Sunday, October 2, 2016

Thank you to the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate

Thank you to Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Gerald Hill for the great reading in Creighton Community School on the occasion of Culture Days! 


Thank you to him as well for the wonderful, well-attended workshop in Flin Flon. Thank you to the audience and the workshop participants. Thank you to the Town of Creighton and Creighton Community School for partnering with Ore Samples to bring the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate to our community for Culture Days. Thank you to Channa Senyk of Creighton Recreation for organizing the event and for being so great to work with. Thank you to all the sponsors for making this special occasion possible.



Friday, September 16, 2016

Driving That Line: Ore interviews visiting author Gerald Hill

Ore Samples aims to bring some of Canada’s finest, critically-acclaimed professional writers north to connect with local readers, local literary, visual and performing artists, and anyone engaged with and invested in the vibrant local arts scene. The 2016-17 lineup is stellar.

On Saturday, October 1, we’ll welcome Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Gerald Hill to our community. The Town of Creighton, Creighton Community School, and Ore Samples Writers Series worked in cooperation to bring him here through the Poet Laureate program. He’s been invited to give a presentation and reading at the Creighton Community School Library at 2 pm on the occasion of Culture Days. He will also offer a writing workshop titled “Driving That Line” in the Seniors’ Room at the Flin Flon Community Hall from 4:30-5:30 pm.

A two-time winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry, Gerald Hill published his sixth collection, Hillsdale Book, with NeWest Press and A Round for Fifty Years: A History of Regina's Globe Theatre with Coteau Books, both in 2015. In the fall of 2015 he was Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence at Fool's Paradise, on the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto. He lives and writes in Regina.

Gerald Hill took the time to entertain a few questions ahead of his visit. Conversation starters, if you will.

Ore:
You are entering Hillsdale, a southern suburb of Regina.” The “Foreword” of Hillsdale Book goes on to provide a brief look at your history with the place and serves as a kind of map by which to read the book. In the “Acknowledgements” at the end you address our reading experience: “Readers are advised to take caution, if they don’t mind, with assumptions about the truth of names, events or locations they meet here. This is a work of fact made of fiction and fiction made of fact.” What role does imagination play in the compilation of research, archival documents, anecdotes, stories, and photographs, and in the eventual distillation of the place and its particular truths?

Gerald Hill:
If we accept that imagination is an act of language, then it’s everything. Even facts when set in language, as they cannot help but be, are subject to it. In fact, all of the tasks named in the question go better when aligned somehow with some framework, some lead, some question that has been imagined. At the crossroads of possible routes, like all crossroads bedevilled by an other-seeking spirit, imagination shines.

However, that may not be quite what you mean by the term. I’m willing to make up names (a private joke, for my own amusement, is to use friends’ names, or parodies of their names, in my poems) or events or locations. Such making up doesn’t come at the cost of truth. The truth always needs imagining.
 
Ore:
The late Robert Kroetsch is an important figure in Canadian literature and his influence on your work is evident. In your book The Man from Saskatchewan, published in 2001, there’s a section titled “Poems for that Stone Hammer (for Robert Kroetsch)”. In Hillsdale Book, published in 2015, the “Kroetsch Park: A Subdivision” section opens with a quote by Robert Kroetsch. In the poem “Paterson in Kroetsch Park” that follows, the speaker questions Kroetsch “further on the subject of / the docu-autogeography.” Can you tell us what “docu-autogeography” means and how it applies to your writing process?  

Gerald Hill:
It’s a gag term. But about ten years ago when I began to make Hillsdale Book, I called what I was doing autogeography—the reckoning of self (auto) in place (geo) in writing (graph). I asked a geography prof I know if he’d ever heard of the term and he said no. For a while, Hillsdale, an Auto-geography was the title of the book (then I labelled the file “Hillsdale book” and kept the label so long it turned into the title of the dang book).

I evoke Kroetsch along these lines because that’s what he did: run with geography (and history and nation and body) as he ran with self. And with the extract you quoted I was thinking of all kinds of work out there, in all kinds of artistic disciplines, that involves the artist offering a version of self-in-place. My book names several of these works from the literary side that inspired me.

Finally, to address your question more directly, I would say that everything I do is more or less documentary, more or less auto, more or less placed. I admit it! I don’t see it as a limit. I see it as all I can do as an artist.

Ore:
Sister 2 is hosting Sorority initiation, Stigma Lamborghini Chai.
She’s the President. We’re told not to set foot downstairs.
“Especially you” [to me]. “I don’t want any of your comedy routines.

