PRISM 53.1 Fall 2014

531_storePrism 53.1 launched on a glorious teacup-and-octopus filled Sunday at WORD Vancouver. The issue, the first from new editors Nicole Boyce (prose) and Rob Taylor (poetry), is filled with good ink (cephalopod or otherwise).

The prose in PRISM 53:1 explores a wide range of perspectives, captured by both emerging and established writers. On the fiction side, “Everything Here Reminds Me of You” by Amy Jones looks at the relationship between a woman and her boyfriend’s ex-wife, beginning with the woman’s decision to crash a family funeral. “Postcard from the Adriatic,” a coming of age story by Jasmina Odor, is told through the shifting lens of multiple family members who have taken refuge on the Adriatic Coast during the Bosnian War. Moving from the Adriatic Coast to the West Coast, we have two stories set on islands in the Pacific Northwest: “The Troubles of North LaPorte” by Anne Trooper-Holbrook takes a month-by-month look at a teenager’s life after he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant, while “Witching Hour” by Toni Hiatt is a haunting portrait of a mother-daughter relationship impacted by mental illness. Finally, “Flight Simulator” by Michael LaPointe details one man’s nostalgic search for identity—by way of childhood computer games. On the non-fiction side, PRISM 53:1 includes K.A. MacKinnon’s “Character Sketch,” a uniquely-structured piece about two women traveling through Europe as circus employees.

For poetry, PRISM 53.1 brings you four Canadian voices: two well established (Elise Partridge, Peter Norman) and two you’ll be hearing more from soon (Raoul Fernandes, Michael Lockett). Joining them are three American writers who are most likely unfamiliar to Canadian readers: Gwen Hart, Emily Tuszynska and Mark Parlette. If one thing unites all of these poems and poets, it is their desire to pay close attention: Fernandes’ itemizes a playground in “Suspension,” Lockett explores the world both inside and outside a Sri Lankan bus in “Vavuniya via Anuradhapura,” and Tuszynska considers every angle as a boy is dressed for Halloween. Partridge, for her part, studies hard the sound, shape and meaning of words and letters in poems like “Before the Fall” and “The Alphabet.”

Put together, it makes for one fantastic issue. But don’t take our word for it – suction-cup up a copy and see for yourself!

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Literary Nostalgia

In PRISM 53:1, Michael LaPointe writes about nostalgia in “Flight Simulator,” a funny, thought-provoking short story about a young man’s search for his past. We asked Michael whether he’s nostalgic for any books from his childhood. He was kind enough to share a few words:

Imaginary Places“My late grandfather gifted me Gianni Gudalupi and Alberto Manguel’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places in 1998, either for Christmas or my eleventh birthday. I spent countless hours going through this dense, unwieldy book in no particular order, my eyes now and then alighting with curiosity on one especially vivid place-name—Doonham, Venalia, Lomb. Although the word imaginary is right there in the title, somehow I must have ignored this important detail, because I used to write my own stories about the places, using the information from the entry to form what were thin, no doubt ersatz palimpsests over the original tales. My grandfather wisely inscribed the dictionary, “Some of the best voyages of all are to imaginary places of the mind.” In general, I try to resist the nostalgic urge, which seems to me a romantic turning away from reality, a form of selective remembrance that carves an ideal memory from its less ideal context. Nevertheless this book holds a nostalgic quality, no doubt because the imaginary nature of nostalgia is programmed into my experience of these places: both are fictional. The dictionary serves to remind me that every memory is a voyage to an imaginary place of the mind.”

On the subject of nostalgia, here are a few childhood favourites from the folks here at PRISM:

All Creatures

Clara Kumagai, Executive Editor, Promotions

The book I’m most nostalgic for is James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, which I read and re-read constantly at the age of nine or ten. It was at a time when I was obsessed with animals and had vowed to be a vet when I grew up. James Herriot was a semi-autobiographical character created by English author James Alfred Wight, and his stories and novels were based on his own life as a vet in rural Yorkshire in the 1940s. So it was a bit incongruous that a small girl in Loughrea, County Galway was identifying with his books. From them I learned things like how to cure a cow of acute stomach gas and how hard cat hysterectomies are, and I thought that at some point in my life this knowledge would actually come in useful (hasn’t happened yet but who knows). I read the five hundred page book so often that, in the end, the librarian of my tiny local library just told me I could keep it. Which I did.

