Saturday, March 31, 2007

March 31 was the last day of the Newfoundland Railway

This weekend is the 58th 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 ours, 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 audio 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
Construction began on the Newfoundland Railway in 1881, and the line was completed in 1894. The longest narrow-guage line in North America, the Newfoundland Railway carried passengers across the Island for 75 years. Passenger service was abandoned in 1968, replaced by a bus service, but many people still recall the slow, comfortable train ride with fondness. Folded into Canadian National Railway with Confederation on March 31, 1949, the Railway continued to carry freight until 1988, when the line was abandoned completely, and the last train crossed the island, taking up the tracks as it went.

Learn more about the Newfoundland Railway.

John Steffler among speakers at University of Guelph's “Last Lecture” April 4

News Release
March 30, 2007
Last Lecture for Graduating Students

John Steffler, parliamentary poet laureate and award-winning poet and fiction writer, will be among the speakers at the sixth annual “Last Lecture” for graduating students April 4 at the University of Guelph.

The event gives members of the class of 2006 the opportunity to come together to reflecton their experiences and achievements during their time at the University. This year’s theme is taken from the Shakespearean quote: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Rozanski Hall with president Alastair Summerlee sharing some words of inspiration. Graduating student Kira Kumagai will also give a talk, and a reception will follow.

“The Last Lecture is a unique opportunity for graduating students to look back on how their entire experience at Guelph both inside and outside the classroom has shaped them to be the citizens they are now,” said Jennifer Maddock, leadership education and development adviser in Student Life. “We want students to leave inspired by the words of our speakers and to move forward in their lives with a sense of promise for the future.”

Steffler earned an MA in English from the University of Guelph in 1974 and went on to publish five award-winning books of poetry. His novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book. Named Canada’s poet laureate in December, he will spend the next two years encouraging and promoting the importance of literature, culture and language. Steffler is the third poet to hold the post since its inception four years ago.
Kumagai, who will graduate in June with a Bachelor of Arts and Science, has been selected as the student lecturer. During her years on campus, she has been involved in a number of projects, including implementing a service-learning program on AIDS in India in which students spend a month volunteering in the country. She was helped out with Project Serve, an annual one-day volunteer event, and planned an international project that had students spending Reading Week helping with hurricane Katrina relief. She is also a recognized student leader and a member of several campus committees, including the University Centre Board, the Peace Week Committee and the Student Volunteer Connections Conference.

For more information, contact Jennifer Maddock at 519-824-4120, Ext. 54362, or

For media questions, call Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

N.B. John Steffler's classic of Canadian Poetry The Grey Islands is now available as an unabridged audio edition from, narrated by John Steffler with additional cast and soundscape recordings.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mary Dalton March Poet of the Month on CBC Words at Large website

Mary Dalton has been the Poet of the Month for March on the CBC Words at Large website. The feature contains an interview, a selected list of books, a photo and an audio clip of Dalton reading for Shelagh Rogers.
During Poetry Month we will post the odd poem by Mary Dalton in this space so stay tuned.
In 2005 Rattling Books released the unabridged audio edition of Mary Dalton's celebrated book of poems Merrybegot narrated by Anita Best with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn. It is available from

Happy Birthday Milton Acorn

To celebrate the birthday of Milton Acorn here is a poem he wrote.

Live With Me On Earth Under the Invisible Daylight Moon
Milton Acorn

From: Dig Up My Heart: Selected Poems 1952-83. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1983. p.98.

Live with me on Earth among red berries and the bluebirds
And leafy young twigs whispering
Within such little spaces, between such floors of green, such
figures in the clouds
That two of us could fill our lives with delicate wanting:
Where stars past the spruce copse mingle with fireflies
Or the dayscape flings a thousand tones of light back at the
Be any one of the colours of an Earth lover;
Walk with me and sometimes cover your shadow with mine.

Milton James Rhode Acorn was born in Charlottetown on March 30, 1923 and died there on August 20, 1986.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poetry: the Next Latte

Just because World Poetry Day is over, don't forget:

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Celebrate World Poetry Day & Ken Babstock reading in St. John's

Today is World Poetry Day (March 21 was first declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO in 1999).

