Oct 062012

By Sande Waters

Last week in the Phoenix Auditorium I presented an artist talk about my work to a very supportive and interested Gabriola audience. The talk lasted about forty-five minutes as I worked my way through the ninety-five slides in my powerpoint presentation, explaining the thread of continuity through my work over the last twenty years. My new friend and fellow artist in residence, Shirley Serviss, read a poem she had written in response to one of my paintings titled ‘Goddess Listening to her Ovaries’. I am giving this painting to the Haven in appreciation of the amazing opportunity to be an artist in residence.

The Goddess Listening To Her Ovaries

Nice girls paint flowers not
goddesses with bright pink vulvas,
with large drooping breasts, with
flabby underarms and sizeable asses.

Nice girls don’t. Don’t know the names
of body parts between our waists and knees,
keep our legs crossed, not splayed open wide.
We hide our vulvas and vaginas, our
breasts, our bra straps, slips and garter
belts, the tops of our nylon stockings.

We try to please, bat our lashes, and smile
politely, keep our opinions, our rage,
caged inside. Nice older women play the same
game once our ovaries stop dropping eggs
every twenty-eight days like clockwork,
once our wombs stop nurturing life.

Or do we celebrate our aging bodies, silver
hair, our well-earned wrinkles, proudly
bare our arms and wear our rounded bellies
without worry, draw attention to our selves.

Shirley Serviss

Sep 112012

By Shirley Serviss. Shirley and Sande Waters are The Haven’s 2012 artists-in-residence.

Monday, September 9

I’ll be at The Haven a week from today and I’m in panic mode. I’m frantically marking the first assignments for the course I am teaching for Grant MacEwan University-all 49 of them. I still have to finish preparing my lectures for this week. It’s a course I’ve never taught before so I can’t just reuse materials or wing it. I teach again the day after I get home so hope to have that session prepared before I go as well.

Besides teaching three days this week, I spend two days at my part-time job as a literary Artist on the Wards for the Friends of University Hospitals. I will be giving a talk about our program while I’m at the Haven. I’ll also be facilitating a workshop on memoir. The materials I need to bring for that workshop are either in one of the piles of papers on the chairs in my office or maybe, if I’m lucky, in my filing cabinet.

I’m the president of an organization that is planning to build a facility in downtown Edmonton that will house arts organizations and also contain studios and live/work spaces for artists of all ages, family configurations, income levels and artistic disciplines. We have been working with a consultant and an architectural firm on the first phase of the feasibility study which we will be presenting to the City by the end of the month. I have to proofread the document one more time and meet with our consultant to revise the concluding summary.

I say all this not to bore you with my To Do list, but to illustrate the benefit of artist residencies and retreats. They allow artists to put aside all the day-to-day claims on their time and focus on their art. Perhaps some artists are better able to carve out such spaces in their regular lives. Perhaps they are able to limit their volunteer commitments and social interactions. Perhaps they don’t have to earn an income to support themselves. I’m not one of those artists. Having a dedicated period of time away from the distractions of my home allows me to immerse myself in my writing.

The residency at The Haven will give me the opportunity to forget about my students, the housing project, and the hospital and focus on a manuscript that has been sitting in draft form in a box for far too long. Being on the island will give me the distance I need to give me perspective on a prairie pilgrimage. Being in a new and unfamiliar place will give me a chance to reflect on my life when I’m not totally immersed in it.

I can hardly wait.

May 012012

A Reading of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets  by Jock McKeen

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library | May 4, 2012, 6.15 pm for a start at 6:30 sharp  | Free admission

Part of Crimson Coast Dance Society’s Four Quartets performance and workshops

We hope you’ll attend!

T.S. Eliot’s poetry is often quoted, but usually in short renditions. Only rarely are his longer works presented in a public forum. More than 70 years after their first appearance, the Four Quartets is still immediate and relevant. A full reading of these poems requires nearly an hour, the length of a musical symphony. Dealing with issues of time and eternity, worldly dissatisfaction and spiritual yearnings, it can be seen as a lyric prayer for modern people.

