Tag Archives: Events and scenes

Brick Books poetry launch explores underground themes

April 29, 2014

Open Space, 510 Fort St, Victoria, B.C.

Review by Julian Gunn 

There was smoke in the streets of downtown Victoria the night of the Brick Books launch. A derelict garage a few blocks over had caught fire in the afternoon. Poets and their fans drifted towards Open Space through a hazy sunset, carrying in the smell of charred wood on their clothes. It seemed curiously appropriate, since the work we heard that Tuesday night concerned the uneasy meetings of human desires and natural forces.

Sparking off their cross-Canada tour in Victoria, the four poets of Brick Books’ Spring Collection – Victoria’s Arleen Paré and Karen Enns, Whitehorse’s Joanna Lilley, and Jane Munro, formerly of Vancouver Island and now a Vancouver resident – read to a packed house that included a strong showing of Victoria’s poetic community. Brick Books General Manager Kitty Lewis was the enthusiastic host.

“You’ve got your whole spring lineup touring together,” I’d pointed out to Lewis over coffee the day before. “Was that hard to organize?”

She smiled conspiratorially. “No, but we made it work. I told them: you need the nucleus of an audience. So as long as there were two of the four that knew some people in the city, I booked a reading.” Lewis explained that Victoria is the first stop of a tour that culminates in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This is the largest reading tour Brick Books has ever put together. And by Brick Books, in this case I mean Kitty Lewis, since after more than 20 years she still administers the whole show out of her spare bedroom. Founders Don McKay and Stan Dragland provide Brick’s artistic direction. The editors choose and edit manuscripts. The production team ensures that each book is a carefully constructed artifact. Kitty Lewis keeps it all running, and beautiful books of poetry continue to be printed and offered to readers across Canada. Sitting there in the audience, I felt lucky.

Lewis lined up the authors in reverse order of experience. Joanna Lilley began her reading from The Fleece Era by telling the audience that this was a night of firsts for her: her first book, first reading in Victoria, first time touring with the little band of poets. Lilley was born in England but lives in the Yukon. Inspired by the art around us, she spoke about living in the Yukon as a settler, a British immigrant, a vegetarian who ponders the ethics of eating only shipped-in food, and a woman who is childless by choice. Many of her poems traversed the difficult emotional territory of intimate relationships through the twinning of geographical and emotional isolation. She read “Scientist,” about a painful disconnect between partners enacted while skiing: “How is it I’m lost / yet you’re not, although / we’re on the same blank trail.”

Karen Enns began her reading from Ordinary Hours softly, but she built a quiet vocal drama. I noticed an intriguing accumulation of negations and cancellations in the poems she read, a kind of loss by definition. In “Muse,” the titular being “comes with nothing in her hands,” and is both “almost imagined” and “almost real.” Again and again Enns points to things needed, longed for, or disavowed by naming their absence. Enns’ first book, That Other Beauty, draws from her childhood in a southern Ontario Mennonite community, and these memories are also part of the poems she read from Ordinary Hours. In “For F.,” from her moving series “William Street Elegies,” a phrase as simple as “no more / and no less” reverberates with all of the other constraints the poet had precisely delineated.

Arleen Paré’s new collection isn’t in our eager hands yet, but she is a subtly compelling reader with an academic’s attention to detail and an old friend’s quiet humour. Lake of Two Mountains, which Brick calls “a hymn to a beloved lake, a praise poem in forty-five parts, a contemplation of landscape and memory.” “Call and Response,” read meditatively, evoked the dynamic relationships of place: “The Canadian Shield calls to the fault // the fault, tectonic, / replies with the Ottawa River.” Paré’s ecopoetics of the lake include the Oka crisis, the lakeside monastery (now closed), and the child who passionately internalized the place. In “How Own a Lake,” she gently interrogates that joyful claiming, asking whether the child can own “the reservation… completely unknown.”

Drawing together the evening’s underground themes, Jane Munro connected the intimate personal loss of a partner’s dementia to the cultural memory loss that allows environmental ruin. Blue Sonoma is a poet’s witness, by turns sorrowful, wondering, angry: “Don’t tempt me, old man. / Today I have four arms / and weapons in each hand,” she read. These lines come from the particularly fine sequence “Old Man Vacanas,” which arranges stark and humorous images around the centres of love, ecology, and human fate: “Language, travel, art? Props / in a little, local theatre of light.” Yet Munro is also concerned with the irreducibility of things. Her epigraph from the Upanishads reads, in part: “When fullness is taken from fullness, / Fullness still remains.”

