Monday, June 18, 2018

Celebrate Audiobook Month in June with 25% off Rattling Books Digital Download Canadian Audiobooks

June is Audiobook Month!

Rattling Books is celebrating by inviting you to save 25% on any purchase from our online digital download catalogue of Canadian audiobooks.

Get your summer's listening now from Canada's oldest independent Audiobook Publisher.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #9

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The unabridged audio edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from


My feet gave me most trouble, for they immediately got wet again because my thin moccasins were easily soaked through on the snow. I suddenly thought of the way in which the Lapps who tend our reindeer manage for dry socks. They carry grass with them, which they ravel up and pad into their shoes. Into this they put their feet, and then pack the rest with more grass, tying up the top with a binder. The ropes of the harness for our dogs are carefully sewed all over with two layers of flannel in order to make them soft against the dogs' sides. So, as soon as I could sit down, I started with my trusty knife to rip up the flannel. Though my fingers were more or less frozen, I was able also to ravel out the rope, put it into my shoes, and use my wet socks inside my knickerbockers, where, though damp, they served to break the wind. Then, tying the narrow strips of flannel together, I bound up the top of the moccasins, Lapp-fashion, and carried the bandage on up over my knee, making a ragged though most excellent puttee.

As to the garments I wore, I had opened recently a box of football clothes I had not seen for twenty years. I had found my old Oxford University football running shorts and a pair of Richmond Football Club red, yellow, and black stockings, exactly as I wore them twenty years ago. These with a flannel shirt and sweater vest were now all I had left. Coat, hat, gloves, oilskins, everything else, were gone, and I stood there in that odd costume, exactly as I stood twenty years ago on a football field, reminding me of the little girl of a friend, who, when told she was dying, asked to be dressed in her Sunday frock to go to heaven in. My costume, being very light, dried all the quicker, until afternoon. Then nothing would dry anymore, everything freezing stiff. It had been an ideal costume to struggle through the slob ice. I really believe the conventional garments missionaries are supposed to affect would have been fatal.

To be continued.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #8

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available as a digital download from  You can mail order the audiobook CD or just walk in to Fred's Records on Duckworth Street in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and pick up a copy.


Meanwhile I had frayed out a small piece of rope into oakum, and mixed it with fat from the intestines of my dogs. Alas, my match-box, which was always chained to me, had leaked, and my matches were in pulp. Had I been able to make a light, it would have looked so unearthly out there on the sea that I felt sure they would see me. But that chance was now cut off. However, I kept the matches, hoping that I might dry them if I lived through the night. While working at the dogs, about every five minutes I would stand up and wave my hands toward the land. I had no flag, and I could not spare my shirt, for, wet as it was, it was better than nothing in that freezing wind, and, anyhow, it was already nearly dark.

Unfortunately, the coves in among the cliffs are so placed that only for a very narrow space can the people in any house see the sea. Indeed, most of them cannot see it at all, so that I could not in the least expect any one to see me, even supposing it had been daylight.

Not daring to take any snow from the surface of my pan to break the wind with, I piled up the carcasses of my dogs. With my skin rug I could now sit down without getting soaked. During these hours I had continually taken off all my clothes, wrung them out, swung them one by one in the wind, and put on first one and then the other inside, hoping that what heat there was in my body would thus serve to dry them. In this I had been fairly successful.

To be continued.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Audiobook sale in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day

From now 

through May 13

 in celebration of 

International Migratory Bird Day

save 30%  

when you purchase the digitally downloadable poetry audiobook
Songs for the Songs of Birds
poems for and about birds written and read
by Don McKay
Rattling Books

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Globe and Mail chats with Joel Thomas Hynes on songwriting

Between the Acts: Joel Thomas Hynes on the agony and ease of songwriting

In Between the Acts, The Globe and Mail takes a look at how artists manage their time before and after a creative endeavour. Joel Thomas Hynes's ...
Joel Thomas Hynes has written and narrated several works of fiction, a couple recorded by Rattling Books which you can buy as digital download audiobooks or as MP3 CDs.
Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes
the unabridged audiobook
purchase the digital download audiobook

Say Nothing Saw Wood by Joel Thomas Hynes
purchase the digital download audiobook
order the MP3 audiobook CD EarLit Shorts 1 on which Say Nothing Saw Wood appears

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #7

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audiobook edition of Adrift on an Ice-Pan narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from as a digital download or mail order CD. Or you can walk in to Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador and buy one off the shelf.


In spite of my care the struggling dog bit me rather badly in the leg. I suppose my numb hands prevented my holding his throat as I could ordinarily do. Moreover, I must hold the knife in the wound to the end, as blood on the fur would freeze solid and make the skin useless. In this way I sacrificed two more large dogs, receiving only one more bite, though I fully expected that the pan I was on would break up in the struggle. The other dogs, who were licking their coats and trying to get dry, apparently took no notice of the fate of their comrades, but I was very careful to prevent the dying dogs crying out, for the noise of fighting would probably have been followed by the rest attacking the down dog, and that was too close to me to be pleasant. A short shrift seemed to me better than a long one, nd I envied the dead dogs whose troubles were over so quickly. Indeed, I came to balance in my mind whether, if once I passed into the open sea, it would not be better by far to use my faithful knife on myself than to die by inches. There seemed no hardship in the thought. I seemed fully to sympathize with the Japanese view of hara-kiri.

