Welcome to Room's look at women and spirituality. I had been looking forward to working on this issue for a long time, but I didn't really know what it might attract from writers. Spirituality is such an intensely personal topic that to try and define ahead of time what I was hoping for would have been very difficult, and would have placed limitations on what might or might not work in the issue.
Then the manuscripts started arriving. The first two came within a couple of days of each other: Emily McGiffin's poem "Learning Swadeshi," which opens this issue, and Casey Wolf's "The Corpse Pose," which closes it. With a beginning and an ending in my hands, I knew the process was safely on its way.
Now, months later, the issue is in all our hands. Our stunning cover is the work of noted Coast Salish artist Susan Point, who is also the subject of our interview, and Susan McCaslin touches on the idea of "sex-plus" in her essay on bridal mysticism which examines the Bible's Song of Songs and the life of the sixteenth-century Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila.
The interior artwork is by Mélanie Rocan, Martha Jane Petersen, and Freda Pagani; we've chosen images of theirs that reveal the inner worlds of women in various stages of their lives. In the only creative non-fiction piece in this issue, Heidi Grogan looks at the spirituality of scars.
There are certain themes common to any discussion of spirituality. Poets Carolina Corcoran and Mary Christine Delea present two different views of God. Marina Blokker’s poem “Go North” brings us all the way to nature, and Lisa Shatzky’s focus is music. Her violin player “trembles, his blood / is in the wood / and the wood is on fire / and the fire is in your life.” Music is also the central image of Pamela Porter’s poem “Seeking and Finding.”
In the fiction of Kimberley Alcock, Fran Kimmel, and Holley Rubinsky, we meet three remarkable women, each of whom sees herself and her world quite differently from how those closest to her see her. Michele Serwatuk’s “My Eyes are Dim” tells the story of the inner strength that can come in the face of disaster and tragedy—in this case, the recent earthquake in Haiti.
The women in Marie-Claude Bourjon’s story “Finis Terra” and Carla MajPleger’s poem “Before the Snow” are both dealing with death, whether their own or a partner’s. And the child in M. E. Csamer’s “Nocturne” is facing himself “in the dark / in the place of beginning, / where self is latent.”
We have not forgotten the themes of bodywork and soulwork. They are represented here too in our RoomRecommends, BackRoom, and RoomMate.
We hope you enjoy the work in this issue as much as Brigid and I did in putting it together for you—and for ourselves also. As Michelle Barker says in her poem "Unanswered Prayer," "Here come the honeybees / looking for sweetness / let them find you / and dance for joy."
Michelle Barker recently moved from Quebec to Penticton, B.C. Her poetry has appeared in several literary magazines. She has also published short fiction and non-fiction, and received a National Magazine Award for personal journalism. A chapbook of her poetry called Old Growth, Clear Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii will be published in 2011 by Leaf Press.
Marina Blokker had her first poem published in 2007, and has since published in Ireland, Iceland, Canada, and the U.S., in Crannog, Paragon Journal, The Prairie Journal, Yellow Medicine Review, Pacific Review, and others. She lives on the B.C. coast.
Freda Pagani is an architect by training and an environmentalist at heart, and is fascinated by pattern in nature and society. Her love of textiles results in works using found objects, images, and antique lace that celebrate the care and beauty in women's traditional skills and explore pattern in women's lives. She lives in West Vancouver, B.C.
Martha Jane Petersen makes art quilts in Black Mountain, North Carolina. She is a retired Presbyterian minister (along with her husband of 50 years), a writer, and grandmother of five.
Coast Salish artist Susan Point is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, a member of the Order of Canada, and the recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. She has four Honorary Doctorates in Fine Art (from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and Emily Carr University of Art + Design).
Clélie Rich is a freelance editor and poet. She was part of Room's editorial collective in the 90s and is happy to be back for a second time. She lives in Vancouver with her herb garden, far too many books, and one small but enthusiastic cat.
Melanie Rocan completed her Master in Fine Arts at Concordia University and her Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours Degree at the University of Manitoba. Based in Winnipeg, Rocan's work has been shown nationally in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including the LES Gallery in Vancouver, Paul Petro in Toronto, and La Maison des Artistes in St. Boniface.
Holley Rubinsky lives in B.C. She has published At First I Hope for Rescue (Knopf Canada; Picador in the U.S.), Rapid Transits and Other Stories (Polestar), and Beyond This Point (M&S). "Oranges, Blueberries, Cucumber, and Mint" is from her story collection to be published, At Close Range.