Winner of the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry
In 2010, Catherine Owen’s 29-year-old spouse died of a drug addiction. A year later, she relocated to an apartment by the Fraser River in Vancouver, B.C. As she moved beyond the initial shock, the river became her focus: a natural, damaged space that both intensifies emotion and symbolizes healing. In a sequence of aubades, or dawn poems, Owen records the practice of walking by or watching the river every morning, a routine that helps her engage in the tough work of mourning. Riven (a word that echoes river and means rift) is an homage to both a man and an ecosystem threatened by the presence of toxins and neglect. Yet, it is also a song to the beauty of nature and memory, concluding in a tribute to Louise Cotnoir’s long poem The Islands with a piece on imagined rivers. While Designated Mourner honors grief, Riven focuses on modes of survival and transformation through looking outward, and beyond.
Catherine Owen was raised in Vancouver and lives in Edmonton. She has published 15 collections of poetry and prose. Dear Ghost was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award and won the Alcuin Prize. Locations of Grief, her memoir anthology, is also forthcoming.
“Owen takes a single landscape and imbues it with the wrenching intricacy of grief, letting it move through her, letting it stay, but also letting happiness in to cohabitate.” — Publishers Weekly
“What Catherine Owen mines from her experience of losing a young spouse to drug addiction is extraordinary for its sweep. Her depths come to bear on nature, love, contamination, and the things she was forced to know about herself.” — Foreword Reviews
“In Riven she considers with keen observational depth the lessons that a river can offer about the brevity of life, the eternity of love, the continuity of survival and the futility of death . . . Riven presents some of the most descriptive and incisive poetry that Catherine Owen has ever offered, derived from a place of deep contemplation and raw emotive power.” — Coffee Salt blog
“Coming back up from my underwater travels in [this book] I feel the same heart-weary ebb in my blood. The overwhelm from the sheer force of the poems. The grief, the wisdom there. When I think of [this collection] I feel a heart’s thirst for love and reconciliation with this earth, its losses and our countless other losses.” — Recovering Words with Richard Osler blog
“The gift of this new book: to witness a woman’s refusal to succumb to grief, her commitment to heal through writing poems that map how she honours the pact of living on . . . Designated Mourner is one of the most riveting and compelling Canadian poetry collections I have encountered in the past ten years. And what a complement Riven is to it . . . Catherine’s book, gorgeous with undertow. Its reminder of how we, too, can survive and be transformed in spite of grief and losses in our lives.” — Recovering Words with Richard Osler blog