Jock McKeen, MD, LicAc(UK), DLitt, who trained as a physician, has always had a passion for poetry, dance and music, along with a burning curiosity and concern for the human condition. While studying classical Chinese medicine and philosophy, he became fascinated with the art of living, which he has combined with his studies of the science of life. He combines his deep knowledge of people with a love for language and artistic expression. He is a dynamic and engaging reader of poetry; people are enchanted by his passionate renditions of his own work, as well as creations of other authors.

T.S. Eliot is one of his favourite poets. Jock says of Eliot:

“His language covers the entire range, from the commonplace to the celestial. His scope is comparable to a singer with an extraordinary range … the lows are deeply stirring, and the highs take one into the sky.”

Jock says, “This is a special treat for me, to really be able to dig into a full-blooded reading of this masterful work.”

Jock has worked with his partner Bennet Wong, a psychiatrist, for over 40 years. Together, they developed The Haven Institute, an educational centre for personal and professional growth on Gabriola Island. Besides their work at The Haven, these two men have presented their ideas and seminars throughout  Asia and Europe, as well as in Russia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. They co-authored six books which describe much of the germinal philosophy underlying their work with people. One of these books is a collection of Jock’s poems entitled As It Is In Heaven. Their most recent book,  The Illuminated Heart: Perspectives on East-West Psychology and Thought, is a comprehensive distillation of their views; it has just been released by The Haven Institute Press.

In a recent article, Jock wrote, “We are involved in a much bigger enterprise than we usually realize. The forces of the universe flow through us. We are, in our deepest imaginings, linked with each other, and the larger picture.”

Nov 082010

A poem by Wendy Schulz, October 2010

What is that veil, that shroud, that film that lies on top, just above the air I need to breathe?

A haze of self doubt, fear, messages from days gone by, no longer relevant but added to the mix no less.

If I name it and gaze at it straight on, will it lift taking with it all that interferes with clear breath, settled soul and knowing mind?

Name it, name it I say, follow that thread that threatens to unravel that sweater, you know the one that is too tight and chokes at the neck.

Take up those needles and re-knit it, an afghan, a shawl perhaps?

Something flexible, versatile, warm and completely of my own making … home, I call it.


A note: While attending Living Alive Phase I recently, I began thinking about ‘my story’ and how I had been living my life through it, letting it define me and my life experience more than I cared to. Once I thought of that, I began to see how I carried it with me and how choked I felt living like that, how limiting and small that was. When asking myself how I was feeling in my body at different times I would notice that ‘my story’ was there, ready for me to take hold of it again and define how I was feeling through it. So, I wrote a poem to ‘my story’.

Nov 032010

By Ellery Littleton Ellery leads a number of programs at The Haven, including Writing up a Storm: Haiku in March 2011.

Poetry is my favourite form of writing. It took me a long time to figure this out. About 50 years, in fact. Although I wasn’t thinking about poetry as a kid, I was writing it sometimes, all unawares, and reading quite a bit of it in children’s literature. When I think about it, I see that I’ve been into it all my life. It became part of my “work,” then part of my identity.

I have found too, that the more I write poetry, the more I am searching for brevity of expression. I have come to prefer the haiku over the epic poem – or even something as long as a sonnet. I can’t really tell you why, but there is something immensely appealing to me about writing a short poem. A haiku, in fact. Three lines long. With twelve to seventeen syllables.

But what can you say in such a short space? People wonder. They are more used to something a good deal longer, like the stuff they read in school or at university. But I have discovered that you can say a lot in a short space, in a very brief poem, the kind we seldom got to read – or write – as young people. Consider the following erotic haiku:

please undo
just one more

Continue reading »

Sep 062010

On 29th August, a large number of people gathered at The Haven to say farewell to Dianne Anderson. Many memories and stories were shared of Dianne, who played a very important role in making The Haven the unique place it is. We are publishing here a poem for Dianne by Dale Partridge, followed by a tribute from Ben and Jock.

