Monday, October 13, 2014

For Thanksgiving, a look at Red Curls

...which I placed on leaves I'll likely rake up tomorrow. This new collection of poems by Tracy Hamon means a lot to me, so I wandered around with it this afternoon, placing it here and there until I found the right place.   

Red Curls by Tracy Hamon.

Last week we drove down to Regina to take in the launch of this book, a launch perfectly timed with the fall migration. We drove through sunrise and sunset, beneath thousands and thousands of snow geese, Ross's geese, greater white-fronted geese, tundra swans, beneath v upon v of sandhill cranes. After the launch we spent a few days beneath the fly path, catching our breath, our ears full of geese and swans and cranes at all times.

The launch of Red Curls was breathtaking as well. A great crowd flocked into the Slate Fine Art Gallery, a spacious venue with wonderful sound and fabulous art, so great a crowd they had to bring out more chairs. Tracy gave a dandy reading as always and followed it with a stunning video poem. Images were projected afterwards, people indulging in these and the glorious spread of food and conversation. And what conversation! There's a big difference between small talk and small talks, the latter an art of compression, a kind of poetry that you think about for days, keep unpacking without end, and that's what I've been doing for days, that's what I did all the way home beneath the geese and swans and cranes as we drove against their southward flow, and I'll be unpacking for days to come.  

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Ridiculous number of warblers the yard today, especially for October. What a joy. The light wasn't great and I wasn't able to adjust my position, but I decided to post some pics I took today just to give an idea of the action in just one mountain ash.

And then there was this curious exchange.

A personal space issue I suppose. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Today a weasel showed me a thing or two

...about quickness, curiosity, and how to dance around

the unfamiliar, how to close in on it, no matter how big it might seem at the time.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Forest Prairie Edge: Place History in Saskatchewan by Merle Massie

Forest Prairie Edge: Place History in Saskatchewan
Merle Massie (Author)
University of Manitoba Press
Published April 2014, 336 pages
Paper, ISBN: 978-0-88755-763-7

“I have great sympathy for those travellers who look out their windows on the Trans-Canada Highway and think This is Saskatchewan? That’s it?” writes Merle Massie on the third page of the introduction to Forest Prairie Edge, an eye-opening “deep-time historical investigation” that focuses on an area of the forest fringe that “extends north from the city of Prince Albert” and includes the “stumpranch” farm where she grew up, a place well north of the “That’s it?” zone. Raised on a prairie farm, I have little sympathy or patience for those who express such tired sentiments, whether the comment is used to establish common ground, begin a conversation, set the stage for an argument, or not, but Massie’s viewpoint as an “insider” and her straightforward and often confrontational approach prove engaging, the book revealing and rewarding.

Massie, a Saskatchewan writer, editor and farmer who specializes in local, rural and environmental history, notes that her university colleagues worried that her research area, an area covering more than 400 square miles, was too small, while the people in the region worried that it was too large. Deeply researched and tightly argued, the book is just right. “Emphasizing contrasts and connections, this book investigates the artificial dividing line between the north and the south,” examining the period “from pre-contact to the end of the Great Depression,” an immense undertaking if the extensive section of notes and the bibliography are any indication.  

The forest prairie edge, a transition zone, is complex and ever changing. Massie uses "edge theory" as a means to interpret and frame the research:
Edge theory, where the forest fringe is viewed as both an ecological and a cultural edge where two distinct regions and peoples meet and exchange knowledge, offers a critical approach that bridges the constructed gap between Saskatchewan northern history and southern history. Regionally defined prairie and northern narratives, when combined and focused through a local viewpoint, give a fresh view of the provincial story.

Fresh it is. Massie claims “The Canadian penchant for dividing this vast country into easily understood places called regions has reduced Saskatchewan identity to its southern denominator: prairie.” Throughout the richly detailed book she shows how “Studying western Canadian history through the lens of either “prairie” or “boreal forest,” without considering the connections between the two, has created flawed interpretations and a tendency to start with basic (and incorrect) assumptions.” In a fascinating analysis of the Great Trek, the Depression migration in Saskatchewan (and Alberta and Manitoba to a lesser degree) that saw thousands of people move from the prairie to the forest fringe, she points out the gaps and inaccuracies in the historical record as it currently stands.   

Evocative figures (including a drawing by Massie of a lobstick tree) and easy-to-read maps accompany clearly written passages on First Nations settlement, non-Native settlement, soldier settlement, resource extraction, tourism marketing, car culture, forest edge agriculture, and Government intervention. Near the end she points to many aspects that require further study. There is so much that is not known, so much yet to properly explore.
“I hope that this book will challenge conceptions of Saskatchewan, how people have lived here, and how those stereotypes have shaped the ways in which we tell our stories,” writes Massie. Challenge it does. This provocative place history, which calls even Saskatchewan’s designation as “the Land of Living Skies” into question, offers a powerful lens through which to view, interpret, and further question the place in which we find ourselves, regardless of where that is. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

More books the mail today.

Metaphor by Denis Donoghue.

On Eloquence by Denis Donoghue.

Speaking of Beauty by Denis Donoghue.

I ordered Metaphor because it is discussed in an excellent post titled "Metaphor" by Kathleen Wall over on Blue Duets. Another post titled "Metaphor Revisited" went up while I was waiting for the book to arrive. I'm hoping the books will help me think about my project from another angle or send me off in another direction or something. We'll see.