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The Filled Pen

The Filled Pen: Selected Non-Fiction of P.K. Page

P.K. Page
Edited by Zailig Pollock
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The Filled Pen
    Book Description:

    The essays, which cover a period of approximately forty years, reflect Page's enduring concerns as a verbal and visual artist with the power of art and the imagination to transcend the barriers that limit our perceptions of the world and our sympathies with our fellow human beings.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5738-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Author’s Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    P.K. Page

    I see myself primarily as a poet. This is perhaps because of all literary forms poetry is nearest to my heart. But in actual word count I have written much more prose. A youthful novel, short stories, travel writing – published and unpublished – plays, a libretto, children’s books. Also I have spent many hours drawing and painting. My muse is restless. It seems to need new forms.

    The prose in this book was written between 1969 and 2005. It was almost all solicited. The exceptions are ‘Afterword toA Flask of Sea Water,’ ‘Fairy Tales, Folk Tales: The Language of the...

  5. Editor’s Introduction
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Zailig Pollock

    In her essay on Lucy Maud Montgomery’sEmily’s Quest, P.K. Page, as if throwing down the gauntlet to prospective commentators on her own work, says, ‘As a writer myself, I find irritating the belittling of the creative imagination implicit in the belief that all fiction is autobiographical.’ She then continues, ‘Yet in this case …,’¹ and proceeds to explore, with all the respect due to a fellow artist, the interweaving of life and art in Montgomery’s work. It is impossible to read the essays collected inThe Filled Penwithout becoming aware of a similar interweaving in Page’s own writings....

  6. A Writer’s Life
    (pp. 3-22)

    Although I have been writing since I was a child, it is only within the last year or so that I have owned to the title of writer. It was the day the surveyor for the city directory came to the door. To her inquiry as to my profession, I said, ‘Housewife.’ ‘Why didn’t you say you were a writer?’ my husband asked. ‘Well, you know how doubtful I feel about my own work. It makes me uneasy claiming to be a writer.’ He gave me a sharp look and said, ‘She didn’t ask you to say you were a...

  7. Safe at Home
    (pp. 23-28)

    Home. A mutable word as I now know. But when I was a child it meant only one thing: being with my parents. In a bungalow in Calgary during bitter winters, logs burning in the hearth. Under canvas in a bell tent on the prairie, where I tethered my horse to a stake, crocuses already pushing up through late snow. In a bare Winnipeg military barracks that smelled of shoe polish andBrasso. Or exploring the magical drawers of cabinets that housed collections of birds’ eggs too fragile to touch (all neatly catalogued and arranged by unknown uncles) and shells...

  8. Falling in Love with Poetry
    (pp. 29-31)

    I fell in love with poetry before I knew what poetry was. I loved the rhythms and the rhymes. My parents read it to me before I read it to myself. They read me nursery rhymes of course, but my mother had an actor’s memory and she knew reams of Shakespeare and Tennyson and Blake. I heard them all when I was a child. I wonder if my parents knew instinctively what respected psychiatrists are suggesting today – that in order to develop the full powers of the mind, early exposure to metered verse is essential. Some go even further and...

  9. Had I Not Been a Writer, What Would I Have Been?
    (pp. 32-34)

    Would? Or could?

    I probablycouldhave been some kind of a gymnast or acrobat because of the way I was glued together – very loosely at the hinges. The additional requirements for success, however, such as dedication, discipline, and desire, were in short supply. The only use to which I put my ability to do the splits, high kicks, sudden controlled falls and a contorted and impossibly sinuous climb over and through a horizontally held broomstick, was to show off at parties.

    I might also have been a botanical or medical illustrator, had I followed my love for a fine...

  10. Questions and Images
    (pp. 35-42)

    The last ten years span three distinct places – and phases – in my life: Brazil, Mexico, Canada, in that order. All countries of the new world.

