Two Poets Come for the Night

Manitoba friends and poets Joanne Epp and Angeline Schellenberg were in B.C. the past week, doing reading events in Abbotsford, Vancouver, and Victoria. H. and I went to hear them Thursday at the Twisted Poets reading and open mic evening, where Angeline was one of the featured readers. The two poets overnighted with us and the next day, before they took the ferry to the Island, we walked on the Boundary Bay dike where lately there have been so many eagles to see, we took a very short tour of Tsawwassen, and we talked writing, of course.

L-r: Angeline Schellenberg, Dora Dueck, Joanne Epp

L-r: Angeline Schellenberg, Dora Dueck, Joanne Epp in Tsawwassen.

I spoke (with admiration) of Joanne’s book Eigenheim earlier, here, and her chapbook, Crossings, here.

Angeline’s brand new book is Tell Them It Was Mozart (Brick Books), and it’s terrific too. It has the feel of memoir, as the poems follow the thread of her experience mothering two children (“the diminutive professor” and “the imaginative child”) on the autism spectrum: anticipation and birth, leading into the challenges of discovery of–and strenuous adaptation to–their unique selves, and ending with a kind of resolution, an awareness of what has been gained, some settling into how it is. It’s an honest book and I resonated with it as a mother, not because my experience has been the same, but because literature is like alchemy: the Very Specific of the writer digs into an ore of truth and emotion from fear to heartbreak to tenderness to joy, thereby turning it into something universal by which the reader is made to see their own Very Specific too.

Angeline writes in a variety of forms. She likes word play, but also the simple scene with a poignant image. Such as, “the monarch/ on wind-whipped willow boughs, tugging/ at our ache with each wingbeat” (from Waving). tell-them-it-was-mozart-web-300x450She’s tender: “There is my son./ His soft I don’t know. The book/ between us. His head almost/ touching mine on the pillow” (from Beyond Words). And she’s justifiably feisty: “I won’t repeat/ how tired I am of hearing/ that vegan cheese will / change everything” (from Anything Besides).”

Definitely recommended.

Good advice from the kids

The palm trees down the middle of this small city’s main street still seem surreal to me. It’s not California, but Tsawwassen, north of the 49th parallel but just barely, tucked into the southwestern corner of the B.C. coastline, and somehow, in spite of our visits to our son and his family over the years, I’d forgotten about the palms. And now I’m walking by them nearly every day and they’re disturbing my notions of Canada. The cold north and all that. img_5900

It’s not a bad adjustment, I don’t mean that, just an adjustment. We’re here and more or less moved in, books unpacked, numerous trips to IKEA behind us, some pictures hung. Car insurance and driver’s licences and healthcare applications and internet installation are done and when I complained to our son about one of these procedures, which managed because of a system error to last several hours, he reminded me that these are things we only have to do once. Right. Continue reading


Last week we spent a couple of days in the Waterloo area with my brother, street photographer Al Doerksen, and sister-in-law, artist Agatha Doerksen. First up was the opening of Agatha’s stunning new show, “Off the Wall,” at the Red Brick Cafe in Guelph. The first pieces in this series were inspired by layers of peeling posters in downtown Toronto. Agatha gathers material life wherever she finds it–lists, wallpaper, bits of text, buttons, old photos, and much more–which she then maps and collages in new arrangements. These “remnants and discards” of daily life are variously re-layered, re-configured, revealed, perhaps covered again, perhaps painted upon, but thus preserved. The result is sometimes whimsical but more often–to my view–boldly provocative, and deep. Here’s “A Single Leaf,” one of my favourites in the show. If you live in the Guelph area, do stop by to view the exhibit, or see more of her work at the Art by Agatha page on Facebook.13645115_830262967108427_4770586795850250156_n


The opening itself had a layer of unexpected drama when one of the largest pieces was stolen the day before the opening. CBC told the story.

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