Friday, April 27, 2007

A Poem a Day at Words at Large website

For a poem a day fix you can visit Words at Large, a CBC website about Canadian Letters. Today it's a poem by Dionne Brand.
Yesterday it was a poem by Don McKay.
The day before that it was Michael Crummey.
The day before that Roo Borson.
The day before that Michael Ondaatje.
The day before that.
The day before.
The day.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

No Delusions: By Clare-Marie Gosse (St. John's) The Independent, April 20, 2007 - article on Joel Thomas Hynes

No delusions
By Clare-Marie Gosse (St. John's)

The Independent

Friday, April 20, 2007

Something that’s been troubling Joel Thomas Hynes for a while is the thought of complacency. Of getting to a point where everything seems to be ticking along so well, no worries, that he doesn’t really feel the need to try hard anymore.

After all, Hynes is a successful, award-winning writer with a brand new novel, Right Away Monday, set to hit stores May 5th; his first book, Down to the Dirt, which met with international acclaim, is about to be made into a movie (shooting with Newfound Films begins in June); and as an acclaimed actor, he’s currently preparing for the opening of his own one-man show, Say Nothing Saw Wood, at the LSPU Hall, May 7th.

It would be easy to understand how he might feel like settling back and relaxing over life’s general concerns — comfortable the work will just roll in, that he’ll always be a great parent, that he no longer needs to work on sobriety.

“I really think that f—king everything passes you by as soon as you get that attitude into your head,” Hynes remarks. Or worse, instead of passing you by, life smacks you a curve ball while you’re looking the other way.

One such incident helped inspire Say Nothing Saw Wood. The play, which started out as a short novel, is about anti-hero Jude Traynor, a sentenced murderer, “working himself out in front of an audience” as he reflects on a split-second decision he made a decade before in his late teens. The decision culminated in the death of an elderly woman and changed Traynor’s life forever.

The play, or “dramatized recitation,” is a story Hynes says he always intended to write. It’s loosely based on a sensational murder that took place in his hometown of Calvert on the Southern Shore in the 1970s, but it’s also the result of a serious wake-up call he himself experienced at the age of 17.

A self-confessed “hard ticket … largely considered to be a nuisance,” Hynes says he was strolling down a lane after a night of drinking, when for no particular reason, he picked up a fist-sized rock and hurled it into the air.

“While it was still in the air, out around the side of this shack — and this was about seven o’clock in the morning — there was a man walked out that I couldn’t see when I threw it because of the bend in the road. Suddenly he was there, and he had two little girls, hand in hand, and I threw this rock and I just saw it going right for the girl on the outside, and she must have been two or three … everything just stopped; that was my life right there.”

The rock just missed the girl, but the incident hit Hynes hard.“

I’ve just been quite fascinated by how close you can come sometimes to really just ending everything by chance and I sort of worked that concept into this story.”

Say Nothing Saw Wood has already won a Best Dramatic Script Award from the 2005 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters competition, which bodes well for a production Hynes describes as a return to oral story-telling theatre with no “bells and whistles.


Say Nothing Saw Wood runs at the LSPU Hall May 7-13.

To read an excerpt from Say Nothing Saw Wood on this Blog click here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shore Pebble from Author David Weale: The Apparition

The Apparition

I can’t even remember what it was I had forgotten. A book? My road coffee? It doesn’t matter. What I do recall is that when I pulled my truck back into the yard behind the house I glanced across the field to the east and spotted at the edge of the woods a big yellow dog which I took to be a Labrador Retriever. My place is on the Five Houses Road in Ft. Augustus, and as the name suggests, there aren’t many of us living there. Because I was almost certain no one on the road had a dog like that, it roused my curiosity and sent me scurrying off in search of my binoculars. When I located them I hurried to the bathroom window, from which vantage point I knew I would have an unobstructed view of the spot where I had seen the dog. I feared it would be gone, but a quick glance assured me it was still there, standing motionless and looking across the field in the general direction of my house. Good! I dropped to my knees on the floor, placed my elbows on the windowsill to steady myself, and raised the binoculars to my eyes.