Working, however, saved me from philosophizing. By the time I had skinned these dogs, and with my knife and some of the harness had strung the skins together, I was ten miles on my way, and it was getting dark.

Away to the northward I could see a single light in the little village where I had slept the night before, where I had received the kindly hospitality of the simple fishermen in whose comfortable homes I have spent many a night. I could not help but think of them sitting down to tea, with no idea that there was any one watching them, for I had told them not to expect me back for three days.

To be continued.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Physical Location of John Steffler's audiobook "The Grey Islands"

Grey Islands, group of 2 islands off NE N.F., Canada, in the Atlantic. Largest isl. is Bell Isl. or Grey Isl. South (34 sq mi/88 sq km), 50 mi/80 km N of Cape St. John; 10 mi/16 km long, 7 mi/11 km wide; 50°44'N 55°35°W. Site of lighthouse (SW) and radio station. N of Bell Isl., 7 mi/11 km, is Groais Isl. or Grey Isl. North (16 sq mi/41 sq km); 7 mi/11 km long, 4 mi/6 km wide. Both isls. are hilly, rising to over 500 ft/152 m. Village of Grey Islands Harbour at Rocky Bay, S end of Bell Isl.

The Grey Islands are the main setting for John Steffler's Canadian poetry classic The Grey Islands.  The unabridged audiobook edition is brought to you by Rattling Books.

The Grey Islands audiobook is available as a digital download online or as a mail order audio CD from Rattling Books on

The Grey Islands audiobook CD is also available online from Fred's Records or by walking in to Fred's Records store on Duckworth Street, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Helen Porter's new book reviewed in Telegram by Joan Sullivan

Joan Sullivan: Helen Fogwill Porter comes full circle

Helen Fogwill Porter’s debut novel, “January, February, June or July,” (1988) won the Young Adult Canadian Book Award from the Canadian Library Association.
She’s published two other novels, most recently “Finishing School” (2007) as well as a (exceptional) memoir, “Below the Bridge” (1980), and written plays and poetry.
Despite this output, Porter is almost as well known for her championship of social causes.
On behalf of artists, she has been deeply involved with both the Writer’s Guild and Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador
On broader issues, Porter is a founding member of the Newfoundland Status of Women Council, and has run for the NDP; a fund named for her and aiding women running in politics was established in 2003. She still advocates on matters important to her and not too long ago could be found outside city hall protesting on behalf of low-income single parents.
In 2015 she received the Order of Canada.
Porter writes with authenticity and wit. No one chronicles working class women as she does. She draws from her own life, with generosity, openness, and no pretense.
 “Full Circle” is an autobiographical collection.
Usually fairly short, these pieces are capsules, portraits of moments. Often these are painful.
Just as often they are funny. The poems are divided into three sections: “Before The Fall,” “A Woman’s Work,” and “Full Circle.”
They are formatted with textual breath and line breaks, rather than formal rhyme beats or schemes.
The effect is conversational.
Part 1 includes “Orange Papers”: “thin and delicate / they survived a long sea voyage / to reach my open hands / I liked to touch them / flatten them with my fingers / smooth them out one by one / and store them in the sideboard / to sniff and handle / on all the days when there’d be / no oranges”
Along with such a delicate and tactile memory comes something much sharper, if in a sense less tangible: “Shock Treatment”: “The orderly unlocked the door / to let us in / and then locked it again / behind us.”
She discusses religion, or more properly faith. The need for compassion. Not taking things on assumption: “Mea Culpa”: He talked with authority / about the proper use of stress / suggesting that one way to combat it / was to hire a cleaning woman / (he didn’t mention the cleaning woman’s stress).

Rattling Books audiobook CDs available at Freds Records and on ABEBooks

Rattling Books is a Canadian audiobook publisher in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Rattling Books is a small independent audiobook publisher in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We like to say we're so small, we're fine.

Our catalogue of audiobooks that are available as physical CDs and MP3 CDs are available for mail order from two sources:


Freds Records where if you are lucky enough to find yourself in St. John's, Newfoundland you can walk right in to their store and buy Rattling Books off the shelf.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #6

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The downloadable unabridged audiobook edition of Adrift on an Ice-Pan narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from Rattling Books.  The audiobook CD is available from abebooks
or Freds Records in St. John's, Newfoundland.


I had not drifted more than half a mile before I saw my poor komatik disappear through the ice, which was every minute loosening up into the small pans that it consisted of, and it seemed like a friend gone and one more tie with home and safety lost. To the northward, about a mile distant, lay the mainland along which I had passed so merrily in the morning, - only, it seemed, a few moments before.

