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Spring 2008 / 3.5

The Sharon Thesen Issue

"masquerading as simple description": A Conversation with Sharon Thesen
"alive and watching": Sharon Thesen and the Eighth Type of Ambiguity
Just an Apple
A Chaise for Sharon
Nechako Spring Morning
Sharon Thesen: Poem in Memory, and growing up there
"How much of Heaven has gone from Earth?": Sharon Thesen's "The Good Bacteria" suite
from the Benjamin Sonnets
PS I Adore You
Aristaeus Mourning the Loss of His Bees
For Sharon
Photographs & Manuscripts
Two Angels for Sharon
Why Sharon Thesen Doesn't Win Poetry Prizes
Two Poems for Sharon
The Yellow Chair
On Sharon
Report from the Savage Fields: Sharon Thesen's "The Fire"
She Who Destroys Light: Sharon Thesen's The Good Bacteria and the Organic Imagination
gala roses
As Above, So Below: Parallax in Sharon Thesen's The Good Bacteria
Sunday Morning, Making a Break, September
Charles Olson's First Poem
Prince George Core (Part 2: unfinished notes)
Your Own Heart a Satire
You Just Let Her Dance There
Canine Kin: Sharon Thesen's "Animals"
The Dogs of Dirk Bogarde
Irony's Rhyme
ReVerb & Echo
purse, porch, light
"margarine in the aisles of hope": towards a thinking about Sharon Thesen's writings
After Akhmatova
The Urging Surface
Petulant Sonnet for Sharon
Selected Poem
COVER: Early MS for "Biography" Thesen Archive, Contemporary Literature Collection, Simon Fraser University

Contributors

ANDREA ACTIS has lived in Vancouver for ten years, studied English at SFU, was briefly a member of the Kootenay School of Writing, had a bad winter, and is soon to begin her Ph.D. in Providence, RI. Regretfully, she has never met Sharon Thesen.

ROBIN BLASER, celebrated Vancouver poet, was Sharon Thesen's teacher at SFU in the 70s. His lengthy correspondence with her—conducted by fax—is now held in both the Blaser and Thesen archives at the Contemporary Literature Collection, SFU.

Roo BORSON and Sharon Thesen shared a writer-in-residence position at Concordia University for the academic year 1992-93.

GEORGE BOWERING: "In 2006 I wrote twelve chapbooks, a page a day for the whole year. All but one have been published, and are hard to find. My first association with Sharon came about when she transcribed the long long tapes I did for a book of interviews of Vancouver writers. This happened in 1975.1 had no idea that she would turn out to be a top notch poet!"

THEA BOWERING recently graduated with an MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta. Her stories "How To Read Your Lover's Favourite Russian Novel" and "The Monster, or The Deferred Subject" have appeared in previous issue of The Capilano Review. Sharon Thesen is her second favourite Canadian poet.

NANCY BOYD teaches drawing and painting at Capilano College. She has a large col¬lection of photographs of her friend Sharon.

COLIN BROWNE'S latest book, The Shovel, is published by Talonbooks. He is working on a new film that explores the Surrealists' fascination with Northwest Coast and Yup’ik masks and the surprising impact of this fascination on western culture. He is also writing the text for a new opera, The Kingfisher.

CLINT BURNHAM taught at Capilano College from 2003-05, during which time his office was across the hall from Sharon Thesen (which he knew to pronounce at tee-sin, not thee-sin).

TED BYRNE lives in Vancouver and works as a researcher in the trade union movement. He is also a poet and has been associated with the Kootenay School of Writing since the early nineties. With Charles Watts he edited The Recovery of the Public World (Talonbooks, 1998), a collection of writings concerning Robin Blaser and his sphere of activity. Recent work has been published in TCR, WCL, and The Gig.

STEPHEN COLLIS is the author of three books of poetry, most recently The Commons (Talonbooks, 2008), and two studies of contemporary poetry, including Phyilis Webb and the Common Good—Poetry/Anarchy/Abstraction (2007). He teaches at SFU, where he first met Sharon in the late 1990s, at a reading at which she wore leather.

PIERRE COUPEY, founding editor of The Capiiano Review, is a writer, printmaker, and painter. He taught in the Capilano English Department for over three decades and worked closely with Sharon on various committees, on The Capilano Review, and most memorably as department co-ordinators. Pierre's most recent solo show took place at Gallery Jones, which represents his work in Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest.

MARY DI MICHELE is a poet and novelist. Her latest book is Tenor of Love, a novel (Simon & Schuster, 2005). She teaches at Concordia University where she was very pleased to meet and get to know Sharon Thesen when Sharon was writer-in-residence there in the '90s. Mary felt very lucky to be given The Beginning of the Long Dash when it came out to review for Books in Canada. She has been a big fan ever since.