After the readings, Victoria writer Sara Cassidy joined the poets for a friendly Q&A. A good interviewer not only brings questions but offers insights, creating a dynamic environment where  new ideas can arise. “Did it feel dangerous to write about caring for someone with dementia?” she asked Munro. “It felt necessary.” Munro answered. “Your book is full of silence,” Cassidy pointed out to Enns, “and also full of blooms.”

Throughout the smoky, slightly off-kilter night, bursts of seagull cries would suddenly punctuate the poems. They seemed to be insisting on speaking alongside the human voices. “This event came about because Karen Enns and Arlene Paré are from Victoria,” Kitty Lewis told me.  “Jane Munro lived in Sooke for years. That all made it possible.” Lewis said that the poets themselves brought the event together, even arranging the excellent refreshments. The audience enjoyed the usual wine and veggies, but also sushi and miniature cupcakes (I had two).

If you missed the reading, don’t despair. You can’t have a cupcake, but you can still hear the poets read on the Brick Books podcast, available through iTunes and YouTube.


Jane Munro’s collection Blue Sonoma is reviewed here [https://coastalspectator.uvic.ca/?p=3328].

The Publisher

Brick Books:  http://www.brickbooks.ca/

Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/brickbooks

The Poets

Joanna Lilley: http://joannalilley.blogspot.ca/

Jane Munro: http://janemunro.com

Arleen Paré: arleenpare.com

Karen Enns: http://www.brickbooks.ca/bookauthors/karen-enns/

The Interviewer

Sara Cassidy: http://www.saracassidywriter.com

 Julian Gunn is a Victoria essayist and poet.  


Isobel Trigger not to be missed

Reviewed by Blake Jacob

Isobel Trigger’s April 3rd, 2014 show at the Strathcona Clubhouse was a high-caliber performance. The group’s polished act is characterized by ethereal vocals, heavy rhythm, energy and gorgeous melody. Isobel Trigger undoubtedly belongs in a large performance hall and deserves much recognition.

The set began with “Champion,” showing off the band’s expertise and synchronization. Isobel Trigger is comprised of Felicia Harding (vocals, guitar and synth), Brett Faulkner (guitar), Kyle Lowther (bass) and Ariel Tseng (drums).  Harding’s vocals are impossible to ignore.  With a lilting, impressive range reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, Harding’s style is silvery and enchanting.  Harding is a captivating performer and knows how to engage the audience while maintaining her professional demeanor. Tseng’s skill is particularly apparent in the energy of “Nightmares” and in “Sugar Cube,” keeping a strong beat and a hypnotizing rhythm. The audience nodded and danced with abandon.

The band performed a cover medley of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”  Though the covers were flawlessly executed, they paled in comparison to the band’s original work.

The star piece of the night was the band’s single, “Dust and Bones,” an addictive track that juxtaposed powerful crescendo with sweet vocals. The song has recently received frequent airplay on The Zone 91.3, during Isobel Trigger’s title as the station’s Band of the Month. The track has definite potential to top national alt rock/pop charts.

“The song is about those formative experiences you had when listening to certain songs for the first time,” Harding says.  “[It’s about] the magic you felt, and how listening to them now can transport you back to that time, place and feeling.”

The band has several exciting upcoming events, including: Rock The Royal on May 24th, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal and McPherson theatres.  The event will feature several well-established local acts and pay tribute to 90s greats. Look for Isobel Trigger at Tall Tree Festival on the last weekend in June, and at July 26th at Lucky Bar for the release of their EP Nocturnal.

Isobel Trigger is unique: they have been likened to No Doubt and Florence and the Machine, probably due to their experimental style. Their skill and sound is too large to be contained on a small stage.  It will be a pleasure to see the band play the Royal Theatre and other locations deserving of their talent.

Rock The Royal tickets/info

Tall Tree Music Festival

Zone Band of the Month: Isobel Trigger


Blake Jacob is a Vancouver Island writer and composer.