This from “What Sisters Have to Say” in Hillsdale Book is a good place to stop and talk about the role of humour in your work. In Heartwood, your first book, playful titles like “Better Poems and Gardens” and “Hill Sides” lure us into the poems. Together the language play and playful line breaks in your book Getting To Know You create captivating energy pulling us ever closer to the speaker and the place, both physical and psychological, the speaker inhabits: “Rock-a-bye, maybe / I’ll fall asleep out here” says the speaker in “I Dreamed I Fell Asleep” from the “Emma by Rowboat” section and there we, the readers, are bobbing along in a life we recognize. In your two latest books of poetry, 14 Tractors and Hillside Book, you’ve gone further, finding humour in the documents and stories you’ve collected and bringing a version thereof to the page, creating a recognizable community, opening and furthering lines of thought, and deepening the experience of place. How does humour drive the way you process the world around you? Does it lead? Follow? Mislead?

Gerald Hill:
I think language use is inherently funny. Since a word can never be the thing it represents, there is always slippage—that banana peel, some poor sap falling on his/her noggin, it might be.

Besides, a laugh means the laugher has gone somewhere new. We don’t laugh much at connections already made (though many is the time I’ve been woken in the middle of the night by my own chuckles, some stupid thing from twenty years ago). Unless it puts us down, humour opens to surprise, open-ness, play—all of this new. Might come in handy when we get to whatever story we’re telling.

But to answer your question, I’m quoting Carole King: “where you lead, I will follow.” Once I’ve made myself laugh at what I’ve written, only hard labour can get me out of it.

Ore:
“Wind’s a bully and the poets,
like Virgil in Dante’s hell, order it low
in its black boat to wait there till it’s needed.
Poets are lucky to make words
do that sort of thing[…]”

Though published in 2008 long before your tenure as Saskatchewan Poet Laureate began, these lines from a poem called “Just Wind” in your book My Human Comedy can be said to “raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word,” the fourth objective of the Poet Laureate program as posted on the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild website. I’ve copied the objectives here:

  1. To celebrate the spirit of the people and place of Saskatchewan
  2. To raise the profile of writers in Saskatchewan
  3. To elevate writing as a vocation
  4. To raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word
  5. To create a recognized spokesperson for writing in general and poetry in particular who will be a respected participant of festive occasions and official functions in the province
  6. To be a focal point for the expression of Saskatchewan cultures (time, land, people) through the literary arts
It’s fair to say you’ve excelled at every one of these over the course of your career. Do you have any additional objectives in mind as you go about your official duties? 

Gerald Hill:
Here I could re-visit all the terms you’ve raised in your excellent questions. I would like to help re-imagine what the Poet Laureate position can be—more than just what it always was. I’d like to trade places with the Saskatchewanderer program (which runs through Tourism, I think) and be able to roam the province. I’d look for odd stories and see if I could animate communities in literary ways.

This would be about engaging with the local cultures—what people do in their various communities—trying to draw out expressive activities. It would be a mapping, auto-geographies of people where they are in the province.

And I want to play with the position, as in my series of poems that claim nothing but positive effects, from the trivial to the profound, of my becoming poet laureate. As imagined in past years, the position has been a tad ceremonial, which need not, of course, exclude a spot of fun.

I have no illusions about becoming a voice for the advancement of poetry in Saskatchewan. Not enough people pay attention to it. But poetry, like all the arts, can take us to a deeper, more textured experience of being alive where we are. It can both reinforce and transform who we are.




Catch the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate on October 1

The Town of Creighton, Creighton Community School, and Ore are working in cooperation to bring Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Gerald Hill to our community for Culture Days. Please join us.



Thank you to all the sponsors for making this special occasion possible.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The September 15 Ore was brilliant

The September 15 Ore at the Flin Flon Public Library​ was fantastic! Thank you to visiting author Wendy McGrath for a terrific, well-attended workshop. Thank you to Wendy McGrath, Sarah Trevor, Ann Ross and Doug McGregor for their wonderful readings and performances at the event that followed. Thank you to the great audience. Thank you to the community, the sponsors, and the local media for their engagement with the arts and for making great things like this happen. 



Ore Samples Writers Series gratefully acknowledges support from Artists In Communities. Artists in Communities is a joint initiative of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SaskCulture Inc., and is supported by funding provided by the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation. We acknowledge as well the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets. Thank you to our community partners Flin Flon Public Library and Flin Flon Arts Council, and sponsors Hudbay and the Victoria Inn.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Images Inside: Ore interviews visiting author Wendy McGrath

Ore Samples aims to bring some of Canada’s finest, critically-acclaimed professional writers north to connect with local readers, local literary, visual and performing artists, and anyone engaged with and invested in the vibrant local arts scene. The 2016-17 lineup is stellar.


