30 August 2009

poetry plus

Daniela Elza, left, and Al Rempel read at Cafe Voltaire on Saturday.

PRINCE GEORGE - A new collection of four B.C. poets is giving readers more than just poetry, with the infusion of drafts, theory, translations and interviews.

The first in Mother Tongue's New B.C. Poets series, 4 poets, was launched in Prince George at Cafe Voltaire on Saturday. Two of the four writers in the book, Al Rempel and Daniela Elza, marked the event with readings.

Rempel, a local poet and teacher, started the night with selections from the collection, as well as offering a glimpse at poems from his upcoming first book of poetry, understories. Between poems he shared anecdotal stories about his writing process and influences that were often as poignant as his writing.

Elza held the audience with an expressive stage presence. She also used Prince George as a road test for performing a song for the first time. Done a cappella in Macedonian as part of the poem Interpreting The Winds, the song was met with enthusiasm from the crowd, and she responded that she'd perform it again at her next reading.

The two other poets featured in the book are Peter Morin and Onjana Yawnghwe. See Al Rempel read at the event below.

Al Rempel reads the poem Fretting Winter

27 August 2009

decomposing darwin

PRINCE GEORGE – Poets Stephen Collis and Jordan Scott were joined by Prince George poet Ken Belford Wednesday night at a reading that marked the burial of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

The project DE COMP is in its first phase -- Collis and Scott have spent the summer on a GPS journey into B.C. with copies of the book, leaving one in a remote, outdoor spot in five distinct regional ecosystems. Next year, they will retrace the route and gather the books to discuss, read and compose based on the experience. Prince George represents the northern leg of the project. The final stop is the Kootenays.

The concept for DE COMP sprung from a dissatisfaction the two writers have with aspects of nature and eco-critical writing. Collis said that it is often too simplistic, and natural elements are added to the text to make a poem more "natural." As he put it, more birds and trees do not an eco-poem make.

"The idea of putting the book outside is to try and reverse that direction. I'm not going to put the natural into the text, I'm going to put the text out into the natural world and see what happens to it," he said.

Belford, whose anticipated new book of poetry (working title: Decompositions) is due out on Talon Books, opened the reading at Cafe Voltaire to about 30 people with a debut of 15 new poems. See clips below.

Stephen Collis reads from his forthcoming book, tentatively titled On the Material

Jordan Scott reads from Blert

13 May 2009

Group fundraising for Uganda trip

PRINCE GEORGE - The Northern Uganda Development Foundation is hosting a charity yard sale on May 16 at 103-7000 Southridge from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The NUDF Well Water Health Care Team for Northern Uganda is a team of 10 professionals from University of Northern British Columbia who are travelling to Northern Uganda in July of this year. The three week trip will focus on digging wells (potable water being a major deterrent in the spread of disease) and providing hospital/health care to impoverished communities in Northern Uganda.

There is also a pub-night at Alfredo’s Pub on 15th. Tickets are $15 each and include a full roast beef dinner. Proceeds ($7.50 of each ticket price) will go toward the July trip. Tickets can be purchased by contacting 250-960-6598.

12 May 2009

Local writer nominated for award

PRINCE GEORGE - The Writers’ Union of Canada announced that writer Betsy Trumpener has been nominated for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for The Butcher of Penetang (Caitlin Press).
The Award recognizes the best first English-language collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2008.
The fiction book introduces a number of stories, including a child missing in a dangerous part of town, a draft dodger, a robber armed with a hairbrush and a refugee who rescues poetry from his prison cell.
Judges Merilyn Simonds, J.J. Steinfeld, and Rudy Wiebe also shortlisted Ian Colford, Evidence (The Porcupine’s Quill); Pasha Malla, The Withdrawal Method (House of Anansi Press Inc.); Rebecca Rosenblum, Once (Biblioasis) and Ahmad Saidullah, Happiness and other Disorders (Key Porter Books Limited).
The Award consists of cash prizes for the three best first collections, with a first prize of $10,000 and two additional prizes of $500. The winners will be announced in Calgary, Alta., on May 23, 2009.

