Category Archives: nature

Poetry, My Brother and Spring

This was going to be another post about poems that I’ve sold and in a way it is. But it is bookmore than that. Last year on March 20th my brother Dennis died unexpectedly, though he had been in ill health for a few years and we had been justifiably worried. Spring when everything is bloom is now inextricably linked with death for me.

Dennis was the eldest of four and he was burdened not so much by being the big brother but by the world. He always wanted to make the world a better place, and that probably started with being the support for his siblings, in believing in us and helping hold us together. We four were weighted by the way our narcissistic parents had used us, who had planted seeds of doubt, self-loathing, fear and sadness deep within us. We battled or succumbed in different ways. Our parents’ needs drew the four of us together. We certainly weren’t always united, and we could drive each other crazy but we have always remained close.

That mentally unhealthy upbringing affected everyone. Not only did Dennis feel he had to be there for us, he had to also be there for the world. If he wasn’t giving and contributing to the betterment of society and humankind, he didn’t feel his life was worth living. I worried at different times that he would kill himself if he couldn’t find this deep purpose. He never had a hobby. Perhaps if there was any hobby, it was Dennis’s love of animals, something we all shared. But he could never just let go and ease himself into something mindless, something to let his mind rest for a bit and regenerate.

It is what killed him. He literally could never sleep. His body forgot how to turn off, even with machines and medicines. He could never shut his brain down and stop thinking of ways to make the world better. Dennis never finished high school. In some ways he was too smart for it and I’m sure desperately unhappy, searching for a sense of place. I doubt any of us were happy in high school though I think if you look back there were probably more searching lost teenagers than there were contented ones.

In seeking approval in my mother’s eyes, Dennis strove to do more. He was successful in Dennisprovincial politics. He became a Thai Consul, he worked on senate reform, and was Edmonton’s police commissioner. He worked in other parts of the world, trying to assist various cities and countries with government. And he worked at advocating for mental health, something that we had never really had in our family. He was given an honorary doctorate for his work. Dennis contributed a lot to mental health and created the Chimo Project, which brought pet assisted therapy to Alberta long before experts were recognizing the benefits of animal-human interactions and healing.

I could go on about my deep-thinking brother, who was perhaps only second to my mother in stubbornness about their own health. He didn’t believe he could be helped, he was leery of psychologists/counsellors/psychiatrists and thought they would bleed his secrets to the world. He resisted seeking treatment. Dennis always tried to see from another person’s point of view, and it was as his body was deteriorating that I saw a darker side come out. I had rarely seen him angry until those later years, where that dark mood and glumness was troublesome and he became more fatalistic. He seemed to believe less in democracy as all the ills of the world ate at him.

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This bee, here.

Yet, he still cared about us and we, about him. Last March 20th was the first day of spring. I found a bee on the steps staggering about, having awakened too early to a chilly day. I rescued it and brought it sugar water at about the same time as my brother was dying in another province. I like to think that as the weight of the world and his burdened brain wore down, that his spirit lifted free and ended up in that bee, small and seeking nectar and the warmth of a new day. I like to think that he was finally able to fly away from worry and sadness.

 

It does not feel like a year. I still cry every week, missing him. And this is about poetry. In trying to move through my grief, to not cry constantly, I immersed myself in poetry. I couldn’t write longer works because of my sorrow, so poetry it was. I started exploring different forms, where structure and length occupied my mind with these word puzzles. In a way, I became obsessed and have written more poems in a year than probably many years combined.

That obsession hasn’t stopped. I’m still exploring forms and writing poems. But my many many poems that have sat for years have had a scrubbing. I’ve not only written new works and explored different themes but I’ve truly looked deeply at my old poems, asking myself, what does that mean? Some of these haven’t sold in over 20 years. In some cases, I set them aside, feeling something wasn’t right—the proof was in no sales. With other poems, I would send them out, not always every year.

Now, with this deep cleansing I have rewritten quite a few poems and have submitted them resurrected and they’re selling. In this way, every time a poem is sold, it reminds me of how my brother believed in me and how, even though he is no longer physically here, he continues to inspire me. I know that if he were to read this, he would kind go “Huhmp!” raise his eyebrows and give me a look.

I think of my brother every time I sell a poem. The ones sold in the past month (the ones with links are already published) and with different release dates are:

  • “Monster” in Breath and Shadow
  • “Telltale Moon” in Dreams and Nightmares
  • “masquerade” in OnSpec
  • An untitled hay(na)ku “luring” and my first haibun “Sacrifice” in Scifaikuest
  • “Three’s a Charm” in Songs of Eretz Poetry
  • “Spinning Wheel,” “Broken Words” and “Penned By My Hand” in Cascadia Subduction Zone
  • “Hacker Halloween” in Polar Borealis #14
  • “Family Dinner, Prince George” and “Sweat Lodge” in Transition magazine
  • “Hand of Fate” in Cosmic Horror Monthly
  • Widow’s Lament” in The Weird and the Whatnot
  • To the Core” in TERSE Journal

To my brother, I thank you. I miss you and I still wish you were here.

