kisiskâciwan: Indigenous Voices from Where the River Flows Swiftly
University of Regina Press / 29 August 2018

kisiskâciwan: Indigenous Voices from Where the River Flows Swiftly edited by Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-542-8 kisiskâciwan: Indigenous Voices from Where the River Flows Swiftly, referring to the area now known as Saskatchewan, has something for every taste, especially those with an appreciation of Indigenous literature. It’s an eclectic mix of stories, poetry, historical documents, and creative nonfiction. Inspired by an anthology of Indigenous writing in Manitoba, editor Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber undertook a similar project in Saskatchewan. This ambitious anthology is the result. kisiskâciwan follows a variety of themes – treaties, residential schools, conflict, women and families, everyday life, First Nations culture – all written by Indigenous people. These include members of the five main First Nations cultural groups in the province – Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Dakota, and Dene – as well as Lakota and Métis This anthology is the first time a collection of writing by Saskatchewan Indigenous authors has been assembled. It contains significant historical material by such notable Indigenous personalities as Poundmaker, Big Bear, Piapot, Sitting Bull, Louis Riel, and Gabriel Dumont. It also contains important historical documentation predating the colonial period. It’s amazing that such…

Sedley
Coteau Books / 10 August 2018

Sedley by Chelsea Coupal Published by Coteau Books Review by Ben Charles ISBN 9781550509410 $17.95 Sedley, written by Chelsea Coupal, is a delightful and insightful reflection of life in small-town Saskatchewan that had me smiling from the first page to the last. This collection of poems that Coupal has so masterfully penned is a wonderful commentary of the author’s life and experiences growing up in the town of Sedley, SK, a small village located forty kilometres South-East of Regina, SK. When people think of life in small-town Saskatchewan they usually conjure images of tractors consuming the entire highway, dusty farmyards, abandoned movie theatres, and the antics of the characters from Corner Gas. While some of these themes are present, Coupal also captures the magic, beauty, tragedy, and inexplicable weirdness that come with growing up in rural Saskatchewan. As I was born and raised in a small village in Saskatchewan myself, I could not help but feel nostalgic and chuckle as I read such poems as, “The Drive Home”, or “Party”. Coupal’s eerily accurate descriptions of remedies to teenage boredom reminded me of my own young misadventures getting in trouble at parties, driving aimlessly on the grid roads, talking smack about…

breathing at dusk
Coteau Books / 12 July 2018

breathing at dusk by Beth Goobie Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $17.95 ISBN 9-781550-509151 Beth Goobie, poet and fiction writer, is her own hard act to follow. With twenty-five books – including the Governor General-nominated young adult novel Mission Impossible – preceding her latest title, readers have come to expect work that sets the bar high in terms of both content and technique. In breathing at dusk, Goobie’s 2017 poetry collection with Coteau Books, the Saskatoon writer again addresses some difficult themes – chiefly childhood sexual abuse – and delivers work that pours light on the darkness of her own Ontario childhood, while reconciling – often through music and nature – that it’s possible to heal from the unthinkable. I scan the Contents page and note three titles which might be considered taglines for Goobie’s work, present and past: “the other face,” “living with what remained,” and “the mind coming home to itself”. In this and previous books she reveals that her Christian father – a piano teacher – prostituted her from an early age, and that incest, violence, being drugged, and participating in religious cult-like activities were her childhood norm. As with “talk therapy,” writing…

Blackbird Song

Blackbird Song by Randy Lundy Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-780889-775572 It’s been a fair while since the poetry-reading public’s heard from writer and University of Regina (Campion College) professor Randy Lundy, but the outstanding blurbs on his third poetry collection, Blackbird Song, will definitely whet the appetites of his fans, and they should draw several new readers to these spare, contemplative poems scored with birds, prairie memories, and the moon in many different incarnations. Top Canadian poets like Lorna Crozier (“Wow, I say again and again”), Patrick Lane (he includes Lundy among “the masters”), and Don McKay (“visionary”) sing sweet praises, and Linda Hogan writes that these poems “are grounded constellations created of fire and ice”. When senior poets’ blurbs are poetry in and of themselves, you know you’re doing something right. And Lundy is certainly doing something right. Firstly, he’s turning inward, and asking questions both of himself and the universe that may be unanswerable, ie: “are you waiting for the appearance of that something whose appearance/would be its own vanishing?”. He’s creating unique images and juxtaposing words in fresh ways. Some of these poems are brief and reminiscent of…

I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust

I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust Written by Edward Willett, Illustrated by Wendi Nordell Published by YNWP Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-781988-783178 Prolific Regina writer Edward Willett took a great idea and ran with it, and the result is his first collection of poems, I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust, a collection of twenty-one fantastical poems with illustrations by his niece, Albertan Wendi Nordell. That initial great idea? It began with former SK Poet Laureate Gerald Hill’s 2016 “first lines” project, in which he e-mailed the first two lines from poems by two SK writers each week day in April and invited all Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild members to use them as springboards for new poems. Willett embraced the challenge, and the result is this creative, entertaining, and occasionally spine-tingling collection of poems that no one but Willett – well-known for authoring sixty books, including twenty science fiction and fantasy novels – could pull off. Willett claims a life-long love affair with poetry, but admits he’s not known as a poet. The man is a story-teller, through and through, thus it’s not surprising that each of these poems tells a miniature story, many with an apocalyptic or space-based…