05 May 2009

becoming birch

Justin Foster talks about his chapbook that won this year's Barry McKinnon award

PRINCE GEORGE - A long poem that connects the life of a tree to the life of a city woman was voted the top chapbook produced in northern B.C. this year.

Justin Foster’s from the melt was chosen by judges as winner of the fourth annual Barry McKinnon Chapbook Award at April’s chapbook fair in Prince George. The long poem, split into two parts, features the central character of ‘birch,’ a clearcut tree in a northern boreal forest and also a woman.

“It’s an investigation of the dichotomy between cityscape and landscape, personified through the experiences of birch,” Foster said. “A tree becomes a woman, becomes a writer, and writes about her exposure to city life and poetics. The second section is written by birch.”

Foster (at left) said the book started to take shape during a trip across Canada, and was mostly written during a brief stay in Vancouver. Vancouver did not work its way into the poem, but it gave him the time and distance to reflect on living in northern B.C. and working in the bush.

“The city which birch -- as a woman -- becomes a part of is very much in the likeness of Prince George. Her writing is concerned with the northern poetic.”

The construction of the chapbook also reflects both city and nature. The cover stock is forest green, and the cream coloured pages are textured and have a rustic feel. The cover page has a window cut into it, and the image in the window is a birch stand. Each book has an original sketch on its inside cover, handdrawn by Heather Glasgow.

“The cover suggests both city and nature,” said Foster, who graduated from UNBC with a focus on creative writing.

“I was leaning towards an earthy look for the book, which I thought was relevant to the content. The connection between trees and the products they become, such as paper, is a reoccurring theme through out the poem.”

Foster, who lives in northern B.C. and works seasonally in the forest industry, said he was honoured with the recognition, which came with a $250 award. Even moreso, he added, because making a chapbook can be a daunting task. While it is an artform primarily to showcase writing, equally important is the form, which is brought out by the paper, binding and format. It’s complete creative control for the writer, but it can also make the process difficult.

“When I look back on my previous c-books, they all seem like crap, really. This is a sentiment held by many artists, I think. It’s my fourth c-book and it is the only one I feel truly excited about . . . I still have a lot to learn about the craft, though. In some ways I feel like my efforts have come to fruition, but in other ways I feel like I have a long way to go.”

The first runner-up of the award was Matt Partyka, and the second runner-up was Aisha Leone. The judging panel was composed of writers, as well as former winners of the award. For information on obtaining copies of the books, contact pg pod.


Excerpt: from the melt

a northern cutblock
nestled into folds of old growth tree-line
taught and rearing, this place
separated from the hustle-bustle
of northern city-life
by mountains and water ways,
by policy and intent, intenders

here the tailings of last winter shift and linger
finding solace in the shade of seasons

the ground is soft, forgiving from the melt

having never been subject
to a full, blustering squall
these trees are ill-equipped
to face the coming storms

newly exposed timber
pushes back against the wind,
pulling at the gnarled roots below

there is a shift in soil, a heaving
of the boreal landscape

04 May 2009

Canvassing Students

PRINCE GEORGE - Students from the Emily Carr-UNBC Bachelor of Fine Arts program hosted a launch for their paintings at Art Space tonight. For those who missed the reception, the paintings, which range from city and nature landscapes to portraits, will be on display until May 31. Pictured is Jordan Rivera (top) and his painting "Self Portrait," and Andrea Fredeen with "Temple Site." Check it out upstairs at 1685 3rd Avenue. The program, between UNBC and the Emily Carr University of Art & Design, connects creative writing and studio practice.

29 April 2009

Launching Spring

PRINCE GEORGE - Three poets, three friends, three new books.

The local launch of Laisha Rosnau’s new collection of poetry, Lousy Explorers (Nightwood Editions), at the College of New Caledonia Tuesday evening had a more intimate feel than some readings. Rosnau, Elizabeth Bachinsky and Jennica Harper brought to the stage their writing and Vancouver-based friendship before an audience of about 40 people.

