faraway look

salal pancakes

When I returned from my swim this morning, Forrest and Arthur had picked a container of salal berries. That meant pancakes for breakfast. It’s their last day. The last day for Angelica and Craig, too; they’ll return to their lives, all of them, in Ottawa, and Victoria. And our house will be quiet again. But somehow full of the sound of voices murmuring in the evening, laughing over beer on the deck while dinner was made, calling, Who wants to go down to the lake for a final splash?

So pancakes for breakfast, kept warm on the old platter my mother gave me for Christmas two decades ago. And the memory of John’s poem, “Baby Shouts Dao”, published in an early book, An Arbitrary Dictionary, edited by bp Nichol, and full of our first years here, in the mansion of his anecdote, when we had one child, then two. (This book was published in 1984, a year before Angelica’s birth.)

Dada at loose ends
in the mansion of his anecdote
can’t hammer home

from the piece-work
room to room, scraps
of flashing, the last
closet, a good word

for Mum’s faraway look
her salal pancakes. . .

till baby shouts “dao!”
palms and delivers
the half-dead horsefly

mouths the tiny shiny screw

sits back the wrong way
on his foot tucked under
and hugs the phone.


the fish are swimming!


Readers of this blog will know that my friend Anik See and I are both passionate about the literary novella. We love to read them and we write them. Although I’ve been very lucky with publishers in the past — both the Barbarian Press and Goose Lane Editions issued beautiful editions of my novella Inishbream and more recently Mother Tongue Publishing released my Patrin — I’m also aware that current publishing models aren’t exactly embracing the novella any longer. A few stalwarts persist. But when Anik visited here on her way back to her home in Amsterdam after a three-month residency at the Berton House in Dawson City a year or two ago, we were both lamenting that we had novellas that we couldn’t find publishers for. At one point in the conversation, we began to laugh and one of us said to the other, “Well, you know what this means.” And we did know. It meant we had to create a place for novellas so that this wonderful, well, is it a genre? A hybrid? A special variant? Anyway, a place for it to flourish. Anik has a lot of experience as a book designer — have a look at her Saudade, which she both wrote and designed…(She is also an amazing journalist: listen to her recent documentary, “The Illusion of Money”,  for the CBC’s Ideas:http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-illusion-of-money-part-1-1.3460225 )

We’ve been working back and forth on the first title of our Fish Gotta Swim Editions, which just happens to be my novella Winter Wren. Anik edited it, then my husband John (a poet and long-time college English instructor) copy-edited it (with a few disagreements of the “Can This Marriage Be Saved” variety, mostly to do with how to present dialogue on the page: as a writer, I want to believe that a text can accomodate dialogue as part of a narrative without setting it off with quotation marks; John is less convinced…), and now Anik has designed the book block which will be sent to the printer in Victoria when we have all the details right. The pdf arrived this morning so I could see and approve and make suggestions. And reader, I have to say it’s absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait for it to be a book in hand. Soon!

We are sorting out details to make it easy to buy this book. Copies will be available for shipping from both Amsterdam and here (the west coast of B.C.). And I think I’ll make a webpage for our Fish Gotta Swim in the next while too. Watch for more information on this. (For now, Anik has a page for it on her website, www.aniksee.com)

We don’t intend for Fish Gotta Swim to be a vanity press. We’re starting with one of our own books simply because Winter Wren is ready. We hope to make a small but relevant contribution to our literary culture over the next few years by finding and publishing novellas.