Love In A Warn Climate

 

Love in a Warm Climate can be purchased
from the author for $16, plus shipping and handling.

 

 

  First Writes

 

First Writes can be purchased through The Banff Centre Press http://www.banffcentre.ca/press/order/

writing

 

I experience a perpetual struggle with finding the time and energy for both writing and art. But even before I started writing, around '87/'88, I had a pattern in terms of my art-making: periods of intense production were followed by sometimes as long as a year or two of fallow ‘gathering,’ particularly after I’d exhibited a group of work. I call it the pelican theory because, whenever I tried to explain or justify this mix of the productive and non, I’d picture those big birds (ungainly on land but beautiful fliers). Like the undulating flight of pelicans, creativity goes somewhere but not in a straight line. Input is required for output and output empties the well and therefore like any vacuum, attracts more input.


Then there’s the theory of ten years or 10,000 hours, the time it takes to learn to do something well. For that first decade of writing, I didn’t make a lot of art. I was able to juggle writing and illustration, but maybe that’s because illustration felt like a necessary task (and came with a deadline) and didn’t require quite the same ‘dream’ time and noodle-ing around which art-making requires. In late ’96, while in Ecuador for an indeterminate period and with plans to flesh out a jungle-based novel, I came up dry. Words failed me. I fell back into art as into a welcoming embrace. After I returned to Toronto, I showed that work, a series of painterly collages, (the Torsos).


And there’s the fact that a longer manuscript requires that you carry around, in your head, another world. It isn’t a finished or fully formed world, but vague and cloudy with areas of only erratic illumination. At any given time, parts of it are brewing or swelling (Janette Turner Hospital likens it to a big ball of yeasty bread—it’s a great analogy because sometimes you have to punch it down.) I wonder if the difference is that when painting, I need to turn my brain off and enter a kind of drift state but at the same time have a lot of physical control; I concentrate on what my hand is doing. The looking, and the co-ordination between looking and doing, is acute. In writing, that concentration shifts to another part of the brain. I’m on the periphery of that world, observing and describing what’s going on inside it. Another kind of looking.


At any rate, during the writing of a book-length manuscript, I tend to make less art. You could say then, that my career as a painter and collage artist has been interrupted at times by long stints when I was writing. It sounds like a kind of justification and in a way it is: I don’t show that often; my work isn’t published that often. But I’m involved in art or writing all the time.


My collection of short stories Love in a Warm Climate was published in 1998 by The Porcupine’s Quill. That book was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize '99, (Canadian Caribbean Region; First Book Category). I co-edited First Writes, a collection of essays published in 2003 by Banff Press. Essays and poems of mine have been published in the following journals: Room of One's Own, Grain, subTERRAIN, Blood & Aphorisms, PRISMinternational, the Ottawa Citizen, Descant, the Queen’s Quarterly and Pottersfield Portfolio.

 

I am currently at work on a collection of essays, poems and images about art, as well as a novel Dreaming of Tom Thomson, which, as the title suggests, is about artists. I always say that middle age is about integration and I think that my writing is dovetailing with my increasing focus on visual art.


In 2009, in conjunction with Gillian McIntyre at the Art Gallery of Ontario, I coordinated a project which resulted in a wonderful reading on Sept 29th: “Ekphrasis at the AGO.” In Ekphrasis, one art form comments on another. Eight poets selected works in the permanent collection and wrote poems about them. Audio recordings from the event can be accessed through the AGO’s on-line newsletter ART MATTERSBLOG. Here’s mine:


http://artmatters.ca/wp/2010/04/kelley-aitken-on-kathe-kollwitz-audio/


A selection of those poems with a short introduction by me will appear in a special Ekphrasis issue of ARC Poetry Magazine in late 2010. A second “Ekphrasis at the AGO” is scheduled for Sunday, September 26th, 2010 and will include dancers, musicians and playwrights as well as poets.