A couple of summers ago, I was able to attend a poetry writing workshop with UBC Okanagan professor Laisha Rosnau, through the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. She is winner of the
Dorothy Livesay Award, and the BC Book Prize for Poetry.
We ate lunch, she did a short Q&A, and then we got down to it… pen on paper. She provided several writing prompts. Quite a group was squeezed around the tables at the pub, some struggling to see in the din. After scribbling for a while, we took turns reading short bits aloud. Afterwards, we broke into smaller groups to write and read more.
It was a satisfying afternoon. And best of all, I left with a copy of Laisha’s book, Our Familiar Hunger. (Nightwood Editions, 2018, Duncan, B.C.). I did not know it at the time, but the volume has proved to be stark, beautiful, and important.
The work traces through ads, farm dirt, blood, abuse, and the chronology of the migration of Ukrainian women to Canada, some legally, and some as trafficked slaves to service oil workers and farmers. Rosnau uses found texts, many sources, her own poetry previously published on the topic, and she mentions works which inspired her own. Having read volumes of poetry without a unifying theme, I can see why this one is an award winner. The theme unifies the work and creates a strong statement about a people.
Noise and light explode
and we think it’s the surging
between us, what we hold
under heavy skirts, but
it’s another spray of gunshot,
another soldier marching.
The history of wars and suffering bleeds through, as do softer moments:
We sleep in our own skin
and lie so close together
I can see how there is something
in the blue of your eyes,
as wide as sky pressed against
crops of wheat before lack
Often, people don’t like poetry because it seems obscure and impenetrable. Not this. Anyone can read, understand, and gain from this work.
A Canadian Author