Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Michael Duncan. WindShadow. Windshadow Art, 1993.


This selection of poems is likely the last title I complete in 2016. A quick scan of the sidebar suggests that my total is 70ish. An all-time high. But you do know that I try to boost my stats by reading more poetry--hardly a hardship for me. Of the seven bookshelves in my living room, poetry holds its ground (along with CanLit, shorter fiction, creative non-fiction, Native Studies, Canadian history, art--including writing and photography, and sacred texts.) These resisted the cull, before and after "the big move," one year ago as of January 15, 2017. OMG


Gregory Scofield. Kipocihkan: Poems New & Selected. Nightwood, 2009.

This, Kipocihkan: Poems New & Selected, is the third Scofield volume on my shelves, after The Gathering: Stones For the Medicine Wheel (1993) and Louis: The Heretic Poems (2011).

The problem I have with Kipocihkan is my own reading disability. When I read, I say/hear the words in my head. When I am confronted with words I cannot say/hear, I cannot read. Very frustrating. The translations do help, but I found myself skipping the Cree words and heading straight for the translation. Not what a poet would want from a reader, I am sure. And I do understand the reason for including the first, or the lost language. The politics. Identity politics. Like they say in Ireland: "Our language. It's part of who we are."

I especially like Scofield's erotic poems, and the way gender plays such an insignificant role in his descriptions of revelling in sexual activity. Possibly too eroticism is one of those shared pleasures, whereas the anger, the alcohol, the abandonment are also known, recognized as shared experience, yet not a place I choose to stay. I too, I the reader, have my own blanket, and "I am in charge here." (from "This Is My Blanket," p. 143)



December 26, 2016: Today's calendar image is Dorothy's famous red sequined pumps, the Ruby Slippers, set on a yellow brick road. Juxtaposition. My mother's fur-trimmed snowboots, in a white bucket, by the door. "Those kittens looked so cute, I just had to take their picture," Mum said. Her camera making the hallucination real. Writing with light her only way to communicate the confusion of the road she was on. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

North of Summer

Alfred Purdy. North of Summer: Poems from Baffin Island. With oil sketches of the Arctic by A.Y Jackson. McClelland and Stewart, 1967. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Cariboo Horses

December 16, 2016

Alfred Purdy. The Cariboo Horses. McClelland and Stewart, 1965/1972.

Monday, December 12, 2016

And the Pursuit of Happiness

Maira Kalman. And the Pursuit of Happiness. Penguin, 2010. 

This book was written/drawn/ created in response to the first Obama inauguration. I remember my own feelings of surprise and hope for the future. I'm glad I waited until now, the end of the era, just before a much less auspicious incoming, to read this. 

And the Pursuit of Happiness is a love poem to America, a celebration, of original intentions, origins in the Great Man theory of history - Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. And great people, mostly public servants, the writer meets on her explorations. And also a recognition that there are some problems. The stalled legislative system. The many and varied forms of food insecurity. Whimsical. Wonderful. 

Love Medicine

Louise Erdrich. Love Medicine. HarperPerennial, 1993.

With Love Medicine, a first novel, Louise Erdrich won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1984. She has since published two dozen more best-selling novels. My favourite so far has been The Painted Drum. Erdrich has also revised, re-sequenced, and expanded Love Medicine. The copy I found at Amethyst Books in Chilliwack, BC, was published in 1993.

This novel is set on a Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. It appears to have begun as short stories, of several generations of characters, many speaking in the first person. They are linked by setting, and by secrets of the blood connections (including inherited physical features and inherited gifts or skills).

This novel took me way too long to read. Partly because of my own proofreading and admin responsibilities, for Embers (available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.con). And partly because the story was not strong enough to pull me back and into it. Told in multiple voices, over multiple periods of time, I felt confused, lost. I was not sure why. 

However, the beauty of the writing, the illumination of the characterizations, made me want to continue. The chapter titles, especially the interior titles which gave the date (the year this story's events happened) were helpful, but not enough. Sometimes too I worried about the stereotypes - drunkenness, promiscuity, cruel nuns, criminals, politicians - and especially the old "father's day on the reserve" joke which always seems to me to be an outsider view judging and othering others. Maybe she is trying to shatter stereotypes by focussing on the individual humanity of each character. I think that must be it.

