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Pulled from the Pages: The Essential John Reibetanz

It’s tough to say what makes a classic. Is time the determining factor? Must thirty, forty, fifty years pass before an author’s work can be hailed as a classic? Or is it influence? Is it good reviews, accolades from peers, solid sales numbers?

In fact, I believe that a true classic takes into account many of these and none of these.  Most of all, I believe that a classic must capture a time, a place, a style in such a way as to make the work essential to understanding a certain type of literature.

In my opinion, The Essential John Reibetanz is, perhaps unsurprisingly, that type of book. One of the major themes in Canadian literature has always been place—the landscape, the weather, the isolation—but the flipside of that is what people do to overcome those harsh realities.

The poetry of John Reibetanz explores just that. His words demonstrate that family and community can be more than just accidents of birth and circumstance, and that identity is not always determined by one’s surroundings. Instead, family and community represent relationships that one decides to forge and to nurture as well as an opportunity for the creation of one’s own identity.

To me, The Essential John Reibetanz is a work that is at once fiercely intellectual and deeply personal. It transcends autobiographical poetry, elevating lived experience through imagery, syntax and diction to question, to find true meaning in personal experience. His poetry, then, is a vehicle of transformation—one that blazes through the pathways of memory and allows you access to the imaginary.

I highly recommend reading an excerpt (helpfully included below!) so that you can see the transformation for yourself!

 

Pulled from the Pages

Lewis Bolt, Farmer

A rat caught in a trap by the foot
Will gnaw it off for freedom, but
There are men who’ll no more part with
Their chains than with the air they breathe.
Watching them sickens me: they throw
Body and soul into making each furrow
Straight as a knifeblade, as if it mattered—
Would the harvest be less if the furrows wavered?
Look: Toby Green’s been fussing with that stretch
Of fence all day—he’s got to touch
And wind the wires just so, you’d think
He was tuning fiddle strings. No spunk—
His hands go fiddling his life away.
We were boys together, and Toby
Played all the games; my hours were ruled
And filled like ledger pages—my childhood
Knew discipline, and that has made
Me the man I am. Pride
You may call it, but I have built
This farm out of a muckheap: Bolt’s
Bog they called it, and thought me mad,
Throwing money hard come-by into the mud.
First I tackled the hedgerows—towering
Walls like a fortress, and you couldn’t bring
A plough near them with the bloody roots
Running thirty-five feet across. A few fights
Between them and a bulldozer upped the acreage.
Next came the barn, netted with age-
Old binder string wound around nails rusted
Brittle; incredible the space wasted
By that and the other rubbish I cleared.
Finally the hands: I paid more, and hired
The best in the district, but after a struggle—
The Eleventh Commandment was not to haggle
For wages, as if working on one farm bound
A man to it for life; they don’t understand
That work is just something to be done and paid for
And loyalty needn’t enter the picture.
My first harvest neared, and the road
Swarmed with neighbours’ cars; you could read
The thoughts behind their looks: was I steel,
Or would I give like soft metal?
A bit of a crash makes them feel less
Desperate about their own failures
And proves that a man who breaks with the old
Ways will never thrive. I did.
I have done well enough to buy my parents
Their own house, and give him an allowance
To do little chores. People ask if he
Minds—a daft question, really:
He is proud of me, and when you have spent
Your life sweating in the fields you want
To escape. It’s only in the fog of pub-talk
That people want the old days back.
You mustn’t get caught in a rut: now I’ve
Proved my worth here, I might move
On. Yes, I dream of the north:
Think of drawing a plough through earth
Hard as granite, to make it take
The shape you choose! I’ll crop that rock.

 

About the Author

John Reibetanz is a professor of English at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College as well as the author of ten collections of poetry, including Near Relations (McClelland & Stewart 2005), Transformations (Goose Lane, 2006) and Afloat (Brick Books, 2013). His poems have been featured in prominent publications such as Poetry, The Paris Review, Canadian Literature and The Malahat Review, among others. He lives in Toronto.

 

Hope you all enjoyed this peek at our latest poetry release. You can get your copy  in print or ebook format here on our website. Don’t forget to check out the other fantastic volumes in the Essential Poets series!