Canadians, playwrights minority at AWP

By Joy Fisher

Undaunted by winter weather, a small contingent of intrepid writers from Victoria boarded the Clipper for its morning run to Seattle recently to attend the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference.

Joined by a smattering of Canadian writers who rolled in from Vancouver and flew in from points east, the Victoria group claimed their space among some 12,000 other writers, most from the United States, who attended the three-day conference.

The number of panel discussions devoted to playwriting were also in the minority at the conference–just three out of more than 500 offered. The dismal status of playwriting was reflected in the title of one of the three: “Playwriting: the Bastard Child of Literature?”

The two minorities came together memorably, however, in a panel entitled “Playwriting in the Pacific Northwest: A Specialized Craft in a Unique Region.”

Moderated by Bryan Wade, associate professor of dramatic writing at the University of British Columbia, panel members considered whether playwrights from the Pacific Northwest on both sides of the border had more in common with each other than they did with their compatriots to the east.

Joining Wade were two Canadian playwrights, Kevin Kerr and C.E. Gatchalian; Oregon-based playwright Andrea Stolowitz; and native Alaskan playwright, Cathy Rexford. Each examined the disadvantages and advantages of playwrights situated at a distance from the theatre centres of their respective countries.

One disadvantage was what Kerr characterized as a “battle against theatrical loneliness.” He recounted a conversation in which a Toronto colleague happened to mention that he had always thought of Vancouver as a “cultural backwater.” At that moment Kerr realized “we are on our own.”

Perhaps because of this isolation, west-coast playwrights have, in recent decades, pioneered theatre companies in which members collaborate on the writing of plays. Kerr, an associate professor in the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria, co-founded the Electric Company Theatre in Vancouver and has worked to bring collaborative companies together for conferences to share their respective processes.

Gatchalian called this collaborative model the “Vancouver esthetic” and distinguished it from what he termed the “Toronto esthetic” which he described as the “text-based” model of the individual playwright working alone on a script. Gatchalian also noted the comparatively “financially precarious” position of the Vancouver theatre scene, which he attributed, in part, to the fact that theatre-going is not as ingrained in the population because it must compete with easy access to a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Stolowitz acknowledged the relative financial insecurity of working in places that are not theatre capitols, but argued that the trade-off is “a certain freedom to dream.” She is a member of Playwrights West, a new professional theatre company in Portland focused on presenting top-level productions of its members’ work. Playwrights West produces work for local audiences and Stolowitz says her writing is often inspired by “place.” “But there are no rules—I can do what I want,” she said.

Rexford, the most geographically isolated of all the playwrights on the panel, had perhaps the most defined mission. Following completion of an MFA in playwriting at UBC, she returned to work in the Alaska Arctic, where she labours to adapt traditional stories and revitalize the native language of the Inupiat people through performance theatre and native dances. “It’s the narratives of the people that connect Alaska natives involved in theatre,” she said.

Joy Fisher graduated with a BFA in writing from the University of Victoria. She is a member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.





From Penguins to Paintings: CNF Night in Canada

By Liz Snell

It’s not often that invasive ivy, clumsy penguins, and cheap reproductions of famous paintings get to hang out together. At “CNF Night in Canada”, a precursor to WordsThaw, The Malahat Review’s annual literary symposium, the three non-fiction readers (Malea Acker, Jay Ruzesky, and Madeline Sonik) respectively covered each topic.

In the basement Russell’s Vintage, light glinted off the gold spines of old books around the little stage below the staircase. Malea Acker read from her book “Gardens Aflame”, which is about Vancouver Island’s endangered Garry oak ecosystem. Her hands gestured gracefully and frequently as she read about removing invasive species from Trial Island, an ecological reserve just off Victoria that is home to many rare species of flora. Full of specific plant names, Acker’s writing evoked the particularity of the windswept island environment.

Jay Ruzesky read from his book “In Antarctica: An Amundsun Pilgrimage”, which recounts his journey to Antarctica to follow in the footsteps of explorer Roald Amundsun, Ruzesky’s distant relative. He read an excerpt about asking for a bank loan to finance his expedition; the audience laughed as he recounted the employee’s incredulous response: “There’s no candid camera here?”

In an excerpt from the Antarctic expedition, Ruzesky captured the humour of penguins “clean as scrubbed potatoes” and their endearing awkwardness: “I think we love them like we do because of their imperfections.”

