You never know what treasures you’ll find at the Ottawa’s Small Press Book fair, and an edit

rob mclennan has done it again, put together a collection of books, presses, and artisans that would rival any sales venue.

I’ve played around with the display on the bird, buried / press table, to catch your eye. Here is Elisha Rubacha, in charge of that display, one of the friendliest poets you could be sitting next to.

Here she is, in the flesh, so to speak.

Going around the room to hand out some freebie mini books, I spent time with artist friend Nancy French, here, as usual, with a gorgeous display of hand-marbled papers, and various items made with her Lindenlea Papers, and results of her talents, like bookmarks and notebooks.  Time spent with this smile is time well spent.My wanderings came with surprises: this gentleman with his amazing hand press books and broadsheets, for example. Hugh and I had a conversation in which I bemoaned my lack of sufficient funds with which to purchase his glorious creations, and then he came after me to compliment me on the poems in my freebie, Cyclone Vanuatu. Here he is, is book artist Hugh Walter Barclay, of Kingston with his THEE HELLBOX offerings.

My neighbour on the other side was June M. Coxon with Juhal Publishing’s children’s books in English and French, featuring her book about Ernie the cat.  I saw quite a few cat lovers stop by her collection.

Also showing their wares were rob, with his various press collections, and other Ottawa presses, like Angel House Press and Devil House Press; Stuart Ross with a table that included Mansfield Press titles, who gave me a chapbook, forty-nine cents. Much appreciated Stuart.  Here are a couple of fugitives, Jennifer Baker and Monty Reid, at the Arc table, and  

Here is Sonia Saikely, with her two books, and just as important, some mochi cakes.


Pearl Pirie with her Phaphours press…and then a delightful surprise…

This is Colin Knight in his first appearance at the fair. He had his thrillers on display, and when I gave him my freebie, said, “I’ve been to Vanuatu!” Now what are the chances?  Turns out he was there for nine weeks scuba diving all around the little country.  We talked about places like Millionaires’ Point on the island of Santo, and Champagne Beach. “There’s a lot about Vanuatu in my book,” he said, so I bought Some People Deserve To Die, and am chomping at the bit to read it. It was great and we will certainly stay in touch.

And of course, I was there with two presses, Tree Press (featuring all the Tree Chapbook winners and especially

The Binders, by Doris Fiszer) and catkin press,

feeling very professional with the beautiful sign made by Michal Bowie from Algonquin College. Anyone who would like such a gorgeous addition to their presentations, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

It’s the extras, like the chapbooks in delightful forms like cemantics, with its fold-out visual poems made, and written by Michael Casteels, a gift from Cameron Anstee of Three Knit Hats by Ben Ladouceur, a teeny-tiny chapbook called little baby in a man-made shell, by zinewrimo,  an envelope with a tri-fold of poems by Jason Heroux, created by Michael Casteels, machina/microcosm by Nina Jane Drystek, a copy of PACE, Ottawa’s independent magazine, and two copies of The Ottawa Arts Review, which I hadn’t known existed.

What else do you get from a day at the fair? Great cookies that rob baked. Great cookies. More cookies, chocolate, and cherry at the birds, buried press table, brought to Elisha by a friend. Wonderful visits from

the short-list bpNichol author, Doris Fiszer, and other visitors/book purchasers. A great way to spend a Saturday!

Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market 2017

The Tree Press/ catkin press table

It was the first time Tree Press was specifically invited to this book fair. The occasion was that one of its publications, The Binders, written by Doris Fiszer of Ottawa, was shortlisted for the bpNichol Award. It didn’t win, but it was wonderful to be there with Doris and her husband Bruce Brockington. I should have a better photo of the table, which we also shared with another publisher.  Here is Doris with Deb O’Rourke, who stopped to talk with Doris.  

Congratulations too, to Sonnet L’Abbé on winning the bpNichol Award. Her chapbook, Anima Canadensis, was published by Carleton Wilson’s Junction Books.

How great it was to share the table with Nightwood Editions and Junction Books, and just spend hours in the company of publishers and writers!

And to be able to meet them and see their books. For many poets, the big trade presses seem scary, rather lofty, with similarly distant editors.  When you meet these publishing people in the flesh, so to speak, watch them interacting with others, speak with them yourself, you find they are friendly, fun to talk with, open to questions, and just as ordinary as anyone else.

and not above a little bit of the comic side of the moment. This is the GAP RIOT PRESS TABLE, with, Dani Spinosa, whose antics, as well as serious moments, I enjoyed muchly!

Other people and presses you may recognize: rob mclennan with books from his several presses,

and Cameron Anstee with Apt. 9 Press, in double modes of cheerful publisher and pensive publisher.

Imago and Red Iron Presses from Toronto, with publishers Marshall Hyrciuk and Karen Sohne, with many offerings.

Haiku people will recognize them from Haiku Canada Weekends and Haiku North America, and for their renku presentations at Versefest a couple of years ago.  Remember? Sake was served after link 6 of the renku, as per tradition. Perhaps the cause of that renku being continued in an Ottawa restaurant until the 36 verses were done.

