At the Lost + Found cafe on Hastings street on November 1, Canadian publisher Nightwood Editions launched four poetry collections by emerging Canadian writers. Copies of the four titles were sold by Pulpfiction Books.
Silas White, publisher of Nightwood Editions, explained that “with the decline of community bookstores, book launches are crucial to fostering a sense of community for the writers.” This strong sense of community was apparent at the launch in both the authors and guests. Supported by family, friends, peers, and readers the four authors read excerpts from their newly published books, and gave words of thanks to those involved in bringing them to print.
Nick Thran, currently the writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, presented his third collection of poetry, Mayor Snow. Joe Denham’s fourth publication, Regeneration Machine, is a requiem to the ghost of an old friend, reconciling the unexpected violent end of a non-violent young man. Sheryda Warrener teaches Creative Writing at UBC, and Floating is Everything is her second poetry collection, a collection that explores ways of belonging by drawing on an unexpected cast of characters.
Perpetual, written by Rita Wong and illustrated by Cindy Mochizuki, is a collection of poetic essays on the power and presence of water. Wong is a Calgary native and associate professor in Critical and Cultural Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, who received her PhD from SFU. Cindy Mochizuki is an Interdisciplinary Artist with an MFA from SFU’s School of Contemporary Arts.
Perpetual continues Wong’s long-term interest in water, spawning from a 2007 callout to protect sacred waters by Dorothy Christian, an interdisciplinary artist and scholar from the Secwepemc Nation. Rita Wong chronicles her discovery of water from the lost creeks of Vancouver, through the Fraser river, to the tar sands of Alberta, exploring memories of place and stewardship along the way, through indigenous knowledge and its connection to the land.
Wong described the importance of “being conscious of where you are, and where your water comes from,” as it forms such a crucial part of our interconnected world. Her volume references issues around our sources of water, as well as how we value, secure and conserve it. This frames water as a crucial part of the conversation around sustainability, one which she described as an excellent opportunity to work together to find a solution. Audiences could see this collaborative mindset at play in Wong’s book launch reading, where she opened by expressing her “respect for those that work in, profit from, and protest the development of the tar sands.”
Cindy Mochizuki’s compelling illustrations support Wong’s writing by expanding on the text in both a documentary, and surreal manner. Laid out in the style of a graphic novel, the illustrations are done in a simple black and white line-art palette that creates an environment that is distinctly personal and dream-like. Perpetual’s essays read as part educational documentary, part discovery and self-reflection. This combination makes for an approachable and enchanting look at ideas around water.
Through her writing, Rita Wong continues a tradition of activism by university scholars, one recently visible in our own Lynne Quarmby and Stephen Collis, SFU professors who formed part of the protests against the Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion here on Burnaby mountain. In Perpetual, Rita Wong’s reflective and conciliatory tone and Mochizuki’s ability to personalize this narrative are characteristic of a shifting approach in activism from confrontation, to reconciliation.