My Year in Reading

My 2017 year in reading was for a third or fourth time, a #95books challenge to read more than the supposed amount GW Bush was able to crank out while in office. I read 101, ending the year last night with Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead – a fitting book of poems for an awful year.

Because Excel lets me track information, and because it is interesting to see if my reading  follows any curves, I know that poetry made up 49% of my reading, fiction 27%, non fiction 16%, “other” 3% and graphic novels 1%. Sorry, no plays.

The breakdowns are not rigorous and there are lots of other metrics I could track for, but here are a few wide swathes that are imperfect in their definitions and divisions:

71% of the titles were written by women. 24% by men. 4% by non binary authors. 1% coauthored.

68% of the authors of the books I read self-identified as straight, 20% as LGBTQ, 12% I didn’t have info on.

63% of the authors are white, 37% of the authors on the list are people of colour. 14% of them are Indigenous authors.

76% of the authors are Canadian and 22% from the US. I read only 2% of authors from outside North America? How did that happen?

It’s always funny to look back at the year though titles. In some places the titles are more accurate markers than any calendar entries: I can perfectly recall who lent me the book, who I was while I read it, where I was when I finished it. The next book I am reading is Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith and unless I finish it today, it will appear on next year’s list on December 31 2018.

The Painted Drum – Louise Erlich
Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
New and Selected Poems,1956-1996 – Phillip Appelman
Driving Force – Dick Francis
10lb Penalty – Dick Francis
Status Update – Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang
Passage – Gwen Benaway
Fun House – Alison Bechdel
The Chick at the Back of the Church-Billie Livingstone
(alive) – Rhea Tregebov
Peace in Duress – Janet Rogers
The Woods – Amber McMillan
Hologram – PK Page
A Perimeter – rob mclennan
Defending Darkness – Pamela Porter
Broom – Brecken Hancock
Friendly Fire – Danielle LaFrance
Memoirs of a Polar Bear – Yoko Tawada
In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi
Born Out of This – Christine Lowther
Leak – Kate Hargreaves
Nochita – Dia Felix
Swing Time – Zadie Smith
Milk Black Carbon – Joan Naviyuk Kane
Prosopopoeia – Shazia Hafiz Ramji;Silo Society/Right Hand Hymns – Aidan Chafe; Good for Nothing – Curtis LeBlanc
Black Trumpet – Evan Mallett
The Divinity Gene – Matthew J. Trafford
Indigenous Writes- Chelsea Vowel
This Accident of Being Lost – Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Son of a Trickster – Eden Robinson
Calling Down The Sky – Rosanna Deerchild
The Best Kind of People – Zoe Whitall
Patterns on Black Ice – Louise Vacca Dawe
Snow Feathers – Writers North of 54
Skung Cabbage – Writers North of 54
Bad Ideas – Michael V. Smith
Prologue for the Age of Consequence – Garth Martens
An Honest Woman – Jonina Kirton
LaRose- Louise Erdich
Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person
A Stitch of Time – Lauren Marks
Canyon Creek: A Script – Sheila Peters
The Earth Remembers Everything – Adrienne Fitzpatrick
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
The High Mountains of Portugal – Yann Martel
He Wants – Alison Moore
The Art of Growing Old – Marie de Hennezel
Where it Hurts – Sarah de Leeuw
A Wall of Light – Edeet Ravel
Grayling – Gillian Wigmore
Terra Incognita – Adebe DeRango-Adem
Metanoia – Sharon McCartney
Octopus Poems – Patrick Warner
Adult Onset – Ann-Marie MacDonald
Throaty Wipes- Susan Holbrook
Lanterns at Guantánamo – Jordan Scott
How Festive the Ambulance – Kim Fu
Ghost Town – Susan Telfer
Heaven’s Thieves – Sue Sinclair
Washita – Patrick Lane
Hard Work Cheering Up Sad Machines – Jason Heroux
Medic Against Bomb – Frederick Foote
They Called me Number One – Bev Sellars
Knockdown – Dick Francis
The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert
We Are Not Citizens We Are Magicians – Jordan Abel, Rae Armantrout, Juliane Okot Bitek, Anne Boyer, CAConrad, Mercedes Eng, Jasmine Gibson, Dionne Lee, Cecily Nicholson
Hard Body Candidate for Soft Embrace – Nicole Dumas
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
The Siege – Helen Dunmore
To Love the Coming End – Leanne Dunic
Someone You Love is Gone – Gurjinder Basran
God in Pink – Hasan Namir
Flightpaths – Heidi Greco
The Revolving City – Wayde Compton and Renee Sarojini Saklikar
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name – Vendela Vida
Perpetual – Rita Wong and Cindy Mochizuki
Still No Word – Shannon Webb-Cambell
Delirium for Solo Harp – Nadine McInnis
Next year, For Sure – Zoey Leigh Peterson
Brother – David Chariandy
300 Arguments – Sarah Manguso
The Dog Lover Unit – Rachel Rose
My Ariel- Sina Queyras
Silvija – Sandra Ridley
Don’t Tell Me What to Do – Dina del Bucchia
3 Summers – Lisa Robertson
Afterglow – Eileen Myles
Linger, Still – Aislinn Hunter
Bad Endings – Carleigh Baker
Wayside Sang – Cecily Nicholson
Refugium – Yvonne Blomer, ed
Ecodeviance (soma)tics for the Future Wilderness – CA Conrad
Intertidal – Daphne Marlatt
Voodoo Hypothesis – Canisia Lubrin
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
Advice from the Lights – Steph Burt
Prison Industrial Complex Explodes – Mercedes Eng
Cool For You – Eileen Myles
Float – Anne Carson
Left Unsaid – Joan Flood
Don’t Call Us Dead – Danez Smith