I'm going to celebrate by attending a poetry reading by Ken Babstock , Poet and Poetry Editor for House of Anansi Press. See below for details cribbed from WANL's (Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador) Newsletter.

Winterset Nominee Ken Babstock to Read at Memorial
Acclaimed poet Ken Babstock will give a reading at Memorial University in St. John’s on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. Babstock is the author of three books of poetry: the critically acclaimed Mean, which one critic called “the yardstick for a certain generation of poets,” Days into Flatspin, winner of a K.M. Hunter Award, and most recently Airstream Land Yacht, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Governor General Award and is a contender for this year’s Winterset Award.

The reading takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Room A-1046 in the Arts and Administration Building atrium at Memorial’s St. John’s campus. Everyone is welcome. Free parking in areas 1A and 1B.

A map of MUN’s campus is available at:
What are you going to do?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Collect Poetry Buttons from Rattling Books: iPoet uMuse

Collect Poetry Buttons from Rattling Books.
Anytime you purchase a Poetry title between now and the end of April we'll send you a Button. And we've got some good 'uns.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Brick Books Author Jan Conn touring Atlantic Canada

Jan Conn - author of Jaguar Rain

Jan Conn’s new book Jaguar Rain: the Margaret Mee Poems (Brick Books 2006) is written in the voice of Margaret Mee (naturalist, explorer, and painter of flowers in the Amazon between 1956 and 1988). Jan Conn has published five previous books of poetry, most recently Beauties on Mad River: Selected and New Poems (2000). She is a Research Scientist at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, in Albany, NY, and Associate Professor in the Biomedical Sciences Department at the School of Public Heath at SUNY-Albany. Her current research is focused on the populations of malarial mosquitoes in the Brazilian Amazon.

Fredericton - Monday, March 19 - University of New Brunswick, 8 p.m. reading with Ken Babstock in the Alumni Memorial Lounge.

Halifax - Tuesday, March 20 - at 8:30ish, at the Shoestring Reading Series at the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street (just next to the Shoe Shop). For more information, call David Rimmington at 902-488-9643.

Antigonish - Wednesday, March 21 - Evening reading at St. Francis-Xavier University. More details to follow.

St. John’s, Newfoundland - Friday, March 23 - evening reading at 113 Bond Street.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Andy Jones Business Card (front face)

Andy is heading to Tasmania on Friday on a special mission: Performing his show To the Wall at the Ten Days on the Island Festival. Check our myspace page for event listings.

Andy Jones is the creator and performer of Letters from Uncle Val, originally created for radio, brought to you as an audiobook by Rattling Books.

Paddy's Day Special on Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day
with a title from Newfoundland's Irish Loop
Wednesday to Friday
30% off both the MP3 CD and the Digital Download
of Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guest Author Blog: Shore Pebbles from David Weale, Holy Land

Holy Land

According to Roman Catholic dogma a graveyard is holy ground because it has been blessed by the Church, but take a single step outside that anointed territory and you are on ground that is unholy. Indeed, the rod the church holds over the heads of the faithful is that if they don’t behave appropriately they will be buried without blessing in unconsecrated ground, where the harvesting angels won’t be able to find them. It is a powerful story, and I know that for a very long time it was one that both buttressed the authority of the church, and provided comfort and assurance to the dying, but like so many other old stories, the days of its usefulness have passed. It needs to be replaced, or at least greatly revised.

Because I was raised Protestant, and grew up believing that Catholic’s were credulous and superstitious, and that they were all going to hell no matter where they were buried, I was little affected by their graveyard mythology; however, I did hear a lot about another, similar concept called “the holy land,” and as I reflect on conditions in our world today, it strikes me that it has become an even more obsolete and dysfunctional teaching.

