CAM00350For the past two weeks, I’ve spent my days gazing out a wide window at the Qu’Appelle Valley, watching the highway move cars up/down the hill, to/from Regina, and walking the road onto wide prairie, under the huge, changeable sky.

We’ve done amazing things here, we eight poets who arrived at Sage Hill to work with the inimitable Jan Zwicky.

It’s been quite literally an enchanted time: one night, an owl danced on the roof of one poet and the pen woke her, demanding to be moved. Yellow-bellied sparrows swirled and scooped the air.

Mostly I’ve spent my time in the 1800s, accompanying my great-great-grandparents into the wilds of Upper Canada – from Louth (now part of St. Catharines) to Malta (a since-vanished village built south of Southampton) and, finally, Manitoulin Island where he became the lighthouse keeper.

Yesterday, I finished that full-length collection: Migration. It’s about my Scottish/Manitoulin Island ancestry and also how we long to build our own links in a family chain but sometimes, simply, can’t.

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My room: the work in progress

Today, thanks to a dream I had last night, I started the next book of poems.

I’m not unusual though. The immersion and perfect mix of personalities we’ve found here enabled us all to work hard and fast, without a lot getting in our way.

It’s been a perfect retreat: the opportunity for deep discussion and laughter at meals before carrying coffee or tea back to our rooms and closing ourselves in for hours.

But now it’s time for home: there’s the new novel that sits on my hard drive, a dog who needs knee surgery, meals to make, a garden to plant before the heat. All the things of real life outside of the 24/7 focus on one’s craft (which, of course, we can’t have all the time).

I’ve learned so much here – about my work, my process, the task of refining rhythm and the importance of poetry for humans in a human culture. And I’ve done a lot of work that I’m proud of.

I’m lucky that I get to share it right away, as well, with Ariel Gordon and David Williamson, both Manitoba poets, who I’ll be reading with on May 27th at The Pas Regional Library.

If you can, come welcome me back to the world!

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