Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kim Echlin - The Disappeared

This post digresses back to the Writersfest which I attended in Kingston, Ontario in September of this year. Kim Echlin was an author there that caught my attention. It was during an On Stage event called ‘Women Without Borders’ where I heard Kim read from The Disappeared which was, at that time, long listed for the Giller. It was announced on October 6 of this year that Kim Echlin’s book made the shortlist for the 2009 Giller Prize.

The Disappeared is the current book that graces the top of the pile beside my bed each night. It is a love story between a young Canadian girl, Anne, and her slightly older Cambodian lover, Serey set during the Cambodian genocide under The Pol Pot Regime. They met in a café in Old Montreal, had an immediate and intense love affair and moved in together. However, as soon as the Cambodian borders opened, Serey was compelled to seek out his family there. He returns to Cambodia promising to be in touch as soon as possible. Many years go by and many letters have been written by Anne, but she hears nothing from Serey. Eventually she travels to Cambodia in search of her long lost love.

The language in this book is romantic, contains beautiful phrases and seamlessly flows from English to French, from Latin to Khmer. The chapters in this book are confined and epigrammatic in nature which perfectly parallels the settings described such as crowded bars, small bedrooms and inside rickshaws. It is told using both narrative and poetic writing.

I have read some mixed reviews about this book. The Quill and Quire’s Steven W. Beattie does begin admirably with “Great love stories are inseparable from tragedy.” Unfortunately, he notes that “the language is merely clichéd…it employs overheated metaphor to communicate ineffable desire”

But for the most part the book is receiving positive reviews like the one printed in The National Post by playwright and editor Frank Moher who says “The Disappeared is an expert novel, which manages to penetrate to the aching core of the Cambodian tragedy.”

All in all, I think this is a fantastic piece of love told through historical fiction, and Kim Echlin is definitely a Canadian author to watch for and certainly read.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Al Purdy A-Frame Project


"So we built a house, my wife and I

our house at a backwater puddle of a lake

near Ameliasburg, Ont."

Al Purdy In Search of Owen Roblin


Al Purdy is arguably one of the most important Canadian poets of our time. Al was born in Wooler, Ontario in 1918, raised in Trenton, and educated at Albert College in Belleville. At a young age, he headed west for B.C. and this was to be just the beginning of a lifetime of much travelling throughout Canada which is reflected in his writing. Many of his poems read like entries in a diary and the history that is told within is immeasurable. Al and wife Eurithe built the Purdy A-Frame house in Ameliasburgh, Ontario which would serve as a meeting place for hundreds of writers over many years. The whole edifice, Al observed, ‘bent a little in the wind and dreamt of the trees it came from.’

The list of people who travelled to the A-frame includes Margaret Atwood, Earle Birney, George Bowering, Lynn Crosbie, Dennis Lee, Steven Heighton, Patrick Lane, Lorna Crozier, Margaret Laurence, Jack McClelland, John Newlove, Anna Porter, Elizabeth Smart, Michael Ondaatje and the list goes on and on.

A foundation has been developed to save the A-Frame for the purposes of developing a retreat for Canadian writers. The Writer - In- Residence program was designed by David Helwig, Steven Heighton, Karen Solie and Rob Budde.

This coming Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 10am - 1pm there will be a fundraising auction at the Al Purdy library in Ameliasburgh with the proceeds going to the A- Frame Trust Project. As Jean Baird noted in her announcement about the event “The auction will include small items, sentimental trinkets and household items /furnishings from the A-Frame as used/purchased by Al, Eurithe Purdy and the many literary visitors to the cottage. There are some volumes of old books and magazines that will be included in the auction.”

At this close of summer, beginning of fall, come join us in a one-of-a-kind fundraiser. It promises to leave you Naked With Summer in Your Mouth.