Rob Taylor, Poetry Editor

WaysideFew books gave me more joy as a child than Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I no longer own a copy of the book, and I admit that I had to look up the plot summary on the internet. But when I did—oh! Mrs. Gorf turning herself into an apple and then being eaten by Louis the yard teacher. Mrs. Jewls’ DISCIPLINE list. The new kid, Sammy, who wouldn’t take off all his rain coats (spoiler alert: dead rat). And the one part for which I didn’t need a reminder: there is no chapter 19. Just the words “There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth floor. Sorry.” All that white space, bursting with possibility! Oozing with negative capability! The poet in elementary-school me stirred a little, perhaps for the first time

Nicole Boyce, Prose Editor 

Catherine_Called_Birdy_coverI’m a very nostalgic person, so this was a tough choice for me. I settled on Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman because the book’s funny, engaging voice  piqued my interest in character-driven writing. The book—set in the 13th century—follows Catherine, a teenager who goes to great lengths to avoid marriage and embroidery, much to her parents’ chagrin. I loved Catherine’s angst; if LiveJournal had existed in the 13th century, this is what it might have looked like. I also loved the historical details—minstrels, Michaelmas, vellum, oh my!—and the comically awful suitors (Catherine, of course, foils them at every turn). Re-reading the book this summer, I had flashes back to a time when I was enchanted by medieval names, Robin Hood movies, and the exclamation “Corpus bones!”

To read “Flight Simulator,” pick up a copy of PRISM 53:1!

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Birney/Purdy Letters Excerpt #3: “Before I get nasty I want to thank you”

we go far backIn celebration of the publication of We Go Far Back in Time (a new book collecting forty years of letters between poets Earle Birney and Al Purdy) and in preparation for The Al Purdy Show: Vancouver Edition, PRISM international and Harbour Publishing have partnered to present you four excerpts from the Birney/Purdy letters throughout October (you can read all the posts in the same place here). Last Wednesday we presented you a letter from Earle Birney to Al Purdy, informing Purdy that PRISM was rejecting his poetry submission, and taking issue with Purdy’s assertion in a review that poets in the 1940s were influenced by the work of Bliss Carman (you can read that letter here). Today, we share Purdy’s reply. Both letters have been posted 50 years to the day after their composition.

To Earle Birney (Vancouver, British Columbia) from Al Purdy (Ameliasburgh, Ontario)
October 19, 1964

Dear Earle:
That’s a blockbuster of a letter. Before I get nasty want to thank you for Canada Council missive. You hit what’s nearly the crux of the whole thing in your comments about the travel allowance. On accounta I don’t suppose very much “lateral” travel is possible in the north, and I’d likely have to go back south in order to go east or west. By plane anyway. Tho of course I’ll take whatever transport is available. Anyway, it’s a good letter, with, I think, very accurate judgments and estimates throughout.
           I wish the rest of the letter was as close to the mark.
           Naturally, I disagree about the “Love Poem.” However, you either get and like such a poem or you don’t. No amount of explaining makes it better if you (or whoever) don’t get it themselves in the first place. And you certainly know what I mean here. I could talk about this one all night, and hope to do so on some later date with you. In the meantime I think your Poetry Ed. is full of shit.
           Anyway, you challenge me to name a poet who was influenced by Carman. That’s easy. ME. He was the first reason for my writing poetry, and no snide comments please. I got over him eventually as you know, but “Arnoldus Villanova, 600 years ago (not 20) / said peonies have magic and I believe it so.”
           Your list is damn impressive, and gives me info I didn’t have before. I could have guessed some of it, but not nearly all. However, one of the things it demonstrates very strongly to me is that the poets with good models improved, and those who imitated (or were influenced by) Carman didn’t. Moral: Imitate the best. I may say (modestly) that Birney too at one time was one of my influences. Still, despite this severe handicap, I survived. No kiddin tho, there is a point here. And don’t you remember Carman’s vogue at that time, and earlier?
           You say none worthy of the name was influenced. Of course you’re right. Except me. And I wasn’t worthy the name at the time. But there were also the Canadian Authors Association type (generalization) of poets who go nowhere. You know damn well they were influenced. Carman was worshipped among some of those people, just as Williams is now, he and the Black Mountain boys.
           Still, I’ll give you best somewhat, since it isn’t a precisely accurate generalization. If I’d written 40 pages tho would have done better. But I will not agree when you say that Carman had no influence. 20 years ago and farther back.
           I went thru most of the influences you name in that table, except Eliot. But I went from Carman to Chesterton, W. J. Turner, Hardy to Yeats. Then Dylan Thomas. The Americans I didn’t even know about a few years back.
           Among your particular influences, Auden and Jeffers have been strong. Hardy a little less so. The others not at all. Donne and Marvell to some extent. Even Kipling at one time. Yourself and Layton tho, in Canada. Eliot, beyond admiring somewhat “La something or other” and “Prufrock,” not at all. I can’t even understand The Waste Land, nor very sure there’s much to understand.
           So — you busy bastard, I expect you to either disagree with this and not write, or disagree and write a year from now. However, I’m pleased to see some of the awe that seems to permeate the atmosphere these days (no kiddin) is not breathed in by you. Tho you’ve probably noted some of it. Eh? And are about to kick me in the egotistic balls. We could probably have a good argument under the “right” circumstances?
           Next day — and where the hell was I?
           Anyway, I find your graph damn interesting. For instance, whatever happened to Wreford? Or did he ever happen in the first place?
           I see you have left out Pratt, perhaps thinkin he didn’t imitate anyone.
           What a nasty question. Do I know who was writing poetry in Canada in 44? I’ve written the stuff myself since I was 13 years old, and I’ve heard of or known most of them, including many who never got anywhere. Who weren’t, as you say, “poets” — depending on the level of merit you have to achieve to deserve the epithet. But why worry about nomenclature, let the old ladies have their magic occupation. “Honest definition”? I’ve never seen a valid definition yet, one that would hold up, either of poetry or poets. Lots of stop-gap ones tho. And nearly everyone I know (who writes poems) just loves to make such definitions.
           Anyway, before I stop, thanks again for your letter. Really, I should think anyone who was so sharp and perceptive in such a letter wouldn’t be the opposite in the accompanying letter. I’ll give you about 50% of your points tho. Will you be that generous/dishonest??? No. Anyway, if I get this thing I hope to see you in Vancouver, for I’ll be out there before leaving for the north.

