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Emily Deming
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Post 6 from Emily Deming, Mallard Cottage’s Writer-in Residence, St. John’s Newfoundland I took last week off from daily work and home-life to be both horribly sick and to celebrate a friend’s fortieth birthday in Montreal. Since I last posted, Newfoundland has had an unprecedented run of sunny weather, a rallying in mass rage at an announced austerity budget (which heavily and regressively taxes the lower income brackets), and a massive four day long provincial liquor store clearance sale. With this backdrop, I was fulfilling the pledge from my previous post to walk to and from work in order to take some time each day to notice all of what I have around me here in St. John’s, and I found two poems. A flick-flick of pink by the lake’s edge caught my attention. We may have had some extra sun, but we certainly don’t have leaves or flowers yet (other than a few crocuses that make us all lose our minds each April). Two poems, each printed on pink cotton fabric squares were clothespinned to bare branches. The last few lines of one did just what a poem should and stuck with me, repeating itself to the cadence of my feet as I walked the rest of the way home. “...that in the waking edge of rage we are still beautiful wild and with a special grace”. The smell of the Mallard Cottage smoker, the feel of the fog on my skin as it settled down the slopes beneath a blue sky, and the alders just soft with fuzz like pussy willows, which I had never seen like that before, did something to my eyes, my mind, the things around me: the gulls above Her Majesty’s (moldy, crumbling, overcrowded) Penitentiary; the razor wire wall between the blue sky and the graveyard; the color palettes of peeling paint around the boathouse docks; a blue buoy in the water. One morning at Mallard Cottage, a serving of their house pickled salted herring, two hours of good writing accomplished, and that anonymous gift of bold pink poems, and everything had meaning. The budget is still ruinous, the best of the liquor clearance has been bought up, and I doubt the sun will be that bold through the fog again for a week, but there is no way to be bored in the world when armed with a drop of poetry. To remind myself of that, I captured a few video clips of the lake water lapping and the wind and gulls. Each ten second scene is a small meditation and a call back to how clear things can look on “... the waking edge of rage” And in honour of our collective crazy spring auge, here is one more poem I “found” this week by a very young poet in Vermont who so beautifully and succintly captured that moment of first crocus sighting after the plow-slush and freeze and driving snow of winter, regardless of how cold the wind remains: A Springtime... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
I definitely like! and am looking forward to more pictures. This reminds me of that wonderful miniseries "Shooting the Past" that aired on PBS years ago (1999?) starring Timothy Spalling as one of a group of oddballs trying to save a photo archive in England. I believe there was a great black and white photograph of a very early bicycle shown in it. Every photo was amazing. I wish they were posted online somewhere to see. I am going to have to track it down and watch it again now. Thanks for the images.
The Pen may be mightier than the sword elsewhere, but, in St. John’s Newfoundland it is just a colloquialism for our dilapidated prison (Her Majesty’s Penitentiary) and paperwork trumps pen, sword and … fork. It came out this past week that Service NL (provincial food licensing and inspection for Newfoundland and Labrador) suggested that Mallard Cottage reclassify itself from “restaurant” to “other” due to it’s “obscure” food practices. These “obscure” methods of food preparation include buying and cutting up whole pigs instead of buying and cutting up pieces of pig, making pickles and curing meats and vegetables. In other words, preparing the food you serve makes you less of a restaurant. There is no threat of actions and no health standards have been violated. This is not big drama. It is small bureaucracy. And it is oh so very “Pigs is Pigs.” This happens as St. John’s city council has received demolition requests for two prized historic buildings. One of which was maliciously neglected to circumvent a weakly written and unenforced agreement with the city to restore the property. That same developer had begun to strip the inside of the other property prior to its demolition order being filed, much less approved. So what. So two rotten old houses may rot and more boxes may need ticking before the weekly pig roast. And all this in a very small city dwarfed by its offshore rigs and its icebergs. So this. Last night was a magically silly fundraiser for a local music festival (Lawnya Vawnya). It was the sixth annual “Fake Prom” and two costumed cover bands rocked the bar while folks from nineteen to well past mid-life danced in crinolines and boutonnieres well past mid-night. I had invited a filmmaker, visiting from Montreal, to come to the event and, as I was pointing out various band members, it hit me how integrated the artistic talent is in the town: “that guy with the nationally touring, award-winning band is a taxi driver; that woman nailling “Like a Prayer” is a famous singer-songwriter, helped start the local Girls Rock Camp and looks after toddlers by day; the one with the banter we all call “Captain Handsome” and he teaches Jr High. In St. John’s, half the folks in a given room downtown are likely to be both professional artists and the people making the neighborhood economies run. Old buildings and live talent are so much a part of tradition here they are are almost endangered. If we are “maggoty” with the arts, as locals might say, how are they endangered? Why preserve something so prevalent? Because it takes only a little time and the machinations of an incurious government for basic traditions to be deemed “obscure”. What makes Mallard Cottage, what makes St. John’s, so mighty, so powerfully affecting to those who were born here and those from away, is the absolute normality of the extraordinary. Those guys painting your house? One’s photographs hang in the art banks of Hotel conglomerates and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
