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Place-Making with Poetry

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!

Myth, Madness and a Tale of a Golden Spruce

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!)

Getting to know BC through Farm and Food Lit

posted by Celia Brogan

I realized a few years ago that I like what I have decided to call “Farm Literature.” There may be an industry name for this but I’m happy with mine. Farm Lit is, for me, a book about someone’s experience living on a farm–hobby or sustenance–or other intimate experience with the food we eat. That’s not a exhaustively vetted definition, and has been developed as I read books I holistically add to the category.

When a local angle is added to the farm/food aspect, I feel even more fulfilled.  Here are three titles from my bookshelf you may want to check out:

Home: tales of a heritage farm  by Anny Scoones is a collection of stories about the ten years she spent living on and restoring Glamorgan Farm.  The farm is on the Saanich Peninsula, on the South end of Vancouver Island and was threatened by development when Anny bought it.  She restored it and made a point of raising heritage breeds and growing heirloom vegetables, opening the workings of the farm to the community.

Wise Acres: Free-Range Reflections on the Rural Route  by Michael Kluckner. Kluckner, a notable watercolourist and Vancouver historian, moved with his wife from a house in Vancouver to a hobby farm in the Fraser Valley. The book is a darkly funny chronicle of the couple’s experience adjusting to farm life, including animal husbandry.

The third title I’ll share today is a bit different. You may have heard of The 100-Mile Diet: a year of local eating  by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. The authors generated a huge amount of press when they spent a year eating only food that was grown or produced within 100 miles of their homes in Vancouver. Whereas the first two titles are a microcosm of BC food-life, sharing the day-to-day at the production end of the chain, The 100-Mile Diet shows us a broad view of the myriad aspects of the food industry in BC (and not even all of BC–how might this story differ if it was based in Smithers, or Kelowna, or Nelson?) from the consumer’s end.

Looking at local sources of food can be an inspiring way to get to know the land where we live. The people who feed us from our land are often unknown to us in the lower mainland. It’s not as anonymous in smaller communities, but time spent with our students on this topic can’t help but enrich their literacies of place.

 

Listening to where we live

Posted by Celia Brogan

Listening to the sounds in our local environment is a great way to enter into a study of place.

Today’s BC text is Sara Leach‘s Sounds of the Ferry. This picture book was nominated for the 2012/13 Chocolate Lily Book award. As the name implies, the narrative is full of onomatopoetic examples of what a BC ferry rider would hear on a crossing.

This text could be a great mentor text for an exercise in representing a particular place or experience through sound. Sounds of the Ferry might introduce activities to:

Sara Leach is an author and teacher-librarian who lives in Whistler, BC. Check out her CWILL profile.

Do you have a text to share that would compliment this one? Share it in the comments!

Poetry Month: day 14

Happy Earth Day!

I taught again today the lesson I described on day 10. It was another group of 6/7s and I used the same poems from Joyful Voices for them to practice and present.  One difference was that I didn’t use the Shane Koyczan “To This Day” as the introduction.  I found that, while a great piece, it didn’t exhibit the particular characteristics of slam poetry I wanted my students to notice and attempt to imitate: Koyczan’s piece is too polished, too smooth.

Luckily, the other night I came across this piece from the Brave New Voices festival slam competition (this particular piece has been picked up by Upworthy and made a round on facebook so you may have seen it.)  It is a poem for two voices, which is great for my students to see and hear what I’m going to be asking them to do in the second part of the lesson.  I ask them to listen for how the two voices work together, and off each other.  This piece is by two young women and is on the subject of religious stereotypes le viagra pas cher.

If you poke around the Brave New Voices website, you will find the Speak Green page.  What a perfect source for Earth Day!  (you can use it next year.)  This collection of environmental poetry is a pretty cool spark to inspire some of our young poets to challenge themselves to focus their creative voices on a issue that matters to all of us.

 

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