Go
Radiant Press / 27 July 2022

Goby Shelley A. LeedahlPublished by Radiant PressReview by Elena Bentley$20.00 ISBN 9781989274675 How often do we find a book of poetry in which a poet generously invites us in, like a long-time friend, to sit down and catch up? Not often. But in Go, Shelley A. Leedahl’s beautifully crafted fifth collection of poetry, the decades “dissolve / as mysteriously as mist” as Leedahl describes a life spent untethered to person or place and the loneliness that accompanies it. Friends give you all the important details, and so does Go: the messiness of lovers, the grief of losing a parent, the seemingly insignificant significance of gladiolus, salmonberries, and bald eagles. Go is open and honest in a way I’ve rarely experienced in a collection of poems. And I appreciate that Leedahl doesn’t sugar-coat or romanticize loneliness: “I may forever come home / to an empty house […] me with my pathetic need / to hold another warm hand, / to be whispered to across a pillow.” She acknowledges her desire for companionship, and I find it a refreshing confession. Keeping an “[e]ar to the pane,” Leedahl uses windows as a clever literary device with which to reflect on her past. “I…

Shimmers of Light
Thistledown Press / 26 July 2022

Shimmers of Light: New and Selected Poemsby Robert CurriePublished by Thistledown PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-218-8 Multi-genre Moose Jaw writer Robert Currie has been an integral contributor to the Saskatchewan literary scene for as far back as I can remember, and I’ve been reading – and enjoying – his poetry and stories across the decades. Currie’s also worked hard behind the scenes as an educator, Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild board member, and founding board member of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words. He’s also headed the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. In short, Currie’s earned his Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. I’m so pleased that Thistledown Press has released a “Best Of” collection of Currie’s poems. Shimmers of Light: New and Selected Poems is an attractive highlight reel that begins with a glowing essay by poetry veteran Lorna Crozier. She lauds Currie for position[ing] his poems in the local” and “find[ing] a way to rhapsodize the prairies without ignoring its starkness, its closeness to elemental things, and the long, long months of cold.” Nine sections are dedicated to previous poetry collections (including chapbooks), and New Poems – what I’m especially interested in – begin on page 211…

Baba Sophie’s Ukrainian Cookbook
Millenium Marketing / 22 June 2022

Baba Sophie’s Ukrainian CookbookWritten by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Wendy SiemensPublished by Millennium MarketingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9781777371333 I’m no great wonder in the kitchen– if I am cooking, I usually turn to the internet for recipes. Recently, however, I’ve started buying cookbooks. Two reasons for this: firstly, each time I click on a recipe online, I have to wade through paragraphs of unnecessary text (i.e. “My uncle Bob just loves these blackberry muffins”) before the author even gets to the ingredients; and secondly, I just love actual books, and seeing the recipe on a printed page – often beside a photograph of whatever I’m attempting to make – feels like the right tact. Thus, I was duly pleased when Marion Mutala’s latest book arrived in my mailbox because this time, the prolific and award-winning Saskatchewan writer has penned Baba Sophie’s Ukrainian Cookbook. I’ve previously reviewed Mutala’s excellent children’s books and poetry, and I know that from the words to the design, production to the print, this would be a quality book and downright practical too (and I need all the help I can get). The Sophie of the title is Mutala’s mother, Sophie Marie (née Dubyk) Mutala…

