poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘time

A place to be still

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I love to be outside but my knees do not always cooperate. So, I make certain I have a place to sit on my walk-about. I love my concrete bench. I get a great view of the yard. In spring there are crocuses. At this time of year, a huge patch of sensitive fern. In fall there will be red maple leaves. But the bench is cold. Not a place to sit for long! Not a place to linger.



A place to be still


Cold concrete,

embedded, still,

where leaves

of purple crocus

press through turf,

sensitive fern

overtakes lawn,

autumn builds

layer on layer.

Cold concrete,

embedded, still.




All my best,


Written by jane tims

June 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

‘within easy reach’ – the history of a writing project

with 6 comments

As I prepare for the publication and launch of my poetry book within easy reach, I am thinking about how long it takes to see a writing project through from beginning to end.


Of course, the time depends on the writer, the project and many circumstances beyond the writer’s control. But the way to a book of poems can be long … for me it has not been days or months, but years.



For my book, the first idea came in 2010 when my husband and I were exploring our new lake property. We knew so little about the property and were delighted to find blackberries, growing in profusion along the ridge above the lake. I can still taste those plump indigo berries and remember how quickly we filled my husband’s hat (the only container we had for picking). I wrote the first poem for the project (‘berries in brambles’) at the end of the summer. By then I was thinking about combining my interests in local food and botany to write a manuscript of poems about ‘growing and gathering’.



blackberries at our lake property



The second step in the project came with an application to artsnb for a Creation Grant.  Not every writer seeks funding, but I knew, after 35 years of work, that I would produce my best work with a clear purpose and deadlines. I applied to artsnb in March 2011, in time for their April 1st deadline. When I was not successful, I tried again for the October 1st deadline and in December, a few weeks before my retirement, I received the letter saying my project had been approved. I would be able to transition from work into an endeavor I knew I would love!



The writing of ‘growing and gathering’ continued through the spring and summer of 2012. I was determined to base my poems on experience, so I spent lots of time hiking and driving to locate and pick the various plants I wanted to write about. That spring we tapped twelve of our red maple trees and planted a small garden. Many of the plants I harvested grow on our properties at home and at the lake, but for some of the plants, we drove the countryside, poking about in the right habitat to find the plants I sought. My best memory is of a spring day along the Dunbar Stream north of Fredericton, discovering mounds of trout lily leaves growing on the floodplains along the brook.


Trout Lily in bloom

Trout Lily, also known as Dog’s Tooth Violet or Yellow Adder’s-tongue



For the next months, I harvested leaves and roots and nuts and berries. I chopped greens. I boiled, simmered and sautéed. I competed, unsuccessfully, with squirrels for hazelnuts. I scraped gum from spruce trees and peeled wild sarsaparilla roots. And, of course, I ate my fill of raspberries, blueberries, dandelion greens, fiddleheads, samphire greens, orach leaves and apples. From my own garden, I harvested rhubarb and herbs, onions and tomatoes. I visited Farmers Markets and roadside stands, sampling the best local produce in the world.  I stirred memories from my own family history, recalling days when my dad kept bee hives and when my mom and I went blueberry picking. Really doesn’t sound like work, right?



salad ingredients from the garden and market


And then I wrote. And did research about the edibility of plants. And wrote some more. And did lots of pencil drawings. As I wrote, I consulted my Floras of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I completed my project with a manuscript of 135 poems and 29 pencil drawings. I submitted my manuscript to artsnb in October 2012.



For me, the writing is only part of the process. I try to read my poems as often as possible, and I submit regularly for publication. For the ‘growing and gathering’ project, I read poems at eleven events and submitted poems to 12 literary journals.  I had some success and, of the poems in the book, twelve have been previously published in seven literary journals. I also submitted the manuscript to the New Brunswick Writers’ Federation writing contest in 2013, winning Honorable Mention.  Now that all sounds like work!


