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Launchpad: Gold Rush, by Claire Caldwell

Claire Caldwell is an environmental doomsayer, but she’s also a comedic, antic storyteller, and she’s great at dark endings.—John Irving

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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, great insight, and short and snappy readings 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.

Today we're launching Gold Rush, Claire Caldwell's follow-up to the acclaimed collection Invasive Species. John Irving writes, "Claire Caldwell is an environmental doomsayer, but she’s also a comedic, antic storyteller, and she’s great at dark endings. Wilderness women are her storytellers; they speak with the melancholy of country music."


Book Cover Gold Rush

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Gold Rush explores what it means to be a woman in the wilderness, from the Klondike to an all-girls summer camp to the frontier of a changing climate.

Describe your ideal reader.

Anyone who’s known the joy of a cold lake on a hot day or the smell of a pine tree or the glimpse of a wild creature—but who also feels concerned or conflicted about their relationship with nature, or about our impact on the natural world.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Nan Shephard, Annie Dillard, Cheryl Strayed, Tracy K. Smith, Ariel Gordon, Jenna Butler, Jessica J. Lee, Fenn Stewart, Blair Braverman, Yvonne Blomer, Susanna Moodie, Laurie Graham, Joanna Lilley…I could go on! There’s so much insightful, incisive, challenging, complex nature writing by women out there. It would be an honour to be considered “in conversation” with any of these writers.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

Writing this book made me reflect more deeply on my relationship with the outdoors.  Although that relationship stems from my experiences in wild places, it’s also been shaped by other women’s stories, by colonial narratives, by the patriarchy, by capitalism, by the climate crisis. Working on these poems helped me see those influences more clearly. 

How is this book different than your first book?

Gold Rush and Invasive Species have many themes in common: both examine humans’ influence on the environment, and the many ways we relate to non-human life. In Invasive Species, I wanted to test the binaries and boundaries we create to set ourselves apart from nature. What happens when we cross those boundaries, or take them away completely? Where Gold Rush differs, I think, is in its exploration of complicity. These boundaries and binaries are often destructive or can be used to justify violence. I didn’t want to turn away from my own role in that. 

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.

The Invisible team has been incredible, from Leigh Nash’s stellar editing and ship-steering to Megan Filde’s gorgeous, one-of-a-kind cover design, to Julie Wilson’s ingenuity and dedication on the publicity front.

I’d also like to send a special shout-out to John Irving and Ariel Gordon for their wonderful blurbs.

What are you reading right now or next?

I recently picked up two chapbooks from Rahila’s Ghost Press: Rebecca Rustin’s Mercy Tax and John Elizabeth Stintzi’s Plough Forward the Higgs Field. I’m excited to dive into both!



Book Cover Gold Rush

About Gold Rush:

From the Klondike to an all-girls summer camp to the frontier of outer space, Gold Rush explores what it means to be a settler woman in the wilderness. Drawing on and subverting portrayals of nature from Susanna Moodie to Cheryl Strayed, Caldwell’s poems examine the tension between the violence and empowerment women have often sought and found in wild places; this is the violence young girls inflict on each other; colonial violence perpetrated by white, settler women; violence against nature itself. Many of these poems portray a climate in crisis, suggesting that even wilderness buffs are complicit in climate change. Whether they’re trekking the Chilkoot Trail, exploring the frontiers of their own bodies and desires, or navigating an unstable, unfamiliar climate, the girls and women in these poems are pioneers—in all the complexities contained by the term.

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