Posted by Celia Brogan
We are halfway through Poetry Month! In a change from last year, this April we are focusing on specifically BC literatures in support of the ABPBC’s Read Local BC campaign but luckily, when we look around poetry features prominently in the local cannon.
Today I would like to continue a thread started yesterday and share another iten created by the intersection of Local + Maps + Story.
A Verse Map of Vancouver ed. George McWhirter (photographs by Derek Von Essen) is a beautiful volume of poetry and photographs whose aim is to celebrate and “represent the city’s places and principal features in poetry.” (from the introduction) It’s not meant to be exhaustive, but a snapshot of the city (so to speak: the actual photographs often are more portrait-like than snapshot.)
I love the idea of a verse map. Should you be inspired by this idea, the breadth of topography might vary: from covering a region or your entire town, to remaining on within the bounds of the school property.
Another book that could fall within the Local + Maps + Story thread, and is simultaneously smaller and larger in scope, is Gulf Islands Alphabet by Bronwyn Preece (Illustrated by Alex Walton). This picture book is a poetic description of the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea, featuring an alphabetic sequence of alliterative passages accompanied by rich watercolour illustrations. It differs from A Verse Map of Vancouver in that it covers a wider area, but does so with a single text. It’s another option to inspire a way for students to engage with their geography through poetry.
(One drawback of this text for me is the minimal mention of First Nations’ current and historical use of the area as well as not enough information about marine life. These two aspects can serve as entry points for a critical reading.)
If you have a local resource of this sort for your town or area in BC, please share it in the comments!
Posted by Celia Brogan
“Anyone can lead a walk because everyone is an expert on the places they live, work, and play.”
Have you heard of Jane’s Walks? Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walks are neighbourhood walking tours, led by a member of the community. The tour routes and content are as varied as the citizens who lead them. Consider this as a great way to get our students to embrace their presence in their community. If you don’t have the capacity to actually do the waking tours, a adaptation might include a mapped route with photo-anchor accompaniment to written or audio descriptions for a set number of points of interest. The global festival is May 1-3, but you can do Jane’s Walks any time through the year.
Another way to explore and bring forward the stories in our neighbourhoods and communities is to dig through the layers of a place. The book On Looking: 11 Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz can provide the inspiration to bring your classroom into the community. The author took the same walk around her neighbourhood 11 times with 11 different people and noticed the difference in what she noticed. To think about why we see what we see, and how we see it can be a fascinating entrance into a celebration of our place.
Posted by Celia Brogan
What writing is more homegrown BC writing than that of our students? The BCTELA Student Writing Contest is more than a great way for students to give their writing a broader audience, the published pieces, Voices Visible, is also a useful resource to show our students what their peers are writing.
BCTELA members receive a copy of Voices Visible free, and you can order additional copies to make up a lit circle/text set group, or enough for a whole class set.
BC features as a setting in many of the pieces in Voices Visible, either completely or sometimes as a juxtaposition to an immigrant’s home of origin. Students can find their home in these pieces written by their peers in a way that may be different than from pieces written by adults. Do you have back issues of Voices Visible? Try it: copy a piece or two and see what your students think, or try including a book or two in a poetry text set.
This year’s submissions are due at the end of this month. Click here for the application form and contest rules. You must be a current BCTELA member to submit your students’ work.
Posted by Celia Brogan
This evening I went to my second #ReadLocalBC event, called “An Evolving City: Writing Vancouver’s Past, Present & Future,” featuring George Bowering and Wayde Compton.
During the question period after the readings the authors were asked if writing about Vancouver was an obvious choice of setting for them in their writing, or, why did they choose to set their work in Vancouver. Their answers discussed how the choice to set writing, specifically fiction, here provides the power to address some very real and serious topics in a way that can be more powerful than setting their work elsewhere. They pointed out that readers can often feel saturated with concerns and an author’s voice can get lost in the chorus of ‘realistic writing.’ Setting fiction in our local environment allows an writer to propose a ‘what if’ scenario in a way that opens a space for readers to reflect on our current society. Readers can wonder what realities might come to pass given an event as plausible as a toxic fuel spill in Burrard Inlet.
Imagine the stories our students might write given this environmental event in Vancouver as a starting point. What might they imagine as futures for your community? Bowering and Compton suggest that by writing our stories, current and possible, we open the door for ourselves and our readers to see positive futures and to act to realize them.
*Check out the list of free #ReadLocalBC events at http://books.bc.ca/read-local-bc/. There may be one or two in your community.
posted by Celia Brogan
The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed by John Vaillant.
I love this book. The prose are poetic to the extent that I have used passages as prompts in an art class. The story opens with a mystery and proceeds to weave together strands of natural history, botany, political and economic history, adventure, cultural history, and social activism.
Every time I try to book talk this title I fall down some sort of rabbit hole: I can’t quite seem to ever tighten my description of the book enough and end up rambling. I could tell you that it’s the life story of an culturally important and botanically unique tree, from germination to felling, but that’s only one piece. I could tell you that it’s the story of a man named Grant Hadwin, who worked in the BC lumber industry and who suffered from a (probable) mental illness, who made headlines with his actions when he took a stand against logging practices in BC. But the book is so much more than that! I could also say that this text provides a lyrical and informative portrayal of geologic history, the history of human culture and the history of economic development of natural resources in BC (which is pretty great since that last topic can at times be a little dry). But those threads don’t constitute the whole text either. Look! It’s happening again!
Make this book one of your summer reads this year (but keep a set of post-its near by!)