Mostly I just kept asking myself: Now, who is this? I don't like having to make notes in order to keep the stories straight, nor to follow a genealogical chart, although that would spoil some of the revelations. A chart would take away the impact of some of the stories because many of the characters do not know who their real parents are and the epiphany of finding out is part of their personal identity quest.

Interesting insights, offerings (not sure I believe them but . . . ) about the way a women with eight children by eight different fathers thinks, and the way an adopted child feels. I would think that Love Medicine is a must-read on any Native North American literature curriculum. 

Check out also the links (store, blog, newsletter) on birchbarkbooks.com. 

Friday, December 2, 2016


Embers. J.M. Bridgeman. Jade Mountain Books, 2016.

My display for the Family History Show & Tell last weekend in Cloverdale. These are some of the objects which inspired me to weave them into an imagined story for my novel EMBERS. Just arrived. Available on Amazon.ca and (next week) at Baker's Books in Hope, BC. EMBERS, set in BC and in Ireland, is likely to appeal to open-minded older women interested in art and travel.  

Kettle Valley Railroad

"Kettle Valley R.W." Silkscreen by Dietger F.H. Hollmann

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Beauty of the Husband

Anne Carson. The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos. Knopf, 2002.

I picked this long poem to read today, honestly, to up my stats for November. I'm reading Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine but it is taking me much longer than expected. Partly the novel's style. Partly my overwhelming schedule these last few weeks, with the labour pains from my first novel, Embers.

Back to the Carson. This is the first of her work I have read, although she is already famous even beyond our borders. It would help to be more familiar with the work of John Keats than I am. The poem riffs on his Beauty/Truth remark, as an approach to a long love affair which ends in a failed marriage. There are also Greek words and references to ancient battles. There is much mystery and even more beauty. Beauty inflated by the unusual sensation for me that, even though I don't understand half of it, I see and feel the beauty.

I also love the cover, an image of a man's chin, with a Keats letter on the back, but my favourite thing about this book is A Note About the Author: Anne Carson lives in Canada. Perfect.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Never Go Back

Lee Child. Never Go Back. Delacorte, 2013.

Jack Reacher goes back to his old HQ, 110 MP in DC, and finds that the new CO has been arrested. Together they figure it out. From DC to Pittsburgh to LA and back again. 

Another three days glued to my reading chair. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

City of Glass

City of Glass: Douglas Coupland's Vancouver. Douglas and McIntyre, 2000.

Douglas Coupland's lovingly self-deprecating visitor's guide to Vancouver. 

I think I've shared in this blog before how I once sat in the same row as Coupland at a Vancouver Museum function and eavesdropped on his chatting to another artist. He sounded just like he does in this book. So artsy-cool. 

I remember once hearing him tell of a reader who actually asked why he had chosen the title he did for this book. I shake my head. Open your eyes. 

At first, I thought that this is a pretty masculine view of the city. I am more aware of the flowers, everywhere, especially hydrangea, along with the spring blossoms he does include. I was surprised at no mention of sports teams--Canucks, Lions, WhiteCaps--or to music, or shopping. And of suburbs other than North. And of course, since 2000, there have been a few memorable additions, such as the Olympics, and the Canada Line, and changes to BC ferries. I'm reaching here. It's still relevant and an amusing enjoyable read. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Irish Blessings

November 2, 2016

Ashley Shannon. Irish Blessings. Running Press, 1999.

I love these mini-books, and especially when they are gifts. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and Other American Stories. New York. Modern Library, 1996. [1971]

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was first published in 1971 in Rolling Stone magazine and reprinted to tie in with the release of the 1998 movie starring Johnny Depp as the Hunter S. Thompson-like protagonist, Raoul Duke. Although protagonist may be a bit of a stretch. For someone like me, not enamoured with the romance of substance use, abuse, and addiction. I accept that a journalist must be a contrary, willing to question the status quo. However, it seems to me that the grandiose description of psychedelic substance use distracts from, even undermines the themes of abuse of power, authorities out of touch with their communities/constituencies, corrupt lawyers, casual gun handling, the pervasiveness of organized crime. Not to mention the role of females in the story--a disturbed runaway artist drugged and raped, a retired stripper turned waitress insulted by customers, and an elderly hotel maid left to tidy up a room trashed by naked puking men. All in the name of fun.

