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January, 2008

The Shy Writer

A Tiger's Tale
First writing gigs can sneak up and bite
By  Buzz Burza

isten, my young friends. You can become a working writer in the most extraordinary roundabout of ways. I'm a perfect case in point.

In terms of organization, my current ongoing writing jobs, which amount to three, are each arranged merely by number. As I slug the number 12 on this file, I feel a tad sad as yet another year has seemingly flitted by.

It's been a year that saw breached that terrifyingly traditional benchmark year of 65, meaning I am now working on the palindromically significant year 66. Ergo, I have 11 more to go, because I would really like to work until I'm 77. But I digress.

It seems only a short while ago that I fell, like I have so much in my life, into writing as a career of sorts. I had always written, but it was always in the form of wildly self-indulgent letters to a wildly wide-ranging circle of chums. A million-plus words remain nestled in a yard-high pile of carbon copies on a cabinet next to me. Maybe this year I'll give them a read.

That short while ago was actually the summer of 1976. I had just completed the first of a two-year furniture course at Toronto's George Brown College Kensington Market campus and was working as a butcher in a West Indian shop on the Market's main thoroughfare, Baldwin Street. I could never have known back then that I would remain intimately involved with this market of markets for another 15 years.

The mythical address, 51 Kensington, had housed several stabs at restauranteurship, until that spring's opening of what would become a legendary name in the Market — Tiger's Coconut Grove. Immediately, the Jamaican snake oil salesman Tiger and I became thick as thieves and countless misadventures and excellent escapades would transpire at this hallowed hotspot.

One Saturday I walked into Tiger's for lunch to find him all aflutter. Some West Indian magazine was about to go to press and they were waiting for a review of his restaurant. He asked me if I could help. How could I say no?

I remember going into his back room with a stub of a pencil and notebook, muttering about getting myself into another jam. Within a few minutes I'd whacked the thing off and Tiger was delighted. Several weeks later I saw the printed results of my handiwork and I moved on, secure in the credibility I'd attained as a restaurant reviewer.

At this time the ill-fated lefty tabloid Toronto Clarion was coming together prior to its fall launch and Tiger's was a main gathering place for we fledgling Clarioniks. Because I had some small standing writing about food, I thought this would be my beat, so I was disappointed when the "collective" had decided I was going to write the first column about "work."

Since I was a butcher, spoketh they, and the food section was unceremoniously awarded to someone else.

At the time I really was disappointed. I didn't like cutting meat, had no intention of writing about it and adroitly palmed the job off. As the debut issue deadline approached it became apparent we were short 24 inches.

At the very last minute I was asked if the Tiger piece could go, along with a large photograph. Of course I was pleased as punch, as was Tiger, and the first issue of The Clarion hit the streets with a feature about Butcher Buzz, an ill-wrought food piece by the initial grub writer designate, and my Tiger tale.

The upshot of the whole affair was my being given the eats detail for the remainder of my time with the paper. Cheap eats soon included writing about down market bars and I was off to the races.

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Although it wasn't apparent at the time.

Buzz Burza is a freelance writer, photographer, teacher, lecturer, film actor and print distribution consultant living in New Delhi, India. Email:

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IN This Issue
Part III: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
Part II: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
Part I: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
The Delusional Is No Longer Marginal
Part II: Researching Nonfiction
Part I: Researching Nonfiction
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Bald Ego
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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