The Dry Valley

I’ll have to start a new page, one entitled, The Dry Valley, because I have recently signed a contract with Radiant Press, a new Regina-based publisher, for the publication of a poetry collection by that name! It will be released in the fall of 2019 and I’ll be touring it as soon as it’s available.

This is the work I produced while serving as the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre in Regina Beach and with the support of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world!

 

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right the earth: a creativity intensive

It was a challenging winter; my father passed on at the Winter Solstice. It was a sudden and unexpected loss that touched me more deeply than most anything in my life ever has. My family and friends helped me through the most difficult places and I’m grateful for the love that surrounded me and my extended family. Dad was a good man. I was blessed to know him as a father and I will always miss his presence. Though I’ve been unable to write about the loss, I have been healing and keeping busy.

Earlier this year, Radiant Press offered to publish my second collection of poetry! I was thrilled to accept! And so, The Dry Valley is forthcoming, September 2019.  I have started planning visits across the country to celebrate. Please contact me or my publisher for  opportunities.

On April 7th, I’m leading a workshop about writing Memoir at the George Bothwell branch of the Regina Public Library. The workshop filled last week so I may offer it this summer or fall.

right the earth posterIn the meantime, on April 21, consider attending right the earth, an afternoon’s immersion in the arts. It’s open to anyone interested in renewing, beginning, or developing their creative practice. It’s also an invitation to honour Earth Day by connecting your passion and compassion for our planet to a guided exploration in creative expression. And, it’s an opportunity to place your creative energy into work with text and textiles, music and movement, doodles and drawings, graphics and more.

No experience necessary but pre-registration is required. To register: Click here.

 

Finally, on April 26th, the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, I’ll read from a new manuscript of work, Unclear Future, at Mitzu Sweet Cafe & Sushi in Moose Jaw, thanks to an invitation from the Saskatchewan Festival of Words’ Performers’ Cafe monthly reading series.

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SaskBooks Publishing Symposium

I’m a little nervous that the folks at SaskBooks have me billed as a “Touring Author Extraordinaire,” but I’m grateful to be asked to speak about my experience of touring This hot place to many places in Saskatchewan and across the country. I’m still selling copies of it here and there.  More recently, I have been selling copies of the anthology, Absent Mothers (Demeter Press), in which a short prose piece I wrote is published.

Coming up in October is a short workshop at the Sask Cultural Exchange Society and a reading and Creative NonFiction workshop in Prince Albert.

And the tomatoes continue to ripen.

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Check out “Writing Project: Unclear Future”

Check out “Writing Project: Unclear Future” on Indiegogo http://igg.me/at/UnclearFuture/shre/6589103

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Variations on December 6

​On December 6, 1989, I was a newlywed, taking a couple of classes, on my way out of organizing on campus for the U of R Women’s Centre and moving into organizing provincially as a Board member for the Sask Action Committee Status of Women. I had attended a few  national students’ and women’s conferences and remember feeling  energized by the good work we were doing. 

What I remember from that day in 1989 is standing on the ugly brown carpet in the living room of our beautiful suite in the Modern Apartment building, holding the handle of our beige rotary dial phone to my head, talking to someone at the campus Women’s Centre on the other end, and inviting the Collective over to talk. Some did, though I’m sorry I don’t remember who. Maybe Angela? Nancy? Heather? 

Two years later, my infant daughter had been in my arms for a few months. She’d nursed during Cabinet and Opposition lobby sessions and more than a couple of meetings of feminists. She’d been in my arms as I spoke on behalf of SACSW at news conferences and various events. That year I remember an ache of mother-fear, something I’d never experienced in quite the same way before that day. It crept through me as I wondered what she might face when she attended university. 
By 2014 that baby was a young woman studying at uOttawa. Mother-fear again arose in in horrific way during the crisis on Parliament Hill. A lone gunman ran through security. Media reports were sketchy. All I heard was that a gunman was on the loose in Ottawa. Never was I ever so happy to receive her text message informing me that the university was also locked down and she was safe in the library. But we worried about the safety of our friends who worked on the Hill, where she had worked during her first year at university. 

This spring, as I mentioned in a previous post, we visited our daughter in Japan. With her and our son, my husband and I  travelled to Hiroshima, the city the US bombed on August 6, 1945. When we stood before the A-Bomb Dome, a shell of the building that had once stood there, I literally shook with the horror of what had been done. Later, inside the Peace Memorial Museum I wept quietly as I looked at the many items on exhibit. A child’s partially burnt-out garment ended my time there. I collapsed onto a bench, shaking but trying not to, until I got myself together enough to leave that room for something, anything, else.  