And so it was. We’ll be seeing some of these presses next Saturday at Ottawa’s Small Press Book Fair. See you then!

good-bye to a beautiful and talented yukon writer

I only met her a few times when I was in Whitehorse, Yukon, last year, but my spending time with her, whether in conversation, or at Bean North Coffee with The Yukon Writers’ Collective, or having a meal with her at the home of writer/travel guide Elizabeth Weigand was all too short. Later, when I had read her novel From Ice to Ashes, and worked with her (and Kathy Munro) on Body of Evidence,  a collection described in the following article, I realized that someday I would like to meet her again.  Hearing of her passing was a shock that brought me great sadness.

A eulogy/article written by Erin Linn McMullan was published in the winter issue of the superb magazine YUKON: NORTH of ORDINARY.

She and Jessica’s husband Mike, as well as Tara McCarthy, editor of YUKON magazine, have given permissions to reprint Jessica’s photo and the article from the magazine.

In Memory of Jessica Simon


The Yukon mourns the loss of author Jessica Simon, who recently died of unknown causes after returning from a four-day hike with her dog, Curly.

“It is hard to understand that somebody so full of life passed away,” writer Elke Reinauer says. Simon was planning a gathering of Yukon writers to attend the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair and working on the German translation of her novel From Ice to Ashes.

“Jessica was all about creating a writing community,” writer Jerome Stueart says, “whether it was the Cramped Hand [writing sessions] so people could come and write together, featuring local writers in parking lot readings, or her columns in What’s Up Yukon.” Simon also exported the Cramped Hand workshops, developing sessions in Germany, Norway, and Namibia.

Earlier this year, Simon helped pioneer the literary component of the Atlin Arts & Music Festival and published Body of Evidence: A Collection of Killer ‘Ku with writer kjmunro.

She also completed another mystery novel, Adventures of Talking Stick, featuring her fictional protagonist Markus Fanger. She excitedly shared her whiteboard outline of the novel with me during a Skype tour of her new home built with her husband, Mike Simon.

“I think Jessica’s shown us the bar,” Stueart says. “That bar being that a Yukon writer is about investing in the writing community, growing and celebrating it, giving of yourself.”

Simon called the Yukon home for over 30 years, working as a journalist and editor, and previously as a minister’s executive assistant in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. She won a number of short story contests and contributed to many publications, including What’s Up Yukon, Outdoor Edge, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Yukon News, and Yukon, North of Ordinary.

“I miss her laugh and her company,” says friend Norma Shorty.

Written by Erin Linn McMullan

I miss her too, though I knew her for so short a time. I was in the process of arranging a reading here in Ottawa for Jessica when I heard of her passing. I would so much have enjoyed seeing her again. Thank you Mike, Erin and Tara, for letting me share Jessica Simon, her smile and her spirit, with an even wider group of writers and readers. Here is Jessica Simon at Bean North writing on a Wednesday afternoon in May, 2016, as a member of The Yukon Writers’ Collective.



Joining the second decade of the twenty-first century

Another big step: I’ve been using photos of myself by Jacques Pontbriand (Rawdon, Qc) taken in 2003, as I’ve been: a) chicken to go before a camera again, and b) I’ve been lazy and c) there hasn’t been much reason to take that step, and d) Jacques’ photos were so lovely that it was tempting to use them forever, and e) vanity. I got older.  Not always much fun to see evidence…

The latest version of moi.

But thanks to photographer John W. MacDonald of Greely/Ottawa, who made me so comfortable, I have something I can use and not feel that I’m faking it. The evidence isn’t as hard to witness as I thought it would be. Thank you, John.  Vanity, vanity… you’re so vain!

The issue is deeper I think, having thought in my teenage years, that I was so ugly that I felt bad for people who had to look at me.  Something sticks from that, and yes, probably a good shrink would help. Go back to the mothers and the fathers, as Larkin insists. So there, I’ve bared part of my soul. I know too, that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. Am I not doing all right for an elderly bird!

I think I’ll go and write a poem.



Joining the Twenty-first century

caribou sign croppedI’m such a dinosaur!  Bucking this and ducking that, like using Twitter!  Years ago, my publisher for Arctic Twilight, said Get a blog! Get on Twitter! But no, I went on down my antediluvian path, trusting to the ether…and of course, not getting very far.  So, I’m kicking over a new leaf, or sloshing through the piles of dropped ones. Wish me well. Look for me on Twitter as well as on Facebook and tell me how clever I am, how modern, how glorious!  I look forward to connecting with everyone.   It sounds so strange to use a ‘handle’, like I’m home on the range somewhere, and lost. So that’s @claudiaradmore (On Twitter, don’t use the one with ‘leisale’ in the address…I had to start all over today with a new account…)

I’ll tell you now that I’m very pleased to be having The Alfred Gustav Press publish a chapbook of a selection of the Fogo island poems that ended up short-listed for Malahat’s 2017 Long Poem Contest! Hence, the image of the handsome fellow at the top of this post.

It’s been a busy time, working on four manuscripts at once and completing all of them before going to Santa Fe on September 12th.  My fingers are so crossed, but I am only getting younger in my mind…Again, wish me well. Dropping a comment to this post would be the best way.

book fair w catkin signIn Santa Fe we were welcomed not only by New Mexico State Senator Bill O’Neill, a poet in his own right, but also by Craig Quanchillo, Governor of the Picuris Pueblo. We were at The Santa Fe Hacienda & Spa which is owned by the Picuris Pueblo, and for the most part, staffed with people from that nation. It is a wonderful place, with a lovely open atmosphere.  This was the bookroom.  (There were $15,000 worth of sales overall in four days!) Way up in the top left corner of the photo, you can find my new catkin press signage!

