Conversation

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Emily Doolittle’s Conversation, a setting for soprano and ensemble of a poem of the same name by Eleonore Schönmaier, will have its debut in Scotland as part of Music Planet’s  programming with the St Andrews New Music Ensemble. The piece explores the contours, textures and melodies that arise when grey seals howl when they are hauled out on the land. Emily Doolittle’s Conversation was commissioned by Bede Williams with funds from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

For a taster of what’s to come you can listen to another Doolittle work also based on a Schönmaier poem “Migration.”

 

Congratulations to Eric and Meagan

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Eric and Meagan have now added an Olympic bronze to their gold.

From The Star: “He was the only boy who was a figure skater in Red Lake, Ont. — Balmertown, really, one part of the six-town amalgamation that totals just 4,107 people over an area about the same size as the city of Toronto. Viewed from a distance, it sounds like the start of a movie. ”

“The 33-year-old won silver in team figure skating in Sochi; this year Canada won gold, and with that Eric Radford made history: the first openly gay male athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.”

Eric’s movie has a happy ending but it was a long hard road for him and his family.

I also grew up in the Red Lake district and I’m immensely proud of Eric and Meagan, and immensely proud of Eric for being open about his life.  We can all follow our dreams, and I’ll now conclude my sport reporting and return to the dream of poetry.

 

 

Hoping for double gold

Eric Radford’s first coach Debra Geary talking to CBC news said, “Even when he was eight years old he kept saying he was going to the Olympics…there’s no words that can really express how proud I am of him.”  Eric shows everyone who comes from small isolated northern towns along with everyone anywhere in the world that you can be your true self and follow your dreams and reach the top of the world.

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Photo of Debra Geary and Eric Radford

I’m hoping to be able to do a final editing change in the wording in the poem from “wins gold” to “wins double gold”.  Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel will skate their long program on 15 February at the winter olympics in South Korea.

Gold

 

For Eric Radford

 

 

our fathers worked together under-

ground while you on the surface

gracefully chiseled the ice

the only boy figure skater

 

in town bullies taunted

you with their hockey

sticks. all of us children

of goldminers, and you

 

decorated with multiple

metals now wins gold: Olympic

girl in your hands the first time

you threw her she landed

 

perfectly. scared of

heights she trusts you to

twirl her above your head.

soulmates. your hidden self

 

shared with the world. fear

is a sound in the inner

ear but has no refuge

there. courage is your world

 

Eric Olympics 2018.jpg

 

 

 

Seek gold to win gold

Eric Gold.jpg

Today it is with great pleasure that I’m able to change the word in the poem “Gold” from “seek gold” to “win gold.”  Eric grew up in a northern gold mining town and now is on the Olympic stage wearing gold.  Eric is also the first openly gay athlete to win Olympic gold at the winter Olympic games. Congratulations to Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel and team Canada for winning gold in the figure skating team event.

Gold

 

For Eric Radford

 

our fathers worked together under-

ground while you on the surface

gracefully chiseled the ice

the only boy figure skater

 

in town bullies taunted

you with their hockey

sticks. all of us children

of goldminers, and you

 

decorated with multiple

metals now win gold: Olympic

girl in your hands the first time

you threw her she landed

 

perfectly. scared of

heights she trusts you to

twirl her above your head.

soulmates. your hidden self

 

shared with the world. fear

is a sound in the inner

ear but has no refuge

there. courage is your world

 

Eric Gold 2.jpg

Gold

 

Schonmaiergold.jpeg

Gold

 

For Eric Radford

 

our fathers worked together under-

ground while you on the surface

gracefully chiseled the ice

the only boy figure skater

 

in town bullies taunted

you with their hockey

sticks. all of us children

of goldminers, and you

 

decorated with multiple

metals now win gold: Olympic

girl in your hands the first time

you threw her she landed

 

perfectly. scared of

heights she trusts you to

twirl her above your head.

soulmates. your hidden self

 

shared with the world. fear

is a sound in the inner

ear but has no refuge

there. courage is your world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spell of the Yukon

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Only one person remains in the toughest race, in the coldest year of the race’s history.  Ilona Gyapay also now has frostbite, but she did an amazing job under unbelievably difficult conditions.  She completed 370 km while pulling a sled containing her survival provisions. Jethro De Decker continues the race.  Drink a warm cup of tea and imagine what it is like day and night out in the cold in -40C to -50C and doing this alone day after day.  The Belgian  Erik Scharpé  who dropped out of the race said he would never do it again, that it was a life threatening situation.  The Canadian northern wilderness in winter is always a danger zone and you need to think clearly and be strong in body and mind.  Robert Pollhammer after talking to Ilona writes on the event page, “After having seen so much frostbite this year I asked her if she thinks that being out in these temperatures is crazy? Her simple answer was “no”.”