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Women in Horror: Michelle Jeffrey

WiHM11-Scalples-wvMichelle Jeffrey is my guest poet today. She shows quite well the dark with her poems of pagans and mythic beings.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

I started writing poetry when I was six years old, so my early influences would have been traditional nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss. I started exploring dark themes in my poetry when I was eleven, drawing from life experience. Later I was influenced by the work of T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Why do you write poetry?

I write poetry because my soul screams out for it to be written. I have been driven to write poetry from when I could first write. It is an integral part of my being and I could not imagine a life where I was not writing poetry regularly.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

I find it difficult to write poetry when I pick a subject and decide to write about it. My poetry is usually written about something I feel passionate about. The muse takes me and the words just flow from deep within my psyche.

Jeffrey spec 12A Summoning of Demons

Oh fallen angel, oh spirit unclean
However heinous and obscene
Be thou but the fiercest fiend
From the very darkness weaned
Nurtured fast on dread and slaughter
Thou who dwell across the water
Beyond the bounds of space and time
From nether regions’ fiery clime
Come, cross the river of life and death
With burning eyes and blazing breath
Come hither now with ravening bent
In answer to this summons sent

Beelzebub, thou of envy and spite
Come storming from the realm of night
Belphegor, cause thyself to shift
Come voracious, across the rift
Asmodeus, thou who stirs the blood
Licentious, lust and passions flood!
Baal and Hadad, come together
With thou rain and stormy weather
Sathanus, wild with wrathful ire
Come thou from the realms of fire!
Mammon, heavy with rapacious greed
With appetite strong and avarice freed
Lucifer, proud with blinding light
That shines eternal burning bright

Demons mighty, strong and tall
Greatest gods before the fall
Indomitable, rampant, wild and savage
Unbridled, set to storm and ravage
Monstrous with malevolent grace
Hither, come unto this space

## Published in Spectral Realms No. 12, Winter 2020

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I often write about the natural world, such as the seasons, the rain, the sea and the moon. My poetry is often drawn from classical mythology and paganism; Gods and Goddesses and their stories.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?Jeffery cave

I think some people like the thrill of immersing themselves in horror. They enjoy the feeling of being scared and contemplating something outside their day-to-day existence, beyond the bounds of the safe structures society builds around them. There is something about the meter of poetry that heightens the macabre experience, causing people to anticipate dread with a disturbing delight.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I am currently working on a ritual descent to the Underworld incorporating my poetry. I will be conducting the ceremony in the Temple of Baal Cave, one of the most spectacular limestone caves at Jenolan Caves, located in Australia.

Of Hooves and Horns

Within the depths of velvet forest
Something stirs
Elusive scent lichen and moss
Ferns and firs
Movement slight scarcely seen
Rarely caught
Shadows move the darkness dancing
Edge of thought
Wilderness walking stalking shadow
Soft sounding
Hooves clatter striking stone
Wild bounding
Taunting glimpse horned shadow
Falling light
Calling drawing through the veil
Darkness bright

Jeffrey god## published in Call of the God: An Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine Within Modern Paganism, 2015
(Also published in Spectral Realms No. 9, Summer 2018)

Is there anything else you want to say about horror or poetry?

My mother used to  take me to see the Hammer gothic horror movies as a young girl, sparking off a lifetime love of the horror genre.

Jeffrey bioMichelle Jeffrey is a poet, artist, dreamer and cat whisperer who likes to weave mythology, music and poetry into the rhythm of rituals and ceremonies. She is a regular contributor of poetry and articles to pagan magazines in Australia. Her poetry has also appeared in the Spectral Realms: A Weird Poetry Journal and Call of the God: An Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine Within Modern Paganism. Michelle resides in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two cats.

 

Twelve o’clock

Deeply engrossed
With the busy day’s clatter
Never expecting the sudden crack
Stunning my senses
Staring blindly
At the increasing void

The icy surface
So smooth, so still
The break was raw
Against all nature
It seemed
As if Hades had come
And dragged me down
As abruptly as
He had seized Persephone
Tearing me too
From the stable surface
Scattered flowers in my wake

## published in The Small Tapestry, Winter 2015Jeffery spec 9

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Women in Horror: Sara Tantlinger

WiHM11-Scalples-wvToday’s guest in Sara Tantlinger, another pretty amazing poet.

When did you discover poetry and who/what influenced you?

Like many others, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first writers to really lure me into the world of poetry. I remember reading “The Raven” in middle school and having the imagery stick with me for a long time. Additionally, Sylvia Plath, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman were my biggest classic inspirations that took me deeper into my love of poetry. My more contemporary inspirations are all the wonderful horror poets out there, along with Sierra DeMulder and Richard Siken.

Why do you write poetry?

I love that poetry forces you to create something sharp and poignant in a small space. You have a short amount of time to grab the reader’s attention, exploit the senses, create vivid imagery, and hopefully, have the reader go back to the beginning and discover new aspects of the poem on a second or third read. I love those types of poems that you can come back to multiple times and feel all over again. When I write poetry, I want to evoke all of that within a reader.