“Lord Liftin’ Jesus! What do we have here?”

It seemed impossible I was seeing what I was seeing -- but I was. There was no mistake. What I had assumed was a large dog of some kind was not a dog at all. It was, incredibly, a very large cat – large enough to be mistaken for a full-grown Lab. I noted the small pointed ears, the squared face, and especially the long thick tail with a succession of dark rings along its length. It was magnificent, whatever it was.

Islanders, of course, aren’t very good at identifying large cats, since there aren’t any that live here, or so we all thought. I knew there had been lynx, or bobcats, on the Island when the European pioneers arrived, but that they had killed them off as quickly as possible, with the last of them disappearing in the late1800s. Just a few months before my sighting I had heard at Dave Wakelin’s store in Ft. Augustus that someone’s dog had been badly mauled in the woods by what, they speculated, might have been a bobcat from the Cape Breton Highlands that had found its way to the Island across the ice during the previous winter. But bobcats aren’t yellow, and they most certainly don’t have long tails with rings. No, it wasn’t a bobcat; more like a cougar, or a mountain lion, and it was fifty or sixty metres away, on the edge of my field, staring at my house. Perhaps, at me. I was dumbfounded.

After what seemed like about fifteen seconds the big cat turned gracefully, moved off into the woods, and disappeared. Its motion was so smooth it seemed almost to be gliding. I thought briefly about heading across the field for the chance of getting a better look, or of seeing some tracks, or perhaps some scat, but prudence prevailed, and I stayed put. I waited at the window a short time hoping for a re-appearance but after a few minutes I put away the binoculars, gathered up whatever it was I had forgotten, and headed for town.

I knew I had a great story to tell but realized I might not be able to share it without raising serious questions about my mental state, or perhaps my use of consciousness-altering substances. Would even my closest friends believe that I had locked eyes with a cougar or mountain lion at nine o’clock in the morning on the Five Houses Road? Did I want to run the risk of being known as a person who saw things that weren’t there, or who made up fantastic stories to fabricate a more interesting life? Not especially. But, on the other hand, how could I possibly keep such a thing to myself? It was just too good a story.

Before the day was over the raconteur in me won out, and by the time I headed home that evening I had related the event a number of times. Predictably, my hearers were largely incredulous. No one came right out and questioned my sanity or my sobriety, but I think there were a few who had doubts about my eyesight. On balance, however, the pleasure of relating the account outweighed the risk of possible side effects on my reputation, so I told it often, and here I am telling it again.

Over the years the core facts of the story haven’t changed in my telling, but I have drawn a meaning out of it, which is what storytellers do to make a good story better. I still am not willing to concede that, for some reason or other, I wasn’t seeing clearly that morning and that what seemed at first a Yellow Lab was, in fact, a Yellow Lab. My inclination is to interpret the sighting as a sign, and reminder, of all the animals that have been driven off this Island, and, in some cases, off the very face of the earth. When I tell the story that way, I get to remind myself and others of the disappearance from our Island of the walrus, sturgeon, black bear, otter, bobcat, deer, moose, passenger pigeons, and great horned owls. I get to remind them, and myself, of how vain and short-sighted we were to leave no place for them, and how, in doing so, we diminished the landscape and impoverished ourselves by removing the genius and grace of their wild ways, and the haunting reminder of their wild calls. And the more I tell the story, the more inclined I am to view that big cat as an apparition, or visitation, and to recognize that if I don’t understand why it appeared, it can never come back.

Within a few days after spotting the cat I called the Fish and Wildlife Department to report what I had seen, and possibly to have my sighting confirmed. The officer on the other end seemed a bit uncomfortable, and I was imagining the look on his face, and how he was probably gesturing for his secretary to pick up the other line, all the while pointing at his receiver, as if to say, “This is a weird one.” However, after a short silence he told me that, oddly, there had been a similar report from the same general area a year or two before. And that was the end of it.