She Was A Friend of Mine

Pictures of her were sent to me, a week after her death,

They caught her well, her broad smile, her laugh, her look,

They were iconic in reminding me of her joviality,

Yet some pictures were missing for me,

The ‘harrumph’ looks, whenever she was unhappy

The ‘don’t even think about it’ look, when I risked displeasing her,

And the ‘Ahhh you’re so great’ look, when we struck the same note.


Dianne was a friend of mine, reliably able to say the truth,

Reliably able to risk a friendship for a needed mirroring,

To show me some aspect of me that neither of us liked,

Dianne could light up a room, her presence preceded her,

Likely you’d hear her unique voice, or her laugh, or her joy,

As she’d already be in true contact with someone, or,

She’d be complaining, groaning out her misery, like a song.


Dianne was a thoughtful person, someone who could care,

She’d love to see the very best for people, celebrate them,

Either through her cards, or her eyes, or her testimony,

She was a straight-talking friend of the person who’d hear,

Totally deaf to the person who thought she should be different,

Dianne just kept on living her raucous life and truth to the end,

When all she wanted was all she wanted all her life.


It was a simple thing really, just a smile, a minute and acceptance,

Just the opportunity to help or to cheer or to be with you,

That’s all, it wasn’t much, thankfully found at her beloved Haven,

Dianne understood sanctuary, respect, support and choice,

Yes, even self-responsibility was clearly part of her knowing,

She just lived it and used it all as she could, uniquely,

Like the car she drove, the clothes she wore, the smile she showed.


Dianne was a friend of mine.

I am blessed.


Dale Partridge,
August 17, 2010



Remembering Dianne

Bennet Wong & Jock McKeen

Dianne was with us from before the time of Haven. When we first set up PD Seminars in 1982, and ran our operation out of April Point Lodge on Quadra Island on a seasonal basis, Dianne was Registrar, cook, and co-Manager. When we told her of our thoughts about acquiring a resort to be the home of PD Seminars, Dianne was relentless in her encouragement … she got the idea in her head, and then she would not hear of it any other way. She was with us when we first moved to Gabriola in 1983, and she was a stalwart fixture in the front office.  So, we knew her “way back when …”

In those days, she was a voluptuous stunning beauty – many people said she looked like Elizabeth Taylor, and the comparison was apt. And what a personality! Her loud voice boomed through the lodge, punctuated with humour and acid wit. She was very quick, and very intuitive; she recognized people’s voices on the phone with their first word. She knew everyone, participants and leaders and community people … and she had a word of advice or encouragement or admonishment for every one of them. She enjoyed irreverence, and loved to refer to herself as “the Troll” … to us, she was the “troll with a huge heart.”

She had a remarkable facility for seeing the best in people, and stubbornly stuck by even the most resistant of you, encouraging, browbeating and loving you without reservation.  She accepted you for what you are, and did not linger on either your flaws or your high points.  You knew she loved you for all of you. She did not afford herself the same consideration: she undervalued herself to a fault, and refused to cooperate with the many of you who tried to jostle her out of this self-abusive position.  She was one stubborn woman indeed.

When she decided to do something, it was done. In the early days of Haven, in order to show integrity of the organization’s health and ecological attitude, we insisted that staff members not smoke on the property. Even though Dianne was a longstanding smoker, she quit smoking to keep her job which she loved, and never faltered on this commitment.

She was resistant to change.  When we put in the new computer registration system in the late 1980’s, she insisted on keeping her three-ring books with her handwriting.  She did every entry twice – once in the computer because she had to, and a second time in the fashion she knew with her own script. She did not want to lose contact with any of “her babies” (for that’s what you were, her spiritual children).

She was willing to roll up her sleeves and work. In the early days, she would carry her portable phone to the laundry room where she was doing extra duty washing the resort’s linens. When the floods would come, she was out digging trenches with the rest of us.

We were sad when she chose to retreat in her later years, spending more time at home.  Yet, we respected that Dianne was “being Dianne” and nothing could budge her from what she had decided. We missed her increasingly in recent years as she became more and more private.

