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


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