Friday, November 16, 2018



Here is a short photo essay that sort of catches up with what I've been doing of late, in Wordland, at least. Seems I've been so busy juggling other peoples' words I can't find any of my own. I'm into week three of a Facebook break and it's kind of nice! Soothing. Not as much stuff to wade through. There are enough things I miss about it (being in easy reach of overseas friends; the postcard poem group; our group that gets together about once a month for a potluck) that I'll probably go back, but I find I'm not in any hurry.

Denise Brown came for a visit in the summer. Over three days we sorted out her chapbook. 
This one may require a second printing! More info on my Nose in Book Publishing page.
At the end of September I was in Vancouver for the Poetry in Transit launch at Word Vancouver. It was so wet! You can see raindrops on my glasses. That's my poem in the background. 
Carol Lopez and Anne Wheeler came out in spite of the weather, as did Dory Dynna who took this one and my bff Lynne Blume who took the one above.
So then I got busy with this chapbook, a gorgeous collection of ekphrastic poems inspired by some of Robert Bateman's paintings that Yvonne Blomer wrote at the end of her three-year tenure as Victoria, B.C.'s poet laureate. 
The book contains fifteen poems along with the sketch or painting that inspired them.
About to make the holes for sewing.
Imagine my absolute joy when I realized I had hemp thread that was exactly the right colour for the image that had to go in the middle of the book! 
Kiisa keeping an eye on the books about to go into the press.
Chapbooks being signed by Robert and Yvonne ahead of the launch.
Some of the audience at the launch. It was so good to see old poetry buddies Wendy Morton and Rhonda Ganz there!
Yvonne and her dad. Robert, still signing books!
Yvonne's poem appears alongside the painting that inspired it at the Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria. The show is on until the end of January. Ted and I loved getting to see all the paintings there, but this show! Wow!
More information on the book over on my Nose in Book Publishing page.
I made a dozen or so little (around 2"x3"/ 5 cm x 7.5 cm) books that you can hang on a tree. The Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar has most of them. Merry Ho Ho and all that.
Because of the necessary closeness of the pairs of threads it's almost harder to sew these than the bigger ones. Needles keep getting tangled with the thread. 
Here's a baker's dozen of chapbooks I've done (not including my own). After adding three to the mix this summer, I had to move them all to a new display area.
Oh yeah, and this happened. Isn't this card the best? Kathy Holmes Tenta did it. This link is to an article from five years ago but it's still totally relevant, including the link to her Etsy store. She makes fabulous felt books for babies and the most wonderful masks for toddlers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018



Back in June 2009 I blogged about a writers' weekend in Creston where I first met Deryn Collier who was among the many writers who shared snippets of their work at the open mic.

Since then, Deryn, who lives in Nelson, has published two mystery novels, Confined Space and Open Secret, that feature the enigmatic Bern Fortin, who suffers from PTSD thanks to time spent in various world hotspots when he was with the Canadian Armed Forces and is now living in small town BC working as a coroner. Now, Deryn has announced she is shelving Bern stories for the time being—or longer—in order to focus on something completely different.

As of last year, she's taken to sending out weekly e-letters where she talks about her latest project, a new mystery series set in Montreal and starring a character based on her Aunt June. Sharing her work this way evolved, in part, thanks to her aversion to putting it all out there on social media (in much the same way as I'm trying to do by writing about meatier things on my blog as opposed to on FaceTwitGram). She started these weekly letters last year and in one of them talked about her reluctance to incorporate poems into prose text as readers tend to skip over them in order to get back to normal text as quickly as possible. Harumph, thought the poet in me, reading that, only to catch myself skipping the poem in question in order to get back to the story... 

(This'll give you an idea of what the e-letters look like)

So of course I had to send Deryn a mea culpa note, and in it I believe I said I was going to blog about her e-letters, only summer was a-comin' and said letters were on hiatus for a couple of months, so I decided to wait until they started to appear in my inbox again. 

Which they have, and if you're the sort of person who likes to peek into the way a writer's mind works, you should subscribe to her e-letters. 

For readers who live in the Columbia Basin region of British Columbia (East and West Kootenay), Deryn is giving a series of talks about her process at various libraries. She describes these talks as being of interest "to genealogists, researchers, writers, mystery lovers and anyone who loves a good story." You can see when she'll be in your area here. I have her November 8th Castlegar presentation marked on the calendar already. 

Creston Library:
Saturday, November 3rd at 2:00 PM
Salmo Library:
Wednesday, November 7th at 7:00 PM
Castlegar Library:
Thursday, November 8th at 6:30 PM
Nakusp Library:
Sunday, November 18th at 1:00 PM
Nelson – Oxygen Art Centre:
Wednesday, November 21st at 7:00 PM

Friday, August 31, 2018



Another month has flown by. At some point earlier this year I swore I was going to post something at least every month. Missed February, but if I type fast, I can still nail down August.