My husband Ted and I continued on a tour of the state, and you may get to see more of it in further posts. Visiting pueblos and staying at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch are some of the highlights. Oh, Abiquiu, how beautiful are your mountains!



seven months

It’s been seven months since I came back from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and those months have been busy.  I’ve been writing, and am pleased and proud to be one of seven (out of two hundred submissions) on the shortlist in the 2017 Malahat Long Poem Contest with my series of lyric poems about Fogo Island, Newfoundland.  I didn’t win, but have been sending those poems out as a chapbook submission, and maybe, just maybe, have had a hint of a chance with one publisher.

I love designing the covers of my books, collaborating with the authors so that they are completely happy with their books. Here are the books catkin press has published in the past seven months: First, Firefly in the Room by Grant D. Savage.

Cover photograph: Grant D. Savage

This unusual collection of erotic haiku by Grant Savage, an excellent haiku poet. His luscious photography was perfect for this theme in his use of colour and composition. And the haiku are astute and sassy.

The two next publications were compilations of haibun with tanka. The first was Hans Jongmann’s Swooning, a manuscript that was so good and so unusual in its narrative of love and being young, has a central mystery, that I just had to publish it. His wife Farida wrote a prose section which set things up beautifully. The reader is captivated, held to the last page.

The next venture was a chapbook of poems, My Head Full of Pakistan, about Blaine Marchand’s deep love of the country where he worked with CIDA.  Blaine was with me in every step of publication, from editing (and there was very little) to layout, to cover background and images, including choosing textured papers for the cover and for the interior pages, which reflected the textiles of that country. This is the cover in an early stage of design.

Blaine’s photograph is featured on this cover. There are several more inside the chapbook that serve to enhance and illustrate Blaine’s lyric poems. These are poems that give you a slice of Pakistan written by someone who loves that country and who is known for the depth and insights in his writing.

Then another haiku/ tanka/ haibun writer sent me a memoir called She Don’t Mean a Thing If She ain’t Got That Swing that intrigued and amazed me. Guy Simser of Ottawa focused on the love of his life, wife Jan, and on their travels, on the music and activities they shared for so many years. His writing was so rich in expression, description, detail and humour. What could I do except say I’d publish it.

Again the author was particular about the papers used for text and cover, and his choice of sensuous paper for the text meant that the many fascinating photographs printed perfectly in colour. This is a beautiful object as well as a well thought-out book.

In February we launched three books at Pressed, for Grant, Guy and Blaine, and what a dynamic set of presentations that was!

In the new year, Hans said he had a couple (a couple…!) more manuscripts. He has a reputation in the Japanese-form world for his sterling poems, so first we published Below the Frostline, which is completely haiku.  The second, Shift Change,  was another variation on memoir that focused on travel, bicycling, and work experiences in various places. His writing has honesty and colour. Each poem is just right. We argued over editing as we always have, but he is a wise writer and makes the right choices.

When Haiku Canada held its conference in Whitehorse last year, it happened to be Mystery Month in the Yukon. With that theme in mind, Haiku Canada members submitted ‘crime’ ku, a selection of which was printed on file cards in a clear large font and displayed with kindred books in a case in the library/museum foyer. The library asked whether there would be a book, and so Kathy Munro, haikuist, and Jessica Simon, crime writer, edited a thoughtful, humorous, delightful collection of Killer Ku.  I loved working with them; I appreciated their enthusiasm and their fine insistence of particulars. They came up with the perfect headings for the sections, such as Breaking and Entering, Cannibalism, and Cell Blocks. Their inspired early layout and concise editing add so much to this very different collection which can be enjoyed, not only by haiku enthusiasts, but by anyone who picks it up.

Anna Vakar is a long-time haiku poet who has spent her years in the haiku life learning what haiku is, what it could be.  Vicki McCullough met Anna Vakar and realized that this poet needed to be better known and needed to have a book of her work. Vicki has done an amazing job writing introductions to both Anna’s life and her haiku path. Anna Vakar is a strong poet who has the habit of writing comments on the pages of any anthologies or haiku collections she acquires. The book includes a list of the kind of comments Anna writes beside and around the poems. A couple of photographs show pages of this perceptive self-teaching marginalia. Vicki is an editor who insists on academic excellence. She and Ms Vakar have produced the finest kind of haiku book, one that shows a haiku poet’s path while teaching about this form.

During these months I was co-editor, with Marco Fraticelli of Haiku Canada’s 40th members’ anthology, which is being published by Ekstasis Press in British Columbia. It is dedicated to one of the founders of the society, Eric Amann, who passed away last fall. The anthology is unusual as it isn’t just a haiku collection, but rather a gathering of haiku experiences, memories, stories of one’s first haiku publication, or how one came to haiku. Each member had one page which could be comprised of just haiku or part prose, even haibun.