    Brazil pelted me with images. Marmosets in the flowering jungle; bands of multi-coloured birds moving among the branches of the kapok tree outside the bedroom verandah; orchids in the kapok tree, cucumbers in the kapok tree, the whole tree bursting into cotton candy. Flamboyantes in flaming flower against the sky as one lay on one’s back in the swimming pool. Doric palms waving green plumage, growing antlers and beads. Cerise dragon flies. Butterflies as large...

  11. Traveller, Conjuror, Journeyman
    (pp. 43-47)

    Connections and correspondences between writing and painting ...

    The idea diminishes to a dimensionless point in my absolute centre. If I can hold it steady long enough, the feeling which is associated with that point grows and fills a larger area as perfume permeates a room. It is from here that I write – held within that luminous circle, that locus which is at the same time a focussing glass, the surface of a drum.

    As long as the tension (at/tention?) is sustained the work continues ... more or less acute.

    What is art anyway? What am I trying to do?...

  12. Afterword to A Flask of Sea Water
    (pp. 48-50)

    All my life, I have loved fairy tales. When small, I was lucky enough to have them read to me by parents who loved them too. That was many years before conventional wisdom decreed that they were bad for children – that they were frightening or sad or full of two and three syllable words.

    As I grow older I read them less literally and respond to them more deeply. They are tales of hope. They show me unexpected things about myself and the world. They are rich in reminders about perseverance and kindliness. Even more important, they persuade me that...

  13. Fairy Tales, Folk Tales: The Language of the Imagination
    (pp. 51-57)

    The fairy tale or folk tale has come a long way. In one form or another, it has been with us since speech began. In the days – or should I say nights? – before oil lamps, when work stopped with the light, story telling filled the hours before bed for all members of the family.

    In the Middle East, since the time of the Silk Route, stories have been a staple ofchaikanasandcaravanserai. But in the West, with the dawn of the Age of Reason, such tales were considered beneath the attention of serious adults and so, like naughty...

  14. Foreword to Hologram
    (pp. 58-61)

    I was introduced to theglosathrough the ear. Its form, half hidden, powerfully sensed, like an iceberg at night, made me search for its outline as I listened. The eye, of course, sees it at a glance: the opening quatrain written by another poet; followed by four ten-line stanzas, their concluding lines taken consecutively from the quatrain; their sixth and ninth lines rhyming with the borrowed tenth. Used by the poets of the Spanish court, the form dates back to the late 14th and early 15th century. It has not been popular in English.

    For some reason I found...

  15. The Sense of Angels: Reflections on A.M. Klein
    (pp. 62-68)

    Imperial palms, their trunks floodlit, their feathered tops lost in the night sky, could have been free-standing Tuscan pillars. Two rows flanked the courtyard in which an artificial pool, square-cut, flashing darks and lights, reflected fountains and swans. Behind the palms, floodlit too, the pale colonial facades of Itamarity, home of the Brazilian foreign office. Around the pool a studied pattern of small tables, their covers arterial red against the grass. The night air was hot, moist, palpable, rank with the smell of decaying vegetation, sweet with perfume. On the verges of the pool, in groups, and between the tables,...

  16. Notes on Re-reading George Johnston
    (pp. 69-76)

    So begins George Johnston’s poem ‘To Bob McRae on Reading His Book,Leibniz: Perception, Apperception & Thought.’

    I feel the same way aboutTaking a Grip, the book in which the above extract appears. And because I could not have written those three-stress lines or caught their solemn, teasing tone, I borrow them, not knowing how else to pay so unmawkish a compliment to a writer I admire so greatly.

    Bob McRae is the poet’s brother-in-law and, since Johnston has abandoned his imaginary beings – Mrs. Murple, Mrs. McGonigle, Aunt Belleek, Miss Knit,et al.– he is at his...

  17. Afterword to The Innocent Traveller
    (pp. 77-81)

    Twenty three years after the publication ofThe Innocent Traveller, in a characteristically modest letter to John Gray, her publisher, Ethel Wilson wrote: ‘... It is well written, I like it ... I value it ...’