The Al Purdy Library, Ameliasburgh, County Rd #19 in the village of Ameliasburgh. Continue through village to STOP SIGN and turn immediately left on Whitney Rd.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Autumn’s Splendour

Running the waterfront trail along the bay in Belleville, I stopped briefly to take in the view. My eyes were drawn to the new colours emerging on the leaves of the large oak trees, which then drew my gaze to the sun and the reflection it created off of the harbor, which finally drew my gaze to the Bay Bridge, that conduit that connects Quinte to The County. Many boats were out on The Bay this day taking advantage of these last few days of summer. This reminded me that fall, my favourite time of year, is here.

Many years ago, I moved out to British Columbia where I lived on the coast for 14 years. It is a beautiful part of our country, the ocean is awe-inspiring, the mountains are overwhelming and the people are generously friendly. All that was missing for me was the seasons. Typically, it felt like spring all year round. When planning a visit ‘home’ to Ontario, I generally booked a flight at the end of summer so I could catch some of the brilliant fall weather.

During one of my visits home, I met for lunch with an art teacher of mine that I had managed to keep in touch with over the years. He asked me what I missed about Ontario and I told him fall. I missed the beautiful change in colour that Ontario experiences, the cool crisp air and walking in the countryside crunching fall leaves under foot. Shortly after my return to B.C., I received a package in the mail from this teacher. It was full of colourful dry fall leaves which I immediately took outside, dispersed on the ground and proceeded to step on one-by-one enjoying that familiar missed crunching sound.

A few years ago, I returned to make Ontario my home again. Each year since my return, during the end of summer and beginning of fall, my excitement returns and is stronger than ever. My appreciation for fall is deeper. The feeling is similar to the stomach rolling excitement you have as a child on those few days just before the new school year begins.
Fall is full of comfort for me. It is that gorgeous time of year when I leave a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove, pull on my favourite wool sweater and ready myself for an afternoon hike, excitedly anticipating the colourful changing scenery. Upon stepping out, I breathe deep enjoying the crisp feel to the air known only to this time of year; that sweet smell of rain still trapped within the leaves on the ground. Time appears to slow as I enjoy an afternoon walk, taking in nature busying itself with winter preparations; nuts are littering the ground, squirrels are building a cache of supplies, trees are changing their foliage to rich orange, copper, gold and glowing shades of rust. Autumn’s splendour.

Returning home, I enjoy my well deserved harvest supper. Afterwards, I help myself to a hot cup of cider, grab my book and settle in by the fire for a night of cozy reading. My Great Aunt Emma used to request I read to her when her eyes began to fail. Each time I visited her school books from her days at the Plainfield single room school house would be out. One of the books stood out as special, worn and well used; it was the Ontario Readers Second Book in which she would request I turn to the poem September by Helen Hunt Jackson. Although she could recite this poem word for word all these many years later, she enjoyed hearing it aloud. I would start with the first line “The golden rod is yellow”, and she would join in for the rest. This stanza was most treasured;

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.


Take comfort in this fall.

Janet Jarrell

Article published in County and Quinte Living

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Karen Solie

Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where she grew up on the family farm. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario, of which she supposed jokingly, “You will love Toronto more if you can get out of it.” Her bio has an interesting work history; it states she worked as a farm hand, an espresso jerk, a groundskeeper, a newspaper reporter/photographer, an academic research assistant, and an English teacher. Karen has steadily become one of the key players in Canadian literary academia. In 2007 she was one of the judges for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

My post ‘Poetry Brigade’ scribbling about Karen at the Kingston Writersfest has her as a poet that stood up and stood out at her reading. She was wonderful to listen to, her work was original on many levels and she really connected with the audience.

During an open discussion with the other poets there, including Lorna Crozier (the moderator), Kevin Connolly and David O’Meara, she recalled a quote that she repeated to us affectionately (she could not source it and it is paraphrased) ‘If I knew where poems came from, I would go there.’ It was most appropriate and well received.

As Wordfest describes Karen’s most recent writing - “Her newest book of poetry, Pigeon, delves into the intersection of technology and the environment through explorations of violence, bad luck, fate, creeping catastrophe, love and danger.”

Click here to read Karen Solie’s Tractor