Its title, Wordless, is from a little book Amann wrote early on, which influenced many haikuists. Marco and I learned a lot from co-editing this collection, especially about how accommodating and patient an anthology publisher can be. Richard Olafson of Ekstasis Editions is a dream to work with. I’m sure we were a nightmare to him with our hundreds of edits.  We are so pleased that the cover will feature a painting by Aili Kurtis of Perth. Richard let me design the cover, at least in its first phases. This is an early draft:

Then came a great event! Managing editor Mike Montreuil of Éditions des petits nuages said the press would publish MY haiku collection! AND would be happy to let me design its cover. Well, paradise for me!  The book is dedicated to musician/philosopher Oliver Shroer, whom I knew, but would like to have known better for how he lived his life, the music he took risks with. He was one of those special people. When he was diagnosed with leukemia, he walked the Camino, and played in 25 churches along the way.  Much of his playing, on stage and in those churches, even in hospital during the later stages of the disease, can be seen in videos on the net. When I met the 6’3′ or 4′ Oliver at a festival in Owen Sound, he was wearing a bowler hat.  I had kept a file of an image Ellen Drennan had put on facebook, and she let me use it as the background. Her image is full of energy and light, perfect for an ‘Oliver’ book. The haiku are not about Oliver, except for a few; the poems range, I hope, between a very few ‘not-too-bad’ haiku to several that will be judged ridiculous, and everything in between. I had three very good editors beside Mike Montreuil: Philomene Kocher of Kingston, Marco Fraticelli and Grant Savage of Ottawa, but they can’t be blamed for what I finally included.

One of the last cover designs has been for the winning Tree Chapbook manuscript for 2017, Amanda Earl’s Electric Garden. The judge, Steven Brockwell, took the time he needed to choose a winner from so many fine submissions, but is definite about the talent of Ms Earl. Her poems are tight and energetic and honest with a superlative use of language.  She sent me an image of a lily I might want to use, and agreed to let me incorporate it into a collage. I think we’re both pleased with that collaboration. Here it is:

And that will almost do it. I produced a tiny personal chapbook of a long poem, Body of Light, and will publish one more collection before the end of June, for Grant Savage.

That’s been my publishing year.  These titles join the previous list of publications, including Singing in the Silo by Philomene Kocher, and Drifting by Marco Fraticelli, as well as others. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t turn up for a lot of poetry events. I won’t have such a heavy schedule ever again, but I’m glad every one of these is a catkin press production, and I am so proud of the editors and authors.  What a great crew!

Most of the books will be available at the Haiku Canda Weekend in Mississauga, May 19 – 21 at The University of Toronto at Mississauga, and at the Small Press Book Fair in June. This adventure of being a small press publisher is turning out to be quite the journey. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Oops! I forgot something… Pearl Pirie’s Phafours Press published a chapbook of my gendai one-liners. That means a lot.  Many thanks, Pearl for sometimes seeing the world and language the way I sometimes do… I apologize that this is only an approximation of the cover with art by Judith Copithorne. I’ve run out of copies, so I can’t photograph it. But I love it!






enter the frog, or haiku from the Haiku Canada Review

20170215_153331It could be the snow, or the grey sky, but something is drawing me to post about haiku recently published in Haiku Canada’s most recent publication, the Haiku Canada Review.  Perhaps I’ll do anything to stop me from going downstairs and having another piece of the custard cake I made earlier; I’d never tried this before and thoughts of literally diving into its creamy custard are very strong. So it’s a good day to write this post, one I’ve wanted to do for a while, on the power of very short haiku.

LeRoy Gorman has edited the Review for forever. Each issue usually includes a few broadsheets called Haiku Canada Sheets by selected poets. It’s an honour if he chooses to produce one with your haiku as it gives you the opportunity to have a small collection of your poems out in the big wide world. Each issue also contains tanka, renku, haibun and other Japanese form poetry, as well as reviews, essays, and as they say, more. Members can submit artwork which every issue includes, often lovely drawings like the frog on this issue’s cover, and at the head of this post, drawn by Brent Partridge.

Many of the poems are quite wonderful, but I have a special place in my sensibilities for the very short ones that work. This issue begins with an essay by Vicki McCullough about Allan Brown and his poetry; Allen passed away in 2016. One of his shorter poems is:

it is too dark to hear

the loon’s cry

The poem was written after his wife Pat died. Ms. McCullough has done wonders bringing Allan’s philosophy to the fore. After all, 99.99999999 % of people wonder what the big deal is, with haiku, anyway. She quotes some of his thoughts about his relationship with haiku. He has learned from Issa, he said, “a little…about the fashioning of both delight and despair.” In the poem above, I can be with him in the dark, the dark being much more after Pat’s death than an indigo sky; this dark is the dark that makes us think the light can never come back again. Some might say that the poem makes little sense- how can the dark make you unable to hear. That’s the power in this poem. A good haiku brings you into it, makes you want to spend time with it, to be where the poet is, and to expand the insight that comes into one that enters one’s own life.  Nine words, and they could have been the whole eulogy at a memorial service.

One of the Haiku Canada Sheets features the poems of Charlotte Degregorio from Chicago (for Haiku Canada has members all over the World) whose books and blog, among other media, show that this lady knows what she is doing. Her tiny poem caught my eye:


the well

in his eyes

And without knowing the background story, I knew a background story, I knew a moment, I knew his eyes, and I was a granddaughter remembering my grandfather’s face, remembering his hands, and the way he sat, how his attempts at speaking English are still in my ears. The poem grows as you spend time with it. A lyric poet with the same set of circumstances would have written stanzas, a sonnet, used reams of words to get in every wrinkle, every good deed, every special time with her grandfather, but these nine words contained all of that, and more.