Best
Al

Excerpts from We Go Far Back in Time: The Letters of Earle Birney and Al Purdy, 1947–1987, edited by Nicholas Bradley, appear with the permission of Harbour Publishing. © 2014 Nicholas Bradley, Eurithe Purdy, and Wailan Low. The excerpts have been edited for clarity and length.

The Al Purdy Show: Vancouver Edition is a PRISM international-sponsored event happening on October 26th as part of the Vancouver Writers Fest. All funds raised at the event will go directly to the Al Purdy A-Frame Association. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Theatre: Carmen Aguirre’s “Blue Box”

Carmen Aguirre. Photo by Megan Verhey.

Carmen Aguirre. Photo by Megan Verhey.

by Sasha Singer-Wilson

Blue Box
Written and performed by Carmen Aguirre
Directed by Brian Quirt
Arts Club Theatre Company
Revue Stage

Carmen Aguirre has got it goin’ on. She is a fierce force of bold sensuality and brash wit. She oozes generous warmth. She is an exceptional storyteller. To top that off, this is a story that warrants stage time, that deserves open ears and curiosity. No matter your background, your connection to the revolution in Chile or the sexy six-pack of a movie star, Blue Box will connect, via hot wire, to your heart.

Blue Box was commissioned by Nightswimming and is masterfully directed by the company’s Artistic Director, Brian Quirt. Nightswimming is one of Canada’s leading creators of new works of theatre, dance and music, and Blue Box is one of its great successes, having premiered in 2012 at the Cultch in Vancouver. The ninety-minute, one act show has since toured to Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Regina, Banff, Victoria, Whitehorse and St. John’s.

Aguirre is the vibrant soul of Blue Box. The writer and actor has co-written over twenty plays and her first book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, won CBC Canada Reads in 2012 and is a national bestseller. She’s at work on two new plays as well as a second memoir. In Blue Box Aguirre weaves together two incredible autobiographical stories. One is powerfully political and chronicles her underground life in the 1980’s Chilean resistance movement combatting the Pinochet dictatorship. The other is keenly personal and accounts her passionate and tumultuous relationship with an irresistible actor. She manages to knit these starkly contrasting and yet profoundly connected stories together, often only a breath in between them, with grace and clarity.

The set is bare, with only a black stool and water bottle upstage. This leaves the necessary emotional space for Aguirre and her story. The thrust of the Revue Stage serves the intimacy and up-close-and-personal nature of the play. Set and Lighting Designer Itai Erdal leaves room for the audience to process the scope of Aguirre’s life, as we follow her into the cockpit of an airplane with her resistance fighting first-husband, to a phone-sex call center in Vancouver’s Lower East Side, to the steamy bedroom of her lover in Los Angeles. The lighting is bright and dramatic one moment and gently subtle the next, illuminating both Aguirre and the audience with intuitive skill.