The penguin passage also touched on how serious discussions around the environment can often become, and how penguins are a kind of relief from that. “There’s something about humour that’s its own kind of reverence,” he read, which seems an apt description of his reading as well.

Madeline Sonik shared an essay about her childhood, when her father became obsessed with buying reproductions of masterworks from a local gas station. He gave his children a bogus education on the paintings’ significance, encouraging them to speak with “great pretension and confidence” about art, regardless of their knowledge. Sonik demonstrated a deft hand for capturing her family’s antics and kept the audience laughing.

An open Q & A period followed the readings. In response to a question about how the authors see themselves situated in the Canadian lit scene, Ruzesky commented on the difficulty of keeping up with the constantly emerging talented authors. The three authors’ general consensus was that the literary community has been very supportive of their work, despite, according to Acker, “some fractiousness and disagreement, which is a healthy part of a growing community.” That support seemed apparent in the packed room. Though Canadian literary events probably won’t be filling stadiums with towel-swinging fans any time soon, “CNF Night in Canada” proved our writers (and readers) still have their sticks on the ice.

Hearing Voices at The Belfry

By Hanna Leavitt

Earlier this fall, Belfry Theatre patrons may have wondered at the contingent of blind and visually impaired patrons and guide dogs in attendance at a particular performance of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).   Like the other blind people, I was there to experience the Belfry’s first-ever described theatre-arts event, a service provided by VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society. This Vancouver-based non-profit organization delivers live-audio description services for the blind, the first of its kind in Canada to do so.

I asked my friend Kristi to check out the show with Calvin and me. Calvin’s my guide dog. He’s pretty keen on the theatre, although sometimes he does forget it’s acting. We showed up 45 minutes before the start of the play to register with Larry, the VocalEye representative. We were each issued a single earpiece headphone along with a receiver with its own on/off and volume control. Larry escorted us to our front-row seats where we settled in for the performance.

“Turn on your receiver,” said Kristi, “Someone’s already started describing.” I flipped my receiver on and adjusted the volume. Sure enough, a clear, soft-spoken voice came through my earpiece.

“Good afternoon and welcome to VocalEye’s described performance of Goodnight Desdemona . . . by Ann-Marie MacDonald, directed by Ron Jenkins and produced by the Belfry Theatre. I’m Steph Kirkland, and I’ll be your describer for today. I’m describing from the old follow spot booth behind the balcony, left of centre.”

Kirkland, a 20-year veteran of the Vancouver theatre scene, also reads textbooks for the blind at Vancouver’s Langara College. “When I saw the call for audio theatre describers for blind people, it was a natural fit,” she says.  She has since formed a non-profit society called VocalEye that trains and promotes the services of audio describers to the theatre community. “It’s my goal that this service be sustainable,” says Kirkland. “I would love for it to be available at theatres across Canada.”

Fifteen minutes before curtain, Kirkland provided brief descriptions of the set, characters and costumes via our wireless earphones.

“There are five performers in this production, three women and two men. The main character is Constance Ledbelly, assistant professor at Queens University, played by Daniela Vlaskalic. All the other characters are played by the remaining four cast members. The central location is Constance’s office in the basement of Queens University. The back wall of her office is completely filled with nine built-in bookcases, each about 3 feet wide and 16 feet tall. The shelves are filled with leather-bound books, their spines embossed with gold and tagged with library labels. Dog-eared sheets of foolscap, a table fan, portable radio, stapler, lamp, clock, mug, and other odds and ends are also crammed in among the books.”

She continued her thorough set description, right down to the blue recycle box alongside Constance’s work space. I now had a picture in my head of the set, the same set that sighted audience members took in with a simple glance.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes when the play starts,” said the voice. The earpiece went silent.

“This should be good,” said Kristi. I agreed. I attend plays from time to time, but it’s frustrating to miss body language and other actions that aren’t always evident from the dialogue alone.

Moments later, the Belfry’s manager took the stage, welcomed everyone and invited us to enjoy the performance.

The voice was back.

“Darkness. Flash of light: Man smothers woman with pillow. Flash of light: Young woman plunges dagger into her belly. Flash of light: Constance Ledbelly in red toque slowly lowers phone receiver to desk picks up leather manuscript, drops it in recycling bin plucks white feather from her toque, drops it in.”

