Yesterday I completed what I promised to do when I applied for and got a Manitoba Arts Council grant last fall – and only one day beyond the five months (December through April) I’d projected! What I promised was a “near final draft” of [tentative name], a novel in which [one sentence description]. It exists now, a manuscript of some 114,000 words, and needs a rest. As do I, to take some distance so I can see what “final” may involve, and to gather energy for the steps beyond that, which include others deciding what I’ve got and if it’s any good. In the meanwhile, I’m deeply grateful to MAC for the financial support and affirmation, and for the powerful motivation that external expectation provides!
The month of May, then, and perhaps into the summer, I’ll pause from that project to catch up on other things, such as dusting and this blog! Writing will remain on the brain, however, as I attend the Manitoba Writers Guild celebration of 30 years symposium next week, and May 24-27, The Writers Union of Canada annual meeting and workshops in Vancouver. On May 12, I’ll have the privilege of reading with acclaimed poet J.R. Léveillé at Speaking Volumes, a benefit for Prairie Fire. (If you live in Manitoba, please consider yourself invited to attend both the symposium and benefit; see the links for details.)
In the weeks just past, I’ve also been celebrating finished books – by others! The Manitoba Book Awards happened Saturday, April 28. I couldn’t help reminiscing about the same event a year ago, the held-breath of waiting as nominees are listed, the envelope opened, and the gasp and excitement of hearing my name. I was much calmer this year, with nothing in the running, but still, it’s the kind of gala event that generates good tension and lots of fun, and this year was no exception. Warm congratulations to all the nominees and winners, among whom I want to mention in particular Miriam Rudolph, winner of the Best Illustrated Book of the Year Award for David’s Trip to Paraguay (CMU Press), a children’s book (you can read about it and view more of her delightfully evocative work here), and Sue Sorensen, winner of the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book for A Large Harmonium (Coteau Books), which the jurors called “a funny, intelligent, touching book” (and I agree).
And last, but far from least, friend Sarah Klassen launched her ninth book (her seventh of poetry), Monstrance, published by Turnstone Press, on April 18. Monstrance? Yes, I wondered too, and the poem in the collection by that name explains, in the context of an exhibit of church treasure in Vilnius, that it’s “a vessel in which the consecrated host / is exposed to receive the veneration / of the faithful.” She writes:
the tourist searches niches for a mustard seed of faith,
the fist-sized cup of a thumping heart for vestiges
of consecration, a bubbling up, a slender
sacrifice of praise.
The tourist/poet searches, yes, longs to touch the objects on display, longing for what’s lost. The exhibit closes for the day.
With empty hands,
you step into the empty street and breathe the evening in.
Shafts of light fall on the fountain, on tulips, beds of rue.
Geraniums on the boulevard bloom bright as blood.
I’m very much looking forward to working my way through Monstrance, a poem or two a day, I think, to read what Sarah opens her hands to receive and then offers in the monstrance of her words.