An even smaller big poem of hers is:


I scatter

his life

It’s what we would be thinking in the same situation, but that she has captured that moment in five words fills me with awe. Read it again, and again. It will stick with you and come back to you when you need it.  It’s the kind of poem that sticks for there is no stress about remembering it. You know already that it is part of you.

Not quite as short, but equally full of things to ponder, is this poem by Jennifer Hambrick:

evening fire

thoughts flicker

in his words

The comparison of flickering flames and flickering thoughts is clear, and, at first, the poem looks rather light as compared to the previous ones. But our deepest thoughts need not be about sad times, they don’t have to make your emotions run up and down the scale. This poem is a quiet one and brings to mind the times when people are together trying to share thoughts, when those people might wonder about what a person’s words might mean. It’s a poem of uncertainty. Flickering thoughts could indicate doubt, or hesitation. They could be very important in any kind of relationship and are sometimes hard to pin down. These flickering thoughts, and the image of the person’s face in the flickering light…even that image is strong enough to be frightening, or calming, or loving, or simply an exchange of philosophical ideas. This little poem is packed if you take time with it.

Edward Cody Huddleston wrote this poem:

whether I give it

or not


A serious decision, and these seven words express the problem. The poem suggests everything that goes through a person’s mind when the question of giving a eulogy comes up. Seven words that say it all, the guilt, feelings of duty, feelings of love, the last chance to say what you want said, the fear of not saying it completely, of letting people down, of what others see as your responsibility, and more. There, it’s taken a paragraph to begin getting into this one. For behind it are all the commonalities, the losses that have already been experienced, the idea of funerals and memorials, possibly a fear of speaking in public, all those eyes and ears in the room or chapel, that you may not believe in eulogies, that giving one may take all the strength you have.

At first Debbie Strange’s one-liner seems simple, and light compared to the poems already mentioned, but

a butterfly wing beneath my boot autumn

tugs at me. A boot is crushing the most delicate of creatures, those brilliant dusty wings, or perhaps just a torn off wing. It calls into question why a butterfly is on the ground, the heavy boot that possibly means a hike, a good thing in autumn air,  but oh, doesn’t it bring to mind innocents in all parts of the world that are under the ‘boot’. This poem comes very close these days as our neighbours to the south are losing healthcare, and the right to live their own lifestyle, when everything good is endangered, even our earth. It is the refugees who are walking to Canada through the snow.  Enough said, the poem says it all, and much more if you let it seep into your self.

The next poem, a one-liner, at first seems jus clever and humorous. You might read the poem quickly, smile to yourself in response to the wordplay, and go on to the next haiku. But I find, along with the cleverness, that kjmunro’s poem

in ten(t)se camping in bear country

has more to offer; she gives us the romance of camping in a northern wilderness, and its inherent dangers. The poet lives in Whitehorse, Yukon. She is a woman who experiences the possibility of having only canvas between her and a grizzly, so images of long curved claws haunt the poem. She would not have been alone, most likely, and would have taken all precautions. After all, bears are fairly common around where she lives. There is even a bear incident map that indicates all human-bear conflict in the Whitehorse region. The danger is real. This word play contains a recognition of danger, but the poem also shows the spirit of an adventurer, one who will not give up having great experiences because there is a possibility of risk. We have here, the Yukon version of climbing Everest, one small bit at a time. I like the levity, the devil-may-care quality of these few words. These few words are more ‘intense’ than an initial reading may have suggested.

So thank you, thank you, LeRoy, for what you’ve done for Haiku Canada, for selecting and publishing poems all these years. Because of the Review we know our fellow poets across Canada and many places in the world, and have been kept aware of the development of Japanese form poems as they develop outside of Japan.  No one else could have done it, but you did. Months of collecting, making decisions, doing layout, mailing out hundreds of issues.

And thank you poets, for writing these very brief, but wonderful, poems.





Leonard, weren’t the scones wonderful!

The flavour of the place is already evident on the ferry where the coffee is served with the biggest welcome, and the bulletin boards publicize things like the “Chase the Ace” event in Joe Batt’s Arm.

20161005_1714040_resized_1No fuss about font or lack of a Copy Expert store; just straightforward marker on board, in a bright orange, plunked up for all to see. What you see is what you get on Fogo. The people you meet there are easy to meet, eager to make you feel at home whether it’s in an art studio or a restaurant.  The longest drive you can take is three-quarters of the way around and through the island to Tilting, and my B&B, Foley’s Place, owned by Tom Earl. Though I generally don’t like the word ‘charming’ to describe a place, this time the word is apt.  Fog island and its residents are charming.

This is the view from the back windows of Foley’s Place.

20161004_075056_resizedThough he hasn’t been the owner for long, already Tom’s breakfasts are legendary.  I got my first taste of the also legendary partridgeberry in his scones.  You, Len, have had them many times before.