BRIAN FAWCETT is a founding editor of the internationally-followed Internet news service, www.dooneyscafe.com. His latest works, part of a 12-year project, are Virtual Clearcut: Or, The Way Things Are In My Home Town (Thomas Allen & Sons, 2003), which won the 2004 Pearson Prize for non-fiction, and Local Matters: A Defense of Dooney's Cafe and Other Non-globalized Places, People and Ideas (New Star, 2003). He lives in Toronto with his wife, Leanna Crouch, and ten year-old daughter Hartlea. He writes full time, gardens, and plays more sandlot baseball than is healthy or wise.

Born in Manitoba, PATRICK FRIESEN teaches at Kwantlen University College. In addition to poetry, essays, and plays, he has collaborated with improv pianist Marilyn Lerner. His most recent works are calling the dog home (CD), Interim: Essays & Mediations, and earth's crude gravities.

MARIA HINDMARCH races dragonboats. She misses her neighborhood walks and talks with Sharon and has to settle for phone and email conversations.

DIANA HARTOG is a poet and novelist. Brick Books published Ink Monkey, her most recent volume of poetry, in 2006.

NANCY HOLMES has written four books of poetry, most recently Mandoria (Ronsdale 2005). She is the editor of a forthcoming anthology, Open Wide a Wilderness: Canadian Nature Poems (Wilfrid Laurier UP), and with Sharon Thesen edits the new journal Lake: A Journal of Arts and Environment. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia Okanagan and lives in Kelowna BC.

ANDREW KLOBUCAR has taught at Capilano for the past eight years, the first five of which were lucky enough include Sharon Thesen as a colleague and much admired mentor. Thesen's poetry literally helped define the West coast, for Klobucar, as an important Canadian literary centre, onward from the 1980s.

MICHELE LEGGOTT has published six books of poetry, including Milk & Honey (2005, 2006) and Journey to Portugal (2007). She is co-editor of Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960-1975 (2000) with Alan Brunton and Murray Edmond, and editor of Robin Hyde's long poem The Book of Nadath (1999) and Young Knowledge: The Poems of Robin Hyde (2003). A major project since 2001 has been the development of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) at the University of Auckland where Leggott is an Associate Professor of English. She was recently appointed inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007-09. See also <www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/ leggott/index.asp>.

KENT LEWIS worked along side Sharon Thesen as an Instructor at Capilano College for nearly a decade, until Sharon left to teach at UBC Okanagan. He immediately moved into Sharon's vacated office, which he thinks makes him especially qualified to comment on her poetry.

NICOLE MARKOTIC is a poet, critic, and fiction writer who teaches English Literature, Creative Writing, and Disability Studies at the University of Windsor. She has published two books of poetry: Connect the Dots and Minotaurs & Other Alphabets (Wolsak & Wynn), and her chapbook, more excess, won the 1998 bpNichol Poetry Chapbook
Award. Her novel Scrapbook of My Years as a Zealot is forthcoming this fall (Arsenal Pulp Press). She has been a big fan of Sharon Thesen's poetry since first reading Artemis Hates Romance in the 1980s.

RALPH MAUD edited Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff's letters with Sharon Thesen. His Charles Olson at the Harbour, a biography of Olson, has just been released by Talonbooks.

BARRY MCKINNON lives in Prince George—a northern BC city and his sometime muse—and continues to work on "In the Millenium," a sequence of poems begun in 2000. After a long stint teaching college he now has time to rejuvenate Gorse Press: Sharon Thesen's Toledo is the first title in the new chapbook series and George Bowering's There Then the second. He is also writing prose assemblages inspired by Ken Belford, Robert Creeley, and Al Purdy.

DAPHNE MARLATT'S new long poem in prose fragments, The Given (McClelland & Stewart, 2008), reads like a novel and was written as the third in her trilogy beginning with Ana Historic and Taken. She is currently collaborating with book designer Frances Hunter on Between Brush Strokes, a limited-edition chapbook poem about the life and work of the BC painter and poet Sveva Caetani, forthcoming from JackPine Press (Saskatoon).

ERIN MOURE is a Montreal poet and translator who first encountered Sharon Thesen's work—Artemis Hates Romance—in a bookstore on West Broadway in Vancouver in 1980. She's been an avid fan of Sharon Thesen ever since.

JENNY PENBERTHY is the current editor of The Capilano Review.

MEREDITH QUARTERMAIN'S Vancouver Walking won the BC Book Award for Poetry in 2006. Two new books are coming out in 2008: Matter from Bookthug, and Nightmarker from NeWest. Her work has appeared in The Walrus, CV2, Prism International, The Capilano Review, West Coast Line, the Windsor Review, Canadian Literature and many other literary magazines. She is the co-founder of Nomados Literary Publishers that published Sharon Thesen's chapbook Weeping Willow.

