“The Personal City” by Dino Buzzati (A Translation)

(Here is my translation of a short story –or is it a kind of prose poem?– by the Italian author Dino Buzzati (1906-1972). It is a piece I find very poignant, and not just because I also used to have a black standard poodle.)

The Personal City

by Dino Buzzati

From this city that none of you know, I send out reports, but they are never enough. Each one of you, perhaps, knows or visits other towns; and yet, no one will ever be able to live in this city of which I speak of except me. And therein lies the only indisputable interest of my dispatches: For the fact is that this city exists, and there is only one person who can provide any precise information about it. Nor is it possible for people to honestly say, “Who cares?” The fact that something exists is reason enough for the world to have to take note of it, howsoever small a thing it may be. And in this case we are talking about a whole city, a big city, a huge city, with old neighbourhoods and new ones, an endless labyrinth of streets, monuments and ruins, whose origins are lost in the dawn of history, cathedrals laden with intricate filigree carvings, parks (And at dusk the looming woodpeckers cast their shadows over the squares where the children used to play). A place where every stone, every window, every shop stands for a memory, an emotion, a life-defining moment!

The trick, of course, is to know how to describe things. For there are thousands of cities like mine throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of them; and quite often, I will admit, these urban agglomerations are inhabited by only one person, as is the case for me personally, as I mentioned. Generally speaking, though, it is as if these cities didn’t exist. How many people are there out there who are able to provide us with any satisfactory information about them? Very few. Most have no inkling of the secrets they are party to, nor would it ever occur to them to try to communicate them. Or perhaps they send out long letters packed with adjectives, but when one has finished reading them, for the most part, one is left as much in the dark as before.

But with me it’s different. Forgive me if this comes across as ridiculous boasting. It isn’t much, it’s almost nothing, but every so often, with great effort, I admit, I am able to convey an impression, however uncertain and vague, of the city which fate has assigned to me. Every once in a while, amid the many messages of mine that are not even read through to the end, there is one of them that makes itself heard. And so it happens that, out of curiosity, small groups of tourists will show up at the city gates, and I am called upon to show them around, and to answer their questions.

But how difficult it is to satisfy them. We seem to be speaking different languages. We end up having to communicate through gestures and smiles. What’s more, they are above all interested in the innermost neighbourhoods, where I can’t possibly take them: It’s completely out of the question. I myself don’t have the courage to explore that winding network of buildings, houses and hovels (the abodes of angels, or of demons?).

For this reason, I usually take these kind visitors to see the more conventional sights, the city hall, the cathedral, the Croppi Museum (that’s just what it’s called), etc., which, truth be told, are of no special interest. Hence their disappointment.

Among the members of these eager tour groups there is almost always a bureaucrat, a lawman, a superintendent, an inspector, an economist, a commissioner or something of that sort, at the very least a deputy commissioner. This person will say to me something like this: Continue reading

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From The Look in Her Eyes, I Knew – A Villanelle

From The Look in Her Eyes, I Knew – A Villanelle

From the look in her eyes, I knew
She was riding to meet a guy.
But is any of this even true?
There’s no end to what I’ll construe
From a face as it flashes by.
From the look in her eyes, I knew,
Though (her flushed cheeks were another clue),
Love was pedaling in her thigh…
But is any of this even true?
Is it not just the the thought of two
Now apart? I would nearly die
From the look in her eyes I knew
Then, when she knew it too
In the pull of my disrobed eye…
But is any of this even true?
And now, is it mere fancy to
Divine she too soon will cry
From the look in her eyes I knew?
But is any of this even true?

(I’m not a poet, but I like word games. A villanelle is a fixed verse poetic form of nineteen lines with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain.)

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Creative Workshop and Panel Discussion at the FBDM!

The 6th edition of the Festival BD de Montréal Comics Arts Festival begins today and continues through to Sunday. I will be present with a booth on Saturday only, 10:00-17:30 at which time I’ll be selling some zines and prints from my poetry comics, as well as displaying some art work from my ongoing graphic novel about the Battle of The Plains of Abraham. Also, between 11:00-11:45 I’ll be leading a workshop on adapting poetry or song lyrics into comics, and between 13:00-13:45 I’ll be taking part in a round table discussion on the theme of “Telling a story” alongside Nina Bunjevac and Joe Ollman, animated by the Gazette’s Ian McGillis. The festival takes place in the idyllic outdoor setting of La Fontaine Park. Workshop, panel discussion and all events are free and open to all. Hope to see you there! Click here for more info about the festival and the complete programming: http://www.fbdm-montreal.ca/programmation/programmation-2017/

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Noah’s Ark

I created this watercolour painting as a recent baptism gift for my godson. Since my godson is genetically predisposed to becoming a wide-ranging and unconventional thinker, I decided that my depiction of Noah’s ark would eschew the usual elephants, lions, and zebras in favour of some of our less well-known fellow earthlings. Depicted aboard and around the vessel are: black-billed spoonbills, flying squirrels, gerenuks, capybaras, wooly bear caterpillars, mushushus, pig-nosed frogs, cassowaries, jerboas,  pink fairy armadillos, long-eared bats, okapis, budgerigars, tamanduas, tarsiers, Highland cattle, pangolins, echidnas, Malayan tapirs, African wild dogs, star-nosed moles, saigas, proboscis monkeys, flying fish, elephant seals, sawfish, narwhals, and a human.

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Assurart Drawings -Papier 2017

Here are the twelve drawings that I created to decorate Assurart‘s booth at the most recent edition of Papier (Montreal), Quebec’s largest contemporary art fair. Assurart is an insurance company specializing in art insurance, and my drawings were intended to humourously illustrate the benefits of getting one’s art objects insured. Although the twelve panels were displayed in a long row wrapping around the booth, they were originally drawn on two comics pages of six panels each, as shown here. The storyline is the creation of Colette Mendenhall and Mireille Poirier.

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Listen to my French-language interview on “Les Oreilles d’Anne”

I recently participated in an episode of “Les Oreilles d’Anne,” a radio show normally broadcast out of Nantes, France. Its two hosts, Florent Bouchardeau and Lisa Focken, were in Montreal at the tail end of a trip across Eastern Canada, in which they had specifically set out to find out about the country’s Acadian musical traditions and contemporary scene. Beginning at 16:32 you can hear my interview with Florent and Lisa on the subject of my ongoing project to create a graphic novel about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

When you’re not used to hearing your voice recorded, it’s common to think, “do I really sound like that?” In this case, however, I also find myself thinking “Bon sang! Is my French really that bad?”


Posted in bande dessinée, Battle of the Plains of Abraham, comics, montreal, new france, nouvelle france | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Bombardment of Quebec – Colourized

Here are two pages from “Each in His Narrow Cell,” my ongoing graphic novel project recounting the siege of Quebec and the Battle of The Plains of Abraham in 1759. All the characters from a particular nation are depicted in a combination of a neutral grey tone and one characteristic colour -blue for the French, red for the English, purple for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and so on.

Posted in bande dessinée, Battle of the Plains of Abraham, comics, new france, watercolour | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment