In 1776, at the age of sixty-four, an embittered Jean-Jacques Rousseau took to rambling. Feeling rejected, neglected, and condemned, he turned his back on the society in which he had never managed to feel at ease, and found peace in wandering the fields outside Paris, noting interesting flora and fauna, and ruminating on his life and career. Rousseau jotted down his musings on playing cards he carried in his pocket; these notes would form the basis for his last book, Les rêveries du promeneur solitaire, translated as Reveries of the Solitary Walker (or a Solitary Walker). Unfinished at his death and published posthumously in 1782, the Reveries reiterate and meditate upon many of Rousseau’s central themes: the joys of solitude, the corrupting influence of society, the fragility of happiness and of human relations, and the great, healing solace of nature (not to mention his obsession with enemies and persecution).
Like Rousseau, Strang too has taken to wandering, although on her bicycle, finding cycling particularly conducive to a slow, non-deliberate thinking, an almost sub-conscious contemplation. Biking around Vancouver, she returned to several issues of lifelong interest, her own version of Rousseau’s obsessions: the difficulties of living an anti-capitalist life, the continued invisibility of much of women’s labour, the paradoxes of daily life, the nature and implications of calculations of value, and the complexities of sustainability. What is to be done, she wonders?
In homage to the playing-card origins of Rousseau’s Reveries, Strang’s Reveries of a Solitary Biker is divided into four suites, which she often performs with musical accompaniment by her frequent collaborator, clarinetist François Houle. Some of these musical scores are included in the book.
Catriona Strang, a founding member of the Institute for Domestic Research, and former member of the Kootenay School of Writing collective, is the author of Low Fancy and co-author with the late Nancy Shaw of Busted, Cold Trip, and Light Sweet Crude. Her collection of poetic responses to Proust, Corked, was published in 2014. She frequently collaborates with composer Jacqueline Leggatt and clarinetist François Houle. She lives in Vancouver, where she and her two kids are active in the local home-learning community, and where she teaches at Simon Fraser University.
Reviews for author's previous work
“In Catriona Strang’s poetry, the domestic sphere is comfortably private (spherically shaped) only because a globalized technological continuum of warfare and manufacture makes it so ... Corked touches down through vast internal distances to find a spring of our condition – as seen from here, ‘the Strang terrain’ – in Marcel Proust. The super-fine instrumentation of these poems sends back big data on the intonational and rhythmical contours of intimacy undertaking to live in a continuous (relentless) present tense. Live it.” – Louis Cabri
“[Corked is] a poetic, political, and affective constellation that recalibrates how a poem might work today as a representation of a moment that is both precarious and self-assured, contradictory and confident. Yet, along with its consideration of this ‘immobilized’ present, there is a compelling historical depth to this book built through an address to Marcel Proust. Strang uses the engagement with Proust as a ‘coincidental hook’ to make a powerful poetic report on ‘the current situation’ by looping it through other historical contexts ... From her early work, TEM and Low Fancy, through her collaboration with the late Nancy Shaw, with Corked, Strang solidifies a unique position in Canadian poetry.” – Jeff Derksen