Friday, April 26, 2019

I Wish I'd Written This

Tofino, British Columbia, Canada from Pina Bausch Foundation on Vimeo.
[Thérèse Bouchard, Elisabeth Smith, Jan Janzen, Janice Lore, Richenda Pease, Joanna Streetly and Schooner the Dog]

There are always cool things going on in Tofino.  This group of wonderfully creative folk includes the local poet we are featuring today, Janice Lore, who is fourth in line in the video. Last person in line is our Poet Laureate, Joanna Streetly, who we have featured before, followed by her wonderful dog, Schooner. When I asked Janice if I might feature her and the following poems, I remembered this video and asked if we might include it, as I knew you'd love it. Now let's meet Janice, and check out her poem about the wild women of Chesterman Beach. 

Janice Lore

                             Wild Women of Chesterman Beach

                        All day the wild women
      gale over the tombolo
whipping wind around the point.
           The tide surges from either side
                    draws back    rears    
     charges in once more.

        the crones tend the Lennard Island light:
          moan like the fog horn,
    turn the beacon to darkest fears—
     —turning—returning—   every ten seconds
    through the long night’s howl.

      Tattered garments rise up around beach fires.
           Smoke streaks along the black ghost of forest.
                A descant wails above the wild water’s thunder.

*                *                *

If I were to disappear tonight
                                     into this roiling silence,
                   you would find me
  rocked in their arms,
        crooned secrets filling my lungs
                   like seawater.

*                *                *

Sherry: Well, you can see why I love this poem! Janice Lore is a member of the Clayoquot Writers Group, and is very active in the arts community. I asked her how she enjoys being one of the wild women she writes about.

Janice: I never think of myself as one of the wild women who live here, although I aspire to be one! The wild women I have come to know here are important role models for me. They show me ways to be in the world that make sense to me, in a world that often does not seem to make sense, and I count myself fortunate to be in their company.

Where did I grow up?  I grew up on a farm just north of Calgary, Alberta, and then lived for almost 20 years in that city. In 1994 I moved to Tofino.

What place says "home" to me? The prairie I know, as one can only know a landscape one has explored since childhood. There is always the feeling of coming home when I emerge from the mountains out onto the open plains. I love the spectacular landscape of the west coast and I crave its world of green and water when I am not here. But in some ways I still feel a stranger, here in the rainforest, beside the ocean, even after 25 years.

There are other ways a place whispers “home,” though. The west coast, Tofino, is where I have found my tribe, my pack, my wild women. It is here, in this community of artists, that my artist’s heart has finally found home.

Sherry: That creative community is a large part of the magic of Tofino! Let's enjoy another of your poems, Janice, and immerse ourselves in the beat of the wild, wild waves.

The Winter Work of the Sea              

Valentine’s Day.   There is enough light now
           we don’t have to walk the beach in darkness,
                        stumbling on great coiled serpents of bull kelp.

                            Enough light   we can catch sight of
      the crepuscular crows
         their dark silent murders
swarming for the rookery on Lennard Island.

Enough light   we don’t need to splash blindly,
    can pick our way instead
           through the red rivulets that course down the beach
                                              from the cedar forest.

                    Enough light   we can discern
         the winter work of the sea,
how it hauls away the sand it delivered last summer,
          in the process
               excavating old car chassis tumbled and buried by the surf,
                    revealing nubs of posts pounded in during the war
         to prevent the enemy from landing on the beach.

Enough light to illuminate what we could not see:
         The reason for our stumbling,
                the form of the darkness passing over us,
                        the nature of what we have waded through,
                                 what has been exposed by the storms of winter.

                                 We have prayed for this returning light
                            for a whole shoreless season —
                  never certain light will come again,
         never certain we will have the courage
to face it
when it does.

                                                    *                    *                   *

Sherry: Wow. Those closing lines are so powerful! When did you begin writing poetry, Janice?

Janice: I began writing poetry as soon as I could write. I was probably composing verse before that, I don’t remember. I was certainly known in my family for word play (intentional or otherwise) from a very young age. My father loved poetry, and used to recite it to us on special occasions or when something brought a poem to mind. In fact, his wake-up call to us when we were children was A. E. Housman’s Reveille:

Up, lad, up, t’is late for lying.
Sunlit pallets never thrive.
Morns abed and daylight slumber
Were not meant for man alive.

His love of poetry stimulated mine.

I love words. I love the sounds and rhythms of poetry. I love the ability of poetry to speak of ideas and emotions I can’t otherwise articulate.

As a child I wrote plays and directed and performed in them (I am sure they were awful!) but in my teenage years I set aside my love of drama, and didn’t return to it until middle age. Something made me want explore what dramatic expression could add to a poem. 

Janice as Amelia Earhart 
In her performance poem "Amelia"
Photo by Eileen Floody

Several members of my writers’ group were also interested in exploring this, and that exploration led to the performance poetry group “Performance Anxiety” and several public performances. I think I love performance poetry because it builds on my excitement about interdisciplinary work – taking work in one medium and seeing what possibilities open up as it is transformed into another medium.

The "Wild Women of Chesterman Beach" poem
~ one of Janice's handmade books.

In the last few years I have been making handmade books, as beautiful things in their own right, and as a medium for my poetry. It has been interesting to work with my hands, when so much of my creative work has been in my head. And exciting to try to transform poems into a physical object, a book, which illuminates the poem. There’s that interdisciplinary excitement again! 

I am currently working on an exhibition of my handmade books, which I hope will open this coming fall here in Tofino. I have incorporated original artwork, created by local and other artists, in some of the books and that artwork will be part of the exhibit. I hope to have an evening of performance poetry as well. 