By mid-day I had passed the island to which I had crossed on the ice bridge. I could see that the bridge was gone now. If I could reach the island I should only be marooned and destined to die of starvation. But there was little chance of that, for I was rapidly driving into the ever widening bay.

It was scarcely safe to move on my small ice raft, for fear of breaking it. Yet I saw I must have the skins of some of my dogs, of which I had eight on the pan, if I was to live the night out. There was now some three to five miles between me and the north side of the bay. There, immense pans of Arctic ice, surging to and fro on the heavy ground seas, were thundering into the cliffs like medieval battering-rams. It was evident that, even if seen, I could hope for no help from that quarter before night. No boat could live through the surf.

Unwinding the sealskin traces from my waist, round which I had wound them to keep the dogs from eating them, I made a slip-knot, passed it over the first dog's head, tied it round my foot close to his neck, threw him on his back, and stabbed him in the heart. Poor beast! I loved him like a friend, a beautiful dog, but we could not all hope to live. In fact, I had no hope any of us would, at that time, but it seemed better to die fighting.
To be continued.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #5

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available as a digital download from or in physical CD form from Freds Records.


I had decided I would rather stake my chances on a long swim even than perish by inches on the floe, as there was no likelihood whatever of being seen and rescued. But, keenly though I watched, not a streak even of clear water appeared, the interminable sish rising from below and filling every gap as it appeared. We were now resting on a piece of ice about ten by twelve feet, which, as I found when I came to examine it, was not ice at all, but simply snow-covered slob frozen into a mass, and I feared it would very soon break up in the general turmoil of the heavy sea, which was increasing as the ice drove off shore before the wind.

At first we drifted in the direction of a rocky point on which a heavy surf was breaking. Here I thought once again to swim ashore. But suddenly we struck a rock. A large piece broke off the already small pan, and what was left swung round in the backwash, and started right out to sea.

There was nothing for it now but to hope for a rescue. Alas! There was little possibility of being seen. As I have already mentioned, no one lives around this big bay. My only hope was that the other komatik, knowing I was alone and had failed to keep my tryst, would perhaps come back to look for me. This, however, as it proved, they did not do.

The westerly wind was rising all the time, our coldest wind at this time of the year, coming as it does over the Gulf ice. It was tantalizing, as I stood with next to nothing on, the wind going through me and every stitch soaked in ice-water, to see my well-stocked komatik some fifty yards away. It was still above water, with food, hot tea in a thermos bottle, dry clothing, matches, wood, and everything on it for making a fire to attract attention.

It is easy to see a dark object on the ice in the daytime, for the gorgeous whiteness shows off the least thing. But the tops of bushes and large pieces of kelp have often deceived those looking out. Moreover, within our memory no man has been thus adrift on the bay ice. The chances were about one in a thousand that I should be seen at all, and if I were seen, I should probably be mistaken for some piece of refuse.

To keep from freezing, I cut off my long moccasins down to the feet, strung out some line, split the legs, and made a kind of jacket, which protected my back from the wind down as far as the waist. I have this jacket still, and my friends assure me it would make a good Sunday garment.

To be continued.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Joel Thomas Hynes (the Singer Songwriter one) at the Dakota Tavern, Toronto

Joel Thomas Hynes, The Sauce

Dakota Tavern 249 Ossington, Toronto, Ontario M6J 3A1
Dakota Tavern 249 Ossington, Toronto, OntarioM6J 3A1 View Map

Icelandic Translation of When I Married Halldór Laxness by Agnes Walsh, translation by Adalsteinn Ingolfsson

Back in October, 2006 Rattling Books ran a Translation Contest in Iceland. We invited translations of the poem When I Married Halldór Laxness by Newfoundland writer Agnes Walsh. The winning entry, selected by Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir, was a translation by Adalsteinn Ingolfsson. On this last day of Poetry Month 2007 we are delighted to share it with you here.


Þegar ég giftist Halldóri Laxness (tileinkað Sam B.)

Ég horfði á froðuna skreppa saman og gulan mjöðinn mæta henni til hálfs. Ég hallaði glasinu, það valt um og vökvinn rann yfir ellistirt hné hans. Ég leit undan en baðst ekki forláts. Með fallegum beinaberum fingrum buskaði hann frá sér froðunni í aðskiljanlegum ögnum, sem væri hún kusk séð um síðir fyrir einskæra tilviljun.

Nú veltur ákvörðunin á þér.

Hann neri miðinum inn í buxnaskálmina. Ég varpaði öndinni. Báðir valkostir voru banvænir.

Ætlarðu að dandalast í þessu landi ljósvakans til eilífðarnóns?


Jafnvel þótt ég hengdi þig upp á hárinu?
Jafnvel þótt ég hellti upp í þig sjóðheitu vatni?
Jafnvel þótt ég gerði þér indjánatjald úr birkihríslum?

