Recent Journal Entries

transcendent dance moment

How did it get to be May? It’s a Sunday in early May and it feels like fall out there. The sun is warm on my face and then the clouds, and then it’s cold. Regardless, green is everywhere, and there are three daffodils in front of the big Buddha. I’ve got Al Green playing in my office… “Let’s Stay Together” and more. And tonight, a dance-off at the University of Alberta’s Meyer Horowitz theatre…the daughter is in four dances! Four! She never reads this blog so I can gush with no fear of her being embarrassed. I am so freaking proud. She works so hard, they all work so hard, at these dances, and it is amazing to see the groups perform. The coolest thing is, the turn outward to be part of something bigger than the self, and then to have that thing be excellent. Yesterday, near the end of the day, I am sitting in the darkened theatre, watching dance after dance, and suddenly, there was a dance that was such profoundly subtle bit of story telling – the song, a cover of a Kodaline tune called “all I want,” sung by Ellie Goulding. “If you love me, why’d you leave me, take my body, take my body…” And I am choked. The tears filling my eyes. It was a perfect moment of dance. Those dancers, from Shelley’s Dance Company, somehow embodying the sadness of that song, feeling it and showing the sadness with their bodies and their beautiful faces. I was sitting there for free. I would have paid $100 for that moment. It was such sweet story-telling. There it was, on stage, that transcendent moment as those dancers moved from being just dancers to being artists. It takes discipline, and love, and talent, and hard work to get there. And it takes a brilliant choreographer who knows how to manufacture a doorway like that – and then that question …well, are you going to walk through? This is a long-overdue nod of acknowledgement to Shelley Tookey and her troop of talented teachers/choreographers. Brava! A thousand times, brava!

The potential of this moment is in every art, inside every artistic endeavor. In writing. In music. In painting. In sculpture. Everything.

Since I’m onto a dance theme here, this is a poem from way back about the warm-up ritual.

warm-up in the rehearsal hall

Nobody is supposed to be watching this – It’s not meant
for this sort of scrutiny.

In the dim light of the rehearsal hall, young dancers
go through their ritual warm-up. They stand in rows and
move to a gentle music. Each dancer in solo space.
Each dancer connected to every other dancer inside this
designed movement.

No one speaks. No one leads.

They know what to do. This is ingrained. They breathe this stretching –
remember balance together. It is not a chore. It is
serious business. Essential in being dancer.
And here, rehearsing, individuals. They are not
in costume – not yet.

A boy in the third row peels off his sweatshirt.

A girl in the front line drops her hoody to the floor without losing
her place, without missing a breath, a beat, a move.

I think of Degas and his ballerinas captured in that chestnut brown
and sepia lighting. Always off stage. Always before, or after the dance.

This is not a stage. It is only a dimly lit space leading up
to being on stage. It is otherworldly to watch them. This moment
of such focused peace: turned inward, and yet, they move
in unison – bodies talking to one another.
It is ‘belonging’ to a company. It is belonging to
something bigger than self.

And this ceremony of
belonging moves me.

I forget that I have coffee.
I try not to watch directly. Open my journal and start to write
something/anything, look up – only glance and half-glance.
As if watching these dancers is the same as watching a deer
at the edge of a meadow, and if the deer notices me watching,
it will disappear.

I do not want these dancers to disappear.
I do not want the warm-up to end.

This ritual may not be the dance, but this elongated moment
is as beautiful as any dance, on any stage.

The softly weeping women of the 1950s

You can tell that I’ve been working the new book over the past few months. All my energy has been there, and now the book is gone off to the agent and hopefully the publishers. What am I to do now? Hang some Buddhist prayer flags in the back yard. Meditate. Drink scotch whiskey at 3 a.m. and listen to Miles Davis records in the living room, with the cat. Read books from the ever growing “to-read” pile.

I think perhaps, I will not stop writing. There are ideas and sketches, and there were projects put on hold. I will not stop writing.

Here’s last week’s sorbet for your viewing pleasure.

The softly weeping women of the 1950s

In one of my father’s dresser drawers, there were perhaps two hundred
white cotton handkerchiefs. I thought of that drawer this morning, as I jokingly
offered my silk pocket square to my wife, who was looking for a Kleenex.
She was horrified that I would offer her a pocket square. I told her about
that drawer, and she told me about the drawer her father had that was also
filled with white cotton handkerchiefs. It’s as if there was a period of time,
say, in the 1950s when women wept more often in public, when they needed
to wipe their eyes, or blow their noses, and men were there, offering their crisp,
clean white handkerchiefs – with no thought of getting them back.

I do not know what life was like for women of the 1950s. They certainly
did not all look like Marilyn Monroe, but she was a curvaceous measuring stick.
Maybe there was more to cry about. Maybe not. Perhaps eye makeup was not
as waterproof. But loneliness, melancholy, broken love? Joy and sadness.
These things, we take with us as we move through time. There will always be
constants about which we will cry.

Perhaps you are sitting in a movie theatre in September, 1957. The popcorn
has real butter on it and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. On the screen
is an image of Cary Grant standing alone on the observation deck of the
Empire State Building. He is waiting for Deborah Kerr to show up
because they love each other and this rendezvous was their promise to
each other and to that love. But the Deborah Kerr character, in her rush
to meet him, has been hit by a car. The woman you are with is squeezing
your hand, hard. You glance at her and can see the tears streaming
down her face. The Cary Grant character believes he was rejected when
he really wasn’t and it’s so sad. Wouldn’t it be nice to offer the woman
squeezing your hand a soft white handkerchief? So she could wipe her tears?
Apparently, my father could have. My wife’s father likely would have.