So we proceeded to explore, going back to the town of Seldom and its old cemeteries. We found that we couldn’t get to Wild Cove any more unless with a guide as people were relocated south into the town in the 60s. Next time we’ll plan an excursion through the bush to where your family’s house was, and your school, to the rocks you walked on there. But didn’t we enjoy tea with Florence Budgell, now Florence Eveleigh, and her husband. She would be your second cousin I think, though too young for you to have met her. After all, your last visit here was many years ago.  Partridgeberry pie and muffins with lots of raisins in them. We should have gone back, where does the time go.

At the Library I read some of your letters to a mixed audience, two women visiting from Boston, island residents, and a troop of cub scouts and their leaders. They loved your writing, asked so many questions afterwards.

Not far from the B&B, a small museum based in the oldest house at Tilting, with clear evidence of the changes it has gone through, the extra floor space, the extra floor, the stairway built by a cooper, like climbing in a spiral inside a keg, and under the wallpaper, the bumps where the barrel stave construction is easily seen. In the stairwell, feel the irregularities with your fingers, and in the next room, the outer curve.  Here is the docent looking up at me.

A stairway built by a cooper
A stairway built by a cooper

She told me of the space under the floor where an indoor fire pit had been, and the story of the terrible priest who did not like the little church the local people had built, and how he’d had everything from the church thrown away.

St. Anne and her daughter Mary
St. Anne and her daughter Mary
Altar artifacts saved and stored
Altar artifacts saved and stored

Here in the back room and in the ‘attic’ are some of the rescued items, statues with bits broken off, old blackened silver crucifix. A pair of boots hangs on the wall downstairs with a sign saying ‘boots made from the last cow on Fogo’, which made me realize that I hadn’t seen any, nor had I seen goats or horses.  Lack of horses is sad, but once roads came, they weren’t needed and they are expensive to keep once they couldn’t roam. Len missed seeing goats. He liked goats.

A pair of boots hangs on the wall downstairs with a sign saying ‘boots made from the last cow on Fogo’, which made me realize that I hadn’t seen any, nor had I seen goats or horses.  Lack of horses is sad, but once roads came, they weren’t needed and they are expensive to keep once they couldn’t roam. Len missed seeing goats. He liked goats. Told stories of his favourites and how clever goats are compared to sheep. I think this was Len’s greatest disappointment, not seeing any more goats with wooden collars to stop their going through fences.

I loved this museum for its human connections. Nothing fancy and put behind glass, all left to further gently disintegrate. Museum curators would have a bird.  Here a crib and the sign that says whose it was, how long it had been in use, and that a particular child’s teethmarks can still be seen on it.  Len and I could TOUCH, feel the stories through our fingertips.

A crib with young Margaret's teethmarks still on it.
A crib with young Margaret’s teethmarks still on it.

But Fogo is taking this whole preservation thing seriously and intelligently. there is a fine marine museum at seldom, and Zita Cobb’s Shorefast foundation has enabled small business, arts and crafts to flourish.  So you find a studio, an ice cream business called Growlers, a restaurant, the older houses being built or restored. The island is attractive. Wherever you look there are the hills and berry patches, old cemeteries,

The old Catholic Cemetery at Tilting
The old Catholic Cemetery at Tilting

houses brightly painted, anything to do with the fishing industry freshly painted, decidedly picturesque. Here there is a balance between letting time show its toll, and saving the past for the future.

A wedding in the arena
A wedding in the arena
Arena decorated for a weddin
A wedding venue
The groom performs the Island ritual
The groom performs the Island ritual

Two more things I will mention and then you just have to go to Fogo and see for yourself: The Partridgeberry Festival, a festival like none you have ever been to.  It was held in the Arena at the center of the island, and decorated not only for fall, but also for a wedding. Saturday at 3:00 pm, the bride was escorted from a side door, the groom was waiting in front of the fall colours and hay bale setup in the middle of the floor. Hundreds were there, and it wasn’t easy to see what was going on.  All we could see, as in the photo, was the groom’s head as he was taller than most of the people there. Also, a secret visitor was there, so secret that he was pleased no one recognized him. Along with his retinue, Prince Albert of Monaco mingled, enjoying his anonymity.

The arena was filled with craft tables, food tables, (mostly jams), displays of paintings, displays and demonstrations of rug hooking, quilting, needlework. The geologist in residence at the Fogo Inn had a table with his charts and rock samples, the Fogo Inn chef in residence for the weekend (from Becta in Ottawa!) made exquisite sliders using Fogo Island seafood; there was a large children’s area where various activities went on all weekend. It was wonderful that here the children could handle a drill with adult help, hammer nails, make their boats and paint them. There were items made of seal skin selling for peanuts. I saw the same items in St John’s for three times as much. There were dancing displays, music for adults and children. It was a lively place…And on Sunday I got to read there.

A blurred photo of me before reading at the festival
A blurred photo of me before reading at the festival
A rug with three dried cod
A rug with three dried cod
A boy with his boat
A boy with his boat

I could write about that festival for a long time, about how the groom had to shoot a gun (outdoors) to finalize his marriage vows… and so many other craftspeople.