LISA ROBERTSON first heard Sharon Thesen read at the Western Front, in approximately 1982. Then Sharon visited a poetry class taught by Rob Dunham at SFU, around 1984. They actually met around 1990 at Proprioception Books. They ate tapas prepared by Gerry Shikatani on East 2nd around 2001. Now Lisa's in Oakland thinking it over. She's Artist in Residence at California College of the Arts until 2009. She'll have a new book from Coach House next year.

RENEE RODIN is a Vancouver writer. She ran R2B2 Books along with its weekly reading series from 1986-94. Some of Sharon's books were launched there. Renee's own books are Bread and Salt (Talonbooks) and Ready for Freddy (Nomados). Over the years she and Sharon have shared a few tears and a lot of laughter.

BOB SHERRIN is a writer, visual artist, and educator. His works have been published or exhibited in Canada, the USA, Scotland, Switzerland, Italy, and India. He teaches in the Humanities Division at Capilano College in North Vancouver, BC. Note: '"ReVerb & Echo' is made with background images from those I shot for the cover of Sharon Thesen's Confabulations and The Beginning of the Long Dash. Each text is created from lines excerpted from both publications; the repeating, narrow-but-expanding images are details from a photo of Thesen dancing."

GERRY SHIKATANI has authored several books of poetry and a collection of stories. He is also a text-sound performance artist and has worked in experimental film collaborating with filmmaker Phillip Hoffman. Their recent ever present going past is based on texts from mortar rake glove broom basin sansui and First Book, Three Gardens of Andalucia that was published as a special TCR project while Sharon was editor. He is currently working on Second Book, niwa (texts and images created in Japanese gardens) as well as Learning To Eat, a book of memoirs and essays in gastronomy. He is based in Peterborough, Ontario.

PETE SMITH'S most recent publication is Strum of Unseen (above/ground press, 2008). "Sharon and I share geographies—-Kamloops, Tranquille, sage & Ponderosa countries—and histories—our generation, the wildfires of 2003. When we were evacuated from the Strawberry Hills Fire (a case of Premature Evacuation, as hindsight indicates), Sharon kindly invited Lyn & I to stay with her and Paul, for 'safe refuge’. We declined and were quietly back home when the apocalyptic Okanagan Mountain Park Fire fingered 20 feet from Sharon's front door. Her generosity exceeded her prescience by three weeks & two hundred kilometres."

GEORGE STANLEY'S new book of poetry is Vancouver: A Poem (New Star, 2008). With Sharon Thesen and Ryan Knighton, he was part of the late '90s the Aboutism movement in poetry.

CHRISTINE ANNE STEWART is from Vancouver and currently writes, teaches, and researches poetry and poetics in the English and Film Department at the University of Alberta. Selected publications: "This Then Would Be the Conversation," in Antiphonies: Essays on Women's Experimental Poetries in Canada, (The Gig, 2008); The Trees of Periphery (above/ground press, 2007); Pessoa's July: or the months of astonishments (Nomados, 2006).

SHARON THESEN is author of eleven books of poems: Artemis Hates Romance (Coach House, 1980), Radio New France Radio (Slug Press, 1981), Holding the Pose (Coach House, 1983), Confabulations (Oolichan, 1984), The Beginning of the Long Dash (Coach House, 1984), The Pangs of Sunday (McClelland & Stewart, 1990), Aurora (Coach House, 1995), News & Smoke (Talonbooks, 1999), A Pair of Scissors (Anansi, 2000), Weeping Willow (Nomados, 2005), and The Good Bacteria (Anansi, 2006). Confabulations and The Good Bacteria have both been short-listed for the Governor General's Award. A Pair of Scissors won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. In 2002 Thesen was a member of the jury for the Griffin Prize for Excellence in Poetry. She is a former editor of The Capilano Review (2001-05). She has also published two editions of The New Long Poem Anthology and the Governor-General's Award-winning edition of Phyllis Webb's selected poems, The Vision Tree. With Ralph Maud, she co-edited the correspondence between Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff (Wesleyan UP, 1999).

JOHN WEBB teaches English at Langara College and has published poems in Grain, Queen's Quarterly, and The Antigonish Review.

PHYLLIS WEBB was born in Victoria, BC, in 1927. A former producer at CBC radio, she is the author of more than ten books of poetry and prose, including the Governor General's Award winning The Vision Tree, which long-time friend Sharon Thesen edited in 1982. She continues to live on Salt Spring Island where she paints and thinks.

Many thanks to Paul Mier and Tony Power for their help with this issue.

blog posts related to this issue

Interview with Sharon Thesen