The tone, for the most part, was light as the spring night. Rosnau reflected on the local landscape with a fresh set of observations since moving to Prince George four years ago; Harper summoned the rebirth of the season with poems of youth and sexuality. Bachinsky, who grew up in Prince George, brought a darker element with poems from her new book, God of Missed Connections (Nightwood Editions).

Rosnau described her impression of northern B.C. as apparent and everywhere, and her poems roll over the landscape, combining her experiences with the places and politics that residents share.

“I hadn’t written any poetry in about two years, but something happened in the first few months I lived here -- I wrote so many poems,” said Rosnau, who's last book of poetry was 2004’s Notes on Leaving.

Bachinsky’s new book explores her search for cultural identity as a Ukrainian-Canadian. With a strong, dark stage presence, her poems melded images of post-nuclear Eastern Europe with contemporary Canada. She said inspiration for the collection came out of not knowing much about her heritage, and the subsequent research brought it to life with detail. She contrasted the journey with new experiences, such as seeing the AIDS quilt in Toronto for the first time.

Harper started the reading on a fresh note with poems from both her first collection, The Octopus and Other Poems, and her latest book, What It Feels Like For A Girl (Anvil Press). Released last fall, the latter follows the life of two teenage girls through images of pop culture and sexual curiosity. She started her reading with the poem “Warm Front,” which follows teenagers into the first days of spring. Fittingly, it was one of the first warm-ish evenings in Prince George this year.

The reading, presented by the Caledonia Writers Series, was hosted by Graham Pearce. Broadsides and books were available and signed by the authors. Rosnau and Bachinsky will read next in Vancouver on May 5 for the official launch of Nightwood Editions' spring releases.

Laisha Rosnau reads from Lousy Explorers

Elizabeth Bachinsky reads from God of Missed Connections

Jennica Harper reads from What It Feels Like For A Girl

26 April 2009

Endearing Explorers

From pine beetles to people, new book of poetry explores changing landscapes

PRINCE GEORGE - Laisha Rosnau arrived an explorer in a rust-coloured landscape, and she wasn’t alone.

It was 2005, the height of the pine beetle epidemic. Prince George was being stripped raw, turning from green to red. She moved into the city, as the beetles, and the odd bear, moved through her new backyard. It was a different landscape from the trendy cafes and art spaces of downtown Vancouver she was used to, and it started to shape her latest book of poetry, Lousy Explorers.

“I find the word ‘lousy’ a little endearing -- it’s different than ‘horrible,’ ‘terrible,’ or ‘completely inept’ to me,” Rosnau said about the title. “Overall, I’m endeared by all of us, exploring our own worlds in whatever we know how, sometimes doing a lousy job, but sometimes realizing that brings us to a new place of understanding.”

Rosnau will be reading from Lousy Explorers on April 28 at the College of New Caledonia before embarking on a trip to officially launch the Nightwood Editions book in Vancouver. It’s her first collection of poetry since the award-winning Notes on Leaving in 2004.

The title poem of the book was inspired by Williston Lake. Rosnau said for her the lake contrasted images of explorers -- of early explorers, such as Simon Fraser, but also the modern industrial explorers of oil and gas and minerals. Even, perhaps similar to the poet, the biologist is an explorer, she said, moving in the tracks of the machines and documenting the impact on the land.

“Because the pine beetles were dining on our backyard at the time, it was hard not to think about those lousy little buggers as explorers as well. No one thought they’d get as far as they did and then no one thought they could make it over the Rockies, and yet they carried on their insatiable journey,” she said.

Explorers also impact their surroundings. Beetles devastate the forest, industry tears the land. But rather than an end, she explains this as a cycle. Many of the poems in Lousy Explorers are influenced by this stripping down and starting new -- it is raw, but also fresh.