Blood Clot Passenger

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
striking against
miasmic city filth
striking against
his well-dressed body

hearses roll by, iron-clad wheels rattling,
urging city rats to scamper
past bluebottle flies
hovering over animal corpses
littering over the city streets
like masses on an artery

a man walks through the city
as summer rots
locomotive steam pluming upward,
conjoining with polluted clouds,
soot and smoke
thickening a blockage from the sun

1886, late summer, early morning
a man steps off a train,
the clot breaks free, travels through
Chicago’s body,
this dark-mustached swindler,
this charmer who pied the snakes
swallowed them whole,

emits musical poison from his throat
walks past death without blinking
thirty-five years old, five foot eight
blue eyes
hungering over
the sight of maggots
wondering how squirming larvae
would look
inside the body of the pretty woman
he had sat next to on the train.

First published in The Devil’s Dreamland, Strangehouse Books, 2018

##

What do you think is the most difficult aspect in writing poetry?

It can be difficult not to rely on the same words or imagery, especially in horror. It is a fantastic challenge to study new words and think of innovative ways to describe something like blood or death or darkness, but I always have to watch and edit myself for how many times I might rely on a certain word or image. The last thing I want to do is check over a collection of my poems and realize I used the same word 70 times or something like that!

Do you explore particular themes? What are they and why?

I love themed poetry! Lately, historical horror has been the niche I’ve been drawing a lot from. I also really enjoy nature-themed poetry. Taking something beautiful or terrifying from nature and turning it into a horror poem is always a delight.

My first collection Love For Slaughter centers around obsessive, bloody love. It was inspired by the idea of “madness shared by two” and I’ve dubbed it a “horrormance” collection — a little romance and a lot of blood.

The Devil's Dreamland full rezAnd then my collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award, was inspired by the life and lies of serial killer H.H. Holmes. The poems dip into his point of view pretty heavily, but I also included poems from the perspective of his victims, the city, and his murder castle in 1800s Chicago.

What is it about dark (speculative) poetry that you think attracts people to read it?

Dark and speculative poetry is such a great rabbit hole to get lost in. I’ve heard from many readers before that they weren’t really into poetry until they discovered horror poetry. While I love an array of poetry, from classic sonnets to more contemporary free verse, I can understand why studying certain poems in school might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but dark poetry offers something a little different. The poems are like bite-sized bits of horror that readers can digest and then come back to for more.

What projects (publications) are you working on or have coming up?

I am currently working on my third poetry collection titled Cradleland of Parasites. It will be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, and it draws inspiration from the Black Death and other plagues! I love historical horror, so this project has been a fascinating one to work on so far. Coming up, I have a few poems in Burning Love and Bleeding Hearts, a charity anthology to raise funds for the Australian bushfire victims — all sale proceeds will be donated to the Australian Red Cross and matched dollar-for-dollar by Microsoft (up to $50k) as part of their Giving campaign.

Is there anything else that you would like to say about  horror or poetry?

Though it isn’t poetry, my first edited anthology will also be out this fall from Strangehouse Books, Not All Monsters. The collection is made entirely of stories by women in horror, and it features some of the most stunning artwork from Don Noble. I am so proud to share the authors’ stories. Keep an eye to the horizon for pre-order info and other things soon!

Sara Tantlinger is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil’s Dreamland: Tantlinger2020Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. Her other books include Love for Slaughter and To Be Devoured. Her poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including The Twisted Book of Shadows, Sunlight Press, Unnerving, and Abyss & Apex. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

 

 

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Women in Horror: Sarah Read

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Today, Sarah Read talks about creepy crawlies and their unjust bad rap. From Shelob to Spider-Man, spiders play a significant role in fiction and our homes. I mislabeled Sarah as Canadian but she’s actually American.

Cellar Spiders: Your Secret Best Friends

Read theboneweaversorchard_coverWhenever I finish a new story, the first thing my reader friends usually ask is, “Are there spiders in this one?” Because, yeah, usually. I have a bit of a spider reputation. I love them and I think our culture has unjustly vilified them. They often feature as protagonists or positive symbols in my work, as they have in much of mythology throughout the world. My recently released novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard features a lot of spiders (and other crawlies) as well as a protagonist who loves them. Like Charley Winslow in my book, I keep a menagerie of spiders, though mine roam freely through my house. My basement is full of Cellar Spiders−thousands of them.

Cellar Spiders, often referred to as Daddy Long Legs, are members of the Pholcidae family. They are often found hanging upside down in their non-sticky webs in cool, damp places like cellars, attics, under sinks, or in any tucked-away corner of your home. Their long, spindly legs give them a definite creep factor, but these small heroes have received a bad rap from generations of misconceptions and urban myths.

Spiders play a major role in creation myths, no doubt inspired by their web-weaving. read cellarspider3There are benevolent spider gods and goddesses in Sumerian myths, in the ancient Islamic oral traditions, in African and Native American legends. For some indigenous Australian tribes, a Lord Spider created the entire universe. From the West African Ananse to the Hopi Spider Grandmother, spiders play a key role in our storytelling. Even our language for story is inspired by them−spinning and weaving tales and our webs of deceptions. Despite our modern discomfort with spiders, they still turn up as heroes in our stories. Charlotte’s Web and Spider-Man are as iconic to us as Arachne was to the Greeks. So while the spider seems to feature more often these days as a monster or a figure to induce fear in an audience, that wasn’t always the case. They deserve to reclaim their old reputation as clever, kind, and creative. The spiders lurking around your home and garden are certainly all those things, and most of them aren’t dangerous.