Sjáðu mig.

Hann lét sig hverfa.

Kvöldið eftir hringdi síminn.
Ég skal hitta þig á mótum Jökulbrúnar og Kompáss. Ég verð að geta treyst á þig.
Ég verð þarna í þrjú kvöld í röð.

Þrjú kvöld í röð var ég á stanslausum en árangurslausum þeytingi milli staða.

Föstudagskvöldið hringdi dyrabjallan. Hann rétti mér tvær bækur eftir Aksel Sandemose. Ég lagði fingur mína á hlý fingraför hans á efri bókinni og lokaði hurðinni. Ég las og beið.

(Í flóðbylgju gekk kona glugga á milli með kerti í hendi meðan hús hennar barst út á flóann. Henni var bjargað í St. Lawrence.)

Þegar þú ert reiðubúin, ef þú verður það nokkurn tímann, skaltu kveikja á eigin kerti.

Tveimur árum síðar hélt ég skjálfandi hendi á eldspýtunni. Hár hans hafði gránað við kollvikin og hann stakk feimnislega við fæti.

To read the original English text of When I Married Halldór Laxness click here.

To hear Agnes Walsh reading the poem in the original English you can purchase a download of In the Old Country of My Heart by Agnes Walsh from Rattling Books online or get the CD from Freds Records.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Poem: not man's time from The Grey Islands by John Steffler

not man's time here.
sun's time.
rock's time.
I begin to feel it.

days blink by - light
and cold flowing over - tide
breathing smoothly, evenly, I

slip between half-seconds, flash
light-beam pinball-style, do
ten thousand vanishing things
in a breath.

This poem is from The Grey Islands by John Steffler. Originally published in print form by McClelland and Stewart (1985); Brick Books (2000). The unabridged audiobook edition of The Grey Islands is narrated (in order of appearance) by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins with island soundscapes recorded off the coast of Newfoundland.

You can purchase downloads of Rattling Books audiobooks online or physical CDs from Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland (or by mail order).

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #4

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audiobook edition of Adrift on an Ice-Pan, narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from Rattling Books as a digital download or you can get the physical audiobook CD from Fred's Records


It was impossible to make any progress through the sish ice by swimming, so I lay there and thought all would soon be over, only wondering if any one would ever know how it happened. There was no particular horror attached to it, and in fact I began to feel drowsy, as if I could easily go to sleep, when suddenly I saw the trace of another big dog that had himself gone through before he reached the pan, and though he was close to it was quite unable to force his way out. Along this I hauled myself, using him as a bow anchor, but mch bothered by the other dogs as I passed them, one of which got on my shoulder, pushing me farther down into the ice. There was only a yard or so more when I had passed my living anchor, and soon I lay with my dogs around me on the little piece of slob ice. I had to help them on to it, working them through the lane that I had made.

The piece of ice we were on was so small it was obvious we must soon all be drowned, if we remained upon it as it drifted seaward into more open water. If we were to save our lives, no time was to be lost. When I stood up, I could see about twenty yards away a larger pan floating amidst the sish, like a great flat raft, and if we could get on to it we should postpone at least for a time the death that already seemed almost inevitable. It was impossible to reach it with0ut a life line, as I had already learned to my cost, and the next problem was how to get one there. Marvelous to relate, when I had first fallen through, after I had cut the dogs a drift without any hope let of saving myself, I had not let my knife sink, but had fastened it by two half hitches to the back of one of the dogs. To my great joy there it was still, and shortly I was at work cutting all the sealskin traces still hanging from the dogs' harnesses, and splicing them together into one long line. These I divided and fastened to the backs of my two leaders, tying the near ends round my two wrists. I then pointed out to “Brin” the pan I wanted to reach and tried my best to make them go ahead, giving them the full length of my lines from two coils. My long sealskin moccasins, reaching to my thigh, were full of ice and water. These I took off and tied separately on the dogs' backs. My coat, hat, gloves, and overalls I had already lost. At fist, nothing would induce the two dogs to move, and though I threw them off the pan two or three times, they struggled back upon it, which perhaps was only natural, because as soon as they fell through they could see nowhere else to make for. To me, however, this seemed to spell “the end.” Fortunately, I had with me a small black spaniel, almost a featherweight, with large furry paws, called “Jack,” who acts as my mascot and incidentally as my retriever. This at once flashed into my mind, and I felt I had still one more chance for life. So I spoke, to him and showed him the direction, and then threw a piece of ice toward the desired goal. Without a moment's hesitation he made a dash for it, and to my great joy got there safely, the tough scale of sea ice carrying his weight bravely. At once I shouted to him to “lie down,” and this, too, he immediately did, looking like a little black fuzz ball on the white setting.