Friday, April 20, 2007

HearYe Hear Ye: Monday nights at da Spur in St. John's will forthwith be forthwrite at the mic

For anyone in St. John's Newfoundland on a Monday Night take note:

Monday nights, commencing April 23rd., will be poetry/prose open mic night at The Spur (just down from the Ship). There will be no featured writers but all are welcome. Reading order will be according to the luck of the draw. It begins at 8:00 PM.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New release from Canada's Poet Laureate: Rattling Books announces launch of audio edition of John Steffler's The Grey Islands

Tors Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador - April 19, 2007- Rattling Books releases unabridged audio edition of The Grey Islands, by Canada's Parliamentary Poet Laureate John Steffler.

Narrated by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins, this audio edition of Steffler's classic The Grey Islands is the first new title from Canada's Poet laureate since his appointment in December, 2006.

Launch Event
John Steffler will celebrate the launch of The Grey Islands and read from his work April 24, 2007, at the Tree Reading Series. The event will take place at the Royal Oak II, 161 Laurier East (near King Edward), Ottawa, Ontario.

Tree Readings are every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at the Royal Oak II Pub at 161 Laurier Avenue East in Sandy Hill. Open-set commences at 8:00 p.m., with featured reader to follow. Admission is free. For more information, please contact Dean Steadman at 613-749-3773 or mail to:

John Steffler

John Steffler was born in Toronto and grew up in a rural area near Thornhill, Ontario. He studied at the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph. He lived in Newfoundland from 1975 where he taught in the English Department at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook until his recent retirement.

His books of poems include Helix: New and Selected Poems (Signal Editions, 2003), That Night We Were Ravenous (M&S, 1998), The Wreckage of Play (M&S, 1988), The Grey Islands (M&S, 1985; Brick, 2000), and An Explanation of Yellow (Borealis Press, 1981). He is also the author of a novel, The Afterlife of George Cartwright (M&S, 1992; Henry Holt, 1993), and an illustrated children's book, Flights of Magic (Press Porcepic, 1987).

In addition to winning the 1992 Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, his novel, The Afterlife of George Cartwright, was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the Commonwealth First Novel Award. That Night We Were Ravenous won the Newfoundland and Labrador Poetry Prize and the Atlantic Poetry Prize in 1999. Helix: New and Selected Poems won the Newfoundland and Labrador Poetry Prize in 2003.

In December 2006, John Steffler became Canada's third Parliamentary Poet Laureate, a two year post.

The Grey Islands

A novel in the form of poems, a physical exploration of Newfoundland's past, a search for ghosts in an abandoned settlement on an abandoned island, this is the story of a come-from-away determined to immerse himself in the physical reality of Newfoundland in an abrupt and inescapable way.

A modern classic of Canadian poetry, The Grey Islands is one man's meditation on the interplay between nature and human society in the rugged setting of coastal Newfoundland. The boats and houses of those who tried to live on the Grey Islands have disappeared, but their stories survive in the neighboring settlements - stories of treks on the sea ice, of near-starvation, of hunting ducks at night with muskets loaded with everything from nails to the parts of a gold pocket watch.

This is a book of such excellence that someone in future is liable to say about the author: "Steffler - Steffler? - oh yes, he wrote The Grey Islands, didn't he?"
- Al Purdy, Books in Canada

The Grey Islands is a piece of genius, a psychological drama in poetry and prose...
- Andrew Brooks, Canadian Literature

The Grey Islands is, I suspect, one of the finest long poems written in the last 10 years.
- Mark Abley, Montreal Gazette

Listen to a clip from The Grey Islands.

The Grey Islandsby
John Steffler
unabridged audio edition, Rattling Books 2007
Originally published in print form by McClelland and Steart (1985); Brick Books (2000)

Narrated (in order of appearance) by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins
Island soundscapes recorded off the coast of Newfoundland
Directed, recorded and mixed by Janet Russell

Listening Time: roughly 2 1/2 hours10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-0-013-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-0-3
Audio CDs (2) $24.95
Digital Download $14.95

Rattling Books

Rattling Books is a not just SMALL, but fine Canadian audio press, publishing poetry, fiction, and historical outdoor adventure non-fiction from a perch over looking the Northwest Atlantic.

