Excerpt of book cover, "jumping in the asylum" (Quattro Books)
Over the course of about a quarter of a century Lorca's influence has slowly seeped into my writing, the root of his work, in earth, sensual and leaping illogically between images; like "rain fell like green tambourines". And his gorgeous incantatory style in many poems. I'm not sure this influence can be readily seen, though, because the process has been slow enough to be absorbed rather than imposed.
Anyway, poems of a certain nature began to accumulate. I didn't think of them as a manuscript, but as strays. Increasingly, though, these strays had their way with the other poems on the same pile, and after a few years I saw them coming together.
What brought them all together, I think, was a photograph of Nijinsky, in his middle age, living in an asylum, jumping into the air, frozen by the camera in a balletic pose. He had had visitors from the world of ballet; these dancers had done some steps for him as they visited. Suddenly he leapt up, his shadow caught on the wall behind him. Which was the real Nijinsky?
And I wondered about body memory, how it remembers through aging, through illness, what it has always known. Perhaps the way, two or three years ago when I purchased my first bike in many decades, my body immediately knew what it was doing on this bicycle. And, in knowing, it propelled me back to my pre-teen existence, an existence I sometimes doubt. I sped along a country road, past the field of daffodils, heading for Sidney, knowing I had been that boy.
Of course the body dies eventually, and perhaps that disproves the memory. All memory. And the guitar note that bent around me in the Railway Club five or six years ago finally disappears. But today, now, I have this book in my hand. Nijinsky is jumping on the cover.
The book is called jumping in the asylum. And I'm returning to my home, Winnipeg, where I first read Lorca, where I first became fascinated by Nijinsky, and I'm going to read from this book. Like walking from room to room in Memory Hotel.
A former resident of Winnipeg, Patrick Friesen now lives on Vancouver Island. He has published more than a dozen books of poetry and a book of essays. A Broken Bowl (1997) was short-listed for the Governor General's Award, and Blasphemer's Wheel won the Manitoba Book Award. He has also written several stage and radio plays, text for dance, and recorded two CDs of spoken word and improv music with Marilyn Lerner. - Quattro Books
Patrick Friesen (Marijke Friesen)
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