It’s the great, big, broad land ’way up yonder, 

   It’s the forests where silence has lease; 

It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, 

   It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

 – Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon

Only three remain in the toughest race

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Photo by Joe Bishop

Canadian Ilona Gyapay is one of only three competitors remaining in the Yukon Arctic Ultra, the toughest and coldest race in the world.  The other two athletes are Jethro de Decker from South Africa and Roberto Zanda from Italy.  All other competitors have dropped out and many had to be treated for frost bite.  Temperatures remain at extreme lows from -30C to -50C.  The race started on February 1st and the athletes have until February 9th at 10.30 am to complete the 480 km distance.

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Photo by Martine Wolff

 

 

Ilona Gyapay still in the toughest race

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Photo by Tony Gonda.

Of the twenty-two people who registered for the long distance Yukon Arctic Ultra only five are still in the race, and one of these is the young Canadian Ilona Gyapay.  “Like on all the other days we have seen temperatures down to – 40 degrees Celsius during the day. In all 14 previous races we have not had anything like that. For the athletes it meant still no chance to “relax” but a continuous worry about always doing everything right.”  Athletes have eight days to finish the race.  Try to imagine these temperatures and the fact that you are out there on your own hauling your own supplies, making all the right decisions to survive.  Think of the willpower and strength of body and mind needed to keep going hour after hour day after day.

 

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Photo by Joe Bishop

 

The art of being Ilona

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Ilona Gyapay this week is skiing in the toughest and coldest race in the world: the Yukon Arctic Ultra.  Temperatures have been -45C to -50C.  Ilona is pulling a 27 kg (60lb) sled,  transporting food, sleeping bag and survival gear.  She’s attempting to cover over 70 km a day for a distance of 692 kilometers (430 miles).  She’s racing in the northern Canadian wilderness, alone in wolf country. She sleeps in the open under the dark sky. She’s fighting frostbite and fatigue and has to think clearly and make the right decisions to stay alive. She has to avoid losing her fingers and toes to the cold. One of the youngest racers she is also one of only two Canadians registered for the full distance.  Most people don’t complete the long-haul race. In 2015, when temperatures also reached -50C, only five people finished the full 692 km distance with the others all having to drop out.  From the Canadian Running Magazine podcast:  “months of sacrifice to attempt this race…no glamorous finish line…no purse for the winner…motivation is just to prove they can do it…it is just about finishing…rewards are not material.” Last year Ilona placed third in the Arctic Circle Race in Greenland:  160 kilometres through mountainous regions. Extremely modest Ilona doesn’t boast about her accomplishments; she doesn’t update her social media.  She doesn’t talk about how strong she is, how capable she is, how courageous she is.  She’s racing alone out there guiding us all.

 

photo by Noel Rogers

Vallum Poem of the Week: “What Gets Blown In” by Eleonore Schönmaier

Vallum: Contemporary Poetry

Schonmaier author photo

What Gets Blown In

The cricket that lands
on his thigh. In the house

there have been no flowers
for weeks, yet a red petal

floats in the bath that he
draws for her. A large bee

finds the strawberry
spoon in the kitchen sink.

Unnoticed, a mosquito
drones in the bedroom

at night. And on the breakfast
table a tiny white feather.

Eleonore Schönmaier’s most recent books are Dust Blown Side of the Journey (2017) and Wavelengths of Your Song (2013) both from McGill-Queen’s University Press. Her poetry has been set to music by Canadian, Dutch, Scottish, American and Greek composers. Her poetry has also been performed in concert by The New European Ensemble. She has won the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the Earle Birney Prize, and has been twice shortlisted for the Bridport prize (UK). Her poetry has been published in The Best Canadian Poetry, and has also been translated…

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