Sherry: That sounds wonderful, Janice! I'll be there!

Janice's poem on a surfboard
For the Tofino Boardwalk,
An event sponsored by Tofino Arts Council

Janice: Over the years I have written stories and poetry, and a radio play which was performed live at CBC Calgary (At 7 am! The actors complained bitterly about how the early hour was affecting their voices!) Some of my stories and poems have been published in literary journals and anthologies, as well as in the local and much beloved Sound Magazine and Tofino Time. 

Several years ago the Clayoquot Writers Group published a serial story in Tofino Time, each chapter written by a different member. In 2003 my long poem Ipsissima Verba, was published as a chapbook by Leaf Press in Lantzville BC. To launch the chapbook, I turned the poem into a stage play with four characters – the Dictionary, the Philosopher, the Mathematician and the Muse – to highlight the interplay of voices in the poem. I think this was my first foray into performance poetry.

Sherry: It sounds amazing! You are talented in so many areas, Janice. Thank you so much, for allowing me to introduce you to Poets United. We have enjoyed every minute.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors


  1. Janice, thank you for this lovely opportunity to introduce you to Poets United. I love your poems, and can't watch that video often enough. It makes me so happy! I know our members will love it.

  2. Thank you so much Sherry, for introducing me to Janice's wwor, and Janice, for sharing it with us. I love poetry about the sea and am drawn to wild women! 😊

  3. Wonderful post, Sherry. I can't wait to see Janice's handmade book exhibit in the fall xxJoanna

  4. Thanks, Joanna. That video knocks me out, with Schooner wandering along with you.

  5. Thank you Sherry for sharing Janice's poetry and her unique talents. I can understand even better now, the pull that Tofino has on you. There are other wild women there. You are truly home.

  6. Yes, I am, Myrna! More than the beauty, the village of creative beings who are drawn to this place make life grand! Thanks for knowing me so well.

  7. Thanks so much Sherry, for sharing these poems by Janice, and for the details about her life and her work. And I loved the video of these talented people....true performance art, and Schooner the dog was the icing on the cake!

  8. Absolutely stellar feature Sherry & Janice!!!

  9. I LOVE Schooner ambling along with them!!! Thanks, friends, so happy you enjoyed it.

  10. Wonderful words and so much fun to see the performance video again. We were blessed to have a perfect magical evening.

  11. It's the coolest video ever! I love Tofino!

  12. Janice, thank you for letting us see these terrific poems. I loved hearing about your father, as I too had one like that , always quoting poetry and reading it to us when we were little.

    Sherry, I am so glad to know you have whole tribe of wild women in Portofino! Was that Paneurhythmy they were doing in the video? It looked very like, but some of the movements seemed to differ slightly from what the Goddess circle here does.

    1. I'm not sure, Rosemary. Very cool, to think of your tribe of Goddesses. I always wish I was there when you talk about your gatherings. When I lived here before, there were many witches. Not many any more. I miss them.

    2. I'm sure it is paneurhythmy. I do recall now being told there are a great number gestures, and our group had selected only a particular few to use. It may well be the same with other groups, with the Tofino women having selected a different but overlapping set.
      The Goddess circle here does include a few witches, but also women of other spiritual paths – Christians, Buddhists, Krishna devotees, 'New Age' thinkers, the list goes on....

  13. Janice, I really enjoyed meeting you, reading about what inspires you, your poetic journey, and your plans for the future. It sounds as if you, like Sherry, have found YOUR place in Tofino. And, Sherry, I definitely see why you chose this poem about the 'wild women.' Smiles. I also liked contemplating the 'winter work of the sea.' Indeed it hauls away the sand it brought the last summer, but, of course, it will return always does. I am sure the handmade books are wonderful. And, good luck on your fall exhibition.

    Thank you both for this wonderful feature!

  14. Thanks, Mary. So happy you enjoyed it.

  15. Absolutely two stunning pieces of glad I stopped in and met Janice and was introduced to her did an excellent job Sherry as always with your interview...blessings...bkm

  16. Wonderful poetry - and what a splendiferous video. What a fascinating life you lead, Janice. I love your remark:

    'The wild women I have come to know here are important role models for me. They show me ways to be in the world that make sense to me …'

    That is the quality that I have always found to be the most compelling in those people I want near me - and you have put it so well, here.

    An awesome share, Sherry. Thanks so much for this, Poets!

  17. Just loved that poem on the surfboard! The artwork is simply gorgeous.
    great to learn about the group.

  18. Hi kids. Janice has been back to read all of your comments and appreciates them. She wasnt able to leave a comment, so she asked me to post her response here.


    I am very unversed in how to respond to things on the internet. i wanted to respond to a couple of comments on the Poets United Blog, but can't seem to figure it out!

    Someone was wondering what we were doing in the video. It is a dance by German Choreographer Pina Bausch called the Nelken LIne (Nelken means "carnations" in German). Personally, I call it The Four Seasons, as each of the four hand movements we are doing represents a season. Interesting that it has some resonance with paneurythmy, which I will check out. The music is "West End Blues", by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five. Bausch's foundation invited people from all over the world to dance the Nelken Line and submit videos of their dance. They are posted on the Pina Bausch Foundation website. Really uplifting to spend a little time there, watching people from all over the world dancing the Nelken Line!

    Also, someone else commented on the artwork on the surfboard. It was done by Joanna Streetly, a walk through the forest down to the beach, to the surf!

    Would you mind either posting these replies or giving me a little tutorial so that I am able to respond myself?

    Thanks, Sherry!

  19. Thanks so much, Janice. How interesting this is. I didn't know the background and find it fascinating. How cool.


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