Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Capacious Project - Brea Burton

Originally from Edmonton, Brea Burton moved to Calgary to seek her fortune. Instead of the ocean, she found the Calgary writing community, which turned out to be just as salty and fluid. She has participated in numerous literary events, produced a few chapbooks, and finished her MA in contemporary Canadian literature. Brea is the co-author of Booty: Hurricane Jane and Typhoon Mary.

I’m not much of a purse person, never have been. After spending what amounts to two thirds of my life in various educational institutions my backpack has been my best friend over the years. But, once I finally graduated I began to search for the perfect purse, a ‘lady’ purse as I had come to refer to it in my head, to replace my faithful blue companion.

I had no idea how this magical item would manifest itself; however, I was confident I would see it and know this was THE ONE. For some (unexamined) reason I felt that I needed a purse. Carrying a purse meant grown-up, meant credit cards, lipstick, day-timers, cell phones, every cliché I associated with getting a ‘real’ job. I couldn’t really extricate the two, lady purse = real job = soul-sucking corporate sellout = me! EEK!

I went through a phase of purse envy. I almost switched my shopping vice from footwear to handbags (luckily I eventually came to my senses). Well, I found THE ONE. In fact, I found ANOTHER ONE. I now have two lady purses and the thrill is gone. I reverted back to my old blue friend and when required I haul out one of my lady purses. Actually, since I took up ice hockey my capacious hold-all is my hockey bag. I could fit a dead body in there and it really smells. When I carry my hockey bag I feel strong and I feel like me. Cheesy, I know, but true.

Read more about the Capacious Project here.
To view all the contributions to the project go here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Calm Things

The arrival of the book is always a sweet moment. Before anyone has read it, reviewed it - it's yours alone. A friend wrote to say, enjoy the feel of it in your hand. And this one is particularly pleasurable to hold - the texture of the cover stock is lovely. Rob, my partner, who painted the image that graces the cover, said the texture makes the painting look a bit like a watercolour. I love the way that Dawn Kresan at Palimpsest matched the colour of the title font to a few of the striations on the interior of the shell. And then the back cover is just this wonderful surprise.

Had a bit of fun introducing the painting to the book in a few still life set-ups....

The book will be launched at Audrey's books in Edmonton on October 28, Tuesday evening, 7 pm. (10702 - Jasper Avenue). Contact Audrey's at: 780-423-3487 for more information.

Two days later, Thursday October 30, from 5-7 pm, I'll be signing books at the Douglas Udell Gallery in conjunction with Rob's art show inspired by the book, also called, Calm Things. The gallery is at 10332 - 124 Street, also in Edmonton.

I'll also be out in Red Deer, at the College on Thursday evening, October 23. More details to follow.

If you'd like to pick up a copy and will be in Edmonton or Red Deer, it would be great if you could support these events and grab one there. A few places online where you can find it: Amazon, Chapters, and then of course, Palimpsest Press. It's worth looking at the Palimpsest site - many beautiful books and chapbooks, including Ariel Gordon's new chapbook.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Capacious Project - Jenna Butler

Jenna Butler is a poet, editor and teacher who makes her home somewhere between Edmonton, Norwich (UK) and a grassroots organic farm near Barrhead (AB). Her work has appeared in literary magazines, journals and anthologies in Canada and abroad, and she is the author of three collections of poetry. Her new full-length book is forthcoming from NeWest Press in 2009/10. When at home in Edmonton, she is the editor of Rubicon Press.

I only carry bags in the city. They seem, somehow, to coexist with my city life: a little more cluttered, dictated by work, by things needing to get done, be seen to.

There are two bags – a bag within a bag. The inner one is purely functional: it holds wallet, keys, emergency cell phone. It’s a sporty little red fabric thing I can sling over my shoulder and go. I throw it on with everything, completely fashion-unconscious. Bags, for me, are purely functional. I don’t carry purses.

It’s the bigger bag that’s the storykeeper. I bought it for my previous life as a high school English teacher, but retained it as a writer because it’s so wildly lettered. I love it – I can toss anything into it – binders, books and whatnot, or use it as an overnight bag when travelling.

We have an acreage that holds our hearts, but live in the city because that’s where the jobs, the family and the friends are. The big bag lets me keep little bits of the acreage with me wherever I go in the city. There are smooth stones tucked away in inside pockets. Dried leaves pressed inside a poetry book. My writing is very often tied to the natural world, and frequently materializes on scraps of birch bark or balsam poplar leaves. A friend just taught me how to sweat ink from shaggy cap mushrooms, so the pressed leaves are slated for poems once I’ve harvested some late mushrooms at the acreage and hunted down my quill pen. I love the idea that the leaf poems will be able to go back out into the natural world and, decaying, leave no trace.

