My second book of poetry, Stowaways, was published by Palimpsest Press this year and so I find myself approaching the year-end Best-of-2014 lists with some trepidation.
Instead of following this rage/shame spiral down (down/down/down), I've
decided to create my own Best-of-2014 list, but this one will do
something a little different, in that it will be composed of the books
by writers who prop me up, who support me, who form my diffuse but
I'm a working writer. These are working writers. And we all, I think,
write out of community.
So this isn't about belonging to a particular school of writing, or
living in a particular place: it's about the constellations of
connection, the interstitial bits between writers that help make books
And I'm proud of all of these writers. So I wanted to talk about them.
* * *
Winnipeg writer Alison Calder is everything you want in a poet/prof. In her second collection,
In the Tiger Park (Coteau Books) she thinks and feels her way through poems that are all about place,
this place, but also find themselves in China and Germany and basking
under the light of a perverse moon. ("Fuck off, moon! Get out of my
poems / Every time I look up / a word, the dictionary says see moon.")
She's also a member of my writing group, the Plastered Hams. And I
appreciate her good eyes on my poems every goddamn time. Also, her wry
commentary on the writing life is nearly as good as the
cookies/cake/slanket we make sure to have at meetings.
Edmonton writer Shawna Lemay is a peach. She creates such a fragile
beauty in her work and in her life, publishing poetry, creative
non-fiction, and experimental fiction, taking photos, and curating the
Canadian Poetries site. I haven't spent much in-person time with Shawna,
but everything about her writing and her life tells me that she's a
kindred spirit and THAT'S what makes her a fully-fledged member of my
cadre. I fell in love with Shawna's book of essays Calm Things, and
Asking (Seraphim Editions) advances those ideas in ways that are, well, illuminating.
In the busily anxious year leading up to the release of our books with
Palimpsest Press, Victoria writer Yvonne Blomer and I chatted nearly
every day. It helped immensely. IMMENSELY. Yvonne is sweet & calm on
the one hand and smart & ambitious on the other. She's the antidote
to self-pity and the best commiserator you'll ever find. When not
writing, Yvonne teaches creative writing and has been the driving force
behind Planet Earth Poetry, the weekly open mic series in Victoria. But the poems in As if a Raven (Palimpsest Press). Oh! The poems! Playful and serious and smart.
Regina writer Tracy Hamon has been run off her feet the last few years,
helping to organize the active Saskatchewan literary community. We met
years via northern SK poet Brenda Schmidt and since that time we've
toured the prairies together in various frocks. I could drive to Tracy's
house in my sleep. Tracy's latest collection, Red Curls (Thistledown Press), uses ekphrasis
and voice poems to talk about art-making, love, and desire...
Edmonton writer Ella Zeltserman and I have been writing back and forth
for months but when we met for tea in Toronto this fall, we recognized
each other in our talk about writing poetry and, also, creating
community around it. (We also talked about preserving pears, which is a
bit of a thing with me...) In her debut, small things left behind (University of Alberta Press) Ella writes about her Jewish
family's history in Russia, about emigrating to Canada, about home. And
the poems are illuminated with the Ella's irrepressible energy, her
enthusiasm for the world.
I met Prince George writer Gillian Wigmore at the Banff Centre ten years
ago. When we needed a break from poetry/writing/talk, she would pull
out a guitar and start to sing. And, somehow, that aaaaaaaaaah feeling
has persisted in the years since. She has been writing heaps the last
few years, despite full-time work and children and the poems in orient (Brick Books), her third collection, is earthy
and rich, always skimming close to the bone.
I included my book in this list because I couldn't help myself. Ahem.