Watermarks
Wild Sage Press / 3 November 2015

Watermarks by Laura Burkhart Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Eric Greenway $15.00 ISBN 9780988122932 Watermarks, Laura Burkhart’s second book of poetry, will make you laugh. You can hear the poet’s glee in many of these poems-and you wonder how she maintains such fine control of language while giving herself over to all-out play. The levity begins with the first poem, “Advice from Noah’s Wife”, who can “hardly breathe halfway through, let alone tell Noah he should have hired a female ark-tech who knows the ins-and-outs of cleaning.” It’s fitting that a poet who achieves a high level of playfulness with language should include a poem about strategically placing the word “Envy” on a (somewhat altered) Scrabble board, then topping that move with an even better score-“well let’s just say/your fellow players will turn/a not-unpleasant shade of green/when you also use all seven/letters for the 50-point bonus.” In “Writing the Old Frogs Home” the amphibious narrator admits that “Maybe this frog/hospital doesn’t even exist/outside our own lily-/livered minds. Maybe this/is really a frog-leg emporium/and that’s why there are so many/wheel chairs down by the pond.” And, from the same poem, have you heard the one about Mr. Weber, the…

We’re Already Home
Wild Sage Press / 4 March 2015

We’re Already Home by Terry Jordan, Lorna Tureski, Arnie Hayashi Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $18.00 ISBN 978-0-9881229-7-0 It takes so little time to read We’re Already Home, a two-act play that draws attention to both cultural differences and universal semblance between two neighbouring families—one Christian, one Muslim—but the play packs a lasting emotional punch. Written collaboratively by Saskatchewan’s multi-talented Terry Jordan (who served as dramaturge and, interestingly, also created the book’s collaged cover art), and BC residents Lorna Tureski and Arnie Hayashi, the realistic play was created by the Interfaith Bridging Project in Vernon with a literary goal of connecting characters “to create story in a meaningful way,” and a social goal of connecting people of different communities and faiths “with imagination, understanding and tolerance.” This play works on several levels. On the one hand it is a realistic representation of two Canadian families, each with a 17-year-old teenager, and how seemingly small matters—like a leaf and shoot-spreading chestnut tree—can irk one person and provide joy for another, but numerous well-placed metaphors and a sprightly “Senklip/Coyote trickster spirit” character, Violet, lift the story beyond realism and give it a multi-textured dynamic. The timeless Violet…

Tending the Tree of Life
Wild Sage Press / 26 January 2015

Tending the Tree of Life by Irwin Kahan illustrated by Wendy Winter Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Jessica Bickford $25.00 978-0-9881229-8-7 Tending the Tree of Life is Irwin Kahan’s memoir chronicling his life from growing up on the Saskatchewan prairie, through the second World War, and onto his work trying to improve health care for those suffering from mental illness. I learned so much from Irwin’s story – from the struggles of pioneering while attempting to keep the Jewish faith, to the difficulties of trying to finish high school by correspondence lessons, and even to what it’s like to take LSD (for science, of course). Irwin’s optimism is clear throughout his story.  Despite the obvious hardships he and his family faced, not only with rampant anti-semitism, but simply surviving the harsh farming conditions of the prairies and then the horrors of World War II, Irwin refuses to complain.  He is endlessly focused on the good – his friends and family and the occasions where he felt he was doing good work to help others. I was so interested to learn about Irwin’s work trying to have mental illness, especially schizophrenia, recognized for what it is – an illness,…

