These poems recall and reimagine a family’s life in Spillimacheen, British Columbia – no plumbing, no central heating — and a childhood spent outdoors, framed by the Rockies and Purcell Mountains.
Wound through this collection are the tensions and hostilities that go back generations, to the great-great grandparents who immigrated from urban centres and settled in isolation. Women forced to relinquish their children to the lure of the rivers and men who trudged the trapline and worked in mines.
The voice in these poems, never sentimental and rarely tender, winds through birch leaves, birdsong and snake skins. Circumspect, it attempts to gather the gnawing secrets of a family’s history as they negotiated the hardships of rural life. The language is visceral — mud and blood and dust — and juxtaposed by the psychological agonies of waiting. Throughout, landscape bears down and uplifts, in unequal measure. "Bats flicker over the sloughs, the last reflected daylight. Ahead, the house lights are on." At its heart, a little girl rides a dust horse in the parking lot outside the bar, where her father drinks; years later, she waits in the truck for hours, to drive him home.
Catherine J. Stewart is a poet from Victoria, BC. Her poems have been shortlisted for a National Magazine Award and for the Malahat Review’s Far Horizon Award for Poetry. Her work is published in Grain, untethered, Room, and The Dalhousie Review and is included in the League of Canadian Poets’ anthology, Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees. Her appreciation of the natural world (she is an avid kayaker and hiker) is apparent in her poetry. Catherine has a BA in writing from the University of Victoria, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She divides her time between her family homestead in Spillimacheen, where these poems were born, and her home in Victoria, BC.