Tag Archives: Laurie D Graham

A Big Brick on the Foundation of Some sort of Enlightenment | Mention of Brick: A Literary Journal’s 100th Edition

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We get bombarded by a flurry of messages at us every day. Most of it is some sort of marketing or attempt sway our thoughts into acting or believing a certain way. It is no wonder that we are totally exhausted by the time we are exhausted trying to filter out what is important and what is garbage to feed our minds with.  But recently I came home to something in my mail that I knew that was going to truly enlightening and engage my mind. And something that I was eagerly awaiting for months now. Yes, my copy of Brick: A Literary Journal – Number 100 came to my doorstep.

Page 9  – Notes from Our Publishers (et al.) Stan Dragland

Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing to be so little reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and fairly judge them

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Jean McKay and I kept on with Brick until issue 24. We had fun pasting up the magazine, illustrating the essays with pictures and design elements cut out of old books and magazines. I still have a fondness for the strange look of those first twenty-four Bricks. Non-designer that I am, why wouldn’t I? But the writing was always good. We insisted on that. Number 25 was edited by Linda Spalding. Under her, and then a series of other fine editors, Brick evolved into the eclectic international literary magazine it now is – properly designed! A review section graces recent issues. Back to the roots.

I never cared to love works of art and leave it at that. Like so many of the writers I read in Brick, I want love carried into criticism. I believe Rilke would be okay with that, and I`m glad Brick has printed his words in every number for forty years.

It is somehow comforting for me to learn from this edition that while I was learning my ABCs in the hinterland outside of London, Ontario, there was a ragtag team of people nearby trying to bring a smart journal of thought and discussion forward. I always have enjoyed Brick in someway and form since then finally becoming a subscriber a few years ago. The journal always highlights writers I enjoy (Anybody from Don DeLillo to P. K. Page.) But there is always an element mentioned there that gives me a “a-ha” moment too (I loved an interview published a few years ago where a photographer had taken residents of Istanbul out to the sea for the first time and photographed their emotional responses.) When Brick comes in the mail for me, I can always expect a great and fascinating read.

Page 12 Notes from Our Publishers (et al.) Laurie D. Graham

In my lifelong search for work that doesn’t feel like work, I’ve turned up a few winners: teacher of music to the young, backpackers` hostel “employee,” and anything having to do with literary journals. Journals have kept me patchily employed for – I realize with some alarm as I type this – a dozen years now. And I’ve been involved with Brick for seven of those years, which includes this last year and a bit as publisher. That’s closing in on “career” territory! Yet so often the work doesn’t feel anything like work. Instead, it feels like a close relative of writing, in no small part because Brick is made primarily by writers. And to work in the service of writing with other writers is what drew me to this gig in the first place and what keeps me doing it.

The fact that Brick is now on a serious publication but still maintains a belief that it is a hodgepodge mixtures of views and reviews is certainly appealing. Since I have become a serious subscriber seeing noted writer and poet Laurie D. Graham bring her hard work on the journal has been a pleasure.

Page 137 Things I Know Nothing About: Enlightenment by Michael Redhill

After many years on antidepressants, and finding normal unhappiness just out of reach, I decided at last to try enlightenment. My friends had been going on about it for years, but it always struck me as bunk, like Scientology or the novels of Ethan Hawke. However, after multiple courses of psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, yogic stretching, alkaline eating, papaya enemas, and non-stop gin, I began to wonder if my friends weren’t onto something. Apart from the cost of a few seminars, enlightenment was free. There was plenty of it, and once you had it, you had it for life. And the way my friends said they felt! They was plenty of it, and once you had it, you had it for life. And the way my friends said they felt! They were light of heart and in great humour. Some repaired ancient rifts in important relationships while others made quick money in morally forward investments. All reported increased libido as well as thundering orgasms, especially in elevators.

Brick: A Literary Journal has always enlightened my mind after a long day dealing with the baffle-gab of the social media set. It is a pleasure to turn off all electronics and turn the pages of this journal. Kudos to all involved in it`s 100th edition and I am looking forward to the next 100 copies.

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Link to Brick: A Literary Journal’s website

 

“(The book) involves a process of coming into knowledge of the places I come from and the places the book travels to . . .” | Q&A with poet Laurie D. Graham

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History tends to be a biased cut-and-dry listing of facts. So it takes new interpretations to vault new perspectives upon us and open our minds to events that may direct still involve us today. Poet Laurie D. Graham has done that with Settler Education. Her reflections on the Frog Lake “massacre” and the Northwest Resistance has given some pause to reflect what our history texts stated. Graham recently answered a few questions on her latest work.