by Emily Deming Last Sunday, In the two original rooms of Mallard Cottage’s heritage structure, warmed by a large double-sided brick hearth, Andreae Callanan and Megan Coles read new fiction and poetry over plates passing and glasses clinking. The acoustics were not perfect, but the response from patrons was good. And that was not a given. When booking a St. Paddy’s Day brunch not everyone thinks, “I hope that just before the dessert course a stranger stands up in her red minnie mouse heels, taps on a stemmed half-pint of Blanche de Chambly and announces a poetry reading.” But these were the right artists for the first ever reading organized through Mallard’s Writer-in-Residence Program: Callanan’s poems of grandmothers coming together to solve the world of ills through new production means for mustard pickles; Coles’ roiling, funny, touching and oddly appropriate profanity-laced short fiction. The audience was not self selected for the material. There were babies and retirees, dates and family reunions, art critics and anaesthesiologists. A restaurant manager from another popular spot was part of the first seating; on his way out, he told one of Mallard’s owners, “I don’t usually like art … but I enjoyed that.” [Above: Deming, Callanan, Coles. Below left: Session musicians Duane Andrews and Darren "Boobie" Brown. Below right: Callanan and Coles. All photographs courtesy of Ken Holden Photography] While that makes me want to grab the whole world by the collar and say, “oh no! You’ve been mislead about art! It is exactly what you like,” it also proved I may not have to say a word. Not with people with Callanan and Coles sharing their words so broadly and so openly. The readings were not disruptive, they were additive. And the audience was engaged and relaxed. A few people came in from elsewhere in the restaurant to stand in the doorways and listen for a while, before heading back to the uninterrupted live music and buffet out in the main room. Readings are not just for writers. Fiction goes with everything. Poetry is incorporable. Art is not easy; but it turns out it is not hard to swallow. Excerpt from Megan Coles’ “This Berry Bucket is just a Butter Tub” We take the ferry to Bell Island. You insist. Against my better judgment, I concede. The heat wave and my hangover make me malleable to your will on a Sunday afternoon. And you promised Soft Serve, maybe whales, so there was relenting. A disagreement unfolds in the car almost immediately and we curse at each other without cursing. Slut whips out like a birthday party whistle and I careen around to see if it has penetrated the front seat-back seat divide of adult delusion. The boy’s eyes are ready for me. Their size acknowledge I’ve said a bad word and I start babbling about fantasy milkshakes awaiting us on the other side of this strip of ocean. A weak cover up. A lame bribe. You should never promise children things that may not... Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
A Writer’s Residency in a restaurant involves, at times revolves around, food: fueled by it, inspired by it, writing about it. Part of the (verbal) contract arranged for this residency was a sort of all-access-pass to the kitchen. I get to observe the butchering on Tuesdays; watch the chefs mix the pastries and meatballs on Wednesday; smell the soups cooking on Thursdays; listen over the cheerful mix of rap, 80s ballads, and Motown that is this crews’ chosen soundtrack, as “Fitz” explains - in terms of preparation, cut, taste and texture - the difference between corned beef, smoked meat and pastrami. I also get to eat cake for breakfast. When there are special events, I am invited to record, write and pitch in my pre-residency role as a food, travel and culture journalist. Here is an excerpt of a piece I got to write last week about a fundraising event held at Mallard Cottage for a new Young Chefs Grant, in which the best sous-chefs, chefs de cuisine and pâtissiers from some of St. John’s most lauded restaurants came together to feed their colleagues, their executive chefs and anyone who was lucky enough to get a ticket: Last Tuesday it may have been the Ides of March, but all was collegial as the kings and queens of some of the best local restaurants (The Jeremys Charles and Bonia, Shaun Hussey and Michelle LeBlanc and Todd Perrin) willingly stepped aside and enjoyed a menu created by their right hand men and women.[...] The “Young Guns” who executed this fundraiser were not the executive chefs who we know from the press. These are the people who keep their heads down, and prep and cook brilliant food night after night. These are the ones to watch for. The ones who will build the next generation of Newfoundland food. And it won’t be built by screaming in the kitchen and cults of personality. Picking up the celebrated but no-drama gauntlet and style of their bosses (those executive chefs mentioned above), these sous chefs worked together under the heat lamps in the Mallard Kitchen with a visibly clear ethic of work, cooperation and respect which runs through their entire Brigade de Cuisine. Kuymin Hahn (Head Chef, Merchant Tavern), along with Mia Boland (Pastry Chef, Merchant Tavern), Barry Fitzgerald (Sous-chef, Chinched), Alex Fitzgerald (Chef de Cuisine, Mallard Cottage), Ross Larkin (Sous Chef, Raymond’s) [pictured above] took time outside of their regular work, planning the event over group emails. As Larkin says, “It’s not like we get Friday nights off to hang out.” They consider their work, though for different restaurants, a collective endeavour. [...] Watching them in the kitchen build these courses, one after another after another (it was a five course meal consisting of eight separate dishes and six appetizers or “snacks”) you hear no banter, and see no bravado. It is all concentration and cooperation. And joy. Not smiling, laughing, beer drinking joy (that is reserved for after the meal), but the joy of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Well... I meant "butchering" but I typed "butchered". My friends who have worked in kitchens say that is more accurate some days anyway. -ED
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Feb 29, 2016