One of the common myths about Cellar Spiders is that they have the most potent venom in the world, but that their mouth parts are too small or weak to bite you. I have good news and bad news about that. The good news is that their venom has been shown to be very mild and definitely not at all harmful to humans. So, ease your mind on that. The bad news is that they definitely can bite you, if they want to. For an additional bit of good news: they don’t want to. It’s very rare to hear of anyone being bitten by a Cellar Spider−they are evasive, not aggressive. If their web is disturbed, they simply drop to the floor and skitter away. The only times they have been shown to bite is if they are cornered, trapped, and grabbed. Since most people don’t go around grabbing spiders with their bare hands, this isn’t a problem that arises often. If a Cellar Spider bites you, you probably deserved it. And, you’ll live.

There are better reasons, however, for leaving Cellar Spiders be. They are the best Read cellarspidernatural predators for the things you hate even more than you hate Cellar Spiders. They love to snack on centipedes, recluses, black widows−they eat the things you definitely don’t want in your house. They’ll even cut down on the dreaded mosquitoes. They keep their webs tidy and remove their leftovers, so you won’t even see their webs most of the time. That’s better than can be said for any human I’ve ever lived with.

While I’m sure it can be said that most people would prefer to have no spindle-legged critters in their homes, the fact remains that you are going to have them. Your preferences matter not to nature. But if you’re going to have leggy housemates, these are the ones you want. They are ultimately beneficial and not at all dangerous. So the next time you notice your basement ceiling is bristling with long-legged beasties, put down the broom and think for a moment. What is it in your basement that feeds such a Read SRauthorpicpopulation of predators? And would you want such things taking over unchecked? Then give these lithe-limbed ladies a salute and allow them to serve their role as stewards of the dark and dank spaces of the house.

Sarah Read is a dark fiction writer who lives in an old house full of spiders. Her debut novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, also full of spiders, has just been released from Trepidatio Publishing. You can keep up with her work at www.inkwellmonster.wordpress.com

 

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Urban Archeology

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I met Alex in one of the public urban gardens where I took pictures of the flora. Here some chive blossoms.

My life has become so busy that back in April (yes, April!) I decided that for my birthday I wanted to do more exploring of the urban jungle, my city’s back yard. It would be a bit of discovery, a bit of a lovely stroll with friends and a bit of unearthing what it is we leave behind.

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The first find; a glittery sequined pine cone.

Do you ever wonder what archeologists of the future will find when they dig through the layers of earth? Will it be a Pompeii, with so much intact from a sudden disaster that catches everyone unaware? Will it be like Roanoke, Virginia, where a whole town up and left suddenly (or so it looked) that dishes and food were left on the tables? These are some of the mysteries discovered when we sift through the dust and debris of yesteryear. What will those lost artifacts tell the future about how we lived?

I was inspired to try out some modern day urban archeology by friend and fellow writer Alex Renwick, who had several found objects cases in her place with an array of interesting items. There were the natural wonders she collected (shells, stones, sticks, etc.) plus pieces of glass, or dolls or other things lost and abandoned along the way.

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We did not dive into the dumpsters but chose from near them.

As it turned out, no one else thought this was a fun idea so Alex and I went on our own adventure, with Daniel and Anja joining us along the way. My goal was to pick up anything that wasn’t natural, in the alleys and streets we wandered. I soon decided that cigarette butts (the most common form of human debris that I found) and skanky rotting garbage didn’t count. I only gathered man made items, whether pretty or not.

Alex’s mandate was a bit different and she had an experienced eye for collecting. In fact, when she met me she had already found some sort of sequined bauble. She also gathered natural debris such as twigs, berries and stones, plus a plethora of flattened bottle caps. Her collection was definitely more arty than mine.

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Anja’s collection included a bright fuschia flower, nails, and a disc with an urban angel.Enter a caption

The first thing I found was that my romantic image of great old chair legs and pieces of dolls was not going to happen. All of Vancouver’s alleys are paved over and overall, Vancouver’s a very clean city. For the future there would be better areas for debris, such as along train tracks. I’ve discovered in my goal of walking more this year that there are a lot of homeless people who hang out and live under the elevated SkyTrain tracks but considering the squalor of those areas it’s probably better not to wander into that area.

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Daniel’s items centered on plastics and that silver pack is a David’s Tea bag.

We did two different areas, with a long walk through some urban gardens where there are old tracks, but not quite as destitute because people grow their plants and veggies along the way. In fact Anja found the most interesting artifact in this area, mostly buried into the ground; and angel plague.

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My objects, laid out like specimens, with the flowering begonia. fake flowers, broken glass, a toy mouse and plastics.

We had a lovely day for doing this, saw some great gardens and plants,explored various streets and spent time in companionship. Not to mention that we did a bit of recycling for the city. Once we’d gathered our various bits, we laid them out for documenting and then they were recycled. Alex and I both kept some of our pieces. I found a full flowering begonia in one alley and still have it, with a few yellow flowers, though the frost is coming so its days are numbered.

found objects, natural art, urban archeology

Alex’s treasure trove, including the sign that says Paperback Cellar. Lots of plant material and artfully arranged.