Shoot Out
Wood Dragon Books / 25 May 2022

Shoot Out (Jessie Mac Hockey Series)by Maureen UlrichPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$18.99 ISBN 9-781989-078648 In 2009 I reviewed Maureen Ulrich’s YA novel Power Plays—the first title in her Jessie Mac Hockey Series—and all these years later it’s been a pleasure to read her fourth and final book in this action-packed series. As with the earlier books, Shoot Out concerns hockey: 14-year-old protagonist Courtney’s debut with a U15 boys’ team (Moose) in Estevan, and her 19-year-old sister Jessie’s second season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s team in Saskatoon. Ulrich’s successfully “passes” the spotlight back and forth between these two athletic characters: the siblings’ narratives alternate throughout this adeptly-written novel. Interestingly, Ulrich’s melded real-life Huskie hockey players and experiences–based on the schedule and statistics of the 2013-2014 women’s team, for which her daughter played—with fictional ones, and it’s a win-win. There’s plenty to admire, from the crisp writing to the personal growth of the McIntyre girls, who have much more to navigate than hockey ice. Romance simmers on the back burner for both gals, and there are mercurial friendships, family dynamics, educational upsets, and injuries to attend to. The major conflicts, however, are how young Courtney…

Race to Finish
Millenium Marketing / 25 March 2022

Race to Finishby Marion MutalaPublished by Millennium MarketingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781777-371319 Marion Mutala is a literary machine, with sixteen published books and more on the way. I’ve previously reviewed two of her children’s books—Grateful and the 175-page, multi-story achievement, Baba’s Babushka. The Saskatchewan writer’s latest title, Race to Finish, is a poetry collection, dedicated to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG); the First Nations children buried in unmarked, residential school graves across Canada; and the Black Lives Matter movement. It begins with a foreword by artist Kevin L. Peeace, who relays the experience of presenting in an elementary school and being asked by a young student: “What was it like being at the residential school?” Peeace also provided the compelling black and white cover drawing of a bisected face: one half representing the bricks and tears of the residential school experience, the other representative of his peoples’ connection to the land and familial love—at least that’s my interpretation. Mutala’s poems champion racial equality, gratitude, positivity, and God, as well as personal experience, ie: “the old wooden cookstove on the/farm when I was a child” (from “Reminds Me”). Not every poem is rosy, however. In…

Blue Moon, Red Herring
JackPine Press / 25 March 2022

Blue Moon, Red Herringby Angeline SchellenbergPublished by JackPine PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$30.00 ISBN 978-1-927035-39-9 Clever, layered, original, fun. These words leap to mind after reading Winnipeg poet Angeline Schellenberg’s colourful limited-edition chapbook—bound to resemble a paint swatch—Blue Moon, Red Herring. Each of the twenty-five prose poems in this 2019 collection were inspired by a colour, and the colours themselves appear where a Contents page normally would. No need for titles when the paint-chip colours do the work, and each poem’s colour-matched with its sample. What results is candy—for the eye and the mind. Schellenberg employs a kind of controlled stream-of-consciousness in these delightful and deceptively simple poems, but don’t be fooled: much research went into this. My best analogy: microwaved popcorn. The poet’s hue-inspired thoughts seem to pop around, but they stay “in the bag” of her theme, and each poem’s written in a single controlled paragraph. Colours aside, Schellenberg’s myriad references are gleaned from art, literature, science, nature, religion, history, philosophy, pop culture, advertising slogans, cliché’s and personal experience, and this rich gallery of inspirations makes for genius mélanges. In “Magenta” she writes: “like soul mates and democracy, magenta exists only in your mind”. We also get a…

Poetry and Lyrics of Jay Semko, The
Wood Dragon Books / 25 March 2022

The Poetry & Lyrics of Jay Semkoby Jay SemkoPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9-781989-078631 “She ain’t pretty she just looks that way.” If you’re a Canadian of a certain age, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize that lyric from the song “She Ain’t Pretty” by The Northern Pikes, a Saskatchewan-based band that rose to popularity in the 1980s and still records. The Pikes’ bassist and a vocalist, Jay Semko, also penned many of the band’s songs, and now he’s released a book that’s “a mixture of song lyrics and ‘stand alone’ poems written over a 25-year period”. The Poetry & Lyrics of Jay Semko begins with the artist’s abbreviated autobiography. Jay Semko was bullied as a grade-accelerated child in rural Saskatchewan; became passionate about learning guitar and writing songs in his teens; and enjoyed career success both with The Northern Pikes and as a solo artist (ten albums plus music composition for film and television). We also meet the Jay Semko who is “a recovering addict … living with Bipolar Disorder”. Sharing his experience “helps [him] immensely, and is crucial to [his] own personal recovery”. “Write what you know” is a common literary adage and…

