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Blog Tour (of Poets and Writers)

Patricia Young invited me to be part of this blog tour. Patricia’s most recent book, Summertime Swamp Love – is a riotous romp that considers the sex lives of creatures as springboards to wider considerations about the world. Patricia’s ability to linger inside her poems enables fresh viewpoints, and in this book, surprising voices. Her other 11 books, include a book of short fiction titled Airstream (she has such great titles) have won many awards including GG Award nominations.

The poet/fiction writer I’ve “tagged” is Jane Eaton Hamilton ( Jane is the author of 8 books, including the upcoming poetry collection “Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes.”  She is the two-time winner of the CBC/Canada Writes literary awards for fiction (2003/2014) and has twice won the Prism International Short Fiction contest.  She works across genres, but her favourite genre is, hands down, short fiction.  You can find this year’s CBC winning story here:


I’ve also tagged Yvonne Bloomer ( whose recent book, As If A Raven, is a gorgeous exploration of the natural world that draws on myth, history and ornithological lore. Blomer articulates what Seamus Heaney hopes for in poetry, namely, “the moment when the bird sings very close to the music of what happens.”

And lastly, Frank Beltrano, who is an active member of the poetry community in London, Ontario. He has organized and led workshops for others and taught adults creative writing at local art galleries. Frank’s first book of poetry is forthcoming.

What I’m Working On

This photo is of my brother William (see gallery). His sudden death transformed the life and the world I thought I knew. I’m writing a book whose working title, Guide to the Underworld, is a way of thinking about the weirdness of death, about the shock of sudden absence – things that feel like an underworld. Very strange and life-changing.

My brother experienced what you might consider a very Canadian death. Alone in his pickup, he was driving home from a northern B.C. dam construction site at the end of October when his truck hit black ice, spun off the road and crashed. My brother died at the height of a life he’d worked hard to rehabilitate; he had magnificently reclaimed his power and joy. I mention these autobiographical details to emphasize the sense of disequilibrium his sudden vacancy created, and to make clear that while Guide is a personal journey it’s not an account of illustrious particulars – as elegies often are. In his journals Van Gogh wrote that the best way to tackle death was to “swallow the image of the illustrious dead, whatever he was, as the best man”…in order “to return afterwards to our own affairs.” Van Gogh’s mistral is also the literal and figurative image of madness.

I’ve been lucky to read Eve Joseph’s mediation on the intimate strangeness of death and dying (In the Slender Margin). What an amazing, wide-ranging understanding, Eve brings to her topic.

How does my work differ from other work in its genre?

I’m uninterested in the laudatory; rather, I’m interested in death’s effects on the living, how it feels to survive a loved one’s death, what of the beloved remains, and the shape and feeling of those vestiges. My brother was brilliantly alive, a family member, a worker, a huge presence, greatly missed.

Why do I write what I do?

When I finished Woods Wolf Girl, in which I took up the fairy tale, Red Riding Hood, I was ready to dedicate the rest of my life to that one story. I wrote a play titled Red, and I can see more work ahead based on that literary character.

But life intervenes, as they say, and lately I’ve been compelled to try to touch, and be touched, by my brother’s death.

How does my writing process work?

I’ve been thinking about what it means to write poems in a series. When I judged the Pat Lowther awards for the League of Canadian Poets this winter, I was amazed by the series poems that appeared in nearly every one of the 88 books I read. It occurs to me that the CBC poetry competition is shaping the poets of the country into writers who write in 600 word units. I spoke about this with an American fellow poet and he said that there was no similar force field operating in the United States. Still, the series poems has been alive since Shakespeare’s sonnets, Tennyson’s In Memoriam, and Berryman’s The Dream Songs. I’m interested in the freedoms and constraints of the series poems. About writing a series, my friend Benjamin Grossberg says: “The poetic approach—the texture of mind—is the wind funnel, and whatever’s around just gets swept up into it. It’s what we see in the poem: cow, fence panel, dust—what lets us define its shape. But the shape itself is the shape of the mind inventing, the swirling mind-force that gathers objects and holds them aloft above us.” There’s a lot of dust settling in Guide to the Underworld.


.   Links in the Literary Procession   .

  *   Lorna Suzuki<>
  *   Matilda Magtree<>
  *   Alice Zorn<>
  *   Anita Lahey<>
  *   Pearl Pirie<>
  *   Julie Paul<>
  *   Sarah Mian<>
  *   Steve McOrmond<>
  *   Susan Gillis<>
  *   Jason Heroux<>
  *   Jaime Forsythe<>
  *   Barbara Lambert<>
  *   Janie Chang<>
  *   Kathy Para<>
  *   Théodora Armstrong<>
  *   Kathy Page<>
  *   Marilyn Bowering<>
  *   Eve Joseph<>
  *   Patricia Young<>
  *   Cornelia Hoogland
  *   Jay Ruzesky