The holy land I learned about was nowhere near where I lived. They said it was on the other side of the world: where Abraham trekked with his children and his goats because of a promise from Yahweh; where prophets with musical names like Ezekiel and Obadiah received urgent messages directly from the divine; where Abraham‘s descendents, under the resplendent and charismatic King David, slew the evil, unbelieving Philistines; and, most importantly, where Jesus lived and died, and was raised up from the dead. Compared to all that Prince Edward Island seemed terribly ordinary, but when I became an adult I began to recognize the danger lurking in that old, holy-land narrative. One day it dawned on me that by designating certain locales sacred we had effectively desacralized the rest of the planet, including the place I lived.
I also couldn’t help noticing that the place called the Holy Land by the three major religions of the West was, and remains, the most dangerous and ravaged landscape on the planet. Hmmm?
When I was in high school I had a teacher who traveled one summer to the Middle East to visit the shrines and holy places declared sacred by his faith, and the next year he spent one whole class showing us the slides from his trip, and rhapsodizing about all the amazing sights he had seen. His face was shining as he spoke, and we were all duly impressed, and glad for the break in routine, but as I think back on that time it occurs to me that neither that teacher, nor any other, ever attempted to open our minds and hearts to the sacredness of the landscape in which we all lived. And if they had, we probably would have resisted the notion, having already been instructed that the holy land was someplace else.

In North America we have scoured and trashed much of our landscape, and stretched long tentacles of exploitation around the entire globe. Like a fox in the henhouse, or vandals in a temple, we have pillaged and ransacked, and created a great, global mess. Bulked up with the steroids of powerful technology, inspired by a largely uncritical view of progress, and directed by old religious beliefs that promoted anthropocentrism, and undermined reverence for the earth, we embarked on an immensely short-sighted journey of despoliation. The hand-wringing litany of what we have done to our habitat is a long one, and, like most everyone else, I am tired of hearing about it. I also dislike the feelings of fatalism and powerlessness it sometimes evokes. But I am not without hope; and it’s not because I believe in some new technological quick-fix that is just around the corner. Putting more and more sophisticated tools in the hands of deranged people, who are captive to old stories, is hardly a solution. The reason I am not without hope because I know what great storytellers we humans are, and because I believe we are capable of a new narrative that will get us off this blundering course.

Stated simply, we need to author a new mythology; one that honours the earth and expands the old concept of holy land in such a way that every square foot of landscape, every drop in the ocean, and every creature (including ourselves) is regarded as sacred -- something to be treated gently and reverently, and experienced as a source of wisdom and communion. That is what we must do, and even as I write I know there are millions of soulful men and women world-wide who are joined in a powerful, unofficial alliance, all working together to create a different consciousness, out of which will emerge a new, redemptive storyline. Historically, our great, religious stories have separated us, and sent us clanking off in one righteous crusade after another, but the creation of a new storyline, in which we are all members a single family, living on the holy planet Earth, can point us in a new direction.

It simply is not possible to build a new world with old stories; or, in the words of a not-so-old old gospel song, “No you can’t get to heaven in an old Ford car / cause an old Ford car can’t go that far.” There are many intelligent people in our society who say we should respect all spiritual traditions, and in this country it is considered politically incorrect to be critical of the religious beliefs of others. But why should we honour and perpetuate beliefs that promote fear and hatred of outsiders, and that proclaim that certain parts of the earth, and certain of its inhabitants, are more sacred than others? I might respect my old stove for what it has been in its time, but when cracks begin to appear in the sides, and hot coals are spilling out onto the floor, I know what I must do do.

So long as old, short-sighted, religious narratives prevail, and continue to shape the world-view of hundreds of millions of individuals, it really doesn’t do much good to clean up rivers, or reduce smog emissions, or teach courses on the environment, or promote eco-tourism, or sign multi-lateral agreements. The disorder arises from a place so deep that none of those things can touch it. It is in ourselves, and our dysfunctional myths about who we are, and what is good for us. It is, in a word, a spiritual problem, and any measure that does not address that is a mere palliative.

We can pass all the laws, impose all the penalties, and initiate all the programs we like, but so long as our political strategies, our economic policies, and our educational views are based on those old “chosen people,” and “holy land” narratives, the despoliation of the earth, and the exploitation of many of its inhabitants, will continue. One thing alone is required: that we make for ourselves a new Abrahamic emigration to a renewed holy land consciousness.

And the next time anyone asks you if you have been to the Holy Land, it might be a good idea to tell them, with your face shining, that you were born there.