Right now, the big bag is full again, reflecting the state of my city life! Poetry books to review, research to do, paperwork needing to be filled out. A new Moleskine from a good friend, waiting there like pure temptation for an afternoon off to write in a café. A pair of moccasins just sewn but still unbeaded; I can only ever listen deeply with a task at hand. The pocketwatch, a birthday gift from my husband, that I’ve been intending to get batteries for for three years now. It’s still set to England time, having conked out the day we moved home to Canada in 2005.

The bags are more barometers than anything else. They tell the state of my world by what they hold, and don’t. They are most loved, though, when I can sling them into the corner of the bedroom and head out with my husband to the acreage. No demands, no paperwork, no reminders...just life in the instant.

Read more about the Capacious Project here.
To view all the contributions to the project go here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lois Hole Library

This is the new branch library in my neighborhood. I've been in and out to pick up books but haven't sat down for a long read in any of the big chairs by the windows yet. The coffee bar isn't open, but when it is I can see it being quite the hot spot. It's a really light-filled, soaring, beautiful space. Hard to believe it's in Edmonton, not far from that architectural monstrosity, West Edmonton Mall. The artist renderings don't really do it justice - I'll have to swing by with my camera one of these days. Driving by, it has the look of a fabulous book-eating winged creature. At least it does to me. My daughter is entranced by the huge fish tank in the kid's section. I know, fish and coffee in the library! But yes, lots of books too. Oh, and the self-check-out and check-in work splendidly. State of the art.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

That Unspeaking Openness

"And that it is left unmentioned is one aspect of how uncertainty inhabits all poems, woven into their fabric in a way virtually structurally required - if a work is the interweaving of complex and multiple parts, it must be held up by its places of openness as much as by its points of connection. Inside that unspeaking openness, some large part of a poem's work takes place - completed not on the page, but inside the writer's or readers's own fullness of being." (Jane Hirshfield, from Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise: Three Generative Energies of Poetry)

Jane Hirshfield has long been one of my favorite poets and her latest book, three collected lectures published in the Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry Series, does not disappoint.

I like what she says in the interview she did for the Atlantic Monthly. To look at what a poem offers - from the inside. This would be the perfect goal of anyone reviewing poetry, to my mind. Doesn't always happen.

In an Atlantic Monthly interview, Jane Hirshfield says of poetry: "I see poetry as a path toward new understanding and transformation, and so I've looked at specific poems I love, and at poetry's gestures in the broadest sense, in an effort to feel and learn what they offer from the inside. There's a difference in how you experience an art form when it's engaged with from within; even a little practice with dance lets you feel a ballet inside your body rather than simply as something observed..."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Blog Project

Lemon Hound has been running a series called "how poems work." She's posted my entry today on Brenda Schmidt's poem called "Fear." From the introduction to the series:

The purpose, to my mind, of the "How Poems" work genre, isn't to gloss, or rant about a poem or poet, but simply to engage with the text, to query the inner workings, to tease out meaning, to wonder, yes, to appreciate too, but mostly to open up texts. Open, open.

The other thing that excites me about this genre is that it models a way of reading. How we read is under-investigated. How does one approach a text when they have no clues as to what it's responding to and why? What if there are no difficult texts, just texts that one hasn't found a way to enter? Let these posts be points of entry.

This is an utterly thrilling project and I urge you to continue to check in with it. So far there's been Marilyn Hacker on Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Bachinsky on K. Silem Mohammad, K. Silem Mohammad on Elizabeth Bachinsky, Evie Shockley on Ed Roberson and derek beaulieu on Jordan Scott.

Another project to keep in mind is Desk Space, by Evie Christie. The first entry on the blog says: "Find out where writers write (once and for all) without breaking and entering or dating them!"


I wonder if CanCult is going to pursue the "Judging a Book by its Cover" series? Hope so.


More to come on the Capacious Project as well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Capacious Project - K.I. Press

K.I. Press is a Winnipeg writer originally from Alberta. Her most recent book is Types of Canadian Women and of Women Who Are or Have Been Related to Canada, Volume II (Gaspereau Press, 2006). She has a golden retriever and teaches at Red River College. As a course instructor, she is working on becoming even more absent-minded than before. The website she has not updated for over a year is http://www.kipress.ca/.

