The History of Naming Cows
Hagios Press / 12 July 2012

The History of Naming Cows by Mitch Spray Published by Hagios Press Reviewed by Brinnameade Smith $17.95 ISBN 978-1-926710-15-0 The History of Naming Cows is one of the quirkiest titles for a poetry book that I’ve come across, but it’s a natural fit. It speaks to the tradition as well as the personal connection of farming and raising cattle on the prairies as found in the poetry. Many of the poems begin in childhood and describe the curiosity, wonder and contentment with farm life as well as bringing new life and brightness to seemingly mundane tasks. The objects and experiences that fascinate a child growing up on a farm aren’t the same as a city kid would have and the seemingly obvious points of interest are only touched on in this collection of poems, while hidden treasures and overlooked curiosities are brought to the forefront, showing a new perspective on prairie life. Some stories are also revisited in other poems placed at a different time where the cares and concerns of childhood are set parallel to those of adult life. The curiosity behind simple everyday tasks has been replaced with a calmness as they become routine. But with age also…

Abstract Love
Bevann Fox / 12 July 2012

Abstract Love by Bevann Fox Published by Bevann Fox Review by Chris Ewing-Weisz $24.95 978-0-9879287-0-2 Myrtle is beautiful, with a successful career. She has it all – except for love. Multiple marriages to “emotional terrorists” have left her wondering if healthy love can exist for her. After residential school, it seems Myrtle is doomed to what she calls “genocidal love.” “Genocide has my brother,” Myrtle thinks: “[he] walks the streets talking to spirits and gods, picking butts, eating out of garbage cans, asking for change so he can buy glue and sniff the genocidal effects away.” Genocide continually threatens Myrtle, too. Struggling for normalcy, she finally has to go back and fully experience what happened, then tell the truth about it to those who were responsible. That means lodging a legal claim, a process almost as destructive as the original abuse. Myrtle’s mental and emotional equilibrium suffers; relationships spiral into cycles of craziness, and she can hardly function at work. The insanity drags on for years. Abstract Love is a voice from the whirlwind of a profoundly abused person’s mind as she toils toward wholeness and redress. “Your genocidal practice to kill me as an Indian did not work,” she…

Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry
Hagios Press / 11 July 2012

Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry by Lorri Neilsen Glenn Published by Hagios Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $18.95 CAD 978-1-926710-11-2 Lorri Neilsen Glenn’s Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry, is simmered to perfection; reading it wasn’t enough, I wanted to chew it, comprised as it is mostly of tender, slow-cooked self-reflexive prose, seasoned with poetry as earthy and rich as rosemary. A morsel of this work spends a moment in the mouth, red wine reduction keeps one licking the lips, and wanting another bite. This book presents to me, again, that we, in the prairies are our own flavour of people. Though our seat may seem insignificant, we are not; our lives are just as heated as those anywhere else. And we have visceral challenges. And we feel deeply. Neilsen Glenn’s writing, originally from the prairies, is browned by world experience and a fork-tender perspective. “A decade flies by. Children on bicycles… Jeffrey has kicked the dog and she isn’t moving… Allan collapses from a stroke in front of the stove, mumbling incoherently; paramedics and a babysitter are in the driveway. The next semester, and the next and next and next. Screams in the emergency room as…

One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa, 1940-1944

One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa, 1940-1944 Edited by Rollie Bourassa Published by Canadian Plains Research Center Review by Keith Foster $29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-221-2 For the average soldier, war is mostly long periods of endless monotony, occasionally interrupted by spasms of sheer terror. This maxim is nowhere more clearly borne out than in One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa. As the title suggests, this really was a family war because it affected the entire family. By enlisting in the South Saskatchewan Regiment and being shipped overseas in 1940, Clarence had to leave his wife Hazel and two young sons, Rollie and Murray, back home at Lafleche, SK. Edited by his son Rollie, with an introduction by Regina Leader-Post reporter Will Chabun, these letters express Clarence’s abiding love for his wife and children, often with sentimental terms of endearment. Many of the letters are deeply personal. Right from the first, the reader can feel Clarence’s deep pangs of loneliness. And the further he got from his wife, the worse he felt: “I’m all alone in my tent with a great big lump in my throat, and I sure feel like crying.” Aside from letters, the…

The Veil Weavers
Coteau Books / 9 July 2012

The Veil Weavers by Maureen Bush Published by Coteau Books for Kids Review by Brinnameade Smith $7.95 ISBN 1 3-978-1-55050-482-8 The Veil of Magic series, by Maureen Bush, is a great, accessible series for young fantasy readers who are ready to start reading chapter books and novels. It’s set in Calgary and the Canadian Rockies where readers are given a chance to learn about and appreciate the nature all around them as they follow along on a fantastical story about friendship, responsibility and bravery. The Veil Weavers is the third book in the series. It follows a brother and sister called Josh and Maddy as they race to save a magical world that has been damaged by the misuse of power and magic. While much of this damage has been caused by the evil villain, Gronvald the troll, Josh and Maddy’s friends have unknowingly contributed as well. When the damage is discovered everyone is able to learn about actions, consequences and problem solving. The book easily talks about problems like global warming, environmental concern and animal rights in a simple way that kids can understand. Many of the warm and bright friends made by Josh and Maddy are animals that…

The Cellophane Sky: jazz poems
Hagios Press / 9 July 2012

The Cellophane Sky: jazz poems by Jeff Park Published by Hagios Press Review by Chris Ewing-Weisz $17.95 978-1-926710-09-9 In the same way a jazz musician feels into the heart of a melody to improvise a free expression of its soul, Jeff Park in this collection of poems imagines the inner lives of the jazz greats, spinning onto the page their physical worlds, the emotional meanings of events in their lives, and the stories they told themselves about their place in the scheme of things. Meet Jelly Roll Morton as God, Billie Holiday as unwilling accomplice in her grandmother’s death, and Lester “Prez” Young as a lad on the streets of a New Orleans suburb, absorbing jazz along with the boat whistles and neighborhood arguments. Stay up all night in Paris with Duke Ellington. Get inside the skin of Mingus as he challenges racism. See, feel, taste, and smell their world. Many of these musicians experienced poverty, abuse, and racism. Music became a way to push back, to imagine and indeed to create a world “rising like a dream/from all that is broken” where, as Park writes of Mingus, “all would change, anything was possible.” Jazz aficionados and general readers alike…

Our Kind of Work: The Glory Days and Difficult Times of 25th Street Theatre
Thistledown Press / 9 July 2012

Our Kind of Work: The Glory Days and Difficult Times of 25th Street Theatre by Dwayne Brenna Published by Thistledown Press Review by Keith Foster $18.95 978-1-897235-95-9 When your work is a labour of love, every day is payday. This is the philosophy keenly expressed in Dwayne Brenna’s Our Kind of Work: The Glory Days and Difficult Times of 25th Street Theatre. An actor himself, Brenna provides the inside story of 25th Street Theatre, the first professional theatre company in Saskatoon. In addition to his own recollections, his richly detailed text incorporates numerous press reviews of the plays presented. The impetus behind this experimental theatre company was its first artistic director, the irrepressible Andy Tahn, who proposed producing prairie-based, original plays. The theatre provided a venue for emerging playwrights such as Ken Mitchell and Connie Gault, and actors like Janet Wright, later of “Corner Gas” fame. As the subtitle suggests, however, this labour of love involved some birthing and growing pains. Lack of space and finances persistently plagued the company, as did the clash of personalities between actors and directors. Bad reviews and the spectre of censorship also raised their heads. The premiere of one play, Cold Comfort, described by…