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PLACES OF BC: Born Outta This, Born Into That

May 24, 2016

By Christine Lowther

After three collections of poetry, it was time for a prose project. Time to gather previously published essays and personal narratives with new work, consolidate, add, polish and refresh, and see what kind of a book was ready to be born. Years of regular columns about life in a floathouse from the now defunct Gulf Island Gazette (The Gig) and The Sound were still enjoyable to me, as were alternatively comedic pieces from Monday Magazine’s Last Word. I stepped back and saw that there were two polarities in my lived experience: half of each year I live remotely, off the grid, while the other half is spent on pavement, fully wired and hooked up. An April-to-October hermitage surrounded by old growth rainforest plus a moat of ocean and a creek, juxtaposed against autumn-to-spring rentals and house-sits in Tofino.

Born Out of This was born largely from nature writing, which I love. The best examples (Briony Penn’s humorous A Year on the Wild Side, Beth Powning, Sharon Butala, David Pitt-Brooke, Emily Carr, Joanna Streetly, Brian Brett’s “Honey Song”, Terry Glavin’s “Below McIntyre Bluff”) have such power to trigger our natural love for this planet. Consequently, nature writing can also trigger activism. Punk also inspired activism in me, through outrage, comedy and lyrical education of many issues.

A need to write about what happened to me as a child is always with me as well: the death of my mother by my father’s hand. Both parents were writers, both nature lovers. We lived in the city ” south Vancouver ” and in the summer escaped to Mayne Island, pretty much a gorgeous pastoral, polar opposite. The three sections in Born Out of This are Floating Season, Asphalt Season, and Merge. Vici Johnstone at Caitlin Press wasn’t sure about including the punk content, but she acquiesced in the end, graciously. Gratefully, I raved about the mid-1980s Vancouver punk scene (and England’s in the late 80s). I described Mayne and the places my sister and I lived after losing our parents, other places we tried to protect against clearcut logging, Tla-o-qui-aht territory where I settled on the far west coast. I wrote of mosh pits and grief, jellyfish and London squats. I also begged for some kind of friendship between page poets and slam poets, and as Chris Fox put it, “détente between urban and rural”. I see now that this was partly a way of looking for a decent relationship with my sister, who still lives in the city. Time takes care of that. You don’t come away unscathed from that kind of father, those kinds of losses. I had to look around me in amazement to survive. I have to write to thrive. It’s a gathering-up of experiences into some kind of profound appreciation and concern.