
lonely, lost
and windswept cliff.
and then,
at dawn,
the place
where young
Tomorrow is born.

P.U.: I LOVE this poem!!! I love rocks, too, I always have tons of them around. Besides writing, photography and travel, what other things do you enjoy? 

Kay: I enjoy watching TV shows about home renovation (if I had life to live over, I’d be an architect or a carpenter), reading mystery books, and thinking about gardening. I can’t enjoy real gardening, because I’m too busy sleeping.

P.U.: Cackle. Me too, any more! Of all the places you have traveled, which did you find the most beautiful? Will you visit there again?

"Saint Petersburg, Russia, a city of many contrasts"

Kay: As a couple, we talk about returning to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, but that’s just pie in the sky. We will probably return to Hawaii. That might sound like a very pedestrian answer, but neither of us visited Hawaii until a few short years ago, and we were stunned by its beauty, especially in the face of its overwhelming tourist industry. For myself, I want to return to Scotland. I was there in 1996 with my parents and siblings, and the land called to me in a way I can only describe as “ancestral memory” upon which science is as yet undecided.

P.U.: I completely believe in ancestral memory! What place on the planet says “Home” to you in a way no other place does? 

Kay: Ah, there, I seem to have answered that question already, with the strong pull Scotland exerts upon me, but I guess, if I have to think “where is home?” it would be White Rock. We moved there, as a family, the day after I graduated from high school in Kelowna, but I remember it from my childhood. My grandparents had a summer place, which eventually became their permanent home, near Crescent Beach. The smell of fish, chips and the ocean on a hot summer day smells like home.

(I blatantly stole this photo right off Kay's blog, because Lindy is 
so beautiful,  I couldnt help myself.)

P.U.: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the members of Poets United?

Kay: Hello, Poets United, it seems rather strange that you should meet me before I meet you, but that sometimes happens in cyberspace, doesn’t it? I shall have to make a point of visiting your site, so I can get to know some of you besides Sherry, with whom I went to different schools together. (Grammatically awkward, I know, but really the only way to put it.) K.

Thanks, Kay, for a fun interview with lots of great photos. I wish we had met Back In the Day, you are such a hoot. Wasn't this fun, kids? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. I do envy your travels Kay ~ It's been a pleasure to know you more and enjoy your pictures as well as those of your hubby ~ Your Lindy is a beauty ~ Take care dear ~

    1. I forgot to say, Sherry, thank you for the lovely interview ~

    2. Thanks, Grace, and also Sherry for the lovely interview!

  2. Sherry, good interview. Kay, I think you know more of us from Poets United than you might realize. Hope to see you for our wonderful prompts on Wednesday and Poetry Pantry (Open Link) on Sunday as well. I enjoyed reading about your is wonderful seeing other parts of the world, isn't it? And Lindy sure is a sweetheart!!

    1. Thanks, Mary. Yes, it's wonderful seeing other parts of the world, but I'm beginning to feel guilty about fossil fuels used in air and sea travel. Lots to think about.
      Thank you, Lindy is a sweetheart indeed. She just lay down on her window seat and is pouting because her daddy has been gone several hours. Such a daddy's girl. He spoils her.

  3. Such a wonderful interview Sherry and Kay! Kay is just adorable! I never miss her travels all over. What normally attracts me are the classic pics posted. And these are places that one sees in brochures but one never gets to go. Kay is there to let me experience them, I would normally say! Your high school pose is so wonderfully cute, Ma'am! Thank you both!


  4. Great interview you two! I enjoy Kay the poet .. and certainly enjoyed learning more about Kay the person!

    1. Thanks, Helen. Wow, Mary is right, I do know a lot of you here at Poets United. This is great.

  5. What a treat! Thank you ladies for working together to give us a better understanding of the wonders of Kay. This was a really nice break from wrapping and packing!

    1. Thank you for taking time from your wrapping and packing, Kim. I know how it is. And thank you for the charming phrase "the wonders of Kay" — now I have to try to live up to it!

  6. Sherry and Kay, enjoyed this interview! Kay, I always enjoy visiting you at your blog! Nice to learn more about you. Your brothers comment (“Oh, poor Mom. Can’t she do anything?” ) still makes me laugh!

    1. Thanks, Robyn. My brother's comment still makes me laugh, too. I sure miss Mom and Dad, and I know my brothers and sister do, too, but especially the young one.

  7. Kay you are always so fun and brighten my world, with your generous spirit and humor! :D
    I love this interview-you both did a wonderful job!

    I enjoyed learning more about Kay!
    Lindy is so lucky

    1. Thanks, Ella, you always brighten my world, too.

  8. Kay, I enjoyed your 'Rock Poem'. Great interview Sherry.
    How nice to see two such beautiful flowers.


  9. I love your travel posts as I have pretty much only traveled a bit in the U.S.A. Lovely interview and loved the "Poor Mom" memory.

    1. Thanks, Margaret. We're now talking about doing more traveling in the US and Canada by car, and, when possible, with Lindy. I also love the "poor Mom" memory. My young brother is a very empathetic person but, as I said, also pragmatic.

  10. How wonderful to see one of our very own toads feature at PU. This was so entertaining and enlightening to read. Thanks to both Sherry and Kay, our Canadian gals!

    1. How wonderful to be here, Kerry. I am, of course, madly curious about your use of the word "enlightening"!

  11. I have a;ways loved your poetry Kay and so nice to have known you more here now!The rock poem really rocked!!

    1. Thank you so much, Akila. I'm so glad you enjoyed my rock poem. It's 50 years old, but I can still remember climbing up the hill to that big rock, to sit there overlooking the valley and the lake.

  12. Kay, I'm a faithful follower as well, and a fellow Toad now! Your self-deprecating blog title and subtitle always make me laugh.

    The poem had an interesting form, like those old Chinese lanterns, you know? And the idea of a stone actually going through those seasonal changes, then warming by day and cooling at night, was inspired.

    You have a great marriage, an interesting blog... and a champion in Sherry. What I wouldn't give to be a "fly on the wall" when you two finally get together!!

    Kay, thanks for talking about how poetry made you stand out. For me, it was singing that gave me confidence; otherwise, I would have gone through those years unnoticed...

    Sherry, as always, a great job. Feel like I know Kay so much better... and Lindy, thanks for including that photo of a gorgeous dog who is always in our prayers. Peace, Amy

    1. Thanks, Amy. To tell the truth, I have never seen my rock poem centered that way. I wrote it flush left, and have always copied it the same way. It's interesting to see it done in a Chinese lantern formation. The "rock" was actually a stone cliff where I liked to sit. It faced east, so got the morning sun.
      I envy your ability to sing, Amy. I remember the grade 6 music teacher getting so frustrated with me because I couldn't tell one note from another. When my slightly-younger brother was playing trumpet with Dad, I wanted to learn an instrument. Dad said, as nicely as he could, that he would teach me to listen.

  13. Kay so nice to meet you and hear about your travels through time. Gosh who needed a time machine when you think of the changes and revolutions in our world in such a small period of time.
    Lindy is a beauty!!!


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