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First, off, can you give a bit of an outline of Settler Education.

Settler Education travels west to the site of what’s called the Frog Lake “massacre” and, more generally, the Northwest Resistance. It stays in those places, in what’s now east-central Alberta and central Saskatchewan, immersing itself in what happened there 130 years ago and what remains of those events now. It then moves into the cities—to Edmonton, to Regina, to Toronto—keeping itself trained on the Resistance in these present-day places. Settler Education tries to say something about the violence and injustice that brought about the Resistance and the deaths at Frog Lake, and to see better the ways it continues today.

Did you do much research for the book, was it a product of ‘pure imagination, or a combination of the two?’ How long did it take you to write it?

I did a large amount of research for Settler Education. As the title implies, it involves a process of coming into knowledge of the places I come from and the places the book travels to, so I read an awful lot, I dug into archives, I went to look at sites, I got to know places, I listened to stories.

My first ideas about the book came before I finished writing my first book, Rove, the first poems were written around 2009, things started clicking into place around 2012, and (McClelland and Stewart) accepted it at the start of 2015.

You already have a list of dates where you will be reading Settler Education. Are there any events/venues that you are excited to be reading your work? Will you be adding new dates as well?

I’ve got two readings scheduled in London and one in Edmonton, and I just recently did a couple of readings in Toronto, one of which was M&S’s poetry launch, a very well-attended event. It was a great night. And I’m looking forward to all my readings: Edmonton because it’s my home and I get to read with Myrna Kostash, and my London launch at the Oxford Book Shop because I’ve wrangled Tom Cull and Jean McKay to read with me, and I admire their work quite a lot.

In a Q&A you answered for me about a year ago, I asked you if your jobs as an educator and an editor helped you with your writing. You wrote:

Being on all sides of the task of bringing a piece of writing to fruition has taught me a lot, but it’s hard to tell if teaching and editing influence my writing in any overt way. I know it has improved my eye. I’m more rigorous, more ruthless, more self-aware.

On the other hand, editing and teaching can keep me from writing, which ends up doing the opposite of helping… I teach out of necessity and I help put together Brick out of love, but I have to make sure these things keep to their “compartments” or else there’ll be no writing, and it’s writing that gave me these two gigs in the first place.

Now, one year later and another book published, do you still feel that way?

Yeah, definitely. I’m still trying to make enough time for all three of these gigs and to keep them all to their corners, and I’m still learning a lot from the teaching and the editing. Lately the pattern of my years goes that I work like mad through the fall and a bit less through the winter so I can have the summers more to myself and to writing. It’s been a good pattern, overall. Not perfect, of course, but utterly workable.

 One of the most talked-about questions I always ask on my blog is asking a published writer’s views on social media. Are you still keen on using Facebook and Twitter?

I use them a fair bit, and they are really good for following issues you’re interested in and keeping abreast of or letting people know about readings or events or good things to look at or read. But I remain more of a listener than a contributor on those platforms (as in life, mostly), and there’s a point when I have to turn these things off and get to work already.

 Have there been any new writers or any new books that you have read in the past year that have earned your praise?

I just read Tim Lilburn’s new book, The Names, and it is wonderful. He has a new voice in these poems, or at least it feels new to me. Liz Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent and Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell have both been nominated to the Griffin Prize this year, and I think both books are highly deserving of this recognition. I recently read a book called Stolen Life, written by Yvonne Johnson, a descendant of the Plains Cree chief mistahimaskwa / Big Bear (along with Rudy Wiebe). This book was new to me, and it’s wonderful and wrenching. I’m reading Jenna Butler’s A Profession of Hope right now, and, as someone who enjoys putzing around in the garden, I am having a great time with that one.

 Are you working on or planning any new works right now? If yes, are there details you can share?

I’ve got some new poems in the hopper, but I don’t know much about them yet. They’re multiple in their intentions and even in their voices. I don’t know how things will turn out, but right now they are about clearcutting, about suburban sprawl, about animals, about sitting beside water, about sitting beside a fire. Pretty vague, I know, but that’s how it begins for me: turn off the editor in my head and just proceed towards that unnameable thing.

