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?
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.