David Weale writes his Shore Pebbles from Prince Edward Island. He is the author of The True Meaning of Crumbfest, the unabridged audio edition of which is available from Rattling Books and the print edition from Acorn Press.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

March Hare tonight in St. John's, Newfoundland

Through the Looking Glass
St. John’s, Wednesday March 7, 2007 Martini Bar on George (above Peddler’s) 8:00 p.m. Host & Emcee: Nick Avis
Agnes Walsh
Emiko Miyashita
Larry Small
Susan Gillis
Matthew Byrne
Boyd Chubbs
Anne Ferncase
Lorna Crozier
John Steffler

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More details on Women's Work Festival Schedule

(the following details reproduced from the Town Cryer's website)

Co-produced by RCA Theatre, She Said Yes! and White Rooster Productions, Women’s Work is a festival of new play readings by women, tributes to women pioneers, and dessert in celebration of International Women’s Week..
After the success of last year’s first Ladies of Misrule, presented by RCA Theatre, White Rooster and She Said Yes! decided to augment that celebration of women pioneers in the arts by hosting a festival of today’s women playwrights. The three theatre companies have now joined forces to present a four-night festival of work by and about women, with all proceeds from the door going to the Naomi Centre.

In preparation for the readings, each playwright receives a dramaturgical session with a full cast and an experienced director/dramaturge. The Play Reading Series is scheduled for three nights from March 5-7, 2007 at 7 pm nightly at the Eastern Edge Gallery. On March 5, Sex, the war of by Lois Brown, and Connecting Rooms by Florence Button of Carbonear will be presented featuring Kay Anonsen, Robert Chafe, Sandy Gow, Brad Hodder, Ruth Lawrence, and Sara Tilley.

On March 6th, Family, or, 63 Steps by Agnes Walsh will be read by Robert Chafe, Amy House and Ruth Lawrence.

Then on March 7th, The (In)complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland and (Labrador!) by Sara Tilley will feature Mary-Lynn Bernard, Robert Chafe, Sandy Gow, Ruth Lawrence and Sherry White.

As the gala finale, the 2nd Annual The Ladies of Misrule will be held at 8 pm, March 8th at the Masonic Temple on Cathedral Street. An International Women’s Day celebration of women pioneers in the arts of Newfoundland & Labrador, our uppermost Lady of Misrule, Gerry Rogers, will host a gathering to pay tribute to several pioneers. Kay Anonsen, Tessa Crosbie, Sheilagh Guy Murphy, Amy House, Katie Pittman, Joan Sullivan, Simone Savard-Walsh and others will salute the work of writer Cassie Brown, music hall entertainer Biddy O’Toole, poet Len Margaret, traditional singer Bride Judge and others. To add decadence to our celebration, we will be offering a luscious dessert buffet.

For more information on the Women’s Work Festival, contact Ruth or Amy at RCA Theatre at 753-4531.

Women's Work Festival, March 5-8th, 2007, St. John's, Newfoundland

Women's Work Festival, March 5-8th, 2007
New plays by women, tributes to women pioneers, and dessert in celebration of International Women's Week.
Reading Series - 7 pm nightly at Eastern Edge Gallery
Sex, the war of by Lois Brown.
Family, or, 63 Steps by Agnes Walsh.
The (In)complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland and (Labrador!) by Sara Tilley
Closing Gala- The Ladies of Misrule - 8pm, March 8th, Masonic Temple
For more information call the Hall at 753-4531

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Grey Islands by John Steffler: unabridged audio edition coming soon

Coming very soon from Rattling Books:
The Grey Islands
by John Steffler
narrated by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins

unabridged audio edition
160 minutes duration / 2 Audio CDs
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-0-0
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-0-3
Watch this site for further notice.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Shore Pebbles from Author David Weale: Dream of Lights

Dream of Lights

There was a period in my late forties and early fifties when I made a gallant effort to come to terms with my dreams. I even kept paper and a pen by the bedside, and often in the night I would turn on the light and jot down notes for the next day when I would write out the dream in full. Eventually I wearied of the practice, but by that time the account of hundreds of sensational, often bizarre nocturnal excursions had been filed away in a large binder. Some of them were dark and horrific, and I would sometimes wonder how I could be more frightened in a dream than I ever was in waking life, and whether the terror I experienced was my own -- the emotional residue of some forgotten childhood trauma -- or whether in my dreams I was somehow tapping into a terror that belonged to a dimension of myself which extended beyond the bounds of personal life experience. I do recall that in a number of these frightening dreams there was the suggestive presence of descending stairs or ladders, and in one a manhole cover of some kind that opened to a ghoulish underworld where emaciated figures gestured pleadingly.

