Monday, November 23, 2020

Ash Winters: My (Small Press) Writing Day


My typical writing day has the consistency of thick cream. Picture it being stirred with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry about what the cream is for. Just focus on how it is soft and smooth yet still capable of drowning you. This cream day with all its texture and falsely endorsed healthiness starts at about five thirty in the morning. The alarm begins at five doing its gentle bells followed by a snooze button dance. I always partake in this drama for a half an hour or so.

This is when I remember my dreams and sometimes nightmares. I cherish them, think of them like windows into myself. I break them down in an attempt to get in. Only to find out that it is the place I have just been no more or less confusing. On occasion I have what I call adventure dreams. I have been told this is encouraged by my love of reading sci-fi and I believe it. Just like I believe, in the lighter sense of the word, lots of sci-fi. Just the other night nearly the whole world was underwater. I was on a ship running out of food when more survivors swam up to us. They had been swimming for three straight days when they found us. I lifted a woman out of the water and she was so light in my arms it was as though I carried nothing at all.

When I am done with the dreams, or the dreams are done with me, I sneak out of the darkness of our bedroom and head toward my desk. I stop for coffee first. Then I nestle in. I start with my morning pages. A type of journal from the Artist’s Way where you free write whatever comes to your head for three pages. Something I have been in the habit of doing for just under a year now. It clears my head. It feels a bit like tidying the kitchen before you start to cook; which is a must for me. How one cooks in a messy kitchen I do not know. The morning pages are filled with dreams and emotions with no context. Thoughts skip and jump all over the place without even trying to explain themselves. They are drivel or they are something like this article. I am not sure because I never read them.

          Instead I get to cooking. I do a quick gratitude journal because if I think about it I remember how lucky I am and if I don’t think about it I forget. Then I get into the three poems I write every morning. They are about, well, me. They are about the weather, about love, hate, and, forgive me, sometimes the news. They are a tether holding me to this world. Without them I do fear I would wash away. I started writing every day in the morning just over two years ago, while I was in rehab. Sober for the first time in my life I was going through a lot of changes and experiencing feelings in their full force for the first time. Putting down the bottle let me pick up the pen. Some might say it even forced the issue.

That being said I have always written poetry. I still have the first poem I remember writing, stuffed in a trunk somewhere in my mother’s attic. I can still picture the golden sunlight coming through my bedroom window to land on my dog and myself while we rested on the bed. I know the feeling I had then because I have had it so many times since then. A feeling of wonder and clarity in the beauty that is just beyond our reach. I don’t have this feeling every morning when I sit at my desk, but I often do and there is something just straight up magical about that.

So with the three poems jotted down in my spiral bound notebook I do what must be done next and flip open my laptop. I go and get another coffee before I dare to turn it on because it is definitely needed at this juncture. If it is a day I must go to my job as a carpenter I only have a few more moments there before I must put on long jons and wander out into the cold. If it is a weekend, I stay. Through the morning I edit current projects and grumble my way through application forms. I spend a surprising amount of time staring out the window at the really good view of my neighbours brick wall. I love every minute of it. So much so that the time in the afternoon slips away even faster than the time in the morning does. I am too soon dragged away to the kitchen by an empty stomach. Writing in the evening has never been much of a possibility for me so the stomach grumble marks the shift change. It marks the moment when my cream day turns to butter and I leave my black wooden chair to its own devices for the night but I will be back again just before the sun rises. 





Ash Winters is an emerging Toronto-based poet. Genderqueer and sober, their work navigates complex and colourful emotional landscapes. They graduated with their BA in English from Lakehead University in 2010. Their poetry has recently appeared in; Existere, Open Minds Quarterly, and The White Wall Review. Their first collection of poetry, Run Riot, comes out with Caitlin Press in January 2021.


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