My leaders could now see him seated there on the new piece of floe, and when once more I threw them off they understood what I wanted, and fought their way to where they saw the spaniel, carrying with them the line that gave me the one chance for my life. The other dogs followed them, and after painful struggling, all got out again except one. Taking all the run that I could get on my little pan, I made a dive, slithering with the impetus along the surface till once more I sank through. After a long fight, however, I was able to haul myself by the long traces on to this new pan, having taken carre beforehand to tie the harnesses to which I was holding under the dogs' bellies, so that they could not slip them off. But alas! The pan I was now on was not large enough to bear us and was already beginning to sink, so this process had to be repeated immediately.

I now realized that, though we had been working toward the shore, we had been losing ground all the time, for the off-shore wind had already driven us a hundred yards farther out. But the widening gap kept full of the pounded ice, through which no man could possibly go.

To be continued.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Poetry, the next latte & 30% off Poetry Downloads for April at

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #3

The following excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The unabridged audio edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from


There was not a moment to lose. I tore off my oilskins, threw myself on my hands and knees by the side of the komatik to give a larger base to hold, and shouted to my team to go ahead for the shore. Before we had gone twenty yards, the dogs got frightened, hesitated for a moment, and the komatik instantly sank into the slob. It was necessary then for the dogs to pull much harder, so that they now began to sink in also.

Earlier in the season the father of the very boy I was going to operate on had been drowned in this same way, this dogs tangling their traces around him in the slob. This flashed into my mind, and I managed to loosen my sheath-knife, scramble forward, find the traces in the water and cut them, holding on to the leader’s trace wound round my wrist.

Being in the water I could see no piece of ice that would bear anything up. But there was as it happened a piece of snow, frozen together like a large snowball, about twenty-five yards away, near where my leading dog, “Brin,” was wallowing in the slob. Upon this he very shortly climbed, his long trace of ten fathoms almost reaching there before he went into the water.

This dog has weird black markings on his face, giving him the appearance of wearing a perpetual grin. After climbing out on the snow as if it were the most natural position in the world he deliberately shook the ice and water from his long coat, and then turned round to look for me. As he sat perched up there out of the water he seemed to be grinning with satisfaction. The other dogs were hopelessly bogged. Indeed, we were like flies in treacle.

Gradually, I hauled myself along the line that was still tied to my wrist, till without any warning the dog turned round and slipped out of his harness, and then once more turned his grinning face to where I was struggling.

To be continued.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Poem: She loved him with a fierce appetite from Coasting Trade by Robin McGrath

She loved him with a fierce appetite

She loved him with a fierce appetite
Patting and prodding his flesh
Like a reliable, well-trained chef
And once, while they embraced,
She pinched the tender meat behind his hip,
Said “If we were stranded on a desert island,
And I had to eat you,
This is where I would begin.”

Over the years she tasted every part of him,
Sleepily chewed the lobes of his ears
In bed in his arms on cold winter mornings,
Licked the jam from his fingers at breakfast,
Then nibbled the tips to still her hunger,
And often she told him he was so sweet
That she could eat him alive.

When he died she
Feasted for the last time,
Spit up bones and hair like an owl pellet
And slept with it under her pillow for luck.

The above poem is from the audio collection Coasting Trade: a Performance for three voices with soundscapes, from Rattling Books.

Coasting Trade is the product of a collaboration between author Robin McGrath, radio producer Chris Brookes and actors Robert Joy, Rick Boland and Anita Best. It follows the voyage of a Yankee trading schooner, circumnavigating the island of Newfoundland sometime after 1865. As the vessel puts in at various ports, lyrical narratives weave back and forth through a century of change while the 19th century sailing notes adapted from Sailing Directions for the Island of Newfoundland by J.S. Hobbes (1865) remain timeless.

Rattling Books' audiobooks are available online as digital downloads or as CDs instore or mail order from Fred's Records, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Excerpt: Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, installment #2

The following is an excerpt from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, it was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company. The unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available from Rattling Books.
It was late in April, when there is always the risk of getting wet through the ice, so that I was carefully prepared with spare outfit, which included a change of garments, snowshoes, rifle, compass, axe, and oilskin overclothes. The messengers were anxious that their team should travel back with mine, for they were slow at best and needed a lead. My dogs, however, being a powerful team, could not be held back, and though I managed to wait twice for their sleigh, I had reached a village about twenty miles on the journey before nightfall, and had fed the dogs, and was gathering a few people for prayers when they caught me up.

During the night the wind shifted to the northeast, which brought in fog and rain, softened the snow, and made traveling very bad, besides heaving a heavy sea into the bay. Our drive next morning would be somewhat over forty miles, the first ten miles on an arm of the sea, on salt-water ice.

In order not to be separated too long from my friends, I sent them ahead two hours before me, appointing a rendezvous in a log tilt that we have built in the woods as a halfway house. There is no one living on all that long coast-line, and to provide against accidents – which have happened more than once – we built this hut to keep dry clothing, food, and drugs in.

The first rain of the year was falling when I started, and I was obliged to keep on what we call the “ballicaters,” or ice barricades, much farther up the bay than I had expected. The sea of the night before had smashed the ponderous covering of ice right to the landwash. There were great gaping chasms between the enormous blocks, which we call pans, and half a mile out it was all clear water.