The last thing I’ll talk about are the trails. There is one to Brimstone Head, one of the corners of the Flat Earth. Another out of Tilting called Turpin’s Trail that leads up to one of the famous studios, another on the east side of Tilting, Oliver’s Cove Trail. There are fourteen hiking/walking possibilities; most of which I didn’t have time for. They are remarkable. A geologist can tell why and how, and I loved hearing about it from the resident geologist at the Fogo Island Inn while I was there, but there is also the quiet peace of these trails, their seaside vistas, the varieties of plants and rocks and rock formations as we walked.

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Mr. Green, over 90 years old, back in Fogo after working all his life elsewhere. This is his daily resting place.

Mr. Green, over 90 years old, walks the trail every day. He has come back to Fogo after a career away.
A reminder near Oliver’s Cove of tragedies on the sea


We were on one of the last ferries from Fogo when the hurricane weather hit the East coast. Len, you were my courage on the drive back to St. John’s, four hundred kilometres in driving rain. Not long after we passed, the main road was closed with great craters at Terra Nova and Clarenville. I’m so glad you were with me for hundreds of reasons. I loved seeing Fogo through your eyes, sharing all its wonders. Weren’t we both exhausted when we got to our hosts’ house by the harbour. Didn’t we keep talking about it all over a few pots of tea in Beth and Stan’s kitchen…Didn’t we talk about next time.

continuing a tour backwards

At Church Lake
At Church Lake
Laddie at home at Church Lake
Laddie at home at Church Lake
the small dock
the small dock

I’m going to the end of my tour and doubling back, because this is about writers and readers, and when I got to Halifax I was met by one of these writers, Janet Barkhouse, who writes poetry and children’s books. Her latest had just come out, called Keeper of the Light. It was exciting being in on this new book at its early going-out-in-public stage. Among the best things about this book are the main character, a young girl who takes care of a lighthouse in an emergency in the early 1900s… and the illustrations by Thérèse Cilia, but most of all the writing. It’s available from the Formac Publishing Company in Halifax.  When I saw it, I needed to have a copy immediately even though I don’t have children. I’ll read it to grandkids when they visit, but for now, it’s MINE.

Here I am being met at the airport, feeling like a queen with my own papparazza, Janet.airport-halifaxFor I was certainly treated like a queen byJanet and Cynthia and Les. Les carved a chicken raised by Janet that could be entered for plumpness in the Guinness World Records. A gigantic succulent fowl beautifully prepared by Jan’s husband Greg.

20161012_183357Other Nova Scotia highlights were the market in Mahone Bay, a Market among markets, full of food and colour and activity.  A handkerchief skirt/boots outfit that appealed to me,

High fashio
High fashion

20161013_105920 20161014_182830 20161013_105712

From the mushroom stall
From the mushroom stall

and much more.

The colourful houses of Lunenberg
The colourful houses of Lunenburg

We revelled in Lunenburg’s bookstores, basked in the weaving of Marrie Berkelaar in her shop called the Double Whale.

Jan's gorgeous find at the Double Whale
The Bluenose, Lunenburg
Jan's gorgeous jacket from the Double Whale
Jan’s gorgeous jacket from the Double Whale

and had lunch near the harbour where the Blue Nose was.

A little out of order here, but my reading at the Margaret Hennigar Public Library in Bridgewater was a dream in every way. So many people had put their hearts into its organization and into publicizing it. Jan Barkhouse was wonderful, the spearhead, and all the seats were filled. Timothy Gillespie promoted and attended. It was a delight to meet him. I met people who had connections with Labrador, with Arctic Twilight, with so many of the concerns that Leonard Budgell had. Valerie Hearder was there, a photographer who had taken one of the pictures I used found in Twilight. She did some work at Them Days oral history magazine and I found the pic in their archive in Goose Bay …I answered questions afterwards, signed books, felt wonderful and complete and Leonard would have been so happy that so many were there. A little side story: I was hosted in Whitehorse by Gail Roberts and her husband. The lovely lady in the photo below is Gail’s sister!!!

Posters for the library event!
Posters for the library event!


Arlene and Leighton Davis of Mahone Bay were kind enough to be in this photo, taken by Karen Geddes-Skelik
Arlene and Leighton Davis of Mahone Bay were kind enough to be in this photo, taken by Karen Geddes-Selig.

So much happened in Nova Scotia. I have to tell myself that it’s impossible to say everything I want to say in one post, but on Saturday, Cynthia drove me and Jan to the Luckett Vineyard on Grand Pre Road in Wolfville, or Grand P R E as the GPS has it, and treated me to wine and lunch and dessert and views that are superb.

Pile of pumpkins bright in the fall day.
Pile of pumpkins bright in the fall day.


20161015_153244There20161015_140902 is a

A feast!
A feast!
My son thought these two women were quite fetching. Here's the fetching one in the pink jacket...
My son thought these two women were quite fetching. Here’s the fetching one in the pink jacket…
... and here's the fetching one with the short hair!
… and here’s the fetching one with the short hair!

British red phone booth in the middle of the vineyard and anyone can call anywhere in the world for free. There were tiny red pickled peppers and Jan bought a humongous jar of them to add to Cynthia’s pantry. It was beyond wonderful, and the trip through the leaves and through pumpkin displays almost sent me over the top. Over the top was picking up Basma Kavanagh and taking her home with us!

When we got back to Cynthia’s at Church Lake, E. Alex Pierce joined us and we had a glorious dinner and pyjama party, sort of, feet up, glass of wine, good talk, things like that… Heaven.