We wish her a deep and satisfying rest.  She has made a world a brighter … and a louder … place.

She was deeply loved by many … and we count ourselves in that number.

Dianne … We still hear your laughing voice  as it resounds through Haven.  We are filled with our feelings for you.

Love, Ben and Jock

Nov 052009

by Ellery Littleton

After writing many haiku in recent years, I decided to have a go at crafting a little book of erotic romantic love haiku. I had been attracted to the idea for a long time, and the short form of the haiku suited me perfectly (three or four lines; 10 to 17 syllables, subtle and allusive, leaving lots of room for the imagination of the reader.) So I started writing some, while simultaneously reading a couple of collections of erotic haiku, and waiting patiently for a very special book I had ordered to arrive in the mail.

The book entitled simply Erotic Haiku, compiled by Hiroaki Sato, with translations into Japanese, is noted in several sources as the best contemporary collection of this genre of poetry. It is a small volume, containing 120 poems written by poets from around the world, mostly Japanese and American. On the front cover, there is the following haiku, by the Chinese poet Ai Li, who lives in the UK:

blow job
she kneels
in Prada

Unlike this example, most of the erotic haiku throughout the book are “soft-core” and quite subtle. For example:

dark rose
the sun lights it
as you undress

Some of them are more explicit:

steamy room
the tulip petals
spread wide

And some are gently evocative, more like traditional haiku:

without clothes
it’s a different


my lips hesitate
at the edge of his tattoo
who was CK?

These latter two are more like the haiku I had in mind. I wanted the poems to be more zen-like and romantic, as opposed to completely sexual. As a guiding example, I am drawn to the approach of Kenneth Rexroth, translator of  Love Poems from the Japanese, a classic work published in the early 1960s. Rexroth believed erotic love to be the physical manifestation of spiritual devotion, an attitude informed by Vedantic and Buddhist philosophy.

Continue reading »

Sep 092009

Recently I had the privilege of working with a group of women in the Primal Nudgings program. Some of them agreed to have their poems published in the Shen. These poems were written in a period of about 15 minutes, following an exercise with their masks. As you can see from the words, although the exercise is the same, the experience is as different and unique as the individual women.

I feel warm and full as I witness what happens when, given the opportunity to slow down and quiet the mind we allow the intuitive, creative aspect of the self to blossom. And blossom it did in the days and evenings as we worked with clay, masks and owning forgotten aspects of the self. The heartfelt words of their poems … Marlyn Farrell

Marlyn is offering Primal Whisperings at The Haven November 6-9. The next Primal Nudgings is in 2010.


Bow-legged like a bulldog
I march down the street and into the past
Contemplating the peasant farmers
Among my ancestors.
How they must have enjoyed the sun
How their ghosts must be amused at
Our modern silly lives
So lacking in the serenity of silence
I imagine them impishly plotting
Planting ideas of getting back-to-the-land
Among us modern folk
And playfully joking at our ineptness and softness.
Yes wisely, sadly,
Watching us reconnect.

Rita Arterio

Continue reading »

Jul 042009

By Ellery Littleton

“Poetry doesn’t matter to most people,” writes Jay Parini, poet, novelist and professor of English at Middlebury College, Vermont. “Most people don’t write it, don’t read it, and don’t have any idea why anybody would spend valuable time doing such a thing.”

There are people who read poetry, of course, although they tend to be students, or the odd individual who is willing to make the effort to confront the perceived challenges poetic language presents. Serious poetry (ie. something that is not a limerick or a rhyming ditty) is not always difficult to understand, despite what most people think.

“Poetry is a kind of meditation that slows me down and brings me back to myself.” (Allen Ginsberg)

Writing poetry is even more of a tough sell than reading it; much more. Being asked to write a poem seems to put most people immediately in touch with an acute sense of inadequacy around their creativity in general, and the writing of poetry in particular. They immediately think it will be hard, and that the result will be awkward at best. Few understand how much fun it can be, and how relatively easy it is to do – if approached properly.
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