Matronalia
Thistledown Press / 12 July 2018

Matronalia by A.B. Dillon Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-153-2 “Life had not taught you that you were a girl yet.” ” … my brain crawled with biting ants of recrimination.” “I am many diaries, and I know where all my keys are, except a few.” “I/always/worry/about/the/horses.” Rarely does a first book make me question: what is this magic? I need to know the who and how. When done exceptionally well, poetry, especially, can stir a cell-and-bone dance like no other genre. It’s just happened. Calgary poet A.B. Dillon’s Matronalia slices into the depths of what it is to mother a daughter, and to be mothered by a woman whose ideologies differ greatly from her own. Dillon illuminates what most keep hidden: the fear, the disasters, the terrible responsibility, the drowning in overwhelmedness, the non-understanding, the guilt (on page 78, “Forgive me” is the sole text). “You have wandered into my ward/and infected me” she writes of a young daughter. She later admits that “it becomes impossible to breathe”. While alternating between poems addressed to “you” (presumably the daughter to whom the book’s dedicated) and poems about being quite differently daughtered herself, Dillon weaves…

Calendar of Reckoning, A
Coteau Books / 12 July 2018

A Calendar of Reckoning by Dave Margoshes Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $17.95 ISBN 9-781550-509373 Readers can sometimes glean the foci of a book even before reading the first page. With A Calendar of Reckoning, the new poetry collection by multi-genre and widely-published writer Dave Margoshes, clues rise from the cover image – a dog facing a window (surely symbolic) and the opaqueness (clouds? Heaven?) beyond – and the title. Reckoning is a strong, old-fashioned word with Biblical overtones. It implies a measuring up ­­­- to God, perhaps, or to one’s self. I expect time will be addressed (“Calendar”); the seasons, and possibly aging. And the dog? If I know Dave – and I do – there’ll be at least one homage to a dog. The Saskatoon-area writer’s organized this latest impressive collection into four sections, and indeed the poems in each section are distinct. In the first, Margoshes delivers a chronological retrospective of his life from birth to “The Heart in its Dotage”. Here we meet the thin, daydreaming boy: “Gradually, with the passage of time, the world I imagined/narrowed, and I put on weight, grew into myself”. He includes several poems about family members…

Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road
Thistledown Press / 22 June 2018

Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road Written by Brenda Schmidt Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-154-9 How interesting to watch a poet’s repertoire grow and change over the years, and learn what’s freshly inspiring him or her. For some it’s nature, a new relationship, travel, or a loved one’s passing. Trust Creighton, SK poet, visual artist, and naturalist Brenda Schmidt to eschew the usual … this SK Poet Laureate has turned to the lowly culvert for inspiration in her latest title, Culverts Beneath the Narrow Road, and it’s a romp. This handsome collection begins with a short essay that introduces us to the kind of writer Schmidt’s become. While she and her husband are driving down the Saskatchewan map, the poet blurts out questions some may consider inane. But, she writes: “Nothing I say surprises him anymore. He knows better than anyone how difficult writers can be to travel with, due in part, perhaps, to sensory overload, all these places flying by, all these junctions, private roads and keep-out signs, the mind filtering the 100 km/hr stream of information for connections …”. Indeed, connections are key in this book. Always fascinated with culverts, Schmidt’s mined…

House of Charlemagne, The
University of Regina Press / 20 April 2018

The House of Charlemagne by Tim Lilburn Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-530-5 Years ago I lived a block from poet and essayist Tim Lilburn in Saskatoon’s leafy City Park area, and it’s been wonderful to watch his literary star rise. He’s earned the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, and is the first Canadian to win the European Medal of Poetry and Art. Like Lilburn, I also now live on Vancouver Island, and was excited to discover what my former nearly-neighbour has been (literarily) up to. Not surprisingly, his latest title – a collaboration with Métis artist Ed Poitras – breaks new ground. Part poetry, part essay, part script, The House of Charlemagne is a brilliantly conceived and executed “performable poem,” and an homage to Louis Riel’s imagined “House of Charlemagne,” named for the “polyglot Métis nation” Riel imagined rising centuries after his death. It was produced with male and female dancers by New Dance Horizons/Rouge-gorge in Regina (2015), and the book includes two black and white production photos. The bizarre and poetic story unfolds via multiple voices and shapes, but the key player is Honoré Jaxon (aka William Henry Jackson), a…

Assortment, An: Darkly Delicious Literary and Visual Oddments
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 8 December 2017

An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments by Marie Elyse St. George Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-83-6 The enticing title of Marie Elyse St. George’s latest book says it all. Delve into this tickle trunk of poems, stories (both fictions and truths), drawings, paintings, and cartoons, plus a tribute to now long-passed writer Anne Szumigalski, and you’ll indeed find something darkly delicious to make you smile, laugh, and think. Saskatoon’s St. George has earned an esteemed reputation as both a visual artist and a writer, and a career highlight’s been her 1995 poetry and art collaboration (with close friend Szumigalski) Voice, which resulted in both an exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery and a book which garnered the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1995. She’s also collaborated with poet Patrick Lane, provided art for the covers of numerous literary journals and books, and published an award-winning memoir. While reading An Assortment: Darkly Delicious Literary & Visual Oddments, I procured an image of a young girl skipping through a field of wildflowers, plucking blossoms here and there for an atypical bouquet. This image was no doubt hastened by the book’s…