Top Sheet

Happy New Year. It’s 2015 and cold as a well-digger’s ass. Here is last week’s sorbet offering for your viewing pleasure. Can you imagine Sasha? A full-bodied brunette with a tattoo of a Rumi poem on her right shoulder blade. Dark, questioning eyes. Strong hands. Shy until she has a drink, and then, perhaps too outgoing and needy. Here she is:

top sheet

Her whole life, Sasha needed the top sheet tucked in. It was a prerequisite for sleep. If the top sheet was not tucked she felt undone – she became anxious. Even if she were dog tired, she would get out of bed and remake the bed, frantically tucking and folding the edges until it was just right. In the past few months this trait had reversed itself, so she now felt claustrophobic if that sheet was tucked in. As if she needed to stay connected to the air – as if she needed the air of the world around her feet. Something small and contained had burst into this need for the wide open world. She needed the open-ended possibility now. Nothing about her bed was tucked in, or folded, or tidy anymore. This reversal did not upset Sasha. She only noticed it. As if she were sitting in the wooden chair by the window looking at two realities, watching the infinitesimally small space between, and smiling.

pin-up shirt snit just hurts the idea of feminism

So, the feminists objected to a scientist’s shirt, and called him out on it. A shirt with the image of old-school pin-up girls – his celebration shirt because he and his team had just successfully landed a small box on a comet going 135,000 miles per hour, after a ten-year journey through space, using technology that was twenty years old. So, the these deeply offended women did to this guy, what men (and women) do to successful women – they talk about what they’re wearing, or their hair, or some other banal observation, as opposed to what they’ve accomplished. Shame on you, you so-called feminists. Was the shirt ugly. Yes. Was is profoundly tacky? Oh ya. Did he know he was going to be interviewed? Apparently not. But to suggest that a fucking shirt can drive women away from pursuing careers in science and technology, is a pretty huge stretch. Are women really that frail, delicate, and sensitive? I don’t think so. If you are offended by the shirt…well, be offended. I wish British physicist Dr. Matt Taylor had responded with a “So?” And then asked the interviewer if she had any actual questions about science. Instead, he apologized, in tears, for wearing a tasteless shirt. Sigh…

My thirteen-year-old daughter would look at that shirt and declare it ugly, and then she’d be really impressed by the science. Actually, she was fascinated by the science. She didn’t care about the shirt. My daughter is a better feminist that these so-called outraged feminists. This pin-up shirt outrage only “…reinforces all the negative stereotypes about privileged Western feminists; that they are humourless, hysterical and forever sweating the small stuff, with few “real” issues of equality left to worry about.” – from the National Post.

It’s okay to be offended. Really. It is. We are an entire society of offended people. And the thing is, we have a medium through which to voice our outrage, to vent about how offended we are (like I’m doing above). But unless you can say why you are offended, and back up your argument, it’s all just blah, blah, blah.

New book is off...into the world

Well, here we are in late September. I am just back from the mountains. This morning, I sent a new book off to my agent. I am very pleased with this book. It is complex and quick and light (“light” in the sense of the things we try to avoid looking at, in the sense of all the things we value for their lightness – love and romance and connection and how they eventually reveal their true, unbearable weight). I hope it is engaging and clever enough for you. I know I have created something outside the pigeon holes of literary definition – which is perhaps unwise, but we must write for ourselves first – we must write the book we would love to read, first. I would love for a new novel, somewhere down the road, to consist of a review of an imagined book by a foreign author, written in a different language – so I would write the review of the book, which I’ve only imagined. Borges ran screaming with glee into this form in the 1930s with his short experiment, “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim,” which was in fact written in accordance with the above formula. The question is, can this formula work for a novel?

So, how does it feel to let go of a novel you’ve been working on for a year? It feels like loss. A part of me is gone. A hole has opened up. “The safety of a manuscript in progress is like none other,” Leah said.

It is safety, but also comfort. I feel uncomfortable. So, Seven moments of mercy is off. It could just as well be called: Purgatory or The seven purgatories of Katerina Miller. The great titles only come after the book is sent away and time has worked its magic. I’ll let you know what happens, as it happens.

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Thomas Trofimuk is a Canadian novelist, poet, and musician based in Edmonton, Alberta. He's the author of Doubting Yourself to the Bone, and his most recent novel, Waiting for Columbus. More.

Below, are the paperback covers for the UK, the Canadian, and US editions.

Waiting for Columbus

Columbus Cover (UK) Columbus Cover (Canada)

Waiting for Columbus (McClelland & Stewart / Knopf-Doubleday / Picador / and Blackstone Audiobooks) was released in Canada and the US in 2009 and in the UK in 2010. Read reviews and more about the book here.

Columbus Cover (United States)


"Waiting for Columbus" is featured as part of the WILDLY popular RICHARD AND JUDY book club in the UK!!!
Waiting for Columbus is featured on the WH Smith website here. And here is the awesome video!



DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for "Waiting for Columbus"
A few suggested discussion questions for "Waiting for Columbus are here. An interview with Trofimuk that might also spark some discussion is here. Enjoy....

Key Dates for Waiting for Columbus

The paperbacks are here! The paperbacks are here!!! Canadian, US and UK paperbacks of Waiting for Columbus are on the shelves!!

Release date Brazil:

Release date Poland:

“…And therein lies the best career advice I could possibly dispense: just DO things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Stop acting like you have a set path, because you don’t. No one does. You shouldn’t be trying to check off the boxes of life; they aren’t real and they were created by other people, not you. There is no explicit path I’m following, and I’m not walking in anyone else’s footsteps. I’m making it up as I go.
It’s harder, for sure, and kind of scary sometimes. But it will allow you to look at yourself in the mirror and know you’re playing by your own rules…”

-- Charlie Hoehn

“coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love...”
~ Turkish proverb


All material © 2007 Thomas Trofimuk
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