Thompson is the preeminent Gonzo journalist, reporting as he does, in 1970, as a participant, from the inside of Sin City (a motorcycle race and a convention of District Attorneys, in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas), horse racing (The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved), the Chicano community in California (Strange Rumblings In Aztlan). Thompson's reputation remains strong, based on his acute observations, his oh-so-readable style, and the laugh-out-loud descriptions of events, situations, which I'm glad I have never had to witness in person. I think what strikes me most is the depiction of the many layers and sub-cultures making up the supposedly greatest democracy, and the "bureaucratic fascism" [p. 214] of the way the so-called leaders and people in positions of power are so out of touch with and unconcerned about any layers other than their own. Or am I reading too much into this romp? Doesn't his subtitle say it all? A Savage Journey To the Heart Of the American Dream, by a writer who seems too cool to care.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Lorna Crozier. Whetstone. M&S, 2005.

I have always loved this woman's poetry. Her imagination. Her sense of play. Her love of words. In this collection, I'm transported back to a prairie childhood, of being outside in wide spaces, darkness, blizzards, the light in snow. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Truth About Stories

Thomas King. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. CBC Massey Lectures. Anansi, 2003.

This guy can tell stories. Always loved his Dead Dog Cafe. 
"The truth about stories is that that's all we are," he says. Stories determine how we relate to each other, to the other, and to the environment. 
And the stories we don't tell . . . 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Auguste Rodin: Sculptures & Drawings

October 18, 2016 Auguste Rodin: Sculptures & Drawings. Benedikt Taschen, 1994.

This tidy little book includes a timeline of the French sculptor's life, photographs of statues, models, the artist, his muses, with a very economical yet revealing account of Rodin's career & creative process. Who knew that he is buried with his wife beneath The Thinker?

The Tao of Psychology

October 17, 2016

Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self. Harper Row, 1979/1982.

Jean Bolen has been a favourite writer since I first encountered her Goddesses In Everywoman a quarter century ago. This little book, The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self, links the ideas of Logos, Tao, and Jung's Collective Unconscious/Self. She defines "synchronicity" as "meaningful coincidence, a subjective experience in which the person gives meaning to the coincidence." [p.15] Which is why, I suspect, she and Jung seem to appeal to writers. Because what they are describing seems to me to be connected to how metaphor functions. How we tend to try to define the unknown in terms of the known & familiar. How do we explain "mystery"?

We are part of a larger whole -- Jung's collective unconscious. "When we feel synchronicity, we feel ourselves as part of a cosmic matrix, as participants in the Tao. It gives us a glimpse into the reality that there is indeed a link between us all, between us and all living things, between us and the universe." This is why synchronicity, she says, breaks through our modern isolation and loneliness and we feel we have had a numinous, religious, spiritual experience. [p.103]

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In the Land of Pain

October 7, 2016
Alphonse Daudet. In the Land of Pain. Edited and Translated by Julian Barnes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Toward the End Of Time

John Updike's Toward the End Of Time. Knopf, 1997.

Ben Turnbull is 66 years old, living near Boston, beside the sea, in 2020, after the destruction of the Sino-American War. Government has disappeared. Entrepreneurs are moving in to offer services, and are in turn being encroached upon by corporations. The chaos in society is parallelled in the chaos of Ben's golf game.

Ben is mostly retired from a financial planning job, unhappily married to his second wife, remembering countless flings and mistresses. He has adult children, step-children, and grandchildren, a fact which seems to be related to his neurotic anxiety about the distant future and distant galaxies. He struggles to recover from a prostate operation. The only good thing in his life seems to be a heightened awareness of the miracles of nature which surround him. Like the black holes in space, there appear to be a few holes in the cheese of his brain, leading him to recall his time with St Paul and, later, as an inhabitant in an Irish monastery during a Viking invasion. The "End of Time" alluded to in the title is personal, cultural, planetary, cosmic. While the journal entries which compose this novel are his attempt to comprehend and control, time and time warps evade his pen.