Ice Theatre of New York

Last night, June 8, 2017, Ice Theatre of New York held its Spring Unplugged at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers. It kicked off with a performance of the poem “School Figures” from serpentine loop skated by Denise Beaumont, Elisabeth L’Heureux, Katherine Mangiardi (above) and Wendy Wilke. Big thanks to Moira North for inviting this collaboration and to all the ITNY staff for a spectacular night which culminated in a spectacular sunset.

I was so happy to be there with friends and family, including my mother Tenley Albright, Douglas Webster and Steffani Bennett (pictured) below with John Kline.

Beautiful performances of the night included “Alberta Biography” skated by Eliot Halverson (in a plaid Canadian shirt) to bird calls. It was choreographed by Fred Nowosad and reset by Moira North. Eliot’s deep edges, humour and skill made this fascinating piece a stand out. And Joel Dear and Christian Erwin’s luscious “In Passing” was a stunning example of single gender pairs. Their connection to their choreography and their supple musculature were a real pleasure.


Bust magazine is one of the few general interest magazines to include poetry in its book reviews section. In fact, they have a Poetry Corner and it is written by three-book author, director, and actor Amber Tamblyn. The April/May issue includes her review of serpentine loop.

How exciting is this review? Very. Not only because it puts serpentine loop in conversation with the slate of interesting books in the issue but because it leaps over the 49th parallel, that invisible yet dense divide between US and Canadian readers. As a writer rooted with one foot on each side of the border, this feels great. And being a long-time Bust fan myself I am thrilled. This sort of support in the form of a considered, attentive review is a real gift. Here it is:


In poet Elee Kraljii Gardiner’s beautiful debut collection, serpentine loop (Anvil Press), she explores the magnificence of life’s circular tropes through the lens of figure skating; the repetition of painful events, the balancing dance of love and desire, the tough climates of an existentially glacial world. In “Outdoors, Ice” Gardiner, a former figure skater who hails from Vancouver, writes: “Through an ice hole. Hidden from the/moonlight in the shadow of a bridge. The delayed/surfacing of the body was probably due to its being/pinned under an ice sheet….” The poem in and of itself is shaped like a circle, shedding light on a mysterious frozen body discovered by children. In “Main Artery Along the River,” Gardiner writes of finding a man who has just been in a severe car accident: “For days the sensation of his open mouth turns you/off food. Eat out of duty./The wounded take all forms.” With too many great poems inside to quote, Gardiner’s lush, piercing collection is layered with climatological subtext and personal history, sure enough of its voice to thaw the coldest of hearts.