Music is central in Blue Box and Sound Designer and Composer Joelysa Pankanea, a multi award-winning musician, carries us to smoky salsa clubs and dark Chilean streets. The soundtrack includes La India’s “Ese Hombre” and “Ya No Queda Nada” by Tito Nieves and inspires shoulder shaking and head bopping throughout the audience. The music both facilitates the joyful moments of levity and helps to build the mounting tension. All design elements unite in simple service and honour of the story, a rare experience.

Upon leaving the theatre, my date said, “I’m going to IMDB Carmen and figure out who that actor is!” I responded, “So, you think it’s all true? You think you’ll find someone?” A passionate discussion ensued in which we debated the truth of the story, and if it mattered if all the details were real—we were invested and engaged. Given that Aguirre was playing “herself”, we inherently trusted her and therefore believed that what she told us had actually happened. My date felt disappointed that I’d even introduced the possibility that anything might have been exaggerated or fictitious, and felt somehow manipulated if it was. Is part of going to the theatre seeking a kind of “manipulation”? In “confessional” theatre, is the artist accountable to tell the “whole truth and nothing but the truth”? When you go to see a play, do you care more about the “truth” (a slippery notion no matter what the circumstance) or more about being engrossed and entertained?

I invite you to engage in this discussion and have a unique and invigorating evening at the theatre. Be sure to catch Blue Box. Carmen Aguirre is an artist to follow closely. Wherever she goes there is sure to be a dance party and an uprising.

Blue Box runs at The Arts Club Revue Stage until November 1st, 2014. Click here for tickets and more information.

Sasha Singer-Wilson is a Vancouver based and Toronto bred writer and performer. She makes theatrical things with the blood projects and literary things with these five minutes. She’s in her first year of the joint Creative Writing/Theatre MFA in Playwriting at UBC and has a serious crush on the mountains.

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Review: “Placeholder” by Charmaine Cadeau

Placeholder-webPlaceholder
Charmaine Cadeau
2013, Brick Books, Canada

The future is elusive and uncertain. The past is exact, a known experience that marks like “road salt from the side of the car / sticks to your jacket, tells where you’ve been.” (49) Placeholder, the second book of poems from Charmaine Cadeau, takes residence in the moments between these opposing abstracts of time.

Cadeau’s placeholder seems both metaphor, as a marker or trigger to memory, and literal, like a pause button, a time out for reflection. The poems straddle the narrative and philosophical, and the ambiguity in the stream-of-consciousness verse lends itself to multiple readings. Structurally, the text reinforces this conception. The book uses a variety of forms—from couplet to prose poem to sprawling free verse that layers in stanza bunches like a textural moraine of image—and the lack of unity seemed symbolic of fragmentary remembrance. Memory is not static, but open to environmental stimulus, open to deterioration. The speaker’s frequent use of the ‘we’ pronoun suggests an attempt to democratize access to the placeholder itself. We seem to know that there is no use in burying the past, “as if anything could be safely / sealed away.” (19)

The poems are infused with anxiety and a careful control of diction leads the reader through runs of subtle sound play. From “Queen bee”:

her cell’s architecture is the same as steroids, cholesterol,
graphite lines ghosting up through watercolours, aspirin
loose in the desk drawer…

The workers hum and build like canary

girls in a munitions factory—skin yellowing from TNT. They
think about demolition,
what the last sound would be, the catch—

                                                                (13)

Cadeau’s is a line possessed of itself and its shifting auditory rhythms.

Seduced by memory and the past, an honest fear of what next? rises from the language, “flicking between when to hold out / when to let go.” (14) “Glasshouse” proceeds as a series of questions: what if, what then, what now? “How we reminisce” further elaborates this complicated comfort, describing reminiscence as both a scarred red pear and the sweet juice beneath its skin. There is an inescapable pull in memory that “swims in your blood. And it washes up, no matter how far the toss.” (41) And as captivated by memory as the speaker is, she is equally contemptuous of “tomorrow,” a “tease hiking up its skirt at today’s loneliness.” (21)

Near the end of the book the reader realizes something has changed. From “Overexposure”: “Our photographs came back white, or mostly / white like froth, traces of something else / pressing from the other side.” (40) Here the past doesn’t give the speaker what she wants, the easy access, the placeholder, what Aislinn Hunter has called the object as repository of memory. Looking forward with “compass at the ready,” the speaker is plagued with doubt and can’t help remind the reader “the hippo— / campus is your ticket home.” (57)

In the end, Placeholder faces up to what is approaching and describes “how kids chase / after the flashlight’s pool moving always slightly ahead,” (62) the book and these lines a powerful reminder that the future holds our understanding of the past.

