and i think to myself…
Benchmark Press / 26 July 2013

and i think to myself by June Mitchell Published by Benchmark Press Review by Justin Dittrick $15.00 ISBN 9-78192-73520-1 June Mitchell’s collection of poems, and i think to myself, brims with wisdom, imagination, and experience. It is much more than a collection of poems. It is the product of a lifetime as a humanitarian, much of which was spent in the pursuit of social activism and social justice. It is also the expression of a lifelong passion for literature and poetry, a pastime that bears much fruit, here. Mitchell’s collection must not only be read, but celebrated, for its depths and truths testify to the fullness of a woman’s life, its contents ringing out to the ear with mirth, joy, despair, outrage, and wonder. Written later in life, one of many discoveries in this collection is how it is positioned towards the providential. It is all the more remarkable for being a natural inclination in its speakers, for from this inclination, much wisdom appears. In “déjà vu”, the speaker contemplates the origin of the desire for a better world. In “resolution”, there is an embrace of god in nature, and with it a denial of the artificial. The two go…

The Literary History of Saskatchewan – Volume One
Coteau Books / 23 July 2013

The Literary History of Saskatchewan. Volume 1 – Beginnings edited by David Carpenter Published by Coteau Books Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-515-3 (v. 1) The Literary History of Saskatchewan sets out to be a comprehensive history of literary writing in Saskatchewan. It encompasses a scope as broad as the prairie landscape, with as much variety as the flora and fauna of that landscape. Volume 1 of a three-volume scholarly study, this book focuses on the period covering the oral traditions of First Nations storytellers and early European explorers to the burgeoning Saskatchewan literary world of the 1970s. Over the decades, Saskatchewan has produced a bumper crop of successful authors, many with now-familiar names, such as W.O. Mitchell, Sinclair Ross, Anne Szumigalski and Guy Vanderhaeghe. The book is a collection of eleven essays and four tributes covering all genres of writing, including non-fiction, novels, poetry, and playwriting. It is a collaborative effort by sixteen essayists, virtually all with university backgrounds, under the editorship of David Carpenter, himself an author with clearly established credentials. Carpenter points out in his foreword that the literary centre of Saskatchewan is wherever writers write, whether at a sturdy oak desk, in a cabin alcove,…

The Pious Robber
Thistledown Press / 23 July 2013

The Pious Robber by Harriet Richards Published by Thistledown Press Review by Justin Dittrick $18.95 ISBN 978-1-927068-18-2 Harriet Richards’ The Pious Robber presents its readers with eight stories that will mesmerize, disturb, and delight. Every story in the collection strikes to the bone, and is brilliantly conceived and beautifully realized. One will be tempted to read the collection in one sitting, though the depth of the stories provides much fruit for multiple readings, honest reflection, and some animated and imaginative discussion. Richards is blessed with an unimpeachable understanding of illness, childhood, family, loss, and human psychology. Her narration is cool and detached, her dialogue crisp and seamless. This work is weighty and balanced: highly observant, darkly comic, and always fascinating. This collection especially shines where it examines human frailty within the accepted boundaries that mark convention, produce (unwanted?) self-knowledge, and touch that squishy place in our psyche where we are most vulnerable and recriminatory. There are plenty of cringe-worthy moments in the stories “Tangible Reminders” and “Sometimes it Seemed”. These seem to be the moments in which intelligent people must work with the seemingly harmless social and cultural excesses that make day-to-day life a minefield. In “Tangible Reminders”, the main…