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.

Havel: A Life, and more

Just in from a bike ride, unaccustomed thighs aching. A lovely morning, the green unfurling at last. I hadn’t intended to wait until (visible) spring to show up at my blog again, but that’s how it turned out, and I was thinking about that too while I pedalled, and about some reading experiences I’d like to share.

Since my daughter and I are planning a trip to the Czech Republic, I enjoyed Havel: A Life by Michael Zantovsky, a new biography of Vaclav Havel. I was alerted to it by Michael Ignatieff’s fine summary of the man and book in The Atlantic. A biography has to succeed on two levels for me: the subject must be compelling and the life well written. This one ranks high on both counts. Zantovsky was a friend and colleague; his work is affectionate and insightful but never hagiographical. The poet/playwright/philosopher turned president was as flawed as he was noble; he helmed the Velvet Revolution, but could not prevent the breakup of Czechoslovakia. He was a man of great vision who fussed about details like office curtains. Most astonishing–and inspiring–to me was Havel’s ongoing introspection, which power couldn’t shake out of him. “Being in power,” he said, in fact, “makes me permanently suspicious of myself.” Continue reading