The third of the series, set to take place on September 15 at the Flin Flon Public Library, features visiting author Wendy McGrath.  Wendy McGrath has written three novels and two books of poetry. Her most recent poetry collection is A Revision of Forward (NeWest Press 2015) the culmination of a decade-long collaboration with printmaker Walter Jule. She is currently at work on the final novel in her “Santa Rosa Trilogy” as well as another poetry collection and a collection of essays. 

Wendy McGrath took the time to entertain a few questions ahead of her visit. Conversation starters, if you will.




Ore
Your remarkably long and productive collaboration with internationally renowned printmaker Walter Jule has led to exhibitions and to your latest poetry collection A Revision of Forward. In the Afterword, Jule explains how a statement by you inspired the creation of a new course titled “Word and Image” in the printmaking curriculum at the University of Alberta. I was particularly taken with how he captures the experience of reading your work: “As I became more familiar with McGrath’s writing I was struck by references to memory (cerebral and haptic) of the physical world: particular shapes, colours, smells and an overarching sense of what I can only call the circularity of time, an intuition that past and present can be simultaneous without destroying the temporal sequence of before and after.”  The repetition of “becomes something else” at the end of each stanza of “Sub Terra,” a poem of great subtlety that deals on the surface with a flooding basement, is an outstanding example of the way design and rhythm contribute to this striking effect. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Or let me put the final line of that poem to you: “Wendy, why is it with you everything always becomes something else?”

Wendy McGrath:
I’d describe my creative process as multi-layered. With “A Revision of Forward” the creative process was lengthy. Walter Jule and I started a collaborative poetry-printmaking project some 12 years ago, so those initial poems I wrote inspired by ethereal artist’s proofs on ephemeral but tough Japanese gampi paper, and those first prints have evolved over time and over the collaboration into the eponymous long poem in the collection. Some of the other poems in “A Revision of Forward” have provided Walter with inspiration for additional prints. It’s interesting, too, because Walter has incorporated 3-D elements into some of the prints—so the project seems to have a life of its own. Generally speaking, though, my writing is triggered by a sensory experience, which could be anything, really, and then I might look for connections and links and listen for what I’m being told to do with this experience. The creative process for me is about transformation, transmutation, and transubstantiation—“everything always becomes something else.”

Ore
Compact and complex, your novels bring alive the workings of perception, memory and imagination during the formative years. Partway through Santa Rosa, the five-year-old protagonist (who, we learn earlier, is learning to read and write while navigating her parents’ disintegrating relationship), observes the luncheonette: “Red and white tile floors like teeth or piano keys from a piano and the keys could be any colour she chose. The music would be hers and would taste the colour of the keys. The sound: the colour. Would red keys really make the music sound different? She could taste each letter their sound their music.” In North East she tastes colours a number of times. Intrigued, I looked up synesthesia, thought about sense impression and creative expression, reviewed the normal cognitive development of a child, but none of this explains how to make the sensory experience and thoughts of a five-year-old character believable on the page. Can you give us some insight into how you achieved this?

Wendy McGrath
The narrator in both Santa Rosa and North East is channeling the observations of the child protagonist, so that narrative voice was tricky to maintain. I had to balance the child protagonist’s insightful observations with her lack of understanding of what is actually going on. It wasn’t going to work if the child protagonist was too precocious, too cheeky, too knowing. When I worked on Santa Rosa and North East, I had to be conscious of what a child could actually interpret about what was happening around her and what the reader would then draw from those observations. I scrapped quite a bit of material along the way. The child protagonist can’t offer insight into why something is the way it is or why someone around her is behaving a certain way, but, she can render those observations in a way that allows the reader to be “in the know.” The child protagonist can’t be too aware, it wouldn’t ring true, but, she can have tremendous insight and sensitivity. I tried to posit myself in the time and place of the novels’ protagonist, remembering what it was like to be that age and to know that there is a world around you that you have no way into—physically or psychologically. Christine’s synesthesia does, however, allow her another dimension of cognition—albeit it is very much her own way of interpreting the world around her, herself and, as we see as she grows older, her creative and artistic growth. With Christine’s synesthesia, the reader knows what’s going on but Christine doesn’t have the experience and vocabulary to label it. She simply thinks this is normal and doesn’t attach a definition to these experiences, they simply are. She has no way of knowing that everyone else is not experiencing the world in the same way. I tried other narrative styles for the books, but, having a narrator filter the experiences of the child protagonist created a kind of distance, a filter, the kind of dream-like quality that I wanted where the characters move through the novel like ghosts.


Ore
Set in 1960s Edmonton, Santa Rosa and North East are, like your poems, richly detailed. What attracts you to this time and place, how did you go about the research, and how do you curate the detail? 