Since then I have found some of the thoroughfares have the most garbage; abandoned tags and bus tickets, plastic and Starbucks cup, numerous cigarette butts and a myriad of wires and string. In fact, none of these are in the collections shown here and was what I noticed in my walks downtown. But I’ve been inspired. I believe that next spring I’m going to start collecting some of these items, yes, even the cigarette butts. This means I’ll have to carry gloves and other containers for such disgusting castoffs. I have several ideas for making urban art, which will be both a social commentary on what we consume and what we throw away.

In the meantime, it was a fun way to explore the city and I hope we can do a few more urban archeology projects when spring returns. Below, a little slideshow of our day, with a yard that was designed on found objects.

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All photos copyright Colleen Anderson. Alex Renwick for Paperback cellar images.

 

 

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Sailing a Viking Longship

longship, Vikings, Scandinavian, Norse

The Munin is a half-size replica of the boat Leif Erickson sailed to North America. copyright 2015

Last summer a friend and I were walking along the beach, off to see an art barge behind the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The barge had wooden staircases and rooms built on it and a little shuttle ferry took you out to it. It was interesting if not fascinating and we noticed that the dock we left from was called the Heritage Harbour. There were about a dozen wooden boats, all with signs indicating their history and construction. Some were sailboats, some fishing trawlers, all relatively small (but what do I know about boats).

It was a beautiful summer day so we read the information on each boat, figuring this was where owners of vintage boats could show off and attract additional attention for the Maritime Museum,which houses the Saint Roch, the first boat to sail the NW Passage, complete the sailing in one season and circumnavigate North America. We noticed two women stowing gear for a dark brown Viking longboat. The sails were down but it’s distinctive carved animal heads gave it away. I mentioned that I’d seen it out in the bay a few times.

Scandinavian Center, sailing, Viking longboat

The boat is out for repairs, and the heads are stowed for now but you can see some of the details.

It turns out that the ship is named the Munin (after one of Odin’s ravens) and for a donation you can reserve space on the boat for an approximate two-hour sail. That sounded fun, so we signed up. There is an upper and lower limit for sailing the boat as you need enough people to row the boat out of the harbor and not to many that there are no seats. Imagine a giant wooden rowboat and then imagine Leif Erickson sailing one to North America. The Gokstadt was the name of that historical boat and the Munin is a half-size replica at 40 feet long and 20 feet wide.

After I went out the first time, I had another group of friends who wanted to go so we went a second time. By the end of that trip, I was hooked and signed up to volunteer. I know nothing about sailing, or rowing for that matter, but I liked that sailing is outdoors, social and true exercise. Munin will sail in winter if weather permits and except for the bilge pump it’s all the way it was centuries ago. There are 10-foot wooden oars (approximately) and you must row in and out of harbor, then you can put up the sail.

hull, keel, longship, longboat

Some of the maintenance is check the boards for cracks and scraping the hull.

I’m learning the ropes, literally, and very green. I managed to go sailing twice more in the fall, with the last day being quite a challenge. The winds picked up and where the Munin usually goes no faster than 20 knots, I was told we hit 35. We had to row with the sail up just to try to get back to the harbor. As many hands as possible had to row that day. I’m still very new to rowing so my grasp of the oar isn’t very strong. Even my pinkies hurt the next day. The current and wind can grab the oar and slam you out of your seat. I wasn’t the only that got knocked over and we almost lost an oar once or twice. But it was exhilarating.

Now, we’ve had to pull the boat for the winter because the moorage is changing but more importantly the boat needs some repairs as it was taking on water. Part of volunteering is committing to the nitty gritty of boat maintenance. We are housing the longship at the Scandinavian Centre, (in Burnaby) where Norway House (one of the five Scandinavian houses) was the original sponsor for the construction of Munin 14 years ago.

Munin, Leif Erickson, Scandinavian, Norway

Even the captains scrape and clean.

Everyone who works on the boat or who is crew is a volunteer, giving time for free. Moorage is covered somewhat by people reserving for a ride and donations. But there are many costs. I worked at scraping the old paint off of the boat. The next stage is replacing the cracked or damaged boards, repairing other pieces, making sure the bilge pump is working, repainting the hull and then re-launching the ship. I learned a valuable lesson; when you’re scraping the hull of a boat, even if it’s been out of water for two months, the wood is still wet and there is wood, paint, dirt and who knows what else flying off. I didn’t have goggles (didn’t even know I should use them) and got debris in my eye. Now I’m dealing with a blocked duct.

I’ll be having more adventures once the boat is back in the water. I never knew that I would connect with my Danish & Norwegian heritage this way. In fact, I only knew the family name and the area in Norway where my ancestors came from.

Scandinavian Centre dinner, Munin ship. Viking longboat

Come out and support the Munin and meet the community on March 20.