An island three miles out had preserved a bridge of ice, however, and by crossing a few cracks I managed to reach it. From the island it was four miles across to a rocky promontory, - a course that would be several miles shorter than going round the shore. Here as far as the eye could reach the ice seemed good, though it was very rough. Obviously, it had been smashed up by the sea and then packed in again by the strong wind from the northeast, and I thought it had frozen together solid.

All went well till I was about a quarter of a mile from the landing-point. Then the wind suddenly fell, and I noticed that I was traveling over loose “sish,” which was like porridge and probably many feet deep. By stabbing down, I could drive my whip-handle through the thin coating of young ice that was floating on it. The sish ice consists of the tiny fragments where the large pans have been pounding together on the heaving sea, like the stones of Freya’s grinding mill.

So quickly did the wind now come off shore, and so quickly did the packed “slob,” relieved of the wind pressure, “run abroad,” that already I could not see one pan larger than ten feet square; moveover, the ice was loosening so rapidly that I saw that retreat was absolutely impossible. Neither was there any way to get off the little pan I was surveying from.

To be continued.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Poem: Making the Fish by Michael Crummey

Making the Fish

Once you'd got the catch pitched up on the stage head, you got down to making the fish. Assembly line. Cutting table, blades of the knives pared almost to nothing by the sharpening stone. Woolen gloves soaked in fish guts, the water running red out of them when you make a fist. The cod passing through your hands llike knots in an unbroken string as long as the sea is wide.

Cut Throat
Get your fingers into the gills of a cod and lift it to the table, 15, 20 pounds some of them and the ache in your arm after three hours like the chill in a church hall on a February morning. Two motions with the knife, across the throat below the gills anad along the bare length of the belly, like a Catholic crossing himself before a meal. Push the fish along the table, the left hand of the man beside you reaching for it, he doesn't even turn his head in your direction.
Get your fingers in the gills of a cod and lift it to the table.

The open body, the knife in your right hand. The head taken off clean, as if you were castrating a young bull. The liver scalloped from the chest and pushed into the oil barrel, left there to ferment like fruit going bad. The tangle of guts lifted clear, the cod flesh pulled from beneath, a body freed from a messy accident. Organs and offal dropped through a hole in the cutting table to the salt water beneath the stage.
The gulls screaming outside, fighting over blood.

A good splitter could clear his way through 5 or 6 quintals an hour if the fish were a decent size, a full boat load done in three and out to the traps for more. Two cuts down each side of the sound bone, curved keel of the spine pulled clear and the cod splayed like a man about to be crucified. Dropped off the cutting table into the water of the puncheon tub, the next fish in your hands. Two cuts down each side, sound bone pulled clear, splayed cod dropped into the puncheon tub. Two cuts, sound bone pulled clear, cod into the tub. Two cuts, pull, into the tub.
By nine o'clock it is too dark to see properly, eyes as tender as skin soaked too long in salt water. The wicks are lit in bowls of kerosene: oily flame, spiralling spine of black smoke.

Empty wooden wheelbarrow set beside the puncheon tub, the flat, triangular sheets of fish meat hefted from the elbow-deep water.
Dead weight of the loaded barrow a strain on the shoulders, the bones shifting down in their sockets, the tendons stretching to hold them as the feet shuffle into the store house. A hogshead of salt beside the bins, a handful strown across the white insides of each fish before they're stacked. Weight of the pile squeezing water from the flesh.
Turn with the emptied barrow. Squeak of the wheel, squish of feet soaked inside the rubber boots. Arm fishing into the puncheon tub, elbow numb with the cold.

The Bawn
Wait for a fine day in August. Sweep a stretch of beach clear, put stones down over any patch of grass that might spoil the fish.
The salt cod taken from the bins and washed by hand in puncheon tubs, front and back, like a child about to be presented to royalty, the white scum scrubbed off the dark layer of skin. Carried to the bawn on fish bars and laid out neatly in sunlight, 150 quintals at a time, the length of the shoreline like a well-shingled roof.
Two fine days would finish the job, a week and a half to cure the season's catch. The merchant's ship arriving in September, anchoring off in the Tickle; the cured cod loaded into the boat and ferried out.

What it Made
You could expect $2 a quintal for your trouble, a good season for a crew was 400 quintals. anything more was an act of God. The Skipper took half a voyage, out of which he paid the girl her summer's wage, and squared up with the merchant for supplies taken on credit in the spring. The rest was split three ways. $130 for four months of work, it could cut the heart out of a man to think too much about what he was working for.

This poem appears in the collection Hard Light by Michael Crummey, printed by Brick Books. A selection from the book, 32 Little Stories, of which this poem is a part, was recorded by Rattling Books. Hard Light: 32 Little Stories by Michael Crummey, narrated by the author, Ron Hynes and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings is available as a digital download from Rattling Books.