Wendy McGrath:
This was the time and place of my childhood and, when I started the Santa Rosa trilogy, I was reflecting on my own family in that time and place in Edmonton. The neighbourhood of Santa Rosa had been absorbed into another community by vote of city council so, just like that, an old working-class neighbourhood disappeared. What did that disappearance mean? I extended that idea to the people that lived in that neighbourhood—their small tragedies, their triumphs, their experiences—where did they go? I imagined them as ghostly presences that exist in another sphere somewhere, so I put them on the page. I try to immerse myself in the time and place I write about: the objects, the products. I visited the Edmonton City Archives, looked at old photographs, and listened to the music of the time. I became the time and place.

Ore:
“It was like she was inside the radio in the car and the songs were inside her body.” This is from a tension-filled passage in North East describing the journey from Edmonton to visit relatives in Saskatchewan. The relationships, the expansion and compression of distance and space, openings and closings, the inside and outside, the real and imagined, the contained and the uncontainable, create an almost unbearable pressure. You were born in Prince Albert and live in Edmonton. How have your writing life and sensibilities been shaped by the places through which you travel?


Wendy McGrath
My family travelled “home” to Saskatchewan from Edmonton a lot when I was a child. We made the trips in different seasons, set-out at different times of the day (or night). Looking back on those journeys, every trip seems unique but then, at the same time, they also blur together—we’d tick off the towns as we passed them every 10 miles and we’d listen to different music on the radio, different announcers and ads. There were trips where my mother read entire books to us: Little Women, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates…the cloistered space of the car was both comforting and disconcerting. We felt safe in the backseat with our blankets and pillows but my parents often seemed to be talking a different language when I listened to them (while pretending to be asleep). There was always excitement when we got ready to go to Saskatchewan, packed up the car and took off. That same sense of excitement—of travelling toward and away from one place to another is still with me no matter where I go now as an adult. Those childhood trips to Saskatchewan showed me that worlds can exist at the same time in different places and it also gave me a real sense of time and distance passing—those long stretches of prairie highway where you seem to drive into the horizon forever.




Workshop with visiting author Wendy McGrath

Join us for a writing workshop with visiting author Wendy McGrath on Thursday, September 15. A great opportunity to learn, add to your resume, and experience something new.



Ore Samples Writers Series gratefully acknowledges support from Artists In Communities. Artists in Communities is a joint initiative of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SaskCulture Inc., and is supported by funding provided by the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation. We acknowledge as well the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets. Thank you to our community partners Flin Flon Public Library and Flin Flon Arts Council, and sponsors Hudbay and the Victoria Inn.


More awesome Ore on September 15

Ore's fall season is shaping up to be an exciting one! Come by the Flin Flon Public Library on Thursday, September 15, 7 pm and have a coffee, cake, and listen to these amazing writers and performers. Free. Everyone welcome.

You're also welcome to take in the free writing workshop "The Images Inside" with visiting author Wendy McGrath from 5:45-6:45 as well. It's a great opportunity to learn, add to your resume, and experience something new.  See above post for details.





Wendy McGrath has written three novels and two books of poetry. Her most recent poetry collection is A Revision of Forward (NeWest Press 2015) the culmination of a decade-long collaboration with printmaker Walter Jule. She is currently at work on the final novel in her “Santa Rosa Trilogy” as well as another poetry collection and a collection of essays. 










Sarah Trevor uses her life in the boreal forest beside Amisk Lake Saskatchewan, and the years leading up to it in Africa, as sources for creations both literary and painterly. Finding each other in the dying time is a memoir inspired by her twenty-year kayak exploration of Amisk Lake which became a meditative exploration of both personal losses and the dramatic death throes of major world empires during her formative years.






Ann Ross and Doug McGregor have been playing music together for 12 years. Doug plays guitar, slide guitar, harmonica, banjo, ukulele, dulcimer, and mandolin. Ann plays bass and kazoo. They play folk, country, blues, sing-a-longs, and standards from the 20th century. They also include songs they have written. They play for all ages, from children to seniors, and perform at the Orange Toad, Northern Lights Manor, the Personal Care Home, and at coffee houses and fundraisers. They also host house concerts featuring touring professional musicians through Home Routes, as well as house concerts featuring local performers through Local Roots.  



Ore Samples Writers Series gratefully acknowledges support from Artists In Communities. Artists in Communities is a joint initiative of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SaskCulture Inc., and is supported by funding provided by the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation. We acknowledge as well the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets. Thank you to our community partners Flin Flon Public Library and Flin Flon Arts Council, and sponsors Hudbay and the Victoria Inn.