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Launchpad: REVERY, by Jenna Butler

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Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.
LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.

Today, Ariel Gordon is championing Revery, by Jenna Butler. Gordon writes, "Books are built on the backs and shoulders of other books. I wouldn’t have written my book Treed: Walking in Canada’s Urban Forests, if I hadn’t read Jenna Butler’s A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail back in 2015. Back then, I loved Jenna’s stories about building an off-grid farm an hour and a half north of Edmonton. But I needed to read about Jenna’s commitment to her land in an era when the effects of climate change were beginning to make themselves felt in Alberta, where she is, and in Manitoba, where I am.

Five years later, Jenna and her husband Thomas are still on the land, but everything has changed. They’ve moved the farm to higher ground after five years of flooding and are having to re-build their market gardens from scratch, both in terms of plants and the soil bene …

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TreeTalk-ing or, "How I Became a Serial Poetry Monogamist"

Ariel Gordon, award-winning poet, brings things together—people, ideas, forms and genres, and more. She is author of essay collection Treed: Walking in Canada's Urban Forest, and her latest release is TreeTalk, her third poetry collection.

*****

It was a midnight proposal.

I was a long-time admirer of Synonym Art Consultation’s residency program, which took place at The Tallest Poppy, a Jewish diner/hangout in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood.

One night, after a good half hour of browsing SAC’s website like it was a dating site, all I could think was: “I want to do one of those!” And: “But what could I do?”

At that point, I was halfway through the writing of my collection of essays, Treed: Walking in Canada’s Urban Forest, which means I was (and still am!) obsessed with all things arboreal.

And while I was officially working on Treed, I am a serial poetry monogamist, which is to say that I’d published two collections of poetry (Hump and Stowaways) and generally made it my mission in life to convert non-believers to poetry.

At events, I’d shamelessly try to steal prose-writers’ audiences. My favourite thing, afterwards, was to hear people say, “You know, I don’t read poetry usually, but that was really interesting…”

(And yes, if you …

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Writing the Self In Nature

Poet Ariel Gordon makes her nonfiction debut with Treed: Walking in Canada's Urban Forests. We're thrilled to featuring this recommended reading list of titles that helped her become comfortable with writing personal essays, which the book comprises. 

*****

Standing on the sidewalk under a boulevard elm, looking up into its branches….that’s easy. All I need to do is step out my front door. But writing about it? Trying to describe what it’s like to live under the urban forest in a medium-sized city, how wonderful and threatened the trees are here and elsewhere? Well, that’s another thing altogether...

I feel like I’ve been prepping to write this book for half my life—when I was studying for my BSc and writing poems, when I was taking macro photographs of mushrooms in Assiniboine Forest and writing about then on my blog—but I only really started writing the essays that would become Treed four years ago. And I only really figured out how to write the essays I needed to write last year, after multiple drafts and abandoned stubs of essays.

Though not everyone’s comfortable with the personal essay, I discovered that it was the only way I could write about the trees, about urban nature. So I wanted to share a few texts that helped me to get comfortable with …

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Behind the Poem: Ariel Gordon and the How-To Poems

Book Cover Stowaways

Governor-General's Award-winning poet Julie Bruck writes of Ariel Gordon's second collection, Stowaways, "These are nervy poems that refuse to behave themselves. They are something to celebrate." Throughout the collection, the wild and the domestic intersect (and misbehave!) in surprising and illuminating ways. A particular highlight of the book are Gordon's "How-To" poems. In this guest post, Gordon gives us their background, and shares "How to Write a Poem." 

*****

I’ve spent a lot of my life as a passenger.

Sitting with a notebook and a pencil dug from the gritty bottom of my bag while someone else navigated, writing because I’d “seen something.”

We’d arrive somewhere and I’d have no idea where we were. And I’d just shrug, because I’d be hauled home, too. And I had the beginnings of a poem in my notebook, humming to itself smugly.

When I finally got my own car, I was in my mid-30s. And my mental map of Winnipeg was all elaborate bus routes and jaywalking.

But I had to be present when driving my little Prius. I had to monitor the process of getting from A to B, where before I would park my body and just monitor my thoughts, fingers moving over the marked-up pages. 

I mourned a little when I no longer had a long bus ride to university—and a bust-proof …

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