Okay, so I knew what the set looked like and what was happening. I wondered about the character of Constance. I didn’t wonder for long though. The voice must have read my mind.

Constance Ledbelly is in her 30’s, large boned, slim and gangly. Her square face is pale, without makeup, and flanked by two scrawny, brown pigtails. Her large, wire-frame glasses are taped in the middle. She wears a full set of blue-grey long johns under a purple, t-shirt, hand-knit sweater vest, a drab, plaid pleated skirt and knee-high, black rubber gumboots. To top it off, she wears a bright red toque with a big pom-pom on top, a white feather pen tucked in the brim. She writes with this feather pen in green ink.”

Okay, now I had it – the set and the eccentric main character.

All freeze.

“Janitor mops floor, smokes cigarette. One hand on mop. Lets go of mop the handle stays upright.”

Kristi and I laughed along with the sighted audience members, sharing a comedic moment in real time. What a treat not to have to tap a friend on the shoulder and whisper, “What just happened there? Why is everyone laughing?” I was hooked. The descriptions were concise, informative and blended effortlessly with the action. Kirkland elaborated on the process a theatre describer goes through prior to a performance.

“I typically attain a copy of the script, attend the play at least three times and take notes. Then I spend several hours working on the actual descriptions I’ll use during the play.” Preparing for the play and describing it can take as much as 20 hours per production, according to Kirkland. Her training and skill were evident as she quietly provided just enough detail to inform but not so much that it interrupted the dialogue and action.

VocalEye is committed to offering a comprehensive, theatre-going experience for blind patrons with its three-fold package. Through its Theatre Buddies service, volunteers meet blind patrons at a designated, accessible location. Buddies then guide patrons to the theatre. The audio describer takes over during the performance. But wait, there’s more. After the performance, we were invited to stay for a touch tour.

Kristi, Calvin and I ascended the stairs to the stage along with six other blind patrons. The touch tour was fabulous, adding an entirely new layer of enjoyment to the play. Belfry staff, actors and VocalEye representatives assisted us in our exploration of the set and props. We met the actors. We touched Desdemona’s gown with its elaborately beaded bodice, Romeo’s and Othello’s swords and daggers, the masks worn at the ball and some of the 1,500 hollowed-out books that lined the set’s floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Touching the costumes and props fleshed out the theatre experience for me, the finishing touch to an enjoyable afternoon. The Belfry contracted with VocalEye to describe one matinee performance per run this season. Will Calvin and I be back for another described show? You bet we will.

Hanna Leavitt is in the second year of her MFA in Writing.



Biography turns lens on famed photojournalist

Photo credit: Kevin Doyle

Review by Liz Snell

“They say real men don’t cry – that’s crap.” Photographer Ted Grant, 84, wasn’t afraid to get emotional in front of a packed auditorium during the launch of his life’s biography.

Grant’s biographer, UVic graduate Thelma Fayle, met Grant as his student at Camosun College. Years later, she hesitantly emailed him to ask his help in photographing someone for an article. Since then Fayle has conducted over 50 interviews with Grant. She saw the necessity in honouring his legacy: “Everyone knew his work but nobody knew his name,” she said. “My goal in writing this book was to honour a hardworking Canadian artist.”

Recognized by many as “the father of Canadian photojournalism,” Grant’s contribution to Canadian culture was a particular emphasis during the launch. Whether through his story about his famous photograph of Pierre Trudeau sliding down a l banister in the Chateau Laurier, or his experience organizing photographers at Victoria’s 1994 Commonwealth Games, Grant’s connection to national history was evident. Grant had intimate access to famous lives and was even on a first-name basis with prime ministers.

Yet Grant’s presence conveys humility. He called much of modern concern with technique “garbage” and downplayed his own skill by emphasizing timing: “I’m a photographer, not a technician.” He advised photographers to “shoot someone when they’re listening” to capture the intense focus in their eyes, and to be “first to arrive and last to leave” to capture candid moments. His work exhibits a striking ability to portray someone’s unguarded essence.

His vibrant, wry sense of humour had the crowd laughing through most of the presentation, but he was also moved to tears multiple times during his talk, particularly when discussing a photo of his wife, who passed away last year. He noted, “I’ve shot over 100 babies being born, and I’ve cried at every one.”