Geoffrey Nilson is a writer and musician from New Westminster, BC. His poetry has appeared in a variety of publications across Canada including PRISM internationalsubTerrainThe Rusty ToquePulp, and rip/torn. In 2012, he was a finalist for The Malahat Review Far Horizons Award for Poetry. He studies Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and is attending The Banff Centre‘s Wired Writing Studio in the fall of 2014. Find him at his website http://www.vcovcfvca.com or on Twitter @GeoffreyNilson

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Birney/Purdy Letters Excerpt #2: “An orgasm not a belly rub”

we go far backIn celebration of the publication of We Go Far Back in Time (a new book collecting forty years of letters between poets Earle Birney and Al Purdy) and in preparation for The Al Purdy Show: Vancouver Edition, PRISM international and Harbour Publishing have partnered to present you four excerpts from the Birney/Purdy letters throughout October (you can read all the posts in the same place here). Today we present you a letter from Birney to Purdy involving (among other things) the rejection of a poem Purdy had submitted to PRISM. On Sunday, October 19th we will share Purdy’s reply to the rejection and Birney’s other assertions. Both letters will be posted 50 years to the day after their composition. [Update: You can read Purdy's reply here]


A note from Nicholas Bradley, editor of We Go Far Back in Time, on the next two excerpts:
In this selection of letters from 1964, Earle Birney and Al Purdy write about several matters of concern: Birney’s letter in support of Purdy’s application to the Canada Council; the state of Purdy’s submission to PRISM, the journal of which Birney was the editor; and the influence on Canadian poets of Bliss Carman. As the letters show, Birney and Purdy took literary history very seriously.

 

To Al Purdy (Ameliasburgh, Ontario) from Earle Birney (Vancouver, British Columbia)
October 15, 1964

Dear Al,
Haven’t had a chance to answer yours of Sep 24 till now. However, I did send a chit to the Canada Council. I hope it helps. I thought you might like to see what I wrote, and attach a copy.
           The Poetry Ed. liked “Mr. Greenhalgh’s Love Poem” which you sent on Sep 15 but wasn’t too happy about the way in which the associations get so loose at the end; most of the way, he says, they’re exciting and free; at the end, for him, just free. Well, it’s a criticism, though I suspect if the poem had been shorter it would have passed more easily through his needle’s eye. There wasn’t time for it or the other one, for this Prism anyway, so I am returning them both so that you can feel free to get them in somewhere else earlier than we could now plan for. You asked me whether I think “On a Park Bench” is a poem. Of course I do, though for me an incomplete one, one that leaves the essence unexplored, the mysterious moment of communication between poet and mother-on-bench: what happens to it? How did it start, finish, or didn’t it happen at all, didn’t her nerves quiver at all in the poet’s? I want to know more, and a poem for me isn’t just a titillation, it’s a satisfaction, an orgasm not a belly rub.
           You have a review in the September Canadian Forum containing, in the opening of its 2nd para., one of the more remarkable misstatements of the year. “Twenty years ago young poets,” you tell us, “imitated Bliss Carman (in Canada anyway), Eliot, Auden and the 19th century romantics.” Jesus! What “young poets”? Name ONE in Canada (you certainly couldn’t outside of Canada) who was imitating Bliss Carman in 1944 or indeed in 1934 or 1924, anyone who was, is, a poet by any honest definition, and who was young, or even not really young, say under forty. NAME ONE! Do you know who was writing poetry in 1944 in Canada? I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you who I think they were imitating, insofar as they were imitating anybody:

Anderson at age 29: Dylan Thomas
Bailey at age 39: Eliot, Pratt
Avison at age 26: Marianne Moore? Yeats
Daniells at age 44: Eliot
Dudek at age 26: Pound, Auden
Finch at age 44: French symbolistes
Gustafson at age 35: Hopkins
Klein at age 35: Eliot
LePan at age 30: Lewis
Livesay at age 35: Auden, Sitwell, Symbolistes
Lowry at age 36: Aiken, Melville, Elizabethans
MacKay at age 43: MacNeice, the Greek poets
Page at age 28: Anderson, Thomas, Barker
Wreford at age 29: Auden, Lewis
Whalley at age 30?: Lewis
M. Waddington at age 27: E. Sitwell
Souster at age 21: Whitman
Wilkinson at age 34: Dickinson
Smith at age 42: Yeats, Eliot