“In terms of the beetle epidemic, when we arrived in 2005, it all seemed so dire and ugly. The forest, city and landscape changed so much in such a short period of time -- it all seemed so cut up, stripped down, raw and bare. Now the landscape already seems to have a new kind of beauty to me and I think most of us have a new perspective on the cycles of the forest. Several of the poems in the collection deal with change in one way or another -- moving, transition, stripping things away, leaving things raw and vulnerable so that real change is possible.”

Rosnau added that she also felt that vulnerability moving to Prince George. And although not all the poems are autobiographical, she said most of the collection reflect the rapid-fire nature of change in her life at the time.

“I harboured some misconceptions and clich├ęs about Prince George before arriving -- that I’d be living in a hinterland where I’d get blank stares if I told anyone I was a writer or poet. I do get some, though that happened in Vancouver as well, but I was surprised by and welcomed into the literary and arts community in P.G. within weeks of arriving.”

Rosnau will be joined at the reading by two friends and poets, Elizabeth Bachinsky (a former Prince George resident) and Jennica Harper.

Rosnau is the also author of the best-selling novel The Sudden Weight of Snow (McClelland & Stewart). She lives in Prince George with her husband and son, and is expecting her second child.
The reading, presented by the Caledonia Writers Series, starts at 7:30 p.m. in room 1-306 at the CNC. Admission is free.

19 April 2009

Big time small books

PRINCE GEORGE ­­– Chapbooks are small bursts of literary energy designed to be easily traded, but they’ll receive big treatment at the annual Prince George Chapbook Fair on April 24.

Now in its fourth year, the fair brings together the self-publishing endeavors of northern B.C. writers, displaying the chapbooks for sale and trade. A panel of judges also chooses the top chapbook of the year for the Barry McKinnon Chapbook Award.

Organizer Graham Pearce said interest in chapbooks and the event has grown since the first year, when it took place at Art Space.

“The number of submissions has grown from the first year when there were 10 entries to this year to between 30 to 40 entries. The first year was also well attended with about 30 to 40 people, but last year we had about 100 and this year we’re expecting about 100 again,” Pearce said.

Submission guidelines include that the writer be from northern B.C., the chapbook be between eight and 48 pages and written and self-published by the author, and be produced in a minimum of 20 copies.

“The idea for the minimum number of copies is getting people away from special one-offs. The chapbook is supposed to be traded and sold and reproduced easily,” Pearce said.

The fair offers the public a glimpse into the fresh art and ideas of writers in the region that don't often show up in mainstream publications. The small run, homemade nature of chapbooks allows limitless creativity when it comes to paper, font and binding, and the overall appearance is often melded with the content.

While chapbooks are more a labour of love, as opposed to a path to literary glory, they are no stranger to awards. Canada’s bpNichol Chapbook Award recognizes the country’s best chapbook of the year, and was won by Prince George poet Barry McKinnon in 2004 for Bolivia/Peru and Arrythmia in 1994. Pearce said he believes the competitive aspect doesn’t take away from the original intent of chapbooks, and picking a winner proves to be a challenge -– in two of the past three years the Barry McKinnon Award was shared by co-winners.

“There’s still the idea it’s the chapbook fair and everyone that submits is still showcased, but it is a way to celebrate what is the best of the year. It matches up with what’s going on nationally and internationally –- people are interested in what rises to the top,” Peace said, adding this year’s entrants include established writers and some new names.

But the spirit of chapbooks is foremost at the fair; they are a connection between writer and community. Prince George poet Robert Budde, who started the event in 2006, writes in the April 2009 issue of Northword: “Above all, a chapbook is a relationship between me and you. Something more personal than what is found in a trade publication, where packaging, marketing and margins all conspire to distance writers from their works and, consequently, from their readers.”

Judging this year will be Prince George poet Gillian Wigmore, 2006 Barry McKinnon Chapbook Award winner Richard Krueger and 2008 co-winner Adam Pottle. A $250 prize is sponsored by the UNBC Arts Council, and Starbucks is donating gift baskets for second and third.

The event is free and open to the public and takes place Friday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the College of New Caledonia, room 1-306.