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Link to Laurie D. Graham’s website

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s page for Settler Education

Link to my review of Settler Education

 

Using Poetry to go beyond the History Books | Review of “Settler Education” by Laurie D. Graham (2016) McClelland & Stewart

It was a rush that was typical of our modern life the day I went to pick up this book. I walked through a maze of hallways at a college campus filled with bodies trying find their own ways around me. I walked into a office, talked to a receptionist who picked up a phone and announced me. And with a rush of quick smiles and handshakes I was back out with this slim volume in my hand trying to make my way through another confused mass of bodies. I found a cafeteria and grab a lukewarm cup of coffee and sat down. There is still a confused chunk of humanity around me as I open to the first page.

And within reading the first well-crafted words, I was absorbed into Laurie D. Graham’s Settler Education.

Number One Canadian (Excerpt) Page 1

Stutter-stepping. The last fumes out

of Ontario. Beds and sliding doors and dining cars tunnelling

through the forest, its genealogy

of clear-cut, its firework trees new and hot.

We show them our ghost stations. We show them

tea at the window as birch die tangled

in power lines, birch hauling lines

down to the level of marsh, and marsh rising

to meet electricity.

Page 2

This is the line.

A propane tank every fifty clicks,

wall-eyed shoots and utility corridors,

gift-buying hours in the recreation car and hints

of lake and woodsmoke if you’re looking for them.

No Oh My Nation, No God Save Our Queen,

no colonial  imperative except in our being here, in what it means

to shower on a moving train, track rolling under the drainhole,

the luxurious pillows, my last minute discount.

This is what they starved a people for.

Page 3

Through tree scenes, tableaux in the dome car,

the soldiers, the settlers, the track laid, the way made.

Making goods of them. Servants, subjects, comrades, always

more, and the trees smoulder, the trace smoke in the camera’s vision

that comes of passing too fleetly. We pause at vistas and wildlife,

coniferous worming at the periphery.

A train car neat with men and their rifles.

Outside, thread of campsmoke obscured by clouds, by trees.

Notes Page 107

“NUMBER ONE CANADIAN” is the name of the train that runs from Toronto to Vancouver. When the train returns east, they call it the Number Two.

Graham has woven a complex tapestry here where many historians and other academics have failed for us. The book tells the story of the Plains Cree uprising at Frog Lake and the settlement of the Prairies. Graham’s poetry here weaves through time, places, impressions, journal entries, letters and so forth to brilliantly give the mind’s eye of any reader a clear impression of the places and the events.

Among the Buffalo Page 17

we were told that in a day or two we would reach the buffalo country

might expect to see considerable herds

day after day no signs

we became skeptical

Saint, hell. Riel’s a criminal.

He brought law out here, one good thing to

                                       come out of

                         his treason

I found several of the party quietly reading

to one of them I asked  have you seen the buffalo

he started as if he received a shock from a battery

You’re gonna get the redneck view from this

                                  end of the table

each bend of the river brought us in view of new herds

on both sides        not in dense masses

as when migrating    but scattered bands from ten to one hundred

sometimes close to the bank

they went at a lumbering gallop as the steamer approached

Next you’ll say I got no right to be here,

            been farming this same plot for a full century.

the appearance of the steward with a rifle on his arm

and all was excitement

Graham has gone beyond using just words here. She using layout and typeface to set different moods here that vault the reader from one emotion to another. This is a complex read yet one that is worth savoring.

Frog Lake (Excerpt) Page 21

Ditchweed, fuchsia. The first thing grows after fire.

Chased here by weather, rain then clearing sky,

Wandering Spirit, Iron Body, Miserable Man,

Round the Sky, Little Bear, Bad Arrow.

A grave, once unmarked, months from here.

Brome grass in all the places the earth’s been turned.

Settler Education by Laurie D. Graham may be a collection of poetry but it goes where history books have failed us. Graham gives detailed descriptions of emotions, thoughts and actions which causes readers to actually feel and care about the scenes. A great piece of literature.

Link to Laurie D. Graham’s blog

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s webpage for Settler Education

“(K)nowing what to expect from a poem might bring comfort or security in the midst of the overwhelming ideas a poem can raise” | Q&A with Poet/Editor/Teacher Laurie D Graham

No doubt, there is probably nobody busier than Laurie D Graham. Writing, teaching, editing and reviewing is all in her list of things she does. (Link to my review of her poetry book Rove.) But somewhere between all thing, she managed to sit down and answer a few questions for me, and gave some insight to her brilliant thoughts.

1) So it has been a few months since Rove was published. How has it been received by the reading public? Have there been any memorable comments about it you care to share?

