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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

Bridging the Spiritual and the Speculative: Peregrinations and Chance Encounters

A recommended reading list by author of the new collection The Art of Floating.

Book Cover The Art of Floating

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I am a speculative writer and a pagan spiritualist at heart. I’m also an autist and an avid dogwalker. My own work reflects the natural world and the surreal collisions of science and spirituality. Though my own journeys have been limited and few, I’m attracted to the fiction and poetry of those who travel far, physically or metaphysically, and are transformed by the journey.

Join me with the following books as we journey through immram, the 108 defilements of Buddhism, adventures in walking while female, a poetic travelogue, a First Nations, post-apocalyptic journey to ancestral lands, and north, into the horrors of the past.


Book Cover Emptying the Ocean

Emptying the Ocean, by Kim Fahner, is the poet’s fifth collection, and is built around the Irish immram, or sea voyage in search of the otherworld. Fahner works through water, earth, fire, and air to reach spirit, and then, unlike most traditional immrama, from which the adventurer often does not return, moves homeward. Rooted in the body, Fahner’s poems visit ancestral lands, mythic and mystic figures, in a quest to own her life’s transformations fully. Once the ultimate goal of rebirth is achieved, the cycle of immram does not end, but like a spiraling triskele, begins again, moving ever deeper, into the centre of self. Kim Fahner is a past poet laureate of Greater Sudbury, and current first vice-chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada.


Book Cover Enlightened by Defilement

My second recommendation is Enlightened by Defilement, by Vera Constantineau. This collection of haibun (narrative vignettes accompanied by haiku) was inspired by the 108 defilements of Buddhist spirituality. In working through the 108 defilements, Constantineau has written a poetic memoir, at times bittersweet, often humorous, always provocative. She says she achieved a measure of healing and forgiveness through the writing of the collection. She was the sixth poet laureate of Greater Sudbury and remains a writerly friend through the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, of which she’s been a several times past president. 


Book Cover Straggle

I picked up Straggle: Adventures in Walking While Female, by Tanis MacDonald, at the literary festival Wordstock Sudbury in 2022. I also had a chance to meet the author, who edited my poetry collection. Straggle is described as a collection of essays, but I received it as a hybrid memoir, and as a meditation on how moving through the natural world navigates disability, trauma, feminist worldview, and hustle culture. As MacDonald says, “Walking reminds me that time is not something that I can manipulate by working faster, or bend by answering a ton of emails, or collapse by driving.” In this way, Straggle upends the typical adventure narrative. It cultivates slow living in a production-obsessed world. MacDonald is an associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, host of the Watershed Writers podcast, editor, and author of multiple poetry and nonfiction books.


Book Cover Chance Encounters with Wild Animals

Chance Encounters with Wild Animals, by Monica Kidd, is a poetic travelogue. It recalls Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle but subverts the reader’s expectations, interweaving wanderings and ponderings with concise and revelatory reflections. Kidd’s sketches are composed of lush words. As Kidd explores the world and its denizens, we are most reminded that the wild animals we often encounter by chance are human. Kidd is a broadcaster, filmmaker, award-winning storyteller, and physician focused on child and maternal health, and equity, who has published seven books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.


Book Cover Moon of the Turning Leaves

I first met Waubgeshig Rice at the launch of his novel Moon of the Crusted Snow. At the time, he worked as a broadcaster for CBC’s Points North in Sudbury. When I learned that the sequel, Moon of the Turning Leaves, was coming out last fall, I attended that launch as well and got my copy of the novel signed by the author. In the sequel, years have passed since the mysterious power outage and cataclysmic events of the first novel forced Evan Whitesky to relocate his community from their reservation out into the northern bush, Nangohns, Evan’s daughter, begins to see the signs that her people are exhausting the natural resources around their isolated northern community. She embarks on a long journey south with her father and several other members of the community. They need a new place to settle. Or an old place: their ancestral home on the shores of Lake Huron. The problem is, they still don’t know what happened when the lights went out, and the last scouting party they sent south four years ago never returned.


Book Cover Delicious Monsters

Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury, is a brilliant supernatural mystery told in dual timelines. Daisy sees the dead, something she can’t escape in ghost-filled Toronto. When her mother inherits a mansion just outside of Timmins, they both see it as their opportunity for the life they want. For Daisy’s mother, Grace, it’s to finally be free of the ghosts (figurative and literal) of her past. For Daisy, it’s the chance to escape from her mother’s narcissism and have a life of her own. But the mansion is haunted and now people are dying. Ten years in the future, Brittney, co-creator of the podcast “Haunted,” wants to uncover the secrets of the mansion, which her abusive mother calls the “miracle mansion.” She wants to tell the story of a forgotten Black girl but uncovers more about the mansion—and about herself—than she bargained for.


Book Cover The Art of Floating

Learn more about The Art of Floating:

Melanie Marttila captures the solace and healing she has found in the terrestrial landscapes, flora, and fauna of northeastern and southwestern Ontario while balancing the ebbs and flows of her mental health. There is similar reprieve in looking skyward as she shares in beautifully crafted poems the reflections of celestial patterns on moods, perceptions and relationships. Through the often insignificant and mildly miniscule moments in life, Marttila demonstrates the truth and hope that lie within each, whether connecting with land or sky. The Art of Floating is dedicated to the poet's father, who taught her how to surrender to and survive the rough waters of mental illness.

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