Friday, November 10, 2017

In Conversation: Lorri Neilsen Glenn

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
by Ariel Gordon

Lorri Neilsen Glenn is the former Halifax poet laureate and professor emerita at Mount Saint Vincent University.

As the author of 13 books, Neilsen Glenn had written about her immediate family, about loss and grieving, but it wasn’t until her Aunt Kay, the family historian, mentioned the tragic death of her great-grandmother that Neilsen Glenn started looking into her family history.

That work led Neilsen Glenn back to Red River and details of her family’s Cree/Métis background.

Neilsen Glenn will be reading from the resulting book, Following the River: Traces of Red River Women, at McNally Robinson on Thursday November 16 and at Gaynor Family Regional Library in Selkirk on Friday November 17.

Free Press: What do you want people to know about Following the River: Traces of Red River Women?

LNG: Red River women were key to post-contact life — translators, trip guides, workhorses, community builders, indispensable members of nations, and of HBC society.

My grandmothers and their contemporaries were tenacious and resilient, yet they were often dismissed, derided and their contributions ignored. Their stories are disappearing and this book gathers some of them.

FP: Why did you choose a mixed-genre form for the book?

LNG: Following the River includes poetry, prose and pieces dancing the line between, along with newspaper articles and old journal entries from fur traders, the clergy and explorers. The form matched the fragmented nature of what little historical material about Indigenous women is available. Writing between genres seemed to match the threshold lives of "half-breed" women who had to navigate both settler and Indigenous cultures.

FP: You’ve lived in Nova Scotia for many years now. Is this book a coming home of sorts for you?

LNG: I was born in Winnipeg and lived in several Prairie towns before moving to Nova Scotia in my 30s. Both Nova Scotia and the West feel like home.

As I dug into Red River history, though, I was shocked to realize my family had lived near Cree and Métis cousins in several towns and we didn’t know it. The names Erasmus, Budd, Kennedy are scattered across the Prairie provinces.

When I travelled to Norway House to visit the site of my great-grandmother’s death, suddenly my history became real — I met cousins.

FP: This book delves into Rupert’s Land history, tracing five generations of women back to York Factory and Red River. Growing up, did you know that you came from a long line of Métis women?

LNG: Yes and no. Aunt Kay, the 102-year-old keeper of our family stories, had mentioned Métis roots, but we had little information to go on.

I followed the story of Catherine Kennedy Couture’s death, and then worked back several generations.

I’ve known only settler culture and its privileges, and even though our Red River roots go back to the late 1700s — Ininiwak (Swampy Cree) and Métis both, many from Treaty 1 territory — I have not lived as Métis and no community claims me. I’m not alone in having a complicated identity.

My family has French, Scottish, and Irish roots, as well.

I wasn’t happy to discover among them two Indian agents and a mercenary who rode with Wolseley’s men against Riel.

FP: Why this book?

LNG: My writing often focuses on family, past and present. When I realized I knew far more about my settler background than my Cree/Métis background, I went to work.

Years later, I’m still learning what I should have known, and I continue to be in awe of the spirit and strength of these women.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Velvet Foot

Remember all those orange stump mushrooms? I spore printed them. Since I didn't know what colour the spores would be, I needed both white/coloured paper. So I used the end papers in my battered reading copy of my Hump and a brand new copy of Lisa Pasold's The Riperian. Based on the white spores, I identified the orange stump mushrooms as Flammulina velutipes, commonly known as the Velvet Foot.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


This is the clump of mushrooms I used to make the spore print. It's almost too much...

Saturday, November 04, 2017


These orange mushrooms are all over the stumps of the boulevard elms. They're beautiful, especially glazed with rain. Like sweet buns.

I've been collecting them all month with my camera, feeling a familiar mix of joy and regret. The joy of seeing mushrooms anywhere anytime. The regret at seeing them, because it means that the City of Winnipeg is behind on removing the stumps of big old elms, falling because of Dutch Elm Disease or  just old age.

Other years, the stumps were removed the same season the trees were cut down.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Improbable Walks

Rivers tell stories. Paths of travel and connection. Forces of destruction and rebirth. Listen. What do we hear? Come walk into a story inspired by the river. Join poets Lisa Pasold & Ariel Gordon on a walk along the Assiniboine River, where we’ll conjure a site-specific story about one imagined journey told by these waters. We’ll be walking along the River from the Maryland Bridge to Omand’s Creek train bridge and back. 

When: Saturday, October 7, 15:00–16:30
Where: Meet at Bridge Motors Parking Lot, 20 Maryland Street
Cost: Free, but imited number of spaces available. Please register at

The walk goes forward whatever the weather and lasts approximately 80 minutes.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second book, Stowaways (Palimpsest Press, 2014), won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. She is currently writing creative non-fiction about Winnipeg’s urban forest, slated for publication in 2018 with Wolsak & Wynn, and co-editing an anthology of menstruation-lit with Tanis MacDonald and Rosanna Deerchild, due out with Frontenac House in 2018.

Lisa Pasold has created site-specific walking stories in cities such as New Orleans, Paris, Saskatoon and Toronto. Her storytelling practice is an experience of place with the audience: moving through a landscape or walking down a street, to imagine together possible histories and lives of the specific place and its community. Lisa’s Any Bright Horse (Frontenac House, 2012), was shortlisted for the 2012 Governor General’s Award. Frontenac has just published her new book, The Riparian, “a love story and thirty tragedies, overheard on a piano dismantled, marooned, with the river washing through its exposed strings.”

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nature Writing Workshop at Oak Hammock Marsh

So I'm teaching another Nature Writing Workshop this fall at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre.

This time round, the MWG is offering a student/low income registration fee as well as organizing carpooling to Oak Hammock, which is 40 minutes outside of Winnipeg.

Here's the event description, written by MWG president Susan Rocan:

"For those who may have missed Ariel Gordon’s Nature Writing Workshop in the spring, here’s your chance! Ariel is offering it again with an additional two hours to workshop your writing samples.

Whether you write poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction, nature is often a large part of the setting, so learn techniques to help your scenery come to life for your reader.

It will be at Oak Hammock Marsh again, so for those of you who might need a ride, please contact the Guild office to make arrangements to carpool (204-944-8013 or email us at Bring a lunch, or partake of the wonderful food from the on-site café.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her first book of poetry, Hump (Palimpsest Press 2010), won the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry, as did her second collection, Stowaways (PP, 2014). She is currently working on creative non-fiction about Winnipeg's urban forest, slated for publication with Wolsak & Wynn in 2018. She is also involved in the Poetry Barter Project, where she trades poetry for things you might find in your garden. This year she is looking for fiddleheads, spruce bud tips, nettles, burdock, caragana, chicken-of-the-woods and anything else edible that can be grown or foraged in the city. If you have something to trade for her wonderful poetry, you can contact her at until the frost kills everything!

I can personally attest that her previous workshop was a lot of fun with plenty of chances to stretch those writing muscles in soothing natural surroundings, so give yourself a break from the sounds of the city and sign up today!

The address for the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre is 1 Snow Goose Bay Stonewall, MB R0C 2Z0."