Orach at Minister's Island

Orach growing among the rocks at the upper end of the Minister’s Island causeway



From the beginning, I knew I wanted a published book of the ‘growing and gathering’ poems. So in 2014, after revisions and paring the poems to a reasonable book length, I began to submit to publishers. I submitted to three publishers and received three kind rejections. Then, in the fall of 2014, at the New Brunswick Writers’ Federation WordsFall, I met Keith Helmuth and Brendan Helmuth of Chapel Street Editions in Woodstock. They were interested in publishing books about the natural and human history of the Saint John River and I wondered if they might be interested in my book. I sent them my manuscript and soon began one of the best partnerships of my life.


2015 – 2016

During the last months, Keith and Brendan have worked to prepare my manuscript for publication. I have read every poem 20 times, revisited sources, squinted at Latin names to make certain they are spelled correctly and considered every comma and every line break.


Within a few weeks, my poetry book, within easy reach, will be a reality. When I first hold the finished book in my hands, I know I will be experiencing a milestone in my life. I will probably melt into a puddle. And the work will not yet be done! Ahead of me are readings and marketing and signing copies. I hope the rooms where I present my book are crowded with people eager to buy and read, but I know there may be places where I will be hoping a lone bystander will purchase a copy.


From beginning to end, my book has taken almost six years to complete. This may sound a bit daunting for a new writer reading this, but it is also encouraging. Your goal, like mine, may be publication. But it may also be to create a body of work representative of your life as a writer. My experience shows that every line, every paragraph, every poem you write, is part of a path towards your goal, whatever it may be.  ‘A writer writes.’


wild strawberries

wild strawberries at our lake property


Copyright 2016 Jane Tims



Written by jane tims

April 11, 2016 at 7:00 am

growing and gathering – years and seasons

with 14 comments

As I work on my collection of poems about growing and gathering, I am aware of the passage of time.  I am in the revision stage.  This means my manuscript will soon be ‘complete’.  I will worry over it and list the last things to be done.  I will prepare my final report to artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board), the source of my Creations Grant, and send it away to them for approval.

The project will be over, but there will still be work to do.   I will have to decide what poems should go in the final manuscript, re-order them a few times, do some more revisions and them send them away, to a publisher, hoping I will be able to get a book from all this work.

Then I will be at the end and facing a new beginning, a new project.  I have a few to choose from, so I won’t be relaxing for long.

In all this is the dimension of time, with its deadlines and unforgiving rush forward.  Even in a project about growing and gathering local foods, there are poems about time.

A number of my poems are about the ephemeral nature of local foods.  Another way to think of this is ‘eating local foods in season’.  In spring, everything is plentiful – new plants arrive in a rush, so fast, you can hardly keep up.  Then there is the patient waiting for berries to ripen and, again, a rush… blueberries are quickly followed by blackberries and raspberries and so on.  But everything has its season, so leaves become too old to harvest, and berries shrivel and fall to the ground.

This seasonal aspect of local foods can be thought of as as a metaphor for aging, and some of my poems work with this comparison.  I have poems about resisting aging, and about the ailments of age including arthritis, lethargy, forgetfulness, and aging memory.

Many of my poems on the theme of ‘time’ overlap with other themes, about ‘companionship’, or changes to ‘place’.  For this reason, I find myself shifting poems around in my manuscript.  I ask myself if the poems flow well, one to another.

I also find I don’t seem to have many poems about the differences between our historical use of local foods and our present day use.  I have lots of source material, particularly among my great-aunt’s diaries… she loved to pick berries.  So away I go, to write a few more poems about time!



Old Man’s Beard     


Usnea subfloridana Stirt.


you and I

years ago

forced our ways

bent through the thicket

of lichen and spruce



caught in your beard

and we laughed


us with stooped backs

and grey hair?


found a game trail

a strawberry marsh

wild berries

crushed into sedge

stained shirts


and fingers


dusted with sugar

washed down with cold tea

warmed by rum



an old woman


lost her way in the spruce

found beard

caught in the branches

and cried



Published as ‘Old Man’s Beard’, The Fiddlehead 180, Summer, 1994

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

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