For background, news and excerpts, visit our blog. You can also visit us on MySpace

Rattling Books are distributed in Canada through House of Anansi Press by HarperCollins. Our titles are available in the US from Ingram Books and Overdrive. Additional distribution information is available on our website.

Anyone interested in obtaining a review copy or interviewing the Author please contact the Publisher :

Rattling Books
Janet Russell
Phone: (709) 334-3911

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bicycle Samba: A video by John Hendicott

Bicycle Samba

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Don McKay on How does poetry connect us with our environment?

Currently the Poet for April on the Words at Large website is Don McKay.You can read Don's response to a set of questions there which include the following:

How does poetry connect us with our environment?

On this subject I have written quite a lot in Vis a Vis. Briefly, I think the qualities of attention that are endemic to poetry—a longing which is, unlike many other versions of desire, without the urge to possess—are also attitudes which we ought to bring to the naked world. Poetic attention assumes that the other is valuable in itself, and not solely as a category of human affairs (a "resource" or an aesthetic adornment, for example). The genre sometimes known as "thing poetry" often encourages that attitude by approaching ordinary objects as mysterious, independent beings. If you can find the secret power in a chair or spoon, finding it in granite will be a snap.

Don McKay Poet of the Month: CBC Words at Large website

Don McKay is the Poet of the Month for April on the CBC website Words at Large.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Poem: Known Unto God by Robin McGrath

A new poem from Robin McGrath, now living in Goose Bay, Labrador home of the FiveWing Airbase.

Known Unto God

At the rededication of the Vimy Ridge monument,
The visitors, interpreters, politicians,
Roam among the graves. The ages of the dead
Stand out for them—twenty-five, twenty-seven,
Nineteen! Many have no ages, no names,
Are known only to have lived and died.
“Women should run the country,” one visitor says.
Usually there are no tour buses, just
Fog and grass and a few silent pilgrims.

Fewer still make their way through the woods,
To the graveyard at FiveWing Airbase.
Here, the ages are younger still—three, five, seven.
Polio epidemics, gastroenteritis, perhaps
A congenital defect at birth, stole them
From their parents in this far flung outpost.
More small graves have no names, no dates, just
Plain white wooden crosses, uniform brass plaques
Etched with those three sad, simple words.
The graves of these babies far outnumber
Those of the soldiers and airmen buried here;
Thrown away, abandoned, forgotten, some whisper,
While others answer my questions with silence.

Each season, some woman, still a child herself
When she gave birth, visits the last row, ties
Tiny gifts of flowers, toys, dollar store mementos,
To each cross in the row, unsure which is her child,
Covering her bets and mourning all the babies.
Who waged this war against infants? Who decreed
That this military cemetery would take
To its sandy breast so many children?
If women ran the country, the monument would be
As big as that at Vimy Ridge, the nation would mourn.

Two audiobook recordings of work by Robin McGrath are available from Rattling Books.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Don McKay shortlisted for Griffin Poetry Prize once again

The following excerpt is from an online CBC article.
Read the whole article here.

Canadian Don McKay shortlisted for Griffin Poetry Prize
Tuesday, April 3, 2007 1:29 PM ET
CBC Arts

Canadian poetry veteran Don McKay and Frederick Seidel, one of the founding editors of iconic literary magazine The Paris Review, are among the seven shortlisted poets vying for the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Canadian poet Don McKay received his third nomination for the Griffin Poetry Prize on Tuesday. McKay, a two-time Governor General's Literary Award winner, logged his third Griffin nomination at the shortlist announcement in Toronto Tuesday for one of the world's most lucrative poetry honours.

"Don McKay is up for the third time because he is a really, truly great poet. I would be surprised if he wasn't [nominated] regularly," prize founder Scott Griffin told CBC Arts Online moments after he and trustee David Young unveiled the 2007 finalists.

"The fact that some of the names are coming up and recurring for the second or third time, that gets people familiar with these poets and, hopefully at some point, they say, 'Well maybe I should try and read some of these guys and see what it's all about.'"

Read the rest of this article here.

Don McKay has a title forthcoming from Rattling Books this spring. Songs for the Songs of Birds is a selection of poems on the theme of birds, birding and flight selected and read by Don McKay.