Our featured writer in this issue is poet Lorna Crozier, whom Margaret Laurence calls "a poet to be grateful for" and Ursula Le Guin calls a "truth-teller, visionary". One of my favourite early Crozier poems is "The Weather" from The Garden Going on Without Us. The poem closes with the lines "Even our faith in seasons / is misplaced. A hand moves across / a pencil drawing of the world / and smudges everything." Much of the work in this issue of Room is about our faith, misplaced or otherwise, in the natural elements of our world. From Carey Ann Schaefer's striking cover study of Hurricane Katrina, to Lorna Crozier's opening poems, to Karyn's closing piece reflecting on the weather patterns of relationships, seasonal changes are at the heart of many of these pieces. Poets Heather Simeney MacLeod, Susan Young, and Valerie Laub take on the promise of spring that is inherent in winter, Trisha Cull's plums evoke the long nights of summer, and the dogs of Diane Tucker and Michelle Barker drag their owners happily through all the weathers of the year.
However, we cannot always bend every piece within an issue to a single theme. To do so would mean missing such memorable characters as Madeline Sonik's Tanushri and Angela Long's prince/musician and princess/poet, the watchful, guardian women of Rose Hamilton-Gottlieb and Kerry Clare, and Patricia Westerhof's protagonist who no longer recognizes the face of her God.
Choosing the art for an issue of Room is always an interesting process for me, and it's a delight when the art clicks. Carey Ann Schaefer's images of Hurricane Katrina are a stark reminder of the potential devastation that nature can achieve, and a reminder, too, of the length of time it can take us to recover from that devastation. I was very happy to find Julie Beugin's velvet room and the importance it places on books. And when Room celebrated its thirtieth birthday in 2007 in Vancouver's Centre A gallery, the wonderful art that surrounded the readers and the audience, and which added an extra dimension to our party, was by Bernadette Phan, and her collaborator Sally Lee.
The first issue of Room's year always features our contest winners. Ivan Coyote awarded penny k-kilthau's piece "The Sum of Beth" first place for fiction and Wendy Brandts' "Burning Years" second place. Poetry judge Evelyn Lau chose "Gabriel" by Lesley Pasquin and "The Tulip Tree" by Patricia Young as first- and second- place winners respectively. And for the first time, we added a creative non-fiction category, which was judged by Rita Moir. The first prize goes to "Seasonal Employment" by Nancy Pawelek, and second prize to "Newfoundlesbian" by Shannon Webb-Campbell. Our congratulations to all the winners—we hope you will enjoy reading their pieces. And, for the writers among our readers, start thinking ahead to our 2009 contest. Deborah Campbell, winner of the 2008 Dave Greber Freelance Writers Award, will judge creative non-fiction; Sachiko Murakami, a nominee for the 2008 Governor-General's Award for poetry, will judge poetry; and Mary Borsky, whom The New Quarterly describes as one of the best-loved living Canadian writers, will judge fiction for us. Check our website for contest details (where you can also read the entries that received Honourable Mentions this year).
Whether you are still in the grip of winter or have moved forward into the great expanse of spring and summer, we hope you will enjoy this issue. Let us know what you think. We like to hear from you, just as much as we believe that you like to hear from us.
Michelle Barker lives in Hatley, Quebec, with her family and an assortment of animals (including, of course, her dog). 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.
Lorna Crozier has authored fourteen books of poetry, most notably Inventing the Hawk (McClelland & Stewart, 1992), winner of the Governor General’s Award. Her most recent book, The Blue Hour of the Day (McLelland & Stewart, 2007), contains selections from her eight major collections and includes many of the poems for which she is justly celebrated. She is currently on the faculty of the University of Victoria, where she is Chair of the Writing Department.
Madeline Sonik, writer and anthologist, publishes fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction in literary journals internationally. Her first novel, Arms, and her collection of short fiction, Drying the Bones, were published by Nightwood Editions. Her children’s novel, Belinda and the Dustbunnys, was published by Hodgepog Books and her poetry collection, Stone Sightings, has recently been published by Inanna Press.
Carey Ann Schaefer graduated from the University of Victoria (BFA) and moved to Santa Fe for two years, then to New York City for three years. She has received creation grants from the B.C. Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and VistaMedia Corporation. Now back home in Vancouver, she has applied to attend medical school.
“It’s amazing that something as innocuous as air can become such a ravaging force when muscled up with a bit of heat and humidity. The weather is a nice thing to study; a lot can be learned by sitting quietly and watching.”