The audiobook CD is available from Freds Records in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Excerpt: Easter Sunday from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

The following is an excerpt from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience it was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence is available as a digital download from Rattling Books or as an audiobook CD from Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was Easter Sunday at St. Anthony in the year 1908, but with us in northern Newfoundland still winter. Everything was covered with snow and ice. I was walking back after morning service, when a boy came running over from the hospital with the news that a large team of dogs had come from sixty miles to the southward, to get a doctor on a very urgent case. It was that of a young man on whom we had operated about a fortnight before for an acute bone disease in the thigh. The people had allowed the wound to close, the poisoned matter had accumulated, and we thought we should have to remove the leg. There was obviously, therefore, no time to be lost. So, having packed up the necessary instruments, dressings, and drugs, and having fitted out the dog-sleigh with my best dogs, I started at once, the messengers following me with their team.

My team was an especially good one. On many a long journey they had stood by me and pulled me out of difficulties by their sagacity and endurance. To a lover of his dogs, as every Christian man must be, each one had become almost as precious as a child to its mother. They were beautiful beasts: "Brin," the cleverest leader on the coast; "Doc," a large, gentle beast, the backbone of the team for power; "Spy," a wiry, powerful black and white dog; "Moody," a lop-eared black-and-tan, in this htird season, a plodder that never looked behind him; "Watch," the youngster of the team, long-legged and speedy, with great liquid eyes and a Gordon-setter coat; "Sue," a large, dark Eskimo, the image of a great black wolf, with her sharp pointed and perpendicular ears, for she "harked back" to her wild ancestry; "Jerry," a large roan-colored slut, the quickest of all my dogs on her feet, and so affectionate that her overtures of joy had often sent me sprawling on my back; "Jack," a jet-black, gentle-natured dog, more like a retriever, that always ran next the sledge, and never looked back but everlastingly pulled straight ahead, running always with his nose to the ground.

To be continued.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Poem: Close-up on a Sharp-Shinned Hawk by Don McKay


Concentrate upon her attributes:
the accipiter's short
roundish wings, streaked breast, talons fine
and slender as the x-ray of a baby's hand.
The eyes (yellow in this hatchling
later deepening to orange then
blood red) can spot
a sparrow at four hundred metres and impose
silence like an overwhelming noise
to which you must not listen.

Suddenly, if you're not careful, everything
goes celluloid and slow
and threatens to burn through and you
must focus quickly on the simple metal band around her leg
by which she's married to our need to know.

This poem is among those selected by Don McKay for his audiobook release with Rattling Books: Songs for the Songs of Birds.

Presently the digital download is 30% off for Poetry Month.
The Audiobook CD is available from Fred's Records in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Newfoundland Poems for Poetry Month : Percy Janes Boarding the Bus by Agnes Walsh

Percy Janes Boarding the Bus
a poem by Agnes Walsh

I was going to the Mall for a kettle
waiting on the number five,
when the number something-or-other
pulled up.

I was looking past it for mine,
when I saw him, an arm raised,
running softly.

I jumped to life, beat on the bus door,
siad to the driver: "Mr. Janes.
Mr. Percy Janes wants to get on."

He raised a "So what?" eyebrow.

Mr. Janes straightened his astrakhan hat,
mumbled thank you and stepped up.
As the bus rumbled on
I continued under my breath:
"Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Percy Janes,
Newfoundland writer, poet,
just boarded the number something-or-other."

If this was Portugal,
a plaque would be placed
over the seat where he sat.

As it is, you have me
mumbling in the street
like a tourist in my own country.

This poem appears in the audiobook poetry collection produced by Rattling Books entitled In the Old Country of My Heart by Agnes Walsh. Available online as a digital download and 30% off during April, National Poetry Month.  Also available as a hard copy CD from Fred's Records, St. John's Newfoundland.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Poem: Yet by Mary Dalton, from Merrybegot


Moll doll his chin;
Her hair birch-
Chalk and cheese, they said;
Cradle and grave,
They said;
You could smell
The smouldering, sparry,
Whenever they met.

This poem appears in the collection of poems by Mary Dalton entitled Merrybegot. The audiobook edition of Merrybegot published by Rattling Books in 2005 is performed by Anita Best with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn.

The audiobook digital download is available from Rattling Books online.
The audiobook CD is available from Fred's Records in St. John's, NL.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Rattling Books owner hounded by paparazzi declares Poetry the next Latte

Tired of beating off Globe and Mail, New York Times and Guardian paparazzi disguised as gulls eating garbage, Janet Russell, owner of the dazzlingly successful, befouled by money Rattling Books, emerged from the seaside villa company headquarters in Newfoundland today and granted a brief interview on the meaning of April.

“Poetry is the next latte," Russell said.