To help support the continuance of this bit of history, the Scandinavian Centre will be hosting the Munin Ship Annual Pork Dinner. It takes place on March 20 and cost $30 for adults (cheaper for kids–clinic on the line above). You can support the Viking Longship, take a look at it, view the center, have a nice meal, and hear some seagoing songs by the band Corryvreken. I’ll be the MC and in traditional Norse dress to boot. Tickets should be bought by March 13, and it always sells out, so book early. Details:

Cash Bar 6 pm       Dinner 7 pm
Traditional Pork dinner with all the trimmings  
(gluten-free; dairy free choices)
Tickets from: Anne Haug     annehaug@eastlink.ca     604 943 0340

On another note, I saw this ad. You could go to Norway and get a summer job as captain of a Viking sailing ship. Too bad none of our crew is able. Imagine sailing the fjords as the Vikings once did. Here’s to more sailing and who knows what might be next, raiding and pillaging? Fair winds!

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Rainforest Writers Retreat

rainforest, Lake Quinault, writers retreat,

The Lake Quinault Rainforest was mossy and very green.

I just returned from five days at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in Lake Quinault, Washington. Lake Quinault is on the Olympic Peninsula, tucked away amongst trees, and why yes, a lake. Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press organizes these and does two a year, a week apart. I’ve been trying for three years to get in but it always sells out quickly. Last year, I finally got in but was on a waiting list (for about a half a day) because I had registered 24 hours later. Yes, it sells out that quickly and there are many alumni that return every year.

As a “newbie” there were many things I didn’t know about the retreat structure but Patrick gives pointers on the website on what to bring, and near the time of the retreat we’re all on a yahoo list where we can ask many questions. I picked up another writer on my drive down from Canada and we did the leisurely, longer Pt. Townsend ferry route to the Lake Quinault Rain Forest Resort. Neither one of us having been before, nor secure in our direction sensing abilities, we did make one wrong turnoff, not to mention somehow taking that different route on Whidbey Island (I have driven there numerous times but it’s easy to take the wrong turn–still it’s an island so you eventually get to the same spot). We arrived Wednesday evening and got our rooms in the hotel.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Patrick Swenson, writing,

Writers writing in the lounge. The guy in red is writing by hand!

The resort has cabins, cabins with fireplaces and motel rooms. I had no clue as to what was good or not so ended up in the motel room. The cabins are more costly. The rooms are fairly basic, sort of rustic woodsy toned. Mine had an odd smell and faced the back but the bed was comfy and I wasn’t in it much. I guess these ones get shut up more in the off season. The restaurant and lounge is where the writers congregate, and besides the lodge being open for dinner in the evenings, we had the run of the place night and day. Being off season, Patrick made special arrangements. Most breakfasts were included but lunch and dinner were on our own. There is “Cabin 6” where spare munchies, some sandwich makings and the word count board lived. The other good thing is there is a homemade soup and grilled cheese sandwich day in Cabin 6 and then we have a party on Saturday night.

writing, revising, writers retreats

The Albertan contingent entrenched near the fireplace. Dead things decorate the walls.

The word count board is where everyone writing lists how many words they’re creating. Some people go into the negatives if they’re revising. I was working on revising a novel so while I did add about 4,500 words I also got rid of some as well. The main thing is to write and everyone does it differently. You can go off to hide in your room or to Cabin 6 or you can stay in the lounge or dining room, in a group or by yourself, though others will filter in and out. I went to write and write I did. By the end of the weekend, the winner of the word count had written over 32,000 words, and between the 37-38 of us there we created over 300,000 words. That’s a trilogy right there.

books, writing, short fiction

The bookstore is set up in the lounge, for writers or locals.

Most of the people are at different pro levels though some are newer writers, but I’d say the majority were working on novels. There were several, optional one-hour discussions given by Nancy Kress, Louise Marley, Daryl Gregory, Randy Henderson, Jack Skillingstead and a panel discussion with Nancy, Jack, Daryl and Ted Kosmatka talking about outlining. Many of the discussions aren’t necessarily about things we writers don’t already know but it’s always good to chat about them, be reminded about them and hear how others do it. Outlining went from those who don’t even know how their book ends when they begin writing, to those who bullet point the details. There is no right way, just many ways.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Lake Quinault

It’s chilly enough to encourage people to write, but worth a walk to see some of the area.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Fairwood Press, writing

Rainforest Writers. Big sweaters, booze and laptops.

As well, on Saturday night the University (of Washington) Bookstore sets up with books of all the writers present. It’s very evil and tempting and I’d wished I had more money. Writing, perhaps of all the arts is probably one of the most solitary. We sit alone at our desks and write. At the Rainforest Retreat, there was the lovely (if chilly and cold–it IS February) rainforest to explore that also has the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. It didn’t look that big until you walked up to it and realized you could put six people up on its trunk. There’s a store that sells various items including Sasquatch poop. We also sat quietly typing away or taking a break and talking with others. But it was actually really nice to look up and just see others doing the same thing; a camaraderie of our group writing solitary together.

forest, rainforest, Lake Quinault, Olympic Peninsula

The land of super mossy trees. The setting was inspiring for writing.

I made it through 50,000 words of revision on my novel, fixing some things as I went, that I’d woken up to through the talks. I got to know some of the writers a little better, and everyone would take a moment at some point to geek out and talk about “their story.” It was thoroughly inspiring, productive and fun. I’m not sure if I’ll do the retreat next year but like the group that comes out from Alberta every year, it could very well become an annual pilgrimage.