His passion for photography was evident when, during a question period, a young photography student asked him for advice. At first he joked, “Go over to the medical building and become a doctor.” Then he said, “If it’s totally consuming and you love it, it doesn’t matter what you do, what hours you put in.”

He described photography as a “magical career” in which he’s been “constantly alive.”

Many recounted Grant’s popularity as a photography instructor. One of Grant’s former students told how Grant had staged his own in-classroom arrest, to test whether students would respond by pulling out their cameras, as a photographer should.

For Grant’s 76th birthday he photographed himself flying upside down in a fighter plane. He discussed plans for his 100th birthday, and joked that he’ll have the undertakers present so that when the news person announces his birthday, he can “drop dead” and the party will start.

While his photographs may be more recognized than his name, Grant emphasized the photographer’s duty take a backstage role. “If you’re unseen but you’re in the same room, that’s when you get to be appreciated.”

Fayle’s biography (published by Heritage Group in Victoria) finally turns the lens on Ted Grant to capture his own light.

Liz Snell is a freelance writer in Victoria

Poet argues against simple readings

Poetry and Meaninglessness

At Gibson Auditorium, Camosun College, Lansdowne Campus

The Carol Shields Lecture

Delivered by Jan Zwicky

October 19th, 2013

Reviewed by Senica Maltese

As a writing student focusing on fiction and poetry, I had high expectations going into Jan Zwicky’s Carol Shields Lecture entitled “Poetry and Meaninglessness.” The lecture did not disappoint; however, it was not at all what I expected it to be.

The Victoria Writers Festival brochure stated that the lecture would explore how some contemporary poetry strikes us as meaningless and to what degree this assessment is correct. For this reason, I went into the lecture expecting to look at specific contemporary poems and to explore how they could be regarded as meaningless and how, perhaps, they nevertheless retained meaning. As I should have anticipated, this discussion resisted the simplicity that I predicted.

I firmly believe that we readers should engage with material that is “out of our league” and, for the most part, that’s what this lecture was for me. Jan Zwicky’s presentation, though clear, articulate and mind-blowingly intelligent, left me more dazed than enlightened. Her use of mathematical examples to explain our perception of our surroundings left me confused and grasping for the safe ground of the literature and poetry. As I was sitting in the auditorium at Camosun College listening to her speak, I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only person under 30 in the room, which may have explained why others in the audience were nodding and laughing while I sat paralyzed in the stands. However, toward the end of the lecture I began to get a more solid footing on the material.

I particularly enjoyed Zwicky’s segment about the joy that we derive from obtaining meaning, and how a harder struggle can result in greater joy.  The lecture genuinely impressed me when Zwicky insightfully remarked that we have become too satisfied with the “sugar rush” of understanding simple things. Zwicky insisted that meaning needs to advance and evolve into insight into realty, and that we should forgo “superficial pops” of understanding in favour of more durable insights. Zwicky concluded by asserting that writers, particularly poets, have a great responsibility to allow readers to experience their insights—in other words, that they must show the path to their insights in order that readers experience the insight for themselves. She stressed the importance of this evolution and cultivation of meaning in our modern day world, which is rooted in ecological and economic strife. Though this seemed a rather heavy note to end on, the lecture was still deeply inspiring and received a standing ovation.

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to engage with Zwicky’s insights into poetry, philosophy and human understanding in general. I suggest that anyone passionate about or interested in poetry attend one of her lectures, even if they think it may be “out of their league.”

Senica Maltese is a BA student focusing on Honours English and Writing.

“Everything” worth writing about, poet says

By Liz Snell

Emily McGiffin’s bright-eyed, earnest face contained no pretension. She spoke her poems with confident resonance, but also vulnerability, as if they were letters written to a close friend, not intended for everyone else in the room. She seems like the kind of person you’d meet in a small town or on a farm; when she speaks, you feel she’s not just wasting words to impress you, but is sharing a homespun and heartfelt wisdom.

Her poetry is full of solitude’s topography: one person leading the blind speaker through a fog, someone living in a car and playing solitaire. Wild mountain landscapes butt against domestic acts like woodcutting and carding wool. Her writing, both on the page and spoken aloud, conveys a tension between closeness and distance.