The book has been well received, and it seems to prompt readers to think about their own homes and “origin” stories, which I especially appreciate and certainly didn’t expect. My favourite response to the book comes from my great uncle Emil though. He knows very well the places that make up much of Rove, and he said this after he read it:

“Of course, I’ve never read much poetry. But if you spend time with it and you read it carefully, it gives you a picture. The words give you a picture.”

That sums up my whole aim perfectly. Uncle Emil read the book and saw his home in it, and that equals success to me.

2) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, can you share details?

I’m working on a second poetry collection that will be out with McClelland & Stewart in 2016. It orbits around the events of the Northwest Resistance, but it’s anchored in the present, trying to engender more context and connection and history and knowledge about how Canada came to be. So far, it’s titled Settler Education.

3) What are you reading right now? Who are you favourite writers?

I tend to have a bunch of books on the go at once. Right now I’m reading Voices of the Plains Cree by Edward Ahenakew, Indigenous Poetics in Canada, an anthology edited by Neal McLeod and published last year by Wilfred Laurier University Press, and a favourite book from my childhood called There’s a Rainbow in my Closet by Patti Stren, published in 1979. I’ve just started re-reading Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion as well.

Favourite writers include Jan Zwicky, Dionne Brand, Dennis Lee, Andrew Suknaski, Ondaatje, Tim Lilburn, Thomas King, Adrienne Rich, Annie Proulx, Myrna Kostash. I could keep going…

4) Do you do many public readings of your works? If yes, is that something you enjoy doing?

I’ve done a quite a few readings, yeah. I think it’s a useful thing to do, especially when it comes to poetry, which needs to be heard as well as read. In fact, I’ll be reading at Fanshawe College at the end of March and at the Landon library as part of the Poetry London reading series at the end of April, and you can find all the details here.

5) You teach writing at Fanshawe College and you help edit Brick magazine. Does doing those jobs help you with your writing at all?

I think so. Being on all sides of the task of bringing a piece of writing to fruition has taught me a lot, but it’s hard to tell if teaching and editing influence my writing in any overt way. I know it has improved my eye. I’m more rigorous, more ruthless, more self-aware.

On the other hand, editing and teaching can keep me from writing, which ends up doing the opposite of helping… I teach out of necessity and I help put together Brick out of love, but I have to make sure these things keep to their “compartments” or else there’ll be no writing, and it’s writing that gave me these two gigs in the first place.

6) I recently met a poet who lamented that many people are disappointed that her work “doesn’t rhyme.” Do you find that poetry has a stereotypical image that may be keeping readers away?

Maybe. That’s a tough one. Why do people insist that poetry fall into lockstep with their perception of what it is? Is it about familiarity? Uncertainty? Unwillingness? Unexamined cultural bias? Resistance to emotion or idea? Is it about control, or the need to legitimize one’s knowledge or tastes? People do still turn to poetry at crucial moments in their lives, and knowing what to expect from a poem might bring comfort or security in the midst of the overwhelming ideas a poem can raise: ideas about death, birth, love, loss, injustice, reconciliation, commemoration, or just living as a human in the world. These are difficult things to work through, and poetry helps us work through them, and some people might disdain the route a poet takes simply because they would’ve taken a different one.

Then again, why shouldn’t someone want poetry to rhyme? Why can’t someone assert a preference? I think liking or wanting certain things from poetry is perfectly okay, and in fact normal. The catch, though, is that you have absolutely no grounds for demanding the poetry you want from a poet. Being a listener or a reader of poetry is a passive role, and some people can’t handle that or don’t realize it. It feels active—you’re experiencing, you’re feeling, you’re working things out, you’re taking part—but you don’t have a say in how that poem gets told. Poetry can take many, many forms, and it needs to be better understood that one’s definition isn’t the definition, nor has it ever been.

7) You seem to have some presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Does using those platforms help you with your writing at all?

It’s a different way of hearing, for me. It has made me hear perspectives that aren’t given proper voice in other print or journalistic mediums. I’m thinking mostly of Twitter here. There are legions of First Nations people doing essential work on Twitter. That has definitely informed my writing, and I owe a debt to Paul Seesequasis and âpihtawikosisân and Hayden King and Christi Belcourt, to name just a few.

8) I’ve encountered a lot of people who are writing poetry not necessarily to be published but in order to better understand themselves. Do you have any advice for that part-time poet who scribbles in a cherished notebook when the mood moves them?

Oh just keep doing it. You’re doing swell. Don’t worry too much. It’s the thinking through things that’s most important.

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Link to Laurie D Graham blog

Link to Hagios Press’ page for Rove

Link to Brick Literary Magazine