Last month the world witnessed the brutality of a militarized police force against a large peaceful gathering of Indigenous people at Standing Rock in North Dakota. That gathering took place because the women of the Sioux Nation, following in the spiritual paths of their ancestors, heard the call to protect the Sacred, to stop the pipeline that risked doing great harm to the water supply for their reservation and millions of others downstream. And, they took a stand. They would protect the water, as they had been taught.  Others heard their call, hundreds and thousands more around the globe heard.  And responded. Eventually, the  Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit the Dakota Access PipeLine required to dig under the river. 

I don’t think I have felt the pain of remembering December 6, 1989 so deeply as I did when my daughter was an infant. Until this year, that is. It’s been a shaking, weepy day. It must be a core wounding, I’ve decided, one that will need nurturing for a long time to come. It’s a wounding to the psyche of women in this country, to Canada. 

Still, in this moment, feeling as forlorn and grief-stricken as I do, I cannot fathom the great pain and intergenerational trauma experienced by the people of Japan and of Indigenous people of Canada. How can North America live with itself? How can I, knowing what I know, feeling what I feel, live with this? 
Thus far, I’ve been able to mourn and cry, write and organize, heal and love.  And remember. And tonight I will gather with friends and we will together mourn and remember

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Dear Samantha Nock,

I appreciate your contribution to the CanLit narrative that’s developed as a result of events at UBC.  Your open letter to Joseph Boyden moved me to tears.  I didn’t really want to follow the  debacle.  I’ve been busy with my own life, purposefully removing myself from everything I could to focus on my creative work this year.  But I couldn’t escape it.  I’m grateful my daughter posted your letter on Facebook.

To be honest, I usually pay little attention to universities.  I think I’ve written them off as ivory towers divorced from the grassroots, where I live and work.  That said, there are some I know who have done and are doing important things within the oppressive place.  Women, for example, have ensured that collective agreements and institutional policies are in place to address issues, such as this one, when they arise. Still, universities are imperfect institutions.  How could they not be?  They’re operated by imperfect humans working in stress-filled environments on too little money.  It doesn’t surprise me that situations are handled inappropriately even when policies and procedures are in place.

I’m also of the #ibelieveher variety, tending to believe women’s stories of abuse. That letter just didn’t fit, for all the reasons you suggest.  Now, it’s possible that the high-profile case of a former CBC employee left me more wounded than I’d thought.  And yes, I’ll readily admit to a degree of jadedness from my decades of feminist activism.  And, yes, yes, the whole thing rekindled memories of the abuses I’ve experienced at the hands of men.  But I’m a survivor who’s made her way through the pain, continually spiraling inward to shed more light, and then back out as I heal and write, edit and polish, and eventually, publish.  No decision about my work has been more difficult than whether or not to include a rape poem in my collection of poetry.

And so, my heart goes out to all the women who have been touched by this case.  As a white woman in a heterosexual relationship, I have the privilege of calling up a healer and being treated at my convenience.  I want everyone to find whatever it is they need to heal — be that their anger and rage, a community of love and support, a special friend or healer.  I hope you, Samantha, get the apology you request.  Perhaps this meagre response can help with that.

Thanks again for  your inspiration.

Sincerely,

Bernadette Wagner
Author, Editor, Activist
aka thereginamom

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Premiere: 27.10.16 TWO WEEKS IN JAPAN: More Than A Family Vacation

As I’d hoped, the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre in Regina Beach will host the premiere of TWO WEEKS IN JAPAN: More Than A Family Vacation! Please join me there at 7:00 pm on Thursday, October 27.

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What began as an idea for an essay about a family trip to visit our daughter in Japan morphed into an  interdisciplinary, multimedia memoir project, a mashup of photographs, songs, websites, essays, rants, family stories, poems, peace politics, anecdotes, and archival data that speak to a range of social, political, and cultural issues. A Q&A will follow the presentation. Refreshments will be available.

Bonus: Carol Daniels, on hand drum, and Sandra Topinka, on singing bowls, will join me at points during the presentation.  I met these multi-talented women during my term as writer-in-residence at the Centre and appreciate their participation.

This is a free event organized by the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre with the support of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Author Readings program.

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