August was busy busy. Company came and went, forest fires raged all over the province and it was horribly smokey but the swimming was good.

Smoke hanging over everything, obscuring the mountains, making it hard to breathe. Ootischenia, August 2018.

I spent quite a bit of time in the basement where it was cooler. Wearing my Nose in Book Publishing hat I finished making 250 copies of a chapbook, Migration Songs, edited by Stephen Collis, Lorna Crozier and Kurt Trzcinski, which was commissioned for the International Ornithological Congress and Vancouver Bird Festival that just wrapped up in Vancouver. Eleven poets were paired with scientists to converse and write about various birds.

Cutting, scoring and folding covers
Getting the text block into the covers
Sewing chapbook with new assistant, Kiisa, keeping an eye on things
(Very heavy) box of books, ready to go!
Finished chapbook features cover art by annie ross

Table of Contents. Look at all the wonderful poets in there!
I thoroughly enjoyed putting this one together, and now I'm working on two more!

In other news, my friend and fellow poet, Bobbie Ogletree, is moving away and our poetry group is sure going to miss her. We'll still meet via the magic of Skype or FaceTime or one of those, same as we do when I'm in Mexico. But it's not the same. Bon voyage, Bobbie and Freya. Sechelt is so lucky to have you!

Susan Andrews Grace and Bobbie Ogletree
Susan and Bobbie
Jane Byers
And, in other other news, my poetry manuscript received another glowing rejection. Frankly, this is getting a little tiresome! Oh well. Back on the horse and all that.

See you in September.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018



As I always try to put something poetry-related into these posts, I'm happy to announce that my poem, Tethered, that appeared in the anthology Refugium: Poems for the Pacific, edited by Yvonne Blomer, was selected to be included in Vancouver-area's Poetry in Transit this year! There'll be a reading of such poems (plus a couple of others) at Word Vancouver on September 30th and I'll be there. I'll provide more details (ie. where; when) closer to the date, but am I ever excited to think that one of my little poems is going to be riding buses and Skytrain and hopefully providing the odd person who looks up from their phone with a little hit of poetry. Tethered was born in La Manzanilla, the little fishing village on the west coast of Mexico (ie. on the Pacific Ocean) a few years back. I was very proud when Yvonne accepted it for the anthology, and now this! Do let me know if you happen to be riding and spot it. #PoetryinTransit @ReadLocalBC

I've been remiss in my blogging habit of late. Truth be told, I've often gone AWOL from Purple Mountain Poetry since I started it some twelve years ago, but after a happy month of daily blogging in April I had decided I'd make an attempt to blog at least a couple of times a month, just to keep those particular poetry muscles working.

Curious about exactly when I started this blog, I just looked up my very first post. It was in May of 2006, and I was so nervous about putting myself out there I wrote it in third person!

At the beginning of June, my 98-year-old mom had a heart attack, was in hospital for three weeks and is now back in her apartment in the assisted living place where she's lived for the past ten years. This has kept me and my two sisters unbelievably busy, leaving little energy for stuff like cleaning the house, never mind blogging! Here she is with her favourite grandson, Jesse. He got his musical talent from her; she was a fine violinist and pianist in her day and can still discuss the finer points of all things classical. And she supported his early musical training by giving him violin lessons, starting after we moved back to Nelson when he was seven.

In spite of this not entirely unexpected health drama (I told you she's 98), I have, however, managed to produce two chapbooks since the beginning of June. They aren't at the finished stage yet (ie. they're not quite ready for printing) but almost, and I'll certainly write about them when they are. Making little poetry books helps keep me sane.

I also made three Coptic-bound journals for a friend in Victoria and yesterday when I took visiting friends from Gibsons and La Manz over to the Kootenay Gallery I was told that someone had come in that morning specifically looking for one of my journals as she'd been gifted one before and loved it!

Speaking of making such books, Paper-Ya, my old Vancouver go-to place to buy book cloth has stopped carrying it. If anyone reading this has any tips as to where I can source good-quality (ie. silk) book cloth in Canada, please shoot me a message. I've spent a little time wandering around online, but haven't seen some of the stuff I really like, such as the cloth I used for these ones:

Any and all tips appreciated. You reading my blog is appreciated. All in all, it's a pretty good life.


Friday, June 08, 2018



There's been a lot of death talk lately. Just read a gorgeous piece of writing by Lawrence Hill about how he took his mother to Switzerland because at 90 she was ready to leave this world but even though Canada has made doctor-assisted suicide legal it's still very much "in some cases", and his mom didn't quite qualify.

