Showing posts from 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 sha…


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. 

Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Bill Bryson. Shakespeare: The World as Stage. HarperCollins, 2007.

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. 

The Cariboo Horses

December 16, 2016

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

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 and Amazon.con). And partly because the story was not strong enough to pull me back and into it. Told in multiple voices, over multipl…


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 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

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…

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.

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 …

Irish Blessings

November 2, 2016

Ashley Shannon. Irish Blessings. Running Press, 1999.

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

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,…


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.

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 . . .

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 gli…

In the Land of Pain

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

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 inhab…


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka and Peter Kuper. The Metamorphosis. A graphic novel.


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 de…

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.

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.