I won’t mention that I drove home through an unexpected snow storm, with the heater not working in my car and how I had to stay in Bellingham the night. No, I won’t mention that because I had a great time even if I was a popsicle by the time I got home.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: John Bell

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

CA: Leaving Cape Roseway speaks to a primal feeling. Do you think that feeling takes on a supernatural quality when we are confronted with the unfamiliar?

A few years ago a veteran lobster fisherman, who grew up on McNutt’s Island in Shelburne Harbour, took me out to the island and showed me the remnants of a once thriving community. As we toured the abandoned buildings and the ruins of fortifications, I wondered how Poe or Lovecraft might respond to this place and its emptiness, transforming a Nova Scotia landscape into mindscape and dreamscape. However, I didn’t want the sense of dread to be too overt. Instead, I aimed for a more subtle evocation of fear and its contours.

CA: Eileen Kernaghan’s poem is of another forest, yet you both have drawn on the power of nature. Once humans created gods and beings to comprehend this power. Do you think we have lost that in our modern age?

Yes, I think we have to some degree; however, our response to nature remains primal (that word again). I think my poem and Eileen’s both speak to a yearning to reconnect with nature, to be enveloped in the natural world. It’s a feeling that combines wonder and fear – maybe even panic. (I’m sure the Germans have a word for it.)

CA: Would you ever wish to truly meet a supernatural or magical being or be in such a place?

 I once published a poem, “Loup-Garou,” in the Canadian magazine Dark Fantasy , in which the narrator runs in terror from such

poetry, fear, primal feelings, power of nature, nautre, mystical, speculative writing

John Bell embraces the mythic in nature and lives in Nova Scotia.

an encounter only to discover, in an EC-Comics-style ending, that he has become the supernatural being. I, too, would probably run in terror.

CA: Do you think the animals of the fields and forest live their lives in a world that is magical or in one devoid of anything but the search for comfort, sustenance and shelter?

I believe there is magic in the natural world for all creatures to experience in their own way. For instance, no one can convince me that crows are not living in a magical world. Just watch them.

CA: What themes do you like to explore in your writing and what other projects do you have on the go?

I am currently editing a book that collects the wartime diary and letters of my wife’s great-uncle, a working-class guy from the north end of Halifax who served as a gunner in the Canadian Army during the First World War. Although he worked all his life as a mechanic, he was also an aspiring writer (his middle name was “Byron”). In fact, his papers include several story manuscripts and rejection letters from pulp magazines such as Adventure. I hope to honour his service and fulfill his literary ambitions.

John Bell was born in Montreal and grew up in Halifax. After a long career at the National Archives in Ottawa, he returned to Nova Scotia and now lives in Lunenburg. He is the author or editor of nearly twenty books, including Invaders from the North, a ground-breaking history of Canadian comics. A former editor of the poetry magazine Arc, Bell has contributed to numerous anthologies, among them Ark of Ice and Nova Scotia: Visions of the Future, both edited by Lesley Choyce. In 1981, Bell and Choyce co-edited Visions from the Edge, one of the earliest Canadian SF anthologies.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dominik Parisien

fantasy poetry, speculative fiction, myth, death

Dominik Parisien tells a tale of magic, madness and mystery.

CA: “My Child Has Winter in His Bones” has the three Ms: magic, mystery and madness. Do you think there is a fine line between true madness and magic?

For me, the poem has a great deal to do with grief, which is a powerful form of madness in many cases. That being said, in this day and age, “madness” and “magic” almost feel like two gradients on the same spectrum, in that they’re both used to qualify things we can’t properly understand, albeit one is viewed as negative and one as positive. If something feels irrational, irregular, we call it mad. If it feels joyful, overwhelmingly special, we call it magical. And what’s magical to one person can be utterly mad for another, and vice-versa.

CA: The climate has been said to play an integral part to the Canadian mindscape, though that could be said of other places as well. Here, you use a different way of personifying winter. Would you say that people often see the elements in a personal or human way?

Personalization of the elements is, of course, nothing new. The Green Man, The Winter Queen, elementals, etc. I think personifying the elements was and is an effective way to facilitate an understanding of them, to explore their significance and our relationship to/with them in various ways. The fact that such personifications occur throughout time and cultures illustrates their importance to us as human beings, both as storytelling modes and as symbolic signifiers. Applied more specifically to CanLit, I think the richness of our landscape and the radical variations in our climate do lead to effective uses of personification and pathetic fallacy, and that’s it’s more or less a natural tendency given where and how we live.

CA: While you wrote this as a poem, could the tale be told as a story or do you think you would lose the

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

feel that only poetry can give to an image?

I find there’s an immediacy to poetry, a jarring emotionality that resonates more strongly with me than with prose when I’m writing. It isn’t always the case when I’m reading someone else’s work, but when I’m writing my emotional engagement with the subject matter tends to dictate the form. So, in this case it probably couldn’t have been a story. I’d been tinkering with the idea of conveying it as a story, but I kept being drawn back to poetry.

CA: Do you use mystery and the elements in your other works? And are you surviving winter?

