Karen Rivers


Karen Rivers

I am working.  

Which is to say, I am doing work in addition to the work of writing, rewriting, revising and revamping.  I am writing a course for grade 12 students.  It was originally written by a man who, as it turns out, was my first writing professor at UVic.  

He had a dandruff-flecked beard and looked unwashed and scornful.

This man used to light our poems on fire and put them in the garbage.   He once placed one of my poems (crumpled crudely) into his mouth, chewed it up, and spat it out.  He read our poems out loud with great dismay.  WHAT IS THIS?  he would say.  WHAT IS THIS?  As though he couldn't believe how inept we were.  How hopeless.  How egregious that we would dare to think of the drivel we wrote as an actual poem.

He graded us with negative numbers and allowed us to rewrite until we could at least achieve zero.  

Zero felt like an accomplishment.

And as much as I loved (and still love) poetry, what he taught me was that I should NEVER SHOW MY POEMS TO ANYONE EVER because they were too terrible to continue to exist on this mortal coil.  When I even think about poetry now, a part of me curls up and thins, dries and crumbles.

That isn't really the message I like to send to students.

I think there is something karmic and right in the fact that I am now rewriting his words. 

I am crumpling up his old course, chewing it up, and spitting it with great disdain into the garbage can.

Schools don't really have garbage cans anymore, anyway.

The course is a correspondence course.

I have been thinking about starting a poetry tumblr.   Anonymously, of course.



Yesterday I was at the beach at twilight.  It was cold and mostly deserted.

Well, it wasn't deserted, per se.

There were hundreds of birds.  A crowd.  A murder.  Ominous, ominuous.

And they were crows, mostly (one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy), but also gulls and the odd misfit:  a heron, an eagle, a hawk.   It was surreally beautiful and also eerie.  It made me think of photography and ghosts.  I thought about people screaming and clawing at their hair.  I wondered about the teenagers at the top of the trail, smoking pot, wandering into the scene giggling and panicking.

A handful of people -- elderly dog-walkers mostly -- wandered calmly through the hordes as though there was nothing unusual happening.  A woman in a bright pink jacket jogged to the edge of the sea and stood stock still, amongst the settling flock, for what seemed like ages, ten minutes or an hour.

I just watched.  Speechless.

Even the dog didn't react.  Chasing birds is her favourite thing.

Like everything, I wanted to imbue the scene with meaning: the apocolypse or good luck.  But I couldn't quite reach for what it meant.  Maybe it just meant that whatever the tide brought in on the mucky, stone encrusted sand, was delicious to birds.  

It certainly smelled bad.




I have a novel to revise.  I have an edit letter open on the screen behind this one.  I like edit letters.  Edit letters make me feel like I am moving forward.  And they are usually flattering.  It's cold in my living room and the fire isn't lit, but should be.  Lately I've been worrying about carbon monoxide and whether or not I should go back to school or get a different type of job.  It happens like that, thoughts and jobs and worries come in bunches, like the flurries of snow that passed us by this year.

I find it really strange that there hasn't been any snow.  There may be more meaning in that than in the crows.  Global warming or the End of Days or maybe just a smaller shift in the universe that will move everything one beat to the right, so we are left watching our lives unfold with the sound slightly out of sync, our mouths moving either ahead of our words or behind them.  

The date on this blog post is not the date that it is.  The universe is hiccuping.  What does it all mean?

How have you been?  Are you writing?