There's been a lot of suicide talk, after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain both recently chose to end their lives that way. My friend Gayle Brandeis wrote a piece about how we talk about this difficult subject here. Gayle should know; her own mother committed suicide. Social media discussions are everywhere—some say it's a selfish act. Others say no, it's not, because someone in that frame of mind is not capable of thinking clearly.

All too often depression creeps into these conversations. Depression is nasty. It can leave you feeling as if there's no chance that you'll ever feel anything but despair. So many people are nipped at by that black dog.

When I was 17 it was not such a good year, to paraphrase a song. As much as I could, I explored how I was feeling by writing about it. Poetry probably saved me. Here's a poem I wrote that year.

The Choice

The eerie guise of moon and sand and sea
all fused together as I walked the shore,
seemed soft to whisper, wring your hands no more,
and to their blackest depths invited me.
I stood there for a while; time ceased to be.
The waves kept lapping softly at the shore
as time allowed my hidden thoughts to soar—
from cares and worries I longed to be free.
I knew that soon I had to make the choice
of going on or stopping there to rest
when suddenly I seemed to hear a voice—
it said to me, do what you know is best.
Which way to turn? How to avoid the strife?
I turned away, for I had chosen life.

I'm glad I chose life. But at the time...

If you are suffering, please reach out. Talk to a friend. Call the suicide hotline. Chances are things will not always appear so bleak.

Here's a list of the various provincial hotlines in Canada:

SASKATCHEWAN: 306-933-6200 // 306-757-0127
QUEBEC: 1-866-277-3553
NEW BRUNSWICK: 1-800-667-5005
NOVA SCOTIA: 1-888-429-8167


Tuesday, June 05, 2018



Here's a David McFadden book spine poem. He’s had a form of Alzheimer's for a few years and now he's in palliative care.

Kootenay friends may remember him from his time teaching at DTUC in Nelson back in the early 80s. Why Are You So Sad?, published by Insomniac Press, was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2008. It didn't win, but at the reading that preceded the award ceremony he read Secrets of the Universe which is a completely Nelson poem in so many ways—Ward and Baker streets get a mention, so does Hipperson Hardware, and then there's the encounter he describes. Have a listen and you'll see what I mean!

He didn't win the Griffin that year, but five years later he did, for What's the Score?, published by Mansfield PressA mutual friend says his daughter Jenny would like it if we’d read one or two of his poems today. It’s hard to read just one once you start, but when I opened Why Are You So Sad? and landed on this one, it was just too perfect not to share.

Love’s Golden Splendor

A woman is reading a book called Love’s Golden Splendor
on the bus heading down to the Pape station
And I look out the window and see a young man
pushing an old lady in a wheelchair, quickly,
for it is about to start raining.
Later, on the subway, there’s another woman
reading Love’s Golden Splendor, and a young
African woman, fashionably dressed, sits by herself
unself-consciously singing Billie Holiday songs.

My verses are subtle yet unschooled, amateur but never
didactic. The twentieth century means nothing to me.
This could be ninth-century China for all I care.
Everything is myth. I've wound up all my affairs
and am about to put all my possessions in a boat
and push it out in the bay and sink it. We have never
taken a step out of eternity. I think it's time
for you to come with me. Let's just go
and let's not know or even care where we're going.

 Here's to your being here, Dave. Here's to your going.

David McFadden, October 11, 1940–June 6, 2018


Saturday, May 26, 2018



Ottawa poet and publisher, Amanda Earl, recently won a box of 100 postcards and she's dying to send you one! All you have to do is send one back, and to others on the list she's compiling that you can access if you ask her. Go to Amanda's blog post about it here to sign up.

Send as many or as few as you'd like. No hard and fast rules, although this particular call is limited to Canadian poets so as not to incur the pricey postage that comes with sending things out of the country.

Readers of this blog will have occasionally come across posts about the August Postcard Poem event that's going into its twelfth year this summer. Over the years I've gone at the process in a variety of ways. One year I had a box of images of the first thirty Nancy Drew covers so I wrote poems that related to them. Another time I used a Griffin Poetry Prize anthology to find epigraphs and write poems in some way inspired by them. There's even an anthology, 56 Days of August, that celebrates ten years of the fest.

Since first embarking on that project back in 2007 I've collected more postcards than I'll ever need, so I'm delighted there's another way to use some of them! People give me postcards. I culled scores of them from my late aunt's photo albums (note to self: what am I doing with my photo albums that nobody's going to want?) And then there's Postcard Place, the little shop on Granville Island that I can't walk past whenever I'm there. And on and on...

See what I mean?