Table for Four
JackPine Press / 18 January 2022

Table for Fourby Eccentric Crops (Colin Smith, Jennifer Still, Steven Ross Smith, Ted Landrum)Published by JackPine PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$30.00 ISBN 9781927035405 JackPine Press has been challenging traditional ideas re: what constitutes a book since the press’s inception, and with Table for Four, written by the four-poet collaborative Eccentric Crops—Colin Smith, Jennifer Still, Steven Ross Smith, and Ted Landrum—JackPine once again reimagines “book” and gives us an imaginative, multi-media chapbook, about the size of a bread and butter plate. Fittingly, this tasteful chapbook features a red coaster on the front cover and comes with a large red and white checked napkin folded inside a back flap that’s held in place with sturdy toothpicks. Also included: concrete poems, drawings, and a mostly black image with white pinpoints, titled “napkin braille”. Different? Indeed! Welcome to JackPine Press. This collaborative project’s interesting on numerous levels. Firstly, contributor Jennifer Still, from Winnipeg, co-founded JackPine Press in 2002, and in her own work she “[explores] the intersections of language and material forms”. Both Still and Saskatoon’s Steven Ross Smith have worked with sound poetry, and both also publish with traditional publishers. Poet Colin Smith, in Winnipeg, was previously “strongly allied to the Kootenay school…

kireji
JackPine Press / 18 January 2022

kireji: partial portraits & biofictionsby christian favreauPublished by JackPine PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$30.00 ISBN 9781927035436 I have a special interest in reviewing “first” books, in part because it’s been thirty-one years since my own first book was published, and though I’ve followed up with another dozen titles, I still meet folks who claim they liked my first book best. Today I read Montreal writer christian favreau’s first book. Kireji: partial portraits & biofictions is an attractive, hand-sewn chapbook with a cover image of a bird. The book contains nine free verse poems, a business card-sized note to “Please be gentle while handling,” and four actual leaves. Leaves? Now that’s a new one for me, but JackPine Press is all about originality, and favreau’s work definitely fits the press’s mandate to “publish chapbooks whose form and content are both artistically integrated and unique”. What did I find? Firstly, like fellow Canadian poet bpNichol—whom favreau quotes in the opening poem, which is comprised solely of three epigraphs—this new poet also sometimes eschews punctuation. In his second poem, “the finch,” he writes “Id dreamt/Id screamed/all the while unheard,” and he includes a measure of treble clef notes, perhaps to emulate the finch’s…

Stories from the Churchill
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 22 December 2021

Stories from the ChurchillWritten by Ric Driediger, with Illustrations by Paul MasonPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-781988-783727 Ric Driediger’s positively reverent when he writes about the beauty and challenges inherent in canoeing Saskatchewan’s vast northern waterways. The owner/operator of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, SK may already be known to readers—and fellow canoeists—through his first book, Paddling Northern Saskatchewan: A Guide to 80 Canoe Routes. Now this knowledgeable paddler has penned Stories from the Churchill, and he describes it as “the book [he] wanted to write” whereas the earlier book was the one he “needed” to write. There’s a difference. What comes through the page is that Driediger’s doing exactly what he was meant to, both professionally and personally, and he knows just how fortunate he is. Even if you never intend to canoe across a morning-calm lake, brave big-lake wind and river rapids, portage through “swampy muskeg,” lose yourself in the boreal wilderness, “go solo” (“a spiritual experience”), or winter camp, this book will inform and entertain you. It’s well-written in a conversational tone, and includes anecdotes from Driediger’s own adventures and stories from his clients’ and staff’s experiences, too. Driediger’s a…

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