N.B. Rattling Books poetry audiobooks are 30% off for the whole of April, National Poetry Month.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Newfoundland Railway Wake Sale: 40% off Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath (audiobook)

This weekend is the 69th anniversary of the last run of the Newfoundland Railway. Newfoundland became the 10th province of Canada at midnight on March 31, 1949, and at that time the Newfoundland Railway ceased to exist. By April 1, the trains running through Riverhead and Gaff Topsails were part of the Canadian National Railway.

The passing of the Newfoundland Railway may have been in name only, but there are few people who don't remember the Railway with pride and sadness. The Railway was a major achievement for a small nation such as Newfoundland, and it was part of our national identity for decades.

To remember this celebrated part of our heritage, Rattling Books is holding a Wake Sale. From now until midnight on Monday, April 2, 2007, you can save 40% on the audiobook edition of Robin McGrath's captivating novel Donovan's Station.

Set in Newfoundland throughout the early twentieth century, Donovan's Station perfectly recreates the time when the Newfoundland Railway was at its height.

The sound of the train is so soothing in the evenings. I never guessed when they first put the tracks through that I could feel that way about it. Mr. Reid used to say that before the railway came, travel meant coaxing a jaded nag over the bogs and barrens or tossing about in a fog in a stinking jackboat, with as good a chance of drowning as of reaching your destination. I suppose a great many people agreed with him, which is why they turned out in such numbers for that first run. I know that for the fishermen, who had no work betwen September and Christmas, the work on the railbed was very welcome.- Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath
"Eighty-four years is time enough for one life," Keziah Donovan muses as she waits for death to re-unite her with her "own sweet man". Stricken down by a paralytic stroke, Keziah's body is immobile but her mind is on a journey through a life that spans two centuries. Carried along by her rich inner narrative, the reader travels through the disease, labour, and progress of tumultuous times and the equally turbulent events of personal history - births, marriages, deaths, and mysteries.Set in rural and urban Newfoundland, this novel is alive with its landscape and language. In Keziah Donovan, award-winning writer Robin McGrath has created an unforgettable story-teller with a voice so authentic and distinctive that it compels the reader to sit and listen, and rings in the ear long after the book is put down.

Read by the following (in order of duration):
Janis Spence as Keziah Donovan
Janet Russell as Kate
Andy Jones as Father Roche
Elizabeth Pickard as Elizabeth (Lizzie)
Merrill Francis as Dermot


Mesmerizing...Keziah Donovan should take her rightful place beside [Hagar Shipley and Mary Bundle]. - Jodi DeLong, Halifax Herald

Janis Spence, the main narrator, gives both a wistful quality as Keziah Donovan looks back on her life from her deathbed. Other readers portray supporting characters as they write letters or diary entries. These narrators sound as if they're talking to themselves while they write, with pen scratches in the background. The whole cast gives a quietly human performance.- AudioFile Magazine

Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath was shortlisted for the Caribbean & Canada Region of the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2003.

Listen to a clip on SoundCloud from the unabridged audio edition of Donovan's Station narrated by Janis Spence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Excerpt: "The Lure of the Labrador Wild" by Dillon Wallace, setting: late March 1904

The following excerpt is from Dillon Wallace's classic story of the fateful canoe trip which Wallace, Leonidas Hubbard and George Elson made into the interior of Labrador in 1903 (The Lure of the Labrador Wild originally published in 1905 by Fleming H. Revell, New York) .

The unabridged audio edition of The Lure of the Labrador Wild by Dillon Wallace narrated by Jody Richardson is available from

“…On Sunday, March 27th, I was sitting in the cosey post house wondering where George and the others were, when suddenly George appeared from out the snow that the howling gale was whirling about. My long suspense was ended. The body had been recovered in good condition, George said. Wrapped in the blankets that Hubbard had round him when he died – the blankets he had so gaily presented me with that June morning on the Silvia – and our old tarpaulin, which George had recovered farther back on the trail, it had been dragged on the Indian sled forty miles down over the sleeping Susan River, and thence out over Grand Lake to the Cape Corbeau tilt, where the men had been compelled to leave it the day before owing to the heavy snowstorm that then prevailed. From the tilt the men had gone to to Tom’s house at the rapid to spend the night, and George had now come down to the post to relieve my mind with the news that the body was safe.

It was arranged that the next morning George and Duncan should take the post dogs and komatik, drive up to Cape Corbeau and bring the body down. The morning was calm and fine, and they started early. It was a strange funeral procession that returned. The sun was setting when they passed over the rapid where Hubbard that beautiful July morning had sprung vigorously into the water to track the canoe into Grand Lake. How full of hope and pleasurable anticipation he had been when we paddled through the Little Lake! Over the snow and ice that now hid the lake the seven dogs that were hauling his corpse strained and tugged, ever and anon breaking into a trot as George and Duncan, running on their snow shoes on either side of the komatik, urged them forward with Eskimo exclamations or cracked their long whip over a laggard. No need to urge any one of them on, however, when they came in sight of the post. Darkness was falling. Knowing that their daily meal was near at hand, the dogs broke into a run, and with much howling and jumping swung around the point and up to the buildings.”

To be continued.