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 25 Aug 2017

pqroundup2Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

 

 

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Nothing like a few good book links to kick off the weekend in style. Here’s to picking up a great new book to while away the weekend.

Cheers,sig


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Freebie Image Gallery: Summer Lovin’

It’s trite but true: a picture is worth a thousand words. In our emoticon-spouting, animated GIF meme-ing, Facebook-loving times, we communicate, more and more, through images. Happily, the Devil’s Artisan, our very own Journal of the Printing Arts, offers an ever-expanding selection of free, high-resolution, downloadable dingbats, ornaments and fanciful initials for your printed and online projects.

Today, we’re featuring a gallery of beautiful vintage images that communicate the joys of the steamy, adventure-filled end-of-summer months.

Fishing

I can remember fishing only once, as a child, in the Detroit River. I refused to bait my own hook, and needless to say, we did not eat anything we caught.

summer garden

I once aspired to green thumb-level greatness with a small vegetable garden. That is, until the blasted squirrels dug up all my tomato plants. The heartbreak is still fresh.

horse and gate

To my mind, every good summer camp experience should involve horseback riding at some point. This has not been my experience, but hey, a porcupette can dream.

hot-air balloon

I never understood the romance of the hot-air balloon. The threat of falling, the tight quarters, the pilot standing RIGHT THERE. But different strokes for different folks, I guess.

children playing

Children running around and playing together. How much more “summer nostalgia” can you get? Most remarkable? There’s not a cell phone in sight.

 

These are just some of the charming and wonderful images available over at the Dingbat Section of the Devil’s Artisan website. We’ve also got hundreds of typographic ornaments–headpieces, and tails and initials–as well as ‘other stuff’: insects and birds, fish and mammals, and oddities of various sorts. Visit today to browse this gallery of curiosities.

Cheers,


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 18 Aug 2017

pqroundup2Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

 

 

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Hope you enjoyed this latest PQ Weekly Roundup. Have a wonderful weekend, Quill fans!

Best!sig


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Best of the West: Great Authors from Western Canada

Best of the West: Great Authors from Western Canada

Every now and then, I like to get a slightly different perspective in my CanLit. As a born-and-raised Ontarian, it is easy to strongly identify with characters whose horizons are the same as my own. But sometimes it’s nice to jump outside that comfortable perspective and see what it’s like in other parts of the country.

In keeping, here are some authors from Western Canada, whose works are sure to give you a taste of a different locale…

 

The Understanding

The Understanding
Jane Barker Wright

This lively novel by BC-based author Jane Barker Wright is full of fascinating characters who prove that ordinary people can have extraordinary stories. The Understanding follows the Whitechapels and their nine children, who learn that secrets don’t stay buried, and that fame and notoriety often coexist.

Learn more about The Understanding »


Bitter Lake
Marika Deliyannides

Calgary author Marika Deliyannides’s Bitter Lake tells the story of a thirtysomething professional organizer whose life spirals out of control when she returns to her rural childhood home. Her run-ins with her parents, sister, and old high school crush make her contemplate the mistakes of her past and begin to chart a new course for her future

Learn more about Bitter Lake »


Niceman Cometh
David Carpenter

In Niceman Cometh, David Carpenter brings Saskatoon to life with the story of Glory who, newly single, has an uncanny ability to attract scads of admirers—especially the unsuitable ones. Naturally, her precocious six-and-a-half-year-old son, Bobby, has some thoughts about the situation. This is a playful yarn about the joys and sorrows of modern life.

Learn more about Niceman Cometh »


The Bird in the Stillness
Joe Rosenblatt

To truly appreciate the West, you have to appreciate the breathtaking natural environment. Qualicum Beach, BC’s Joe Rosenblatt does just that in The Bird in the Stillness. You’ll almost feel as if you’re walking through the great, towering forests of British Columbia as you page through these exquisite poems, or like you’re walking along the beaches of Vancouver Island. With charming drawings to illustrate the scene, you’ll be feeling green in no time!

Learn more about The Bird in the Stillness »


portraitFeel free to browse through these fantastic reads by western Canadian writers. We promise you won’t be disappointed!

Cheers,sig


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 11 Aug 2017

pqroundup2Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

 

 

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Thanks for tuning into our PQ Weekly Roundup. Hope to see you right back here next week.

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.