On Sunday we were joined by Carol Laing, artist and writer

Carol's bouquet and madeleines on a Sunday-blue cloth!
Carol’s bouquet and madeleines on a Sunday-blue cloth!

for brunch and for a writers’ meeting. It was grand, all so grand. More talking and talking poems and talking prose and life and cabbages and queens. Next post I’ll go backwards again, talk of Fogo and readings and all the small things that make up life.


len and claudia: the journey continues, photos taken and not taken

Highlights of coming to Helen’s caboose have to include the flicker sitting calmly on a sign warning people to keep vehicles on the road from that point. a photo op missed, except in memory.20160927_093315_resized_1

Helen is at the far end of the East Coast Trail. the road is terrible; it’s a good thing Helen has a good vehicle. But once arrived at the caboose, all that seems irrelevant. The view is pristine, the air clear, the waves roaring. The next day we start climbing the trail.You are well aware Len, what a lazy wimp I can be. Nothing stops you, or Helen, and besides, there are partridgeberries to pick, and me to train as a picker.

You know what a lazy wimp I can be. Nothing stops you, Len, or Helen, and besides, there are partridgeberries to pick, and me to train as a picker. The trail starts just up the hill above where the lighthouse used to be. When Helen shows me the photo of the beautiful old building, we are all sad because of the ways of modern humans, sad because the lighthouse does not exist anymore, that it was beautiful and supported a family. Another photo I haven’t taken, that bare area where the house used to be.There’s a plaque at the start of another trail that shows where there had been a church. Seven pews, that’s all. I saw a photo of it in a book at the Pouch Cove Library. The area is rich in the preservation of its history.

But we started to climb to the trail with its beautiful views, stepping over roots, over twisted dry tuckamore roots, until Helen discovered partridgeberries. Well, wasn’t our climbing slowed down after that; our eyes were peeled to the ground for more patches, until we came to a cove, which ordered us to stop and take notice. We climbed higher until we could look down on Biscaan Cove and the caboose, Mad Moll flashing in the cove.

Another day and another part of the trail, this time after rain which enhanced colours.  A little mushroom that looked like a rose… moss on a rotting log.mushroom-roseSpruce bark in the witchy wood captivated me, as did all manner of berries and rocks.

best-witchy-barkYou and Helen great at pointing out the different berries, saving eight late blueberries for me.

Then came the evening when the solar energy system stopped with a terrible whining sound. Gerry Skinner came round and fixed the problem, leaving Helen with more tips about the system, and the two of us with story upon story, from the illegality of solar power anywhere in the province where there is access to electricity. He’s a grand storyteller and we enjoyed the time he spent with us. Here he is, and Helen taking a pic of teh solution before she closes up the bench over the batteries or teh storage cells or whatever they are…


Leaving was hard, saying goodbye to Helen, and to the tiny pink buds of the crawling juniper.jumiper-buds-3

But then we had to go, and set off on the road to Fogo.  I was early for that ferry. I didn’t mind a bit. I had stopped by the side of a road and found a tiny wild orchid that is, perhaps, galearis rotundifolia, which was exciting. I know I wrote about this before, but it was on my mind again today, such delicate loveliness among the weeds.

What’s not to love about driving on a ferry and being asked, “Got yer ticket, my darling?” The ferry is huge, and as always with ferries, I am intrigued. I love the play of shape and light wherever you turn when the sun is going down. ferry-1Early on I catch sight of, in the dying light, The Fogo Inn. I’ve been interested in it, in seeing it, in watching videos about it, in its owner, ever since I first heard about it. And there it was, on the rocks, barely lit. Like a holy thing on an altar. The light shifted and I was driving in deep dusk among, supposedly, caribou.

Fogo Island Inn
Fogo Island Inn

Caribou. They are supposed to be all over this island, but I can’t catch sight of one. Two people staying at this B&B claimed to have seen Winston J. Osmond, local painter, proprietor of The Herring Cove Studio at Shoal Bay (pronounced Shawlbee) and carver, also known for his bakeapple, marshberry, partridgeberry and blueberry jams, walking along the road carrying the head of a caribou, just hunted, but the sign will probably be all I will ever see of a caribou. Or else this little bobblehead, sighted on the dashboard of a man who looks as if he’d hunted them for the past hundred years. His toothless grin when I asked permission to take a photo.only-caribou-im-likely-to-seeMany interesting things here, like The Flat Coffee Café and Roastery, Brimstone Head, Fogo’s Brimstone Head is supposed to be one of the four corners of the flat earth.  The café is closed after tourist season, but its roasted beans are sold all over the island, at the Fogo Inn and on the Ferry. Good stuff.

flat-earth-museumAnd on to Foley’s Place at Tilting where owner Tom Earl is known for what he produces in his kitchen… partridgeberry scones, and on special occasions, seafood meals of cod, shrimp, scallops and crab taken from waters right here at Tilting, and garden produce from local gardens. It’s a great place to be washed up, right at the start of Turpin’s Trail, and a museum full of surprising things. I posted pics from the trail last time because I was so struck by its beauty, but there is so much more to it and this area. Len feels he is very close to his roots here, and is happy.

More next time…Have to get to bed so I can wake sooner to those scones…