Personally, I got that his mind is a bit discombobulated and I did not really need all these words and descriptions. I also got that he seems to be a man led, driven, solely by lust and his own physical sensations and gratifications. His abstract scientific mental meanderings are an unconvincing attempt to know the unknowable. Although the dystopic vision of a post-apocalyptic planet does somehow ring true. And in the final identification with nature still dominated by human Old-Think, the narrator offers the reader a glimmer of hope that he may have seen some light.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Kim Thuy's Man.Random House, 2014. Translated by Sheila Fischman.

This gentle novel is post-Vietnam, when abandoned female children have been adopted, married, emigrated. It's about the love of words and the love of food, and about love in general. About cultural vestiges, cultural differences, cultural taboos. Set in Montreal and Paris with flashbacks to the old country. A must read for all lovers of poetry and language. Foodies who love Montreal. A fusion for lovers of ideas - of individualism and identity - and of ideals - of parenting, friendship, marriage, and obsession. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Circle Game

Margaret Atwood's The Circle Game. Anansi, 1966.

Poet, writer of short stories, novels, non-fiction. Political activist. Canadian celebrity.
I really miss how George Strombo . . . used to get so flustered in her presence. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Zen Telegrams

Paul Reps. Zen Telegrams: 79 Picture Poems. Charles e.Tuttle, 1959.

Two great finds on a hunting and gathering adventure to Value Village in Chilliwack and Baker's Books in Hope. 

One Hundred Flowers

Georgia O'Keeffe. One Hundred Flowers. Knopf, 1990.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

for one more day

Mitch Albom's for one more day. Hyperion, 2006.

My cousin loaned me this book. I enjoyed Mitch Albon's Tuesdays with Morrie. This one, for one more day, is even better. Listed as fiction, but the pictures in the back, of the author as a child and his late mother, add to the sense of surreal reality. 

It is fitting that I read this book immediately following Anam Cara which talks about the Celtic idea of time and the three realms, underworld, this world, and beyond, and how they can intermingle. This story is about Chick Benetto who, during a potentially fatal car accident, spends one more day with his deceased mother. 

This story is unusual too because we do not often read about "failures" and the terrible effects of family trauma, although there are enough elements of redemption and triumph to keep you wanting to read more. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Anam Cara

John O'Donohue's Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. Harper, 1997.

This book was on my "to order" list the minute I got back from holidays, and, would you believe, I found it at the first used book store I entered, Bill's, in Fort St John, BC. That is the universe sending a message. Now that I have finished reading, my volume is fattened by a whole pad of post-it notes. "When the student is ready, . . . "

I've always been a bit uneasy with too much abstraction. One of the insights I've gleaned from O'Donohue: "the soul is the presence of the divine within us." Thank you. Merci.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why I Wake Early

Mary Oliver's Why I Wake Early. Beacon 2004.

Finds like this put the "value" in Value Village. Mary Oliver is the poet as shaman, re-awakening us to the enchanted world which surrounds, enfolds us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Nature of the Beast

Monday, August 15, 2016

Louise Penny's The Nature of the Beast. Minotaur, 2015.

Another page turner, about  Inspector Gamache, Three Pines, a "weapon of mass destruction," the people who design them, make them, sell them, and fear them.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Various Positions

Ira B. Nadel. Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen. Random House of Canada, 1996.

Thanks to my friend Nancy for lending me her copy of this biography. She beat me to it at Baker Books, so it is still on my TO FIND list.

Nadel's is a very different approach from the recent musical bio A Remarkable Life I just read. I must say that there are things in this book, Various Positions, which I wish I did not know. The drug use, depression, sexual obsessions (females as object and muse, reminiscent of Picasso), and the artist's painful struggle - the tensions between everyday family/business life and literary calling and spiritual yearning. It seems to me that it is we, the loyal fans, who are the winners here.

