Beethoven
Burton House Books / 25 August 2017

Beethoven by Jim McLean published by Burton House Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 9-780994-866929 Moose Jaw’s Jim McLean is all over the place – in a good way. He wrote about the CPR in his first book, Secret Life of Railroaders; about growing up in Saskatchewan in Nineteen Fifty-Seven; and he co-authored Wildflowers Across the Prairies. Now he’s turned his poetic attention to that singular composer, Beethoven. Indeed, Beethoven is the title of McLean’s third solo publication in an over thirty-year span; surely a distinguished career with Canadian Pacific Railway and Transport Canada had much to do with the lapses between books. Beethoven is a lively collection of poems presented in several invented voices, including the composer’s, the voices of the women in his life – though he’s a “poor incompetent/Don Juan“- and that of Beethoven’s tyrannical father, but one of the strongest pieces, “On His Deafness,” concerns an anecdote about McLean’s own aging father, whom the poet is trying to impress with garden “Brussels sprouts/big as fists tenderly/coaxed from the hard/prairie earth” and a well-heeled garage. Silent and apparently nonplussed, the elder man walks away, “humming softly to himself/off key …” This clever merging of disparate…

Double Exposure
Burton House Books / 24 August 2017

Double Exposure by Pat Krause Published by Burton House Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 9-780994-866936 Pat Krause was a founding member of the venerable Saskatchewan Writers Guild, a short story writer and memoirist, and a longtime resident of Regina. Krause died in 2015 but her literary legacy continues with Double Exposure, a novella and new short stories, recently published by Burton House Books. Double Exposure‘s a family affair, in more ways than one. Pat Krause penned the stories, Barbara Krause was responsible for the cover and interior artwork, and the book opens with a quote from a poem by Pat’s daughter, Judith Krause. Titled “The Women in the Family,” the poetic excerpt’s a fitting introduction to this work that explores the dynamics between generations of female family members and between the north (Saskatchewan) and the south (Alabama, where the characters and the author both lived), and both realistically and rompishly documents the vagaries of aging and the grief that accompanies the final tolling of the bell. The book’s eccentric and outspoken characters include outrageous Gran Tiss, who had the nerve to up and die on the eve of her 100th birthday; her daughter Vee, who’s horrified that…

Line Dance
Burton House Books / 4 November 2016

Line Dance An anthology of poetry, selected and edited by Gerald Hill published by Burton House Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 9-780994-866912 Before I say anything else about Line Dance – the cool new poetry anthology driven by SK Poet Laureate Gerald Hill’s “First Lines” project – a disclaimer: two lines from one of my poems appear within it. Apart from that, I had zilch to do with this book that handily demonstrates the wealth of poetic voices in the homeland, the range of human imagination, and how art inspires art. Each weekday during Poetry Month in April, Hill e-mailed SK Writers’ Guild members a pair of first lines he’d selected from SK poetry books and invited folks to respond with poems of their own. Some, like professionals Brenda Schmidt and Ed Willett, sent poems every day. In the end, almost 500 pieces were submitted, and SK writing veteran-turned publisher, Byrna Barclay, bound what editor Hill deemed the best into a handsome package, featuring Saskatchewanian David Thauberger’s art on the cover. If you already read homegrown poetry, you’ll recognize several names here. The quoted include Dave Margoshes, Judith Krause, Paul Wilson, Gary Hyland, Elizabeth Philips, Bruce Rice,…

House of the White Elephant
Burton House Books / 18 February 2016

House of the White Elephant by Byrna Barclay Published by Burton House Books Review by Tanya Foster ISBN 9780994866905 $20.00 In Byrna Barclay’s most recent novel House of the White Elephant, the character Lewis Hutchinson says to his young daughter, Jesse Emma: “You cannot replace one person with another”. Yet, the compulsion to replace his first wife drives Lewis and, at first, it secures his posterity but, ultimately, alienates his children. Not only is Lewis impassioned about having an Elizabeth in his life, he is equally obsessed with compensating for his dark skin and questionable parentage. These compulsions are the metaphorical rivers that dominate the lives of the characters in the novel: at times, the rivers are life-giving and freeing, but mostly they are frozen rivers that keep the characters from moving on. In this historical novel, Barclay extends the river metaphor across continents and generations to reveal the steady-flowing influence of ancestry, history, and ethnicity on subsequent generations. The opening line of the novel—“The ice on the river is breaking up”—establishes the river metaphor that flows throughout the novel. The river of this novel is not a literal river, not the Ganges, not the Thames, not the North Saskatchewan;…