Alberta, Alberta

I hadn’t been home in seven months—the longest stretch in a while.

(There were readings in Edmonton and Calgary—click the links for photos. There was also a family wedding.)

And I was thirsty the whole time for the things of my home. There’s a huge amount of large-scale construction—earth-moving, road-building—in and around the place I grew up that it took a bit of concerted effort to get to the things of home.

Here are a few representative samples:

poplar roots

Poplar roots like snakes underground

poplar mess

Poplar shapes; their smell

pigeon lake

Pigeon Lake

jackrabbit

Jackrabbit in suburban crescent.

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Train tracks removed, Whyte Ave., Edmonton.

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“Guys” by Mason Graham, age 4.

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The beautiful Bow, just south of Calgary.

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Off the back deck of my adolescence. Apple and cherry trees in the foreground.

Approaching Toronto From the South

April brought trips to the Big Smoke under bright blue skies—some of the first of spring.

Look up at the sky there and you see other things, too.

Spent some time hovering near the Gardiner Expressway, that crumbly old relic, that need.

There’s old amid all this new and sight remains selective.

Mine so far off the ground these last few pilgrimages, this first of spring.

 

A Settler Survey

On this, Settler Education’s publication day, I’d like to ask you non-indigenous Canadian sorts some questions.

I’ve read some of the poems in this book in public, in Ontario, and I’ve found myself needing to first find out what audiences know about the stories and events told in this book, a good number of them considered to be “of the West.” To see where I’m starting from.

So it’s in that spirit that I present to you this small survey. I’d be delighted to receive your most honest responses or any or all of the questions below. I’d love to hear where you learned what you know. You can use the contact form on this website, if you like, or you can comment below. Thanks kindly.

Rifle Pits

A rifle pit at Frenchman Butte, in what is now Saskatchewan.

A Settler Survey 

What do you know about the Northwest Resistance?

When I mention the Frog Lake “massacre,” what does that mean to you? Anything?

If someone asked you who Big Bear, Poundmaker, and/or Gabriel Dumont were, what would you say? How about Louis Riel?

What treaty territory do you live in? Before settlement, who lived where you live now?

What residential schools did you grow up nearest to? What reserves are closest to you as you read this?

David Lynch at the Piano

Here’s how Lynch collaborates with Badalamenti on the music for his films. This passage comes from Lynch’s book Catching the Big Fish:

 

Angelo Badalamenti

I met Angelo Badalamenti on Blue Velvet and since then he has composed music for all my films. He’s like my brother.
     The way we work is: I like to sit next to him on the piano bench. I talk and Angelo plays. He plays my words. But sometimes he doesn’t understand my words, so he plays very badly. Then I say, “No, no, no, no, Angelo.” And I change my words a little bit, and he plays differently. And then I say, “No, no, no, no, Angelo,” and I change my words. And somehow through this process he will catch something, and I’ll say, “That’s it!” And then he starts going with his magic, down that correct path. It’s so much fun. If Angelo lived next door to me, I’d like to do this every day. But he lives in New Jersey, and I live in Los Angeles.

~

Drumroll

I had a dream last night that I was taking some sort of class, a lecture course, history or statistics or something. It felt really useful and totally unrelated to my life; I was striking out in a new direction. Down the row from me the novelist Miriam Toews appeared and sat down and took a pen from her pocket. She had in her hands two books, and one of them was mine.

And it was enormous, my book: almost the size of a novel. Then it was the size of a coffee-table book. And I was shocked and a bit embarrassed. Nobody warned me it’d turn out that big! I thought. I watched as Miriam Toews leafed through my novel-sized poetry book. After the lecture, I talked with her in a dark, leafy atrium and she mentioned that she had received a review copy from Caitlin Press (which of course made sense in the dream), but she wouldn’t bring the thing out of her bag for me to look at, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask outright to see it.

And that was it. I woke up and couldn’t sleep for the next hour and a half.

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Book with cut nail found in the Frog Lake area by Bob Hendriks.

This morning, I heard a truck engine coming up the drive and went skidding down the stairs. The Canpar guy met me at the door and handed me an advanced copy of my book. A couple of hours later another Canpar guy pulled up with twenty more contributor copies. He joked about how quick I was to answer the door. It was mere hours ago, but I can’t remember either of these dudes’ faces now.

Turns out the book is not the size of a novel (phew), though it does clock in at over a hundred pages. I am outrageously nervous. I hope I got this right. I have grading to do and classes to plan for, and another poet is waiting so patiently for my comments on her manuscript, in the midst of her own drumroll.

I’m learning that bringing out a book is a slow unfolding. Bit by bit, it emerges into the world. The drumroll doesn’t culminate; instead, it keeping rolling and eventually decrescendos. Today, the drumroll’s got a bit more english on it.

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Regular sized books, slightly out of focus.

Settler Education‘s publication date is March 22. You can pre-order it now, or you can march into your local bookstore and ask them to order you up a copy. It’ll be launched in Toronto on April 13 at Harbourfront Centre, along with books by Jacob McArthur Mooney, Matt Rader, and my hero and former teacher Tim Lilburn. I’ll also be reading at Pivot in Toronto on April 20, and I’m aiming to put together small shindigs in London and Edmonton as well. If you’d like to buy one of the copies that came today from the faceless Canpar guy, you can send me a note and I’ll nervously sign one and dispatch it your way.

Welcome to the world, second book. May the drumroll be spirited for a decent spell.