What a Festival! http://writersfestival.ca/
Reading with Steven Heighton and Joe Denham was excellent, the audience was totally engaged and engaging, and the landscape of the coast was stunning.writersfestival.ca/
Here is Steve all suited up post-reading, in the back of Joe’s pick-up on the way to go play music.
And here I am with Kara Stanley and Gurjinder Basran, just after Gurjinder’s reading. Joy!
In praise of the strength and fragility of butterflies and poetry, as evidenced in this stunning poem by Melissa Kwasny, lines from which appear below:
(lines from) Common Blue
…The Siamese kitten with his butterfly eyes
comes running, his mouth full
of swallowtail, his breath smelling of borax
and sugar I have poured
over the ant hills in the garden.
He is young and intent on eating poison.
We bushwhack through Paradise,
what is there to say except to lament
the daily evidence of its passing…
We speak of our souls with such
surface ease. But who will take such care for us?
You bend and bend to the scrappy blue sea,
your back turned to the moon fluttering above you.
I have been thinking so much of strength
this week, yours and mine, I mean,
the field of attention that can be strengthened.
Melissa Kwasny, “Common Blue”
Read the whole poem here:
I have to say that the best part of editing an anthology is sending out letters of acceptance. I am delighted to say that Sustenance is finished, all acceptances have been sent, and we have already gotten a shout-out from Quill and Quire. Grateful to the Poetry Ambassadors who supported this project and helped in various ways to bring poetry to our communities: Hartley Banack, Karen Shklanka, Adèle Barclay Renee Saklikar Annie Ross Lynda Prince Otoniya Grace Elee Kraljii Gardiner Jillian Christmas Jami Macarty Kevin Spenst Fiona Tinwei Lam, RC Weslowski and Ngwatilo Mawiyoo. and to all who submitted. We are going to have some amazing launches, with music, food (of course) and fantastic writing about food. Sustenance is unique, both in its scope and in its focus on creating community through food. Thanks to your efforts, it is a marvelous anthology, startling and innovative, equal parts salty, bitter and sweet.
“If I am not mistaken we were all writing poetry, except for Ettore, who said it was undignified for an engineer. Writing sad, crepuscular poems, and not all that beautiful, while the world was in flames, did not seem to us either strange or shameful: we proclaimed ourselves the enemies of Fascism, but actually Fascism had had its effect on us, as on almost all Italians, alienating us and making us superficial, passive and cynical.”
--Primo Levi, The Periodic Table ("Gold")
Truly a privilege to have been invited to participate in The Drum is Calling Festival. I will be giving a free workshop on writing about food and family on Thursday July 27, 2017 at 1:30pm, followed by a reading with these exceptional poets: Annie Ross, Adéle Barclay, Jonina Kirton and Joanne Arnott. Larwell Park 4:20-5. All are welcome. https://canada150plus.ca/drum/ #Canada150Plus
J’ikki, un des chiens mis en vedette dans mon livre, est le K9 qui est intervenu pour prévenir cette attaque terroriste. Bravo, équipe J’ikki!
J’ikki, one of the dogs featured in my book, was the K9 who intervened to prevent this terrorist attack. Bravo, team J’ikki!
I’m excited to share this poster for my forthcoming book, The Dog Lover Unit: Lessons in Courage from the World’s K9 Cops, with blurbs from two writers I admire tremendously, Temple Grandin and Stanley Coren. Many people generously offered advice and support, but I’d like to thank a few who made all the difference: Isabelle Fieschi, Hilary McMahon, Peter Joseph, Kara Stanley, Carol Shaben, James Prier and M.L. Lyke.
This is a remarkable conference, held in a remarkable place. I’m struck by the efforts people made to get here, from all over Alaska and across the USA. Here are a few photos of this wild place:
Heading to Homer, Alaska tomorrow for Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, where I will be teaching: http://sites.kpc.alaska.edu/writersconf/
Next off to Anchorage for this reading, hosted by UAA Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and 49 Writers, with Joan Naviyuk Kane and Ismet Prcic:
Oddly, I was just about to join the Writers’ Union of Canada, in anticipation of the publication of my first non-fiction book, when Hal Niedzviecki’s editorial, “Winning the Appropriation Prize” was published.
I’m a strong supporter of free speech, especially at this historical point, where we live next to Trump-held territories in a time of false news and deliberate spreading of misinformation. I celebrate the right to offend, to provoke, and to challenge, as so many of the comics, journalists and writers working around the world today are doing, often at considerable risk to themselves.
But speech that is free is just the lowest common denominator of a free society. We all have the right to babble freely of our hatreds and fears, to post them and to spread them. It happens minute by minute. Beyond that freedom, each of us must ask herself questions about the work we bring into the world. Is it true? Is it ethical? Where does the balance of power lie? What is the intention, the goal, behind the work, and will the work itself move us toward that goal, however incrementally? Is it appropriate for its intended audience?
This is not self-censorship; this is editing. It is what writers do, and fail at, and resolve to do better.
I celebrate acts of radical imagination, engaged witnessing, and cross-cultural exploration. As so many writers do, I look beyond my own limited encounters with the world. I am writing a historical novel set in France, England and America of the 1600’s, not an era in which I have any first-hand experience.
Hal Niedzviecki’s piece should not have been published by the Union. It was not a call to celebrate imagination, or the extraordinary empathy that can come from deep study of that or those we don’t know, be it human or animal or tree. This was about appropriating the stories of a particular group when we as a society have barely begun to acknowledge and measure the harms, let alone make amends. It was published not on a personal blog but within the same newsletter that also called for reconciliation and celebration of the work of indigenous writers. The cognitive dissonance was jarring.
That term, “appropriation,” is meant to provoke the very people, indigenous writers of Canada, that so many of us settlers wish to approach, at this moment in history--
Canada’s 150th—with open hands, listening hearts, and a true spirit of reconciliation. Mr. Niedzviecki was free to speak in a public forum that represents all writers; I feel misrepresented.
Although I don’t know the circumstances of his resignation, I don’t wish for anyone to be fired; I wish, always, for dialogue. None of us are disposable; we must find ways to speak to each other across the chasm. That said, the public response (much like Trump’s election) has been, if anything, more disheartening than the original article.
I would like to reflect on the extraordinary interview Hal Wake gave with Joy Kogawa last week at Green College. Joy spoke of her new book, Gently to Nagasaki, a quest for forgiveness she undertook in the name of her beloved father, a sexual abuser of children. Such a difficult quest! But Joy spoke with clarity about that road to forgiveness, that road that requires love to surround truth, to be twice as big as the truth. Without that, truth leads to vengeance, and there is something in us all that lusts for vengeance. Beware. Sometimes it is useful to take a vow of silence, of listening, before beginning the work.
Dear writers, dear writers, what is our union, our obligation to take care of, listen to and cherish one another? What will become of us all in the age of anger, in the age of lies, in the songs of despair sent up across the planet? For this I know: we are being called upon at this point in time to do our best work, to see as clearly and compassionately as we can, to speak freely and with the greatest care.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Fieschi-Rose