Who were those pathetic sewer-dwellers, looking up at me in such misery, and how and when did they become stranded there? They seemed to believe I possessed the power to liberate them, but I felt such a powerful aversion to their pain and helplessness that my desire was to get as far away from them as I could, even though there was another part of me that felt I should embrace them. I am an introspective person, and there are days I fancy I know myself quite well. But do I really? After a dream like that one I am humbled. How well can I know myself when I am unable to recognize the strange cast of characters inhabiting my inner life? Are they aliens, invading from outside? Or, lifetime inmates, begging for emancipation, or perhaps just acknowledgement? Or are they all just actors in a play? But whose play? My own, or another’s?
My dreams make me wonder about my facile, daytime assumption that I am living my own life, for many of them suggest I am more interpreter than author, and more audience than actor.

Happily, there is a sweet side to all of this, for there also have been many ecstatic, liberating dreams: the kind I hated to wake from. In those the limitations of everyday life would disappear and it was possible, not only to do things I couldn’t ordinarily do -- like flying -- but also to roam through fields of wonder and delight that were, in everyday life, strictly off limits. I attempted at one point to master the art of lucid dreaming, hoping it might enable me to prolong, or even direct, those ventures of lightness and joy, but it never worked for me, and now I just take them when they come, and am grateful for them.

Time, like identity, is often a casualty of the dream state, and one night I had a dream that was recapitulated in waking life years later. In the dream it was night and I was a boy, returning to my home across an open, rolling landscape that didn’t correspond to any place I knew in the everyday world, but was remarkably similar to the fields of Entry Island that I visited for the first time just last year. As I walked I was singing a beautiful Christmas carol that also was unknown to me. Suddenly, the air was filled with tiny, brilliant pinpricks of light. They weren’t far away, like stars, but were just above me, and all around me, in the air itself. I’ve witnessed something similar during daylight in winter, when the air is crowded with tiny flakes of frost that sparkle like diamonds in the sloping sun, but in the dream it was night. The spectacle evoked a feeling of great gladness, and when I awoke the euphoria remained for some time. It was one of the most memorable of my recorded dreams and when I spoke of it to friends I recall stating that it was the only full-fledged epiphany I had ever experienced in a dream-state. Certainly I never expected to experience anything like it again.

Ten years later I was returning to my home on the Five Houses Road in the company of my second eldest son, Josh. It was a cold, clear winter night under a brilliant moon, and all the branches of the trees and shrubs were covered with a thin layer of ice from the freezing rain that had fallen earlier in the day. As we passed by a large lilac bush Josh let out his breath in astonishment. “Look at that,” he exclaimed. The moonlight was deflecting off the branches of the bush and as we moved by, changing our angle of vision with every step, the result was a scene of thousands of tiny points of light, sparkling and winking above and around us. When we stopped the flashing stopped, but as soon as we resumed walking the air was filled once again with the same magical light-show.

We retraced our steps a number of times, filled with amazement at a sight so rare and exquisite. Both of us said we had never seen anything quite like it before, but that was not entirely true. Later, in the house, I told him about my dream of lights, and how remarkably similar it had been to what we had just witnessed. He, of course, didn’t know what to make of that, nor did I, except for a hunch that occurrences which appear to be separate and unconnected, aren’t, and that a moment is no small thing, and not really a moment at all.
David Weale writes his Shore Pebbles from Prince Edward Island. He is the author of The True Meaning of Crumbfest, the unabridged audio edition of which is available from Rattling Books and the print edition from Acorn Press.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Buttons from Rattling Books

We're going mad with the button designs. Thanks to Mike Mouland.