It takes me a long time to write a book. Whether it’s poems or a novel, I feel like I’m at it over a lifetime. Death Becomes Us contains poems written mostly after my late husband died, and during that time I read a lot of books that helped me to heal. Survival wells inside us all, and whether a book is exploring how to survive life or death, it is comforting to read other writers’ experiences with that survival.
Here are a few books that I read that helped provide me with context, with compassion, as I grappled with my own loss.
St. Boniface Elegies, by Catherine Hunter
I find something strangely intimate in reading poems that are set in my hometown. This lovely volume of poetry, separated into four sections, explores death and loss with a gentle humour, all the while describing places I know well but feel I have never seen properly. Hunter has a clear vision, and is a master at depicting the scene. Her writing puts me in mind of the director of a movie, walking around with a whirring camera, capturing images with precision, each given its o …
While writing Pluck I was drawn to the stories of others struggling through pandemonium and learning to quieten its crazed babel. We all have a have memoir in us, we talk it out every time we sit with family, friends or shrinks, trying to make sense of whatever the hell just happened back there, and why’s it still happening.
We find patterns of behaviour in all of us, and in our relationships and workplaces and the towns we live in. We are all living out the stories of our ancestors going back thousands of years. Which is why I varied my reading to include more objective works as well as personal memoir. God knows, we need all the help we can in navigating this terrible wonderful life bestowed upon us.
These are only some of the books from which I learned of new questions to ask, and found answers to those I hadn’t thought of asking.
Care Of: Letters, Connections, and Cures, by Ivan Coyote
As deep as it is poignant, Care Of is a co …
In the immediate aftermath of last year’s tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia, Sheree Fitch penned a verse that captured the heartache so many were feeling. Originally broadcast in a national vigil to honour victims of the tragedy, Sheree’s poem Because We Love, We Cry was recently released in book format by Nimbus Publishing.
Sheree Fitch’s first two books, Toes in My Nose (1987) and Sleeping Dragons All Around (1989), launched her career as a poet, rhymster, and a “kind of Canadian female Dr. Seuss.” Fitch has won almost every major award for Canadian children’s literature since then, including the 2000 Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work Inspirational to Canadian Children. She has over twenty-five books to her credit, including her bestselling and critically praised adult novel, Kiss the Joy As It Flies (2008).
Trevor Corkum: Because We Love, We Cry was written as a response to the tragedy in Portapique and surrounding areas last year. How did the poem come to life for you?
Sheree Fitch: That Sunday, as things unfolded, we were franti …
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 we're launching Christa Couture's memoir, How to Lose Everything, which is being championed by... me, Kerry Clare, author and editor at 49thShelf.com. Last spring, I had the opportunity to read this book by Couture, who is an award-winning singer-songwriter, as well as a radio host and writer, and I devoured it in two days. On my phone. And I have a really crummy phone. I have almost never managed to read an entire book on a screen, let alone in two days, so voraciously. But this is a pretty special book. A book you might think would be a bit of a downer, this story that catalogues the monumental losses experienced by Couture throughout her life—she had cancer as a child; she lost her leg in curing that cancer; her first two children died; she got divorced; she got cancer again. And yet. This is a book that sparkles and sings, a memoir as rich with joy as it is with sadness, a story …
This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Zoe Whittall writes, “This book is perfect. Dead Mom Walking is a deeply funny, incredibly smart, and moving page-turner...I just can’t get over what a stunning achievement it is.”
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
Dead Mom Walking is about how my amazing/beloved/hilarious mother tried to cure herself of cancer …
Love is hearts and roses, but life is complicated, and to share a life with someone else requires a bond and commitment far stronger than any verse ever penned on a Valentine. In the new anthology Love Me True, edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam and Jane Silcott, 27 creative nonfiction writers and 16 poets explore how marriage and committed relationships have challenged, shaped, supported and changed them, delving deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds.
Lesley Buxton's essay from the collection, "Are You Still Married?" is devastating, sad, glorious and beautiful, and we're so glad to be able to share it with you.
Please note that Love Me True is on our giveaways page until February 18.
“Are you still married?” the customer asks.
I look up from her bill and glance towards my section on the patio, hoping to find an excuse to leave. Nobody needs me. I’m stuck.
This customer and I share an unwanted and one-sided intimacy. For the last months of my sixteen-year-old daughter India’s life, this customer was our social worker. Her job was to navigate us through the medical system. She was neither exceptionally good at her job nor bad. This is the first time I’ve seen her since my daughter died ten months ago and I can’t remember her name.
Finally I say, “Yes, …
It’s a pleasure to be back in conversation with Michael V. Smith, author of a brand spanking new collection of poems, Bad Ideas (Nightwood Editions).
According to The Province, Bad Ideas “deals heavily in themes of family, sexuality, spirituality, life and death. Smith’s poetry is moving, beautifully written and heartfelt.”
Michael V. Smith is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, performance artist, and occasional clown. He is the author of several books including What You Can’t Have (Signature Editions, 2006), which was short-listed for the ReLit Award, and My Body Is Yours (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2015), which was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. He is also the winner of the inaugural Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers and was nominated for the Journey Prize. Smith currently teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.
Trevor Corkum: As someone who’s had more than a few bad ideas myself, I love and appreciate the title of the collection. How did it all co …
As fascinating as books themselves (and oh, are books ever fascinating) are the connections between books, the curious ways in which books inform and echo each other, creating strange synergies completely outside of their authors' purview. In celebration of these connections, we've made great pairings of recent Canadian books of note, creating ideal literary companions.
Carson Ellis's smash-hit picture book explores the meaning of home as it considers all kinds of homes—a ship, a shoe, a home on the moon?—and shares the same preoccupations as Avi Friedman's new collection of essays.
Influential artist Carson Ellis makes her solo picture-book debut with a whimsical tribute to the many possibilities of home.
Home might be a house in the country, an apartment in the city, or even a shoe. Home may be on the road or the sea, in the realm of myth, or in the artist’s own studio. A meditation on the concept of home and a visual treat that invites many return visits, this loving look at the places where people live marks the picture-book debut of Carson Ellis, acclaimed illustrator of the Wildwood series and artist for the indie band the Decemberists.