A lot has happened in the 20 years since the publication of this book, including 9/11 and the 2010 Olympics. The best for me is the fact that Leonard is still with us, and still gracing us with regular new releases including: Popular Problems, and Can't Forget.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Emancipation Day

August 6, 2016

Wayne Grady. Emancipation Day. Doubleday, 2013.

A very interesting novel, set in Newfoundland, Toronto, Detroit, and Windsor, about prejudice, discrimination, and identity. The relationship between colour and identity. The effects of parental acceptance or rejection on the psyche of the child. Choices. The depths beneath the skin. And music. 

Emancipation Day as celebrated in Windsor is August 1, commemorating the day the anti-slavery act came into effect in 1834, outlawing slavery in the British Empire.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Rage To Survive

August 2, 2016

Rage To Survive: The Etta James Story. Etta James with David Ritz. 1995. 
Etta James, 1938 - 2012. 

The day after I picked up this Etta James CD at the thrift store, a friend loaned me this fascinating biography of the famous singer. What a glimpse into the life of a talented woman who grew up California urban poor and lived the life of a wild child, a musician on the road, a serious heroin addict. It certainly made me appreciate my own boring life more, knowing how much others have had to struggle. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Memoirs of a Great Detective

John Wilson Murray, Memoirs of a Great Detective. 1904. Collins/Totem, 1979.

A friend loaned me this paperback because she is a fan of Murdoch's Mysteries and she knows that I like to read police procedure crime novels.

John Wilson Murray, 1840 - 1906, made a reputation for himself during the American Civil War. After working for police services in the States, he was enticed to accept a position as detective for the Department of Justice for the Ontario government where his jurisdiction covered the length and breadth of that province. The 30+ cases documented in this excerpted memoir cover the gamut of the origins of crime in patriotism, poverty, jealousy, greed, gang loyalty, lust, rejection, sadism, and mental illness.

As a detective in Canada at the turn of the twentieth century, inter-provincial and international borders seemed to matter less to Murray. Warrants too seem often to be afterthoughts. Armed with intelligence and empathy, the tools he used include a built-in shit detector, patience for surveillance and pursuit, and common sense. Not to mention close attention to details - footprint and wheel marks, blood spatter, weaponry. The crimes he detected include fraud, skimming, intimidation and extortion, forgery and counterfeiting, and killings, deranged or otherwise, manslaughter or premeditated murder. Murray is also careful to acknowledge the work of other sections of the criminal justice system - the lawyers, crown counsel, judges, and juries to whom he passes his arrested felons. He does comment also upon the quality of witnesses, and how their credibility is influenced by gender and class. Only once does he question a jury's decision as "a miscarriage of justice and a disgrace to the country."

In their own way, these stories are strangely reassuring, suggesting as they do that today's news, with the emphasis on terrorism, gangs, missing and murdered women and children, is really not that different from four or five generations ago. Indeed Murray concludes: "Where men and women are there will be found good and bad. But the bad are a hopeless minority." 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dali by Dali

Dali by Dali. Abrams, 1970. Eleanor R. Morse, Translator.

The Word Museum

Jeffrey Kacirk. The Word Museum: The Most Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten. Touchstone, 2000. 

A great title. Also a great little peephole into history. I made a list of several which struck me. Will mull over a favourite. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Still Loving It

Still Loving It

After twenty years in my dream house in Hope, I've settled in to my condo in Chilliwack. Six months and I'm still loving it. 

Manitoba Artist Ioyan Mani
Noel Wuttunee's Chi-Pay

One of the Feature Walls
Every Picture Tells a Story

Living Room

The View from my Desk

The CanLit Corner

Room for Thrift Store Finds
(the writing says Courage)

Lots of Places to Walk to (Salish Park by the FVRL)

The Drum I Made at the Harrison Festival
(Drum Circle at the Cultural Centre)

Seniors Bus Tours

Cascade Falls

Westminster Abbey in Mission

Mary & the Angels

Still Able to Show my former Homestay Student
More Canadian Culture


Peter Robinson. WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER . M&S, 2016.  Banks has been promoted. His first two cases involve sexual abuse--one histori...