Fieldwork

Fieldwork is the act of collecting information from outside. Writers and artists are practitioners of this work when they bring the audience into the detail of a place, a thought, or a community through storytelling.

Places acquire resonances of words and acts.
—M. NourbeSe Philip, “Drowning Not Waving”

Fieldwork is the act of collecting information from outside. Writers and artists are practitioners of this work when they bring the audience into the detail of a place, a thought, or a community through storytelling. This issue of Room shares work by writers and artists who explore the social.

In our feature interview, poet and contemporary storyteller Marie Annharte Baker discusses her work of bringing the street vernacular of her community to her multi-genre work. She says lived experience is her “anchor” in writing, an anchor that has taken many forms over her decades of storytelling. Also pulling from lived experience, com-missioned writer M. NourbeSe Philip examines the moment her daily walking path changed forever in “Drowning Not Waving.”

But perhaps the work is invasive, unwanted, or damaging to its environment. Art by Windsor artist Alana Bartol traces the path of the pine beetle, giving us a glimpse into its work spreading a poisonous fungus through bark from chunks of Canadian firewood.

This issue also features the 2015 Creative Non-Fiction Contest winners. Judged by Ayelet Tsabari, Serena Shipp’s “Fishing” tells the story of a sister and her brother, and Melissa Sawatsky’s “Lessons in Meditation” searches for new ways to approach depression and anxiety. These are CNF pieces that take personal narratives and twist them inside out into lush and lyrical essays.

Yet with all the great work writers and artists do to communicate on the page there is something inherently missing in the written word. The crunch of snow below feet, the harrowing sound of a person falling, the acidic taste of cheap coffee, or the intonation of a voice. When I transcribed the interview with Annharte, it was almost bittersweet to stick to only what she said, the keys on my computer lacking the ability to convey how she said it. Transcribe an oral storyteller and an aspect of the telling is lost. But if words are all we’ve got, I’m happy to have even that.

I hope you enjoy this issue and discover something in the work here.

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