Author: FreeFall

An Interview with Jenna Butler

By Jamal Ali Jenna Butler is a poet, professor, essayist, and organic farmer. She teaches Creative Writing at Red Deer College. She is the author of a new travelogue and poetry collection, Magnetic North: Sea Voyage to Svalbard; an award-winning collection of ecological essays, A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail; and three critically acclaimed books of poetry, Seldom Seen Road, Wells, and Aphelion. Butler was born in Norwich, England. Jenna immigrated to Canada with her parents in the early 1980s. Jenna grew up within Edmonton’s vibrant literary community, but always possessed the desire to return to life on the land. Two decades later, Jenna and her husband began to build Larch Grove, their off-grid organic farm and artists’ retreat, on a quarter section near Barrhead, Alberta. In this interview, Butler talks about life on Larch Grove, her experience as writer in residence onboard a sailing vessel, “Antigua,” in the Norwegian Arctic, and poems from Magnetic North.  JA: What is life like on Larch Grove, your off-grid organic farm and …

Interview with Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Stella Leventoyannis Harvey is a Canadian author and the founder and artistic director of the Whistler Writing Society. Harvey was born in Cairo, Egypt and immigrated to Calgary, Alberta with her family as a child. She now lives in Whistler, British Columbia. Her books include Nicolai’s Dauhgters, The Brink of Freedom, and her latest book Finding Callidora. Crystal sat down with Stella to discuss Finding Callidora and what it means to write about family. Crystal Mackenzie: This story encompasses your own family history. What inspired you to do this and make it into a novel? Stella Leventoyanis Harvey: That’s a good question. I think, for me, and I say this often, is I missed my culture my entire life. The hole where home is, belonging, probably my entire life, and I have always been very interested in that, and so I started to do some research trying to find out. Listening to stories is the other part of it, my parents would tell us all these stories about life before Canada and piecing those things …

Review of John O’Neill’s “Goth Girls of Banff”

by Skylar Kay Goth Girls of Banffby John O’NeillNeWest Press (2020) John O’Neill’s Goth Girls of Banff captures so many aspects of life in and around Banff in brilliant ways. Through expertly presenting characters and landscape, O’Neill instantly creates an environment that draws the reader in, presenting sunlight slopes and dark crevices of both the mountains and humans in general. The stories find loose connections throughout, as names or objects may reappear in later stories, but nature’s harsh indifference is a thread by which one can follow the trail of stories laid out by O’Neill, if they dare. The characters in O’Neill’s stories are generally well presented. This much is obvious even from the first story, as Don and Lee will steal the heart of any reader who has one. The titular story as well, “Goth Girls of Banff” presents us with only the observations of Linda through her sister, but it is done so well that the reader can imagine near perfectly what causes her actions. The way these characters mesh together, or push away from …

2019 Annual Prose and Poetry Short List

Prose The Thief, the Crier, and those Damned Dark AgesPhoebe’s Five-Finger RevoltFluidBy the NumbersRoll, Pitch, and YawBloomsConservationGloriaThe Canary’s CallingThree BucksA Tea Party for NomiBarred with WhiteThe Voynich Manuscript Poetry Arc Welding and the Sorcery of Premonition in Beijing, 1989 Tiananmen Square RevisitedWhat I Need is Another Hole in the HeadQuestions for David in the Presence of DeathMixed MediumThe BlurbFilthy RichNotes from a Galaxy Far, Far AwayWatershed Moments Snorkeling Finless in the Pacific. Costa RicaPlace of Origin, UnmappedAtrial Fibrillation: My Husband Gets a New DiagnosisHoneySeductionPress 0 to Speak Directly to GodCurmudgeonStubborn FucksMercurochromeMidnight on the Gibson RiverShark TeethTest CaseBallad of a Free ManThe Kettle BomberDeath Machine: Dr. Death’s Mechanical Syringe Delivered Potassium chlorideInto patients’ Veins Decision-Making TimeFirst and Second Loves

Review of Sharon Berg’s “Naming the Shadows”

by Ed Hamer Naming the Shadows by Sharon Berg The Porcupine’s Quill (2019) ISBN 9780889848665 The Stories Themselves: Sharon Berg has written a collection of short stories, really a powerful gallery of highly visual tales that evoke our desire to look into them intensely and to see deeply. Inside the tableaux, she plants the ephemera of psychic shadows and these are certainly enough to launch strong flights of our imagination.  So we are reading and interpreting at two quite different levels.  And she holds true to her initial quotation from Jung: one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious These stories are laden with darkness and it transforms the reading of the apparent into a reading of the obscure and difficult. Like visual art at its best Berg avoids prettiness and too easy legibility. Again, as with difficult visual art, Berg works to make the ritual of reading transformative — calling on us to develop solutionary insights into very difficult situations and very difficult people. Some of the Stories… …