Blue Grama
Wild Sage Press / 10 September 2014

Blue Grama by Heather Peat Hamm Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978-0-988 1229-6-3 $18.00 Heather Peat Hamm’s collection of poems, songs, and illustrations, Blue Grama, offers readers a rich field study in monographic perspective, demonstrating this ecological poet’s masterful command of detail and description that holds the prairies in their clearest, most vivid light. No aspect of prairie fields, or people who call the prairie land their home, is too small or too hidden, to attract this poet’s perspicacious eye. These are poems not just to read, but to assimilate with care, as one assimilates the defining characteristics revealed in a botanist’s handbook. The poem’s are a celebration of a distinct livelihood—one that is seldom presented with such joie de vivre. The collection’s greatest triumph might be that it metaphorically couples the hardships, pathos, joys, and raptures experienced by the land’s people with penetrating insight into that which perseveres among them, the creatures and plants that share the conditions of life, wondrously unique, yet familiar, in their adaptive movements. The people and the land become intertwined as one reads the poems and studies the drawings painstakingly sketched and labelled by a deft poet-scientist. Like the…

Goldeye and Funnyfin
Wild Sage Press / 3 April 2014

Goldeye and Funnyfin by Fannie Kahan Illustrated by Sharon Kahan Published by Wild Sage Press Reviewed by Alison Hayford $25.00 ISBN 978-0-9881229-4-9 Three-year-old Eli is not an avid reader. But when his granny (me) brought him a copy of Goldeye and Funnyfin, Eli was entranced—along with seven-year-old Theo, who can read Harry Potter books all by himself. There’s something about this simple story and its delicate watercolour illustrations that catches and holds the attention of young children. Fannie Kahan created Goldeye and Funnyfin for her own children years ago. It’s a story in the classic tradition of folk tales, in which a main character undertakes a quest and, in the process, makes discoveries about the larger world and about her- or himself. Goldeye and Funnyfin are two small fish. Goldeye decides they should build a house. Funnyfin says “fish don’t live in houses,” but Goldeye prevails, and off they go on their quest. As they search for a way to build a house, the two fish encounter fellow sea creatures—Willa the Whale, Sammy the Swordfish, Octavia the Octopus, and others, large and small, happy and sad, good-natured and grumpy. In the end, as in all good folk tales, Goldeye and…

Dorothy McMoogle with Kumquat and Bugle
Wild Sage Press / 24 January 2014

Dorothy McMoogle with Kumquat and Bugle by Bruce Rice, Illustrated by Wendy Winter Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Jessica Bickford $25.00 978-0-9881229-5-6 Dorothy McMoogle with Kumquat and Bugle is just as playful a read as you can gather from the title. This book is written in a fun, lilting rhyme that just begs to be read aloud; Bruce Rice has certainly caught upon what kids and their grown-ups like most from a story time book. Dorothy McMoogle plays with language in a way that will not only help young readers learn to deal with some more complex sounds, but will make it a joy for their grown-ups to read to them. It’s not just the story, but the illustrations by Wendy Winter that make Dorothy McMoogle such a delightful little romp. There are so many playful details in the illustrations that you’re likely to take as long looking at them as you do reading the words on each page. Dorothy’s boring day is brought to life beautifully through the pictures and I have to say that my personal favourite is Dottie Aunt Lottie’s Gloom-O-Meter that goes from danger, to dull, dreadful, dreary, and finally dings out doomed! The…

How To Be A River
Wild Sage Press / 20 September 2013

How to Be a River by Brenda Niskala Published by Wild Sage Press Review by Justin Dittrick ISBN 978-0-9881229-2-5 $15.00 Brenda Niskala’s How to Be a River offers to readers a set of poems as diverse as they are nuanced, as piercing as they are enigmatic. Niskala’s writing is crisp and tight, unburdened by sentimentality, and the poems glimmer with an immediate and luminous arousal of recognition, of the sense of truly “being here.” The poems capture surprising crossways of feeling and consciousness, with subjects that range from the tragic, such as in “Blunt Instrument”, a poem about a young man lost to his loved ones and subject to the criminal justice system, to the provocative “Room Full of Men”, a poem whose character, Anita, will arouse much discussion for her free, unquenchable spirit and her ardent devotion to men. Niskala is a poet with exquisite taste in subject matter and a native ability to capture forms and expressions of human connectedness. The poems in this collection are not only luminous, but they transport the reader with their tracings of the numinous. Niskala writes with an attentive human interest, and her work is rooted in seldom explored realms and rhythms…