Monday, October 01, 2012



As well as the writing I planned to work on in Kaslo (see last blog post), I brought along a few  poetry books I've been wanting to have a closer look at. Here's a look at one of them.

I met Jamella Hagen last summer at the Whitehorse Poetry Festival which she was involved in organizing. Her first book of poems, Kerosene (Nightwood Editions), came out this year. I picked it up when I was in Victoria in June for my aunt's memorial service. I had about three minutes to run into Munro's—happily, I know where they keep the poetry!

Hagen grew up in Hazleton, BC. Reading between the lines of her poems I learn that her father came to Canada from the USA during Viet Nam. See how she juxtaposes suggestions of that distant war and its jungles with what he encounters in the wilds of BC:

     Outside, the lawn was a hayfield
     he cut with a scythe. All that brome
     and fescue. The war he'd eluded
     blooming like a jungle
     as he swept the place—shh, shh
     through the pale green stalks.

These are narrative poems with a lyrical touch. Girls' Wrestling Team (2) is about Carol Huynh winning a gold medal in Beijing in 2008. Queen of the North talks about the BC Ferry that sank off the coast of BC near Hartley Bay in 2006. Emma and Rosemary, a poem in seven parts, is about one of Hagen's best friends and her mother who, we find out, dies of cancer. It's a beautiful tribute to both women.

Probably my favourite poem in the collection is Crossings. You know that shivering I mention in the title of this post? I swear I get vertigo every time I read about the two old horses that make their way back to the farm where they were born, a sixty kilometre trip that has them cross a bridge


     in front of the other, the bridge deck
     ringing out underfoot as they picked
     their way over, one hundred metres

     above the river. 
The poems in Kerosene remind me of why I love poetry. It's such a great way to impart the sense of  place, or the core of a person or event, with an economy of words that leave the reader satisfied, yet wanting more. Jamella Hagen's poetry does this in spades.

Next time I'm away, wondering what on earth I'm doing there, I'll do well to remember these lines from Questions of Home:

     Anywhere can feel like home
     if you lie there long enough
     staring at the ceiling.

Jamella Hagen reading from what would become part of Kerosene in Whitehorse, June 2011


Monica DEvine said...

I will have to make it to the Whitehorse Poetry Event. We share virtually the same neck of the woods!

Linda Crosfield said...

Monica, do try. It was the most wonderful weekend. Next one will be in June 2013. It's in the planning stages now. Bookmark the site and check for updates:

You have some wonderful photos on your blog, BTW. And you mentioned "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys", one of my favourite songs ever!

Thanks for stopping by.