Wednesday, September 9, 2020

James Hawes : My Writing Day

          I wake up and try to remember a dream I had, won’t go over it here because nothing is less interesting as someone else’s dream. Groping for any residual images I smell the coffee my wife Judi was kind enough to make. Waffles. Waffles are in the freezer. In the four years since I got a waffle iron for my birthday we have not eaten a store bought waffle. I think I’ll have one savoury with some sharp cheddar, and one sweet with runny fig jam. Oh yeah the dream, ah forget it.
          My notebook peeks out from under some books on my bedside table. I love notebooks. I love gear in general and notebooks and a good pen are pretty much the only gear in a poet’s kit. My current notebook is a Baron Fig Confidant, the fabric cover feels good in my hands and the heavy paper really soaks up the ink. I have ten or so new pages of notes, maybe I can glean a poem or two from them. I thumb through it in bed. I come across a poem I wrote months ago, but never transcribed it to my computer. It’s not bad, not sure why I left it there, maybe I just forgot about it. I’m fifty now and forgetting things like dreams, poems, seems to be part of things.
          It’s Saturday so I put on my robe and go downstairs. Judi has been up for hours. In that time she has made coffee, gone for her morning hyper-walk, fed the cats, started laundry. Now she is on the sofa with her laptop waiting for me to make breakfast, as I do every Saturday. I pour myself some coffee and stare out the kitchen window for an undetermined period of time. The cardinal is back in our yard. I love how clean and red he is, he looks curious about something. I make a small note of this.
          I make us each a poached egg on a waffle with some avocado slices. We eat in front of one of the sixty-two episodes of Jeopardy we have saved on our DVR. Alex Trebek is looking unwell, he has cancer. I don’t know when this episode was recorded, for all I know he could be laying in a hospital room with tubes. But according to this episode he is alive and still charming as hell, so there is comfort in that. As we fast-forward through commercials I think about the notebook on my nightstand. A pleasurable feeling of anticipation washes over me as I picture myself transcribing it, coming up with some poems, or at least the start of some poems. Meanwhile I cheer on the technical writer from Olympia Washington, my wife roots for the marketing analyst from Mount Vernon Ohio. We both lose, the money goes to the insurance adjuster from Shafter Nevada. Typical.
          I go upstairs and return to my notebook and lie on my bed. Carly comes up for cuddles. Carly is a domestic longhair cat and she does not take no for an answer. I am Carly’s human, it is a great compliment when a cat chooses you. She lies on my chest and purrs as I rub her ears and stroke her long back. I find petting her very relaxing and never seem to tire of it. She has a profoundly calming effect on my mind. It does make me sleepy though, I nod off for a bit. Carly wakes me by gently putting her paw in my mouth. I try not to think about where that paw has been as I gather myself and make my way to my desk downstairs.
          Sofia is in the basement cleaning herself in the chair next to my desk. Sofia is a black cat and she has yet to choose her human, so she plays the field indifferently. Our younger son seems to be first in the running, the rest of us are very jealous.
          Before getting into my notebook I try a little writing exercise, it’s good to limber up a little. I use an app on my phone that generates random words, three at a time. I take those three words and make a line. I repeat this until I have a page full of lines, or until I don’t feel like doing it anymore. Sometimes this comes to nothing, most of the time this creates some startling appositions. I find this an effective way to find a place to start, which is sometimes all you need. I spend about an hour doing this, if nothing else this fills in a blank page, this is important psychologically. Then I leave it alone, I will come back to this page in a few days with fresh eyes. I find writing poetry is like picking blackberries­—one day I look under some leaves and find nothing, the next day the same stem is heavy with gleaming berries. It’s weird, but it helps me remember there are forces at play beyond the self.
          On a fresh page in my notebook I write the words “Shafter Nevada.”
          Some of my notes are about a girl I knew in high school. I was not very nice to her once and it still bugs me to this day what an ass I was. I think she liked me and I was young and thoughtless and had no idea what to do with the responsibility of a fourteen year old girl’s affection. On the top of a new blank page on my computer I write “An Apology to Sarah Wells.” I don’t use her real name, that would be tacky. There is a lot to unpack in my head when I think about Sarah, so the writing flows pretty easily. Some of it from my notes, some of it new and of the moment. My fingers have trouble keeping up with my thoughts. I love it when this happens. It’s like going on a heater in Las Vegas, you don’t want to mess with it, you ride it out as long as you can.
The dryer signals that it is done, if the poem was not going well I would use this as an excuse to get up from my desk and progress on the day’s chores. I let the laundry sit as I squeeze out what I can from this small winning streak I have stumbled upon.
I figure out a great way to finish the poem, based on real events. It is a prose poem, I find myself writing more of these lately. Once I write down the ending I stop, read it through, fixing a few minor things along the way and get the laundry from the dryer. It is mostly my older son’s clothes. I fold it and bring it up to his room.
I decide I’m done for the day, for now. I will keep my notebook handy for any sparks of inspiration, but it has been a productive morning, actually it is two in the afternoon now. I have lost track of time and I’d better get on with other things. I have some blackbean soup to make and I think my son needs new shoes for school.

James Hawes lives and writes in Montreal. He shares his home in the borough of NDG with his wife Judi and sons Jackson and Jonathan. He has two very demanding cats Carly and Sofia for whom he spends much of his time opening doors and ensuring they get enough cuddles. He makes great soups, fantastic waffles and mediocre vinaigrettes.  His work has appeared in various online and print publications. His chapbook Bus Metro Walk was published by Monk Press in 2018. His first full length poetry collection Breakfast With A Heron was publish by Mansfield Press in 2019. He is very proud of his beard.


  1. what a busy morning this Saturday James :)
    I really enjoyed reading through, it feels like I have spent those hours at your house :)

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Thank you Saher! Nice of you to say!