The Dry Valley encapsulates one woman's relationship with herself, her alcoholic spouse, and the world, in three different Saskatchewan landscapes. The poems offer a fascinating interplay between mindful explorations of self and immersions in the challenging complexities of interpersonal relationships, social issues and meaningful engagement with the environment. The quiet, meditative quality of the longer lyrics rub up against the edgier narrative poems, contributing a wonderful tension to the manuscript. With figurative language kept to a minimum, the poems rely on detail, giving a real-time felt presence and the speaker a heightened reliability.
About the author
Bernadette Wagner, writer, editor, and community based educator, has recent work in Absent Mothers (DP: 2017) and Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada (AUP: 2016). Her poetry and nonfiction have been broadcast on radio and TV, recorded on video and film, and published in magazines and anthologies. Shortlisted for the Saskatchewan First Book Award, she toured This hot place (Thistledown, 2010), her first poetry collection, across the country. An activist for social justice, a spokesperson for various feminist organizations, a founder of the Prairie Lily Feminist Society and Friends of Regina Public Library, a board member for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and Sage Hill Writing Experience, a past Literary Co-ordinator and two-time Chair of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival, and the inaugural literary artist-in-residence at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, Bernadette lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Excerpt: The Dry Valley (by (author) Bernadette Wagner)
Playing it Smart
Winter of grade one.
Boys built a snow hut.
It's for guy stuff, not for girruls.
But two girls got invited in,
whispered their story in the coatroom after recess.
That night, I remembered
my secret deal with the smart boy. Tippy-toed
to the front porch from the kitchen carrying
the old brown stacking stool, careful
not to clunk when I set it down.
Grabbed my pink show'n'tell bag from
my hook and climbed up. My arm
just reaching the red rolled-up
girly calendar Daddy tucked up there
when he came home from the service station
one day before Christmas.
I slipped the naughty into my sack,
put the stool back, and snuck
to my room. With my treasure under my bed,
I was one step closer to the hand of the boy
who'd walk me into the fort. At least
I wouldn't have to kiss
some dumb boy or stand
in the cold and lift my snow white undershirt.