I'm a writer and visual artist in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

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Re: Rereading

Rereading a flurry of journal entries I wrote about a year ago, just before leaving Halifax. A patchwork collection of missives to myself, some typed, some handwritten, full of tiny details from a time when nothing was really happening. It was the start of summer, though, and everything seemed significant; I pulled details from poems or from coffeeshop observations, and applied every finding to myself, reading too much into everything. Each entry is a little prism of detail that has served its purpose, like a cancelled postage stamp.

What do you do with old journal entries? I wrote many of them as I was preparing to move, during which I dusted off and organized ten years of old journals. I stacked them in order, labelling each notebook with the start and end dates and where it was written. The oldest are thin exercise books in barely-visible pencil, which gradually evolve into hefty art-school scrapbooks thick with spilled ink and loose drawings. Since then my journalling has mostly migrated online, with a few pocket notebooks full of ponderings from Montreal and Halifax.

I sometimes imagine there is a book of poems buried in there somewhere, as if I have already done most of the writing and only have to excavate it, brushing off the excess. At other times this strategy feels shortsighted and sentimental, and I resolve to make new things instead of indulging in self-archaeology. But then what are the journals for?

From one year ago today, just before moving back to Newfoundland:

“I think in Corner Brook I will work on writing. Corner Brook is conducive to writing; it is full of memory for me, and people there are such storytellers. Something about the accent, too, brings writing out. The place in the voice. Recording overheard conversations on paper, a kind of photography of language. I still feel guilty about living in the house that John Steffler used to own, two years ago, and hardly writing a word while I lived there. I really felt for a while that writing was something I had to let go of to grow in other ways. Have been going through my walking notebook and research notes for Interchange, November 2007, and am starting to see it now as a work in itself. Scanned all eighty or so pages and sent them to B. to see what he thinks. Maybe presentable as-is, handwritten pages with scribbles, with footnotes and photos and maps from the same month, a sort of dossier.”

I have been back in Corner Brook for ten months now and this is the first writing I’ve done. So it’s been a slow start, but we’ll see where this blog goes. I suppose this is one good use for old journal entries, as seeds for blog posts. But what do you do with old blog posts?

I’ll post some of those walking notebook pages soon.

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