Review of Traci Skuce’s “Hunger Moon”

by Skylar Kay Hunger Moon by Traci Skuce NeWest Press (2020) ISBN 978-1-988732-80-0 Traci Skuce’s Hunger Moon is a well-crafted collection of short stories. While only two of these stories have the same characters, they connect by circling around a central theme: characters finding themselves at a tipping point in their lives and hungering for something more. Whether that something more is an exotic adventure, an escape from a relationship, or the beginning of a new one, the characters in Skuce’s collection all desire to expand another aspect of themselves.  The characters of the short stories are all well-developed — even the ones who aren’t the main focus of the story. I remember reading one story and thinking that the conflict was clearly between two people, but as the story itself develops, I realized that the conflict is internal, as both characters have motivation and reason for their actions, for which the reader cannot fault them. The characters also display a fairly wide range of personalities, showing Skuce’s depth and ability as a storyteller. The initial story …

Review of Sophie Stocking’s “Corridor Nine”

by Skylar Kay Corridor Nine by Sophie Stocking Thistledown Press (2019) ISBN 9781771871815 Sophie Stocking’s Corridor Nine is a story of life, death, family, and rebirth. To begin, the novel places a reader in a disorienting space. Questions I asked myself included: where am I? What are these people? Why does this three-year old’s body (Fabian) have a large penis, and why do I have to imagine this? The structure of the novel does not immediately alleviate the confusion, as two storylines weave and intersect throughout. The story of Bernie is grounded in reality—recognizable to any Calgarian especially—while the other plotline follows the afterlife of her father, Fabian. These two storylines twirl around one another to slowly reveal more and more about the past, and the characters themselves in a well-orchestrated manner. However, due to the jumps from scene to scene and place to place, dialogue can be confusing, as exemplified on page 173 where there are several lines of dialogue before it becomes clear that Bernie is talking to her husband. I was wary at first …

Review of Randy Lundy’s “Field Notes for the Self”

by Micheline Maylor Field Notes for the Self by Randy Lundy University of Regina Press (2020) ISBN 9780889776937 Field Notes for the Self, Randy Lundy’s fifth full-length collection, reaches towards that which is just beyond reach. Poetic insight comes frequently and with attentive rich language, musical alliteration, and conscientiousness to both embodied and disembodied detail. In this way, the collection strikes an otherworldly tone saturated with aboriginal and Eastern spiritual sensibilities. Lundy grapples with landscape, memory, dream, the contrasted paradox of individuality and wholeness, where the body is a translator of the landscape itself, such as in “Ceremony”: “A man should not dream of what is dead, or he might never wake; he might walk that path like a vein of silent, silver ore, winding its way among the dark roots of trees.” (19) Lundy resides within the vicinity of the unnamed, with a shapeshifting quality of a veil-walker between the living and the dead, a translator pulling layers of time and space forward and back in wormholes of meaning. His philosophical stance and poetic …

“The Baffled King, Composing”: Writerly Worship and Mimesis in Leonard Cohen’s Secular Hymn “Hallelujah”

by Donald Shipton Leonard Cohen’s writing career spanned over sixty-five years and throughout this time, he made a profound impression on the tradition of Canadian folk music. Among his greatest contributions, is the practice of using religious texts as the metrical and conceptual basis for his music. Infusing ancient stories with his own reflections and vernacular, Cohen asserts the presence of the secular hymn in modern music. While many of his songs invoke biblical stories, none are more widely listened to than his magnum opus, “Hallelujah.” Maclean’s Magazine called it “the closest thing that pop music has to a sacred text” (Johnson). Like the Bible, which can be found in nearly every hotel and motel across the country, “Hallelujah’s” presence is nearly as sweeping. Sung in churches to remind parishioners of the cautionary tales of David’s adultery, or Samson’s foolishness; slurred and crooned in dimly lit karaoke bars; played faintly in the background of a teledrama; Cohen’s masterpiece is omnipresent in Canadian culture, although it does not always assert the same significance. A song about …