There isn’t one damn poet, old or young, worthy at all of the name, none writing & appearing in the mags and anthologies, who was being influenced 20 yrs ago by one damn nineteenth century romantic or by Bliss Carman. No nor 25 or 30 yrs ago. Forty years ago, yes. Man, don’t think everybody a little bit older than you is CGD Roberts vintage. You’re half right about Eliot & Auden, if you have to make superficial generalizations, but the real truth is more like this column — all over the place. I left myself out because I KNOW how scattered & unconcentrated my influences were. Sure, they included Audenspenderlewis, & Eliot whom I always despised, but these influences were no more important than those of Cynewulf, Chaucer, John Skelton, Herrick, Homer, Hardy, Robinson Jeffers and Wilfred Owen. And of all these only Chaucer seems to have been abiding within me, and yet led to little I could claim by kinship with him.

Earle


Excerpts from We Go Far Back in Time: The Letters of Earle Birney and Al Purdy, 1947–1987, edited by Nicholas Bradley, appear with the permission of Harbour Publishing. © 2014 Nicholas Bradley, Eurithe Purdy, and Wailan Low. The excerpts have been edited for clarity and length.

The Al Purdy Show: Vancouver Edition is a PRISM international-sponsored event happening on October 26th as part of the Vancouver Writers Fest. All funds raised at the event will go directly to the Al Purdy A-Frame Association. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Prompt: Falling

danger_cliff_faller1As an Irish person, I’m used to saying “autumn” instead of “fall”. No offence, but I prefer “autumn”. I like how it sounds and how it looks on the page. And what’s more, you can’t confuse it for anything else. “Fall” can mean many things. So I looked it up in the dictionary… Turns out “fall” ranks ninth in the top ten words with the most definitions – it has 264. (“Set” is at number one with 464 definitions.)

Which leads me to today’s prompt. Below are some of the uses of “fall”, with examples. Read through them and see if any jump out at you – it can be the context or the example given. Choose three and then see what narrative forms for you.

There are plenty more ways of using “fall”, so you can look through the dictionary yourself, or use one of the other many-meaninged words, like “set”, “run”, “go”, “take”, “stand”, “get”, “turn”, “put” or “strike”.

Good luck!

fall |fôl|
verb (past fell |fel| ; past participle fallen |ˈfôlən| ) [ no obj. ]
1 move downward, typically rapidly and freely without control, from a higher to a lower level: bombs could be seen falling from the planes | (as adj. falling) : the power lines had been brought down by falling trees.
• (fall off) become detached accidentally and drop to the ground: my sunglasses fell off and broke on the pavement.
• hang down: hair that was allowed to fall to the shoulders.
• (of land) slope downward; drop away: the land fell away in a steep bank.
• (fall into) (of a river) flow or discharge itself into.
• (of someone’s eyes or glance) be directed downward.
• (of someone’s face) show dismay or disappointment by appearing to sag or droop: her face fell as she thought about her life with George.
• occur, arrive, or become apparent as if by dropping suddenly: when night fell we managed to crawl back to our lines | the information might fall into the wrong hands.
2 (of a person) lose one’s balance and collapse: she fell down at school today.
• throw oneself down, typically in order to worship or implore someone: they fell on their knees, rendering thanks to God.
• (of a tree, building, or other structure) collapse to the ground: the house looked as if it were going to fall down at any moment.
• (of a building or place) be captured or defeated: their mountain strongholds fell to enemy attack.
• die in battle: an English leader who had fallen at the hands of the Danes.
• archaic commit sin; yield to temptation: it is their husband’s fault if wives do fall.
• (of a government or leader) lose office.
• (in sports) lose or be eliminated from play.
3 decrease in number, amount, intensity, or quality: in 1987 imports into Britain fell by 12 percent | we’re worried that standards are falling.
• find a lower level; subside or abate: the water table in the Rift Valley fell.
• (of a measuring instrument) show a lower reading: the barometer had fallen a further ten points.
4 pass into a specified state: many of the buildings fell into disrepair | she fell pregnant.
• (fall to doing something) begin to do something: he fell to musing about how it had happened.
• be drawn accidentally into: you must not fall into this common error.
• occur at a specified time: Mother’s birthday fell on Flag Day.
• be classified or ordered in the way specified: canals fall within the Minister’s brief.

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