Guest Blogs

Fragments, by Mark Winston

Pollination By Louise Docker, CC BY 2.0,

Lovely to be mentioned in an essay by my good friend Mark Winston (author of the 2015 Governor-General award-winning Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive and my collaborator on the Honey, Hives and Poetry Project). On bees, science, and writing:

…It’s a thing of beauty, this multi-fragment queen pheromone, an elixir of elegant function, reminiscent of the elusive perfection captured in the best poetry, where snippets of language weave together into a whole much more compelling than its individual parts.

I imagine writing poetry is like that, a mental image of Renee at work in her writing laboratory, testing combinations of words together, rejecting innumerable linguistic dead ends until the etymological data tell her the poem is done.”

Read the essay here

Guest Blogs, Surrey Poet Laureate

Captivating the Imagination – The League of Canadian Poets

The fourth in a series of blog posts I’m doing for The League of Canadian Poets, on the experience of being Surrey’s Poet Laureate:

This first day of March and outside my office window, intimation of blossom, a set of cherry trees, the park below. Yes, it’s raining, again, in torrents—and I’m inside working on volume two of thecanadaproject, a long poem, The Heart of The Journey Bears All Patterns, commonly known as Thot-j-Bap, excerpts of which will appear in chapbooks this spring, published by two micro-presses I admire: Nous-Zot (U.S.) and above/ground (Ottawa).  I’m deep into my manuscript, first begun in 2008 and still continuing, a massive journey poem, with a vast amalgam of characters. Nothing like torrential rain to help seed the work inside—”

Read the rest here

Guest Blogs, Surrey Poet Laureate

To travel the city, listening – The League of Canadian Poets

The second in a series of blog posts for The League of Canadian Poets, on the experience of being Surrey’s Poet Laureate:

…I’m late and sit at the back of a large room where up at the front, M.G. Vassanji delivers his address. He’s won two Giller prizes, the Governor General’s Prize for non-fiction and a Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts, so his soft-spoken examination of resistance to main stream “pressure” to conform grabs my interest. Vassanji asks a question that animates my life-long work: “what do we mean by Canadian?” He explores potential linkages between “The Other” in Canadian literature and suburbia, and shares thoughts on how “mainstream/establishment” ideas of quality in literature can be seen in juxtaposition to what might be thought of as “margin/al” and I’m reminded of that old Italian political slogan, the margins are at the centre…”

Read the rest here

Guest Blogs, Surrey Poet Laureate

Being Laureate – A Guest Post for The League of Canadian Poets

Happy to be contributing a series of blog posts to The League of Canadian Poets on the experience of being Surrey’s Poet Laureate:

My official task will be to serve as a ‘kind of ambassador for the City of Surrey while advocating for literacy and the literary arts’, and my passion is to imbue that role with a poet’s obsession: place, language, longing; how to connect youth to seniors, settled communities and cultures to new arrivals. Might poetry find connections in this city of contrasts—farming land, vast tracts of green, fens and the Fraser river juxtaposed against high rises, housing developments, beautiful new architecture (Surrey City Centre Library, my ‘office hours’ base), rambling shacks and San Francisco style bungalows, sophisticated cultural offerings (the Surrey Art Centre is spectacular), stunning South Surrey vistas of ocean and mountains, and yes, long lines of strip malls, of highways. Might poetry find connections in every twist and turn of this city, where I sense—emanating—a call: come find us!”

Read the post here

I’ll be part of  “Voicing the City In/verse: reading Surrey and the Super Suburb,” with over 15 poets, novelists and spoken word artists. The two-day event (starting today) will include a literary cabaret at a North Surrey pizzeria and a symposium at the Gallery, with keynote speaker M.G. Vassanji. Looking forward to seeing you there!




Guest Blogs

Tartan Crush, A Guest Blog by Laurie Anderson

My colleague and friend, Dr. Laurie Anderson,  writes this essay for thecanadaproject regarding Scotland’s vote in the recent UK elections:

“For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

– From The Declaration of Arbroath 1320

Flag1The power shift that took place in Scottish politics last week was – insert your favourite superlative – seismic, epochal, tectonic, monumental, unprecedented. It was all of these things and more. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) – once dismissed as a fringe party for the heather-rooted naïve and nostalgic – ended the hegemony of the Scottish Labour Party, virtually wiping them off the electoral map. More people voted for the SNP than any party in the history of Scottish elections. The extent of the landslide apparently surprised even the most ambitious nationalists. So, what’s this all about?

Well, from my perch far removed, at least three things, I think. Continue reading “Tartan Crush, A Guest Blog by Laurie Anderson”

Guest Blogs

Scots Wha Hae! Guest Essay by Laurie Anderson

piper's frith

As a long removed ex-pat Scot, I’m some distance physically and otherwise from the tension surrounding yesterday’s independence vote in Scotland.  Or so I thought. It seems you can take the wee boy out of the heather but…you get the idea. I found myself drawn into the debate as voting day approached, and stared at my laptop screen last night until the decision was confirmed.  The fact that the vote split was exactly what I had predicted, 55/45 for the Nos, was little comfort given the outcome.  Since a visit to Edinburgh University in August where I became more familiar with the pros and cons of Scottish independence, I gradually moved towards a cautious Yes position. I came round to the viewpoint that a vote for Yes was a vote for hope, aspiration and courage (Scots wha hae!).  But it was not all about emotions and nostalgic refuge.  To the extent that any of the predictions about Scotland’s capacity to function successfully on its own were reliable, the Yes side built a cogent case for economic, cultural, socially and environmentally progressive autonomy.  This was not just about how much oil was really left in the North Sea, but also about a more compassionate society with enlightened immigration and carbon neutral energy policies. 

But the people have spoken, as they say, and in the short term there will be wounds to heal for some and sighs of relief for others. Once the dust settles, I hope people can see this historic event for all its positive attributes. To begin with, Scotland – and Wales, Northern Ireland and possibly parts of England – will be given greater devolved powers over everything from taxation to housing authority (and should Westminster renege on their eleventh hour promises, they’ll be inviting secessionist uprisings in more places than Scotland).  Increased responsiveness to the needs of local communities – what’s not to like about that?

This was also a victory for civil democracy. Millions of people passionately debating the future of their country without bloodshed or brutality – how civil is that? And the turn out – 85% of eligible voters exercised their franchise, a staggering proportion Canadian elections can only dream about. The referendum animated millions of people, and engaged more citizens in the democratic process than ever before, including hundreds of thousands of young people whose appetite for political activism has just been whetted. The government of the day is being held more accountable, citizens openly expressed their views, and the body politic is more robust and responsive as a result.  Leaving aside the short term disappointment and dashed hopes of the day, ultimately everyone won in the Scottish referendum. 

Laurie Anderson

(note from Renee: photo courtesy The Piper’s Frith, Newfoundland, where I studied in 2011.)