Victoria poet Carla Funk, who conducted the evening’s Q & A at the Open Space event, asked McGiffin which three dead poets she’d invite to dinner. McGiffin bowed out of the question, saying she knows little of classic poetry, and instead cited her favourite “dead poet” poems: “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold, “Ode to Autumn” by John Keats, and “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas. These poems encapsulate both the joy in and loss of an Eden-like, harmonious world, a theme close to McGiffin’s own writing. One gets the sense that she’s attempting to write her way into the feeling of home, struggling to trust in a tenuous place: “And when, walking through the enormous and solitary land,/you grow hungry for company, you will find it underfoot…”

McGiffin began “fiddling with lines” of poetry in high school. She took writing courses at UVic as a side to her focus on geography and biology. Of studying writing she says, “It might have had an impact in that I never really did anything with my biology degree.”

Now pursuing a PhD in environmental studies at York University, McGiffin seems to still be searching for ways to explore the relationship between her scientific studies and her poetry. “I’d like to find a way that they can talk to each other a bit more.”

McGiffin initially struggled to see her creative writing as a worthwhile pursuit: “Poetry’s kind of a marginalized art form… It took a long time to feel it wasn’t something I was just doing on the side.”

To an audience member who asked, “How do you know what’s worth writing about?” McGiffin replied,  “Once I decided anything was worth writing about, it became less of a question of what was worth writing about – everything is.”

McGiffin recently moved to Toronto from Smithers, B.C., where her writing was often influenced by the Skeena River, which has been threatened by coal mining. She spoke of her concerns about conservation, and how we view the world in terms of “resource management.” In response to such environmental destruction, does McGiffin’s writing take a stance of hope, or despair? She’s not sure. “The question is, is there hope for humans? I don’t know.”

Liz Snell is a Victoria writer

Fine Arts well represented in IdeaFest

Running March 4-15 in every corner of UVic campus, this free festival connects you to experts working on the kind of ideas that really can “make a difference.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of  Fine Arts events:

Enacting the Artist / Researcher / Educator: Six UVic applied theatre graduate students engaged in a theatre-based PhD research project will discuss utilizing playbuilding as qualitative research, as well as a variety of theatre conventions as a way to generate, interpret and (re)present data.   2-4 pm Monday, March 4, in room 109 of the Fine Arts building

Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards: Celebrate some of the outstanding research produced by the 2012 Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards scholars at this day-long presentation of their work. Here’s a list of who’s representing Fine Arts: Sara Fruchtman, Alexandra Macdonald and Christine Oldridge (History in Art), Stewart Gibbs, Sarah Johnson and Jennifer Taylor (Theatre), Bronwyn McMillin and Willie Seo (Visual Arts), Claire Garneau and Liz Snell (Writing).  11am-3 pm in the SUB’s Cinecenta, Upper Lounge and Michele Pujol room

Mini Film Fest: Join some of the Department of Writing’s emerging filmmakers for a screening and discussion of several recent, award-winning student films—including the Leo Award-winning web series Freshman’s Wharf, and Connor Gaston’s recent TIFF and VFF-screened short, Bardo Light, among others.  7:30 pm Thursday, March 7, in room 162 of the Visual Arts building• Sonic Lab: Join UVic’s contemporary music ensemble as they present two compositions that explore the sound itself as musical material. Imagine a brick wall with a human figure painted on it, which can be taken apart & rebuilt as a fence or a house—meaning the parts of painted body would show up in an unexpected context.  8 pm Friday, March 8, in the Phillip T Young Recital Hall

“Have you ever had an idea?”Get in on this interactive, community-involving project aimed at enabling ideas to be more accessible and more attainable. Participants become part of Victoria’s biggest idea—a giant run-on sentence created by texting, calling or e-mailing in their ideas.  7-10 pm Friday, March 8, in room A111 of the Visual Arts building

“Games Without Frontiers: The Social Power of Video Games”: Join professors, grad students, undergraduates, high-school students, local game designers and curious citizens of Victoria at this mini-conference to explore, discuss and marvel at the power of video-game technology to bring people together and improve the world. Faculty and students will give demonstrations and offer a Q&A about the innovative use of “gamification” techniques in their research, including games that help to improve the lives of children with autism, teach about First Nations treaties, combat obesity and explore the ocean floor, among others. Noon-6 pm Saturday, March 9, in room C103 of the David Strong building