I think I focus more on the numinous than mystery in my work, although mystery informs that. I think it’s a mistake to believe that we can understand the world in purely empirical terms. There are things that are unexplainable. Our understanding of the world is always informed by our personal biases, our beliefs, etc., and when we’re introduced to a view that is different from ours, there’s a bit of mystery to that. A bit of magic. And there’s always mystery around us, in one form or another. I like to explore that.

And yes, the elements do play a fairly large part in my work. Another one of my poems, “Since Breaking Through the Ice.” which was reprinted in Imaginarium 2013, explored a similar subject to “My Child…” and might be called a companion piece. One of my favorite pastimes in winter is walking on frozen bodies of water. While I lived near the Ottawa River I would regularly go for walks on the frozen river. I knew the dangers–there are drownings almost every year in the area–but I was careful, and the river and the sound of the ice hold a particular sway over me. A fascination.  As for surviving winter, I’m definitely missing snowshoeing opportunities on the river now that I live in Montreal!

CA: As a poet and a fiction author, do you favor one form over the other, or do they hold equal weight for you?
I tend to favor poetry in my own writing. Recently, anyway. I do write the occasional short story, but the poetic form comes to me more naturally. I tend to think in vignettes and snippets, and I enjoy the challenge of conveying story/narrative and character in a compact way, all the while toying with language and form. I also have a background in English Literature and have a particular fondness for poetry. I value and enjoy reading fiction and poetry equally, though.
CA: What other pieces do you have in the works right now?

I’m currently working on a poetry chapbook, comprising original poems and reprints. Otherwise, I edit poetry for Postscripts to Darkness, an Ottawa-based journal of dark and uncanny fiction and poetry. I also recently edited Mike Allen’s  poetry omnibus, Hungry Constellations, which will appear in 2014 from Mythic Delirium Books.  Finally, I work on various editing projects with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, such as the recently released Time Traveller’s Almanac from Head of Zeus in the UK and Tor Books in North America.

Dominik Parisien is a Franco-Ontarian living in Montreal, Quebec. His poetry has appeared in print and online, most recently in Strange Horizons, Shock Totem, and Ideomancer, amongst others, and has been reprinted in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing.  He is the poetry editor for Postscripts to Darkness, provides editorial support to Cheeky Frawg Books, and is a former editorial assistant for Weird Tales.

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Tesseracts 17 Interviews: Eileen Kernaghan

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 will be out this fall with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

Today, I’m continuing the Tesseracts 17 interviews with Eileen Kernaghan, whose poem “Night Journey: West Coast” captures elements that have always been present in the Pacific rainforest. The anthology will be out from EDGE in the following weeks.

CA: Eileen, your poem “Night Journey: West Coast” brings out a spiritual and metamorphic quality to the forest. You’re a BC native. What do you find is the most magical aspect of the province?

Eileen: For me, it’s the forest. I grew up on a farm that bordered on  woods  and mountains.  The forest,  when I was a child , was a magical  kingdom, full of hidden groves and secret passageways.  It was where I spent a great deal of my time, and where I imagined a great many stories that have yet to be written.  But in the forest at night there’s a darker kind of magic.  I wrote “Night Journey”  after an unnerving trip from Courtenay to Nanaimo on the new island highway,  in darkness, fog  and driving rain.  Quite co-incidentally, we had the music from Twin Peaks on the cassette player.  I really felt that if we veered from that black ribbon of highway, we could vanish forever.

CA: Are you done exploring the land here in terms of fiction or do you think new ideas are sprouting from the rich earth all the time?

Eileen: I’m not sure about fiction, but I’m certain  there’ll be more poems.

CA: What other encounters have you written about that involve the forest or the supernatural qualities of the land?

women in writing, horror, dark fantasy, dark fiction

Eileen Kernaghan is an award winning writer.

Eileen: What comes to mind is my most often published poem, which  appeared in an early Tesseracts. “Tales from the Holograph Woods” compares an imagined future landscape where there are no more forests, with an “older physics” where the land was a living entity . (One of  the places where it appeared was Witness to Wilderness: The Clayoquot Sound Anthology, which rose out of the protest of 1993. ) As to personal encounters—several poems came out of a  visit to  Stonehenge, Avebury and Glastonbury,  where  the magical qualities of the land are inescapable.  My novel Sarsen Witch, which is about earth magic, was written before that trip, but when (thanks to a letter of permission from English Heritage)  I was able to stand one late evening in the centre of the Stonehenge circle, I knew that I’d pretty much got things right.

 Eileen Kernaghan’s speculative poetry collection Tales From the Holograph Woods (Wattle & Daub Books, 2009)  draws its themes from science fiction, myth and magic, dark fantasy and fairy tales. Eileen is also the author of eight historical fantasy novels that reflect her fascination with other times and places, from the prehistoric Indus Valley to Victorian England. She was shortlisted in 2009 for the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and in 2005 for the Sheila Egoff Prize for Children’s Literature. Her latest novel, Sophie, in Shadow, is set in India under the Raj, circa 1914. It will be published by Thistledown Press in spring 2014.

www.eileenkernaghan.ca     http://www.eileen-kernaghan.blogspot.com

 

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