    How different from her doubts in November of 1944 when she first submitted the manuscript to the Macmillan Company:

    Dear Sir – I shall venture to send you a few stories, three of which appeared in the New Statesman and Nation, the fourth in the Canadian Forum, the others not at all ... I send these, not with expectations of acceptance, but with plain humility,...

  18. Afterword to Emily’s Quest
    (pp. 82-86)

    I wish I had been old enough to readEmily’s Questin 1927 when it was first published; or – failing that – that I had read it in my early teens. Coming to it as an adult, I can see it only as a period piece – a charming period piece, mind you – but a period piece, nonetheless.

    I try to imagine what my responses would have been had I read it earlier. Unquestionably, I would have identified with Emily’s wish to write. But because I had two older friends who were reporters on the local paper, it would not have occurred...

  19. Afterword to Nights below Station Street
    (pp. 87-91)

    Families. A book about families. No lengthy saga, taking you through generations, but an account of one family, a small one at that, set in one time period, which, by the legerdemain of David Adams Richards, becomes the story of many families. All families. And timeless. Or such is the way I see the Walshes – Joe and Rita and their two children, Adele and Milly. Completely different from my family, and completely different from yours – for what two families can possibly be the same? Nevertheless ... I wonder. There must be a common denominator that makes them so recognizable.


  20. Darkinbad the Brightdayler: The Work of Pat Martin Bates
    (pp. 92-97)

    The circles began in the early sixties. White circles on white – the colour of fresh snow, common salt, swan’s plumage, milk or cream; black circles on black – the colour of night, of soot, of coal or tar; silver circles casting a lunar glow; white circles on black, black circles on white – spinning, dislimning ‘as water is in water’; still. Symbolic of All, of One, of Nothing. Enigmatic, paradoxical. The Whole and the Hole. An enclosure for concentrating energy. The Wheel of the Seasons, the Dial of the Hours. The Cosmic Clock where Past and Future are one.

    ‘Circles are the...

  21. The World of Maxwell Bates
    (pp. 98-100)

    When first I visited Maxwell Bates’ studio in Victoria it occurred to me that if some all-powerful ruler decreed artists could inhabit only the worlds they had themselves created, then Bates had equipped himself well. For his world contains landscapes complete with trees, lakes, flowers and rivers; cities with street lamps, shops, houses; houses with furniture, cutlery, plants, toys, pets – even abstract paintings for the walls! And a cavalcade of people: kings, queens, clowns, children, socialites, politicians, poets, lance-corporals, labourers; characters lumpish and asleep as Beckett’s Hamm and Clov; hierophants and magicians evocative and mystifying as the figures of the...

  22. Max and My Mother
    (pp. 101-108)

    Maxwell Bates must have been about thirteen when our paths first crossed, for I cannot have been more than three or four, and there were ten years between us. I have no memory of him from that time except as part of a larger memory – the house in which he lived, the garden in which he played and the family in which he was the first-born.

    Max’s father, an architect in Calgary, was ‘Uncle Bill’ to me, as his mother was ‘Auntie May.’ In addition, to my brother – yet unborn – they were to be god-parents. (It was ‘Auntie May’ who...

  23. Review of The Company of Strangers
    (pp. 109-112)

    Nothing prepared me forThe Company of Strangers.Here, in Victoria, news reports rather than reviews preceded its opening. We were told it was the most popular film at the Vancouver Film Festival. But what does that say? It might even be reason enough to stay away.

    I went because I was curious. I had known a Constance Garneau – slightly – in Montreal in the forties and had read two books by Mary Meigs. To the best of my knowledge neither of them acted. There could, of course, be two Constance Garneaus but surely it was beyond probability that there were...

  24. Textual Notes
    (pp. 113-122)
  25. Index
    (pp. 123-131)