My bags are a bit like my brains. I look around the cloakroom and see at least five hanging around, big ones and small ones, practical schoolbookish ones and frivolous partiers. A walk further afield reveals more in the living room, more in the bedroom, maybe even one hanging on a peg on the wall in the kitchen, and some spare ones in the damp basement of the soul where winter thoughts are stored. A girl needs a brain for every season and for every jacket and pair of shoes that go therewith. The most important question often becomes: in which brain did I leave my wallet and keys? There is the rub indeed.

Opening each brain to peer inside will usually reveal a motley array of detritus. So far I have only dared activate one brain at a time. The out-of-use ones spew ancient receipts and bus transfers, granola bar crumbs, loose change, petrified lip gloss, old tissues, fuzzy cough drops, spare tampons, yellow stickies bearing now-incomprehensible messages, maybe a bunched-up sweater, gloves or pantyhose, and one of the many pens which have been used once, straight out of the box, before getting swallowed up never to be heard from again until this very minute. Occasionally I come across a surprise memory—a business card from years ago or a ticket stub to a concert I’d forgotten about—that the brain was storing away among the rubble so I could find it later and wax soggy just for a second before stuffing it back inside because I am too lazy to file it.

Lately, alas, I have been using my schoolish brain, full of books and laptops and pockets of cables and batteries and apples. Yes, apples. The apples are for me. This brain is, beyond doubt, capacious, but as a result, very heavy and unstylish. It may ruin my health. There is only so much I can take before being drawn back to some something paisley. It’s fall after all and a slight brown paisley may be just the thing.

Read more about the Capacious Project here.
To view all the contributions to the project go

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Capacious Project - Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Gail Anderson-Dargatz is the author of The Cure for Death by Lightning, A Recipe for Bees, and A Rhinestone Button. Her newest book is Turtle Valley. She currently teaches fiction in the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of British Columbia, and lives in the Shuswap, the landscape found in so much of her writing.

photo by Mitch Krupp

I carry a carpetbag, not the Mary Poppins type, though lord knows I could use a bag that big, but a much simpler, smaller one that I made myself. It’s modelled on the one my grandmother carried late in life when such a bag was common, before the time of plastic bags. It opens wide, so I can see everything inside, a real bonus for this busy mommy. And it’s the perfect size for a manuscript. When my last novel Turtle Valley was published I made several of these carpetbags and gave my favourite to my editor with this in mind. I gave others away to favourite book people as I went around the country reading from Turtle Valley. I keep all my reading copies in one of the bags and tote it to events.

And yes, I really did make these bags. I’m not much good on a sewing machine and so I got the kids’ grannie and then their adopted grannie to help sew them up. But I was in the shop with my honey and son, on the bandsaw, on the jigsaw and on the sander making those carpetbag handles.

I still have my grandmother’s carpetbag, the one that inspired the bags I carry and those I gave as gifts. In fact that bag inspired a whole lot more than a bit of handy-work. My grandmother’s carpetbag inspired the one I wrote about in Turtle Valley, and it’s even pictured in the novel, right at the front of chapter one, and again at the end of the book. In the novel the bag holds the first clue that leads Kat to unravel a long buried and terrible family mystery.

Unlike my fictional character, I’m sad to say I didn’t find any clues to a family mystery inside my grandmother’s carpetbag, although I suspect that at one time it held a few, just as mine does now (what is that sticky thing at the bottom of the bag? Oh, what’s left of my kid’s gum.) But that carpetbag does link me to my family’s past, set me inside a continuum, just as the bag and all the objects pictured in Turtle Valley do for Kat. When I carry my carpetbag, I’m carrying not only my wallet, phone, pens, daytimer, assorted junk, my kid’s fruit leathers and discarded juice boxes… but a whole lot of memories and stories that stretch back into my family’s past, that accompany me in my present, and jump forward into my kids’ futures.


Read more about the Capacious Project here.

To view all the contributions to the project go here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Language Baggage

Love Bag, by Ellen Bell

I chose books from the late 1890s to the 1950s to emphasise the fact that language has historical baggage. The books symbolise the hurdles which non-English speakers have to overcome to become more fluent, understood and able to participate emotionally with the culture they find themselves in. My physical interaction with these formal texts acts as a metaphor for their alienation and confusion.

More on Ellen Bell here.