“Is There Still Potential for Human Creativity?” A good question which promises a lively back and forth at this Fine Arts discussion panel featuring Jennifer Stillwell (Visual Arts), George Tzanetakis (Computer Science-Music), Lee Henderson (Writing), Victoria Wyatt (History in Art), Jonathan Goldman (Music). Moderated by the Times Colonist‘s Dave Obee.  7:30 pm Monday, March 11,  in B150 of the Bob Wright Centre

Fine Arts PechaKucha: Get a sense of what’s happening in both History in Art and Visual Art with this exciting, fast-paced PechaKucha-style interdisciplinary visual presentation. Don’t know PechaKucha? It’s like a TED talk on speed!  5-7 pm Tuesday, March 12, in room 162 of the Visual Arts building.

Intergenerational Theatre for Development in India: After being displaced by the 2006 tsunami, a new community in India is using Applied Theatre to reconnect its citizens. The creation of an intergenerational theatre company to perform the stories of seniors and rural youth of the Tamilnadu community has the potential to create lines of dialogue across generations by positively highlighting the life experiences of residents of Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village and students of the Isha Vidhya Matriculation School. Theatre PhD student Matthew Gusul recently visited India and will tell the story of this developing project.  4:45 pm Thursday, March 14, in the Phoenix Theatre’s McIntyre Studio.

More info:  IdeaFest 2013 website

Antimatter Film Festival 2012

Antimatter Film Festival
October 12 to 20, 2012

Antimatter is celebrating 15 years of subversive cinema with a new venue, more democratic price structure, and the great programming audiences have come to expect from this long-running festival. From October 12 to 20, festival-goers will be
treated to performances, installations and screenings of feature-length and short films from as far away as Iran, Finland and Japan.

This year’s nightly screening series will take place at The Vic Theatre, a 200-plus-seat venue with a 24-foot screen, great sightlines and top-notch projection and sound. Each screening will have pay-what-you-can price structure, allowing more cinema-lovers to enjoy the diverse offerings at Antimatter. Cinephiles will find environmentalism, music, documentary, found footage, analogue techniques, collage and much more in this year’s Antimatter program, which runs the gamut from poignant to provocative.

Screening highlights include features such as Alex MacKenzie’s 16mm performance Intertidal, which draws on inspiration from ’40s marine scientist Ed Ricketts and French filmmaker Jean Painleve to explore the life on BC’s shores and The Great Northwest, Matt McCormick’s retracing of a road trip conducted by four Seattle women over 50 years ago, using nothing but a long-lost scrapbook as his guide. There is also an eclectic mix of short works, such as Craig’s Cutting Room Floor, a film made entirely of single frames discarded by underground legend Craig Baldwin; A Tribe Called Red and Ehren BEARwitness Thomas’ Woodcarver, created in response to the murder of John T. Williams by a Seattle police officer; Manhole 452, a fictional account of the dangers of San Francisco’s manhole covers, and over 100 other films. Many of the films presented at Antimatter are local, regional, or global premieres.

In tandem with Antimatter’s screenings are two installations. Salas… (cartel series), which will be found in the lobby of The Vic Theatre, is an excerpt from Julio Orozco’s “Movie Houses of the Past, Projections in the Future,” wherein the Tijuana native used his photos of the city’s disappearing cinemas to create fictional film posters. October 13 to 27 at Deluge Contemporary Art is Methods for
Composing Random Compositions, where Adán De La Garza uses non-musical objects to elicit 17 different sound performances; De La Garza will be on hand to present the video pieces and discuss his work. Also at Deluge is The Ride, a short film about Vienna’s “Prater,” an urban amusement park.

Antimatter is also excited to be hosting Home Movie Day on October 20, where there will be a screening of Tourist Season, a collection of vintage films of Victoria from the 1930s through the 1980s—and if you have your own Victoria home movies you’d
like to share, be sure to get in touch.

Screenings are a $5–$8 suggested donation; installations are free. Full schedule and program guide available at locations across Greater Victoria, or online at http://www.antimatter.ws

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Volunteer at Antimatter!

We need energetic and dependable volunteers to help out at screenings, events and installations. Earn valuable karma points, see innovative media art and meet artists from around the world!

Call 250 385 3327 or email volunteer@antimatter.ws<mailto:volunteer@antimatter.ws>