This poem is a collaboration between me, Yen Shu (991-1055), and, because I don’t read Chinese, the translator, Red Pine (Poems of the Masters, Copper Canyon Press). Some of Red Pine’s words are included here with no change whatsoever. The image of the letter in a fish is Yen Shu’s. The personal elements that locate the poem on Vancouver’s North Shore are mine.
Canadian novelist, Rohan O’Grady, dies at 91 is a headline you will not read in any Canadian newspaper. June Skinner, who wrote under that pen name, has never received the recognition her work deserves. She never thought of herself as either a pioneering Canadian novelist or as a unique woman of letters, but she was both. She began publishing when Canadian novels were thin on the ground, and the publishers who picked her up were not in Toronto but in London and New York. From 1961 to 1981 she wrote in complete isolation, living a quiet life as a wife and mother in West Vancouver.
Literature is analysis after the event. Doris Lessing from The Golden Notebook.
To say that Doris Lessing had a huge impact on me as both a person and a writer is a monumental understatement.
I first read Lessing in 1970. For two years I had poured all of my energy into the American antiwar movement. At the time I read The Golden Notebook the New Left was exploding into fiery fragments. It was a time of bombs going off on campuses, of the Weatherman faction of SDS at the height of its insanity, of paranoia, of bone-grinding fear, of bleak nihilism. For two years I had not read fiction. I remembered the writers I used to love, felt a nostalgia for a lost time when an innocent sweetness had been possible, but in 1970, it was not possible to admire John Updike for his elegant prose. Then, suddenly, there was Lessing in all of her fury and intensity: WAKE UP, this is serious, this is BLOODY serious, this MEANS SOMETHING. Continue reading →
Because I was going to interview John K. Samson, the Artist in Residence at UBC’s Creative Writing Program, I spent several weeks playing his CDs in my car stereo and then finished off my immersion in his music by listening in bed with my eyes shut. Before that I wasn’t very familiar with his work. I knew him, of course, as the lead singer for the Weakerthans, and a tune or two of his had floated by me on CBC Radio 3. Several friends had praised his work, telling me that there was no one anywhere quite like him. The more I listened, the more I realized that I was encountering a powerfully accomplished artist who was, indeed, like no one else. If you give John’s songs your full attention, they wind themselves deep into your psyche in a way that tells you they plan to stick around for a while.