Writers Resist, Writers Respond

I’m happy to be hosting Writers Resist, Writers Respond at the Vancouver Public Library‘s one-day literary festival on Saturday, May 13, 2017, 10:30am-12pm, in the Alice McKay Room. It’s the third event I have hosted towards the conversation of social justice and creativity.

Join me and three writers who are engaged in social justice for a morning of creative listening and writing. Each author will share a poem of their own and one by an author of their choice. After the readings listeners are invited to activate as writers, crafting on-the-spot responses (on any topic) that can be added to a community archive in the room. Paper and pen provided; all welcome. No need to write; listeners are appreciated!

I’m thrilled to creating this event with three strong thinkers:

Julie Park-54Juliane Okot Bitek is a Liu Scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues and a Poetry Ambassador for the City of Vancouver’s Poet Laureate Rachel Rose. She is completing her dissertation in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program at UBC. Juliane’s book of poetry, 100 Days, was published by the University of Alberta Press in 2016. The book was the result of a project, inspired by the photographs of Wangechi Mutu, in which Juliane wrote a poem a day for one hundred days in the summer of 2014, each a response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It has been shortlisted for the 2017 Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Award for Poetry and is a finalist for the 2016 Foreword INDIES Award for Poetry.

image001Sonja Larsen has been collecting stories her whole life. As a kid she hitch-hiked across country and lived in 3 communes and one cult. As an adult she has worked as a telephone solicitor, bartender, freelance writer, teacher, and youth worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her fiction has appeared in literary magazines, including Room, Descant and a flash fiction anthology. Her memoir RED STAR TATTOO (Random House 2016) was shortlisted for the 2016 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Non-Fiction award.


Leah Horlick is a writer who grew up as a settler on Treaty Six Cree Territory in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her first collection of poetry, Riot Lung (Thistledown Press, 2012), was shortlisted for a 2013 ReLit Award and a Saskatchewan Book Award. Her second collection, For Your Own Good (Caitlin Press, 2015), was named a 2016 Stonewall Honour Book by the American Library Association. Along with Esther McPhee, Leah co-curates REVERB, Vancouver’s only queer and anti-oppressive reading series. Last year she was awarded the 2016 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers.

Writers Resist, Writers Respond is just one of many events taking place this day on the unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people.

Here is info on the schedule.

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serpentine loop Shortlisted

Thank you to the League of Canadian Poets for including serpentine loop on the RAYMOND SOUSTER AWARD 2017 SHORTLIST. I am delighted to have a connection with this excellent group of poets! The other nominees are:

Disturbing the Buddha by Barry Dempster (Brick Books) | silent sister: the mastectomy poems by Beth Everest (Frontenac House) | Serpentine Loop by Elee Kraljii Gardiner (Anvil Press) | Burning in this Midnight Dream by Louise Bernice Halfe (Coteau Books) | The Waking Comes Late by Steven Heighton (House of Anansi Press) | Après Satie – For Two and Four Hands by Dean Steadman (Brick Books)

The winner will be announced in June in Toronto.


Rockefeller Center

On April 5, 2017 at 1pm Ice Theatre of New York is skating one of my poems (“School Figures”) during their half hour performance at the gorgeous outdoor landmark, Rockefeller Center. If you are in NYC and free on lunch hour, this Wednesday will be a treat – it includes a program by Canadian skater Elladj Baldé. Brian Orser, who is teaching a seminar later in the week, will be there, too. I first skated at Rock Center when I was eight years old and performed with my mother at the lighting of the Christmas tree. I’m sorry not to make it – if you go, I’d love to see photos or video.

Thank you, Ice Theatre skaters and directors, for bringing this poem to the ice!


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We Skated the Book


Thank you to everyone who stayed up late for our Skate the Book event on March 24, 2017!

It was wonderful to see so many people out for an evening of words and movement. As you’ll see in the video below, I read a poem (“Learning to Read and Write”) and invited Douglas Webster to speak about the similarities between skating and writing (edges, paragraphs, brackets, scribes, etc.). We heard a quick artist’s talk by Elin Schran about how she choreographed a book of poems as a skating program. Both Douglas and Elin were so generous with their time – they flew in from Boston the night before and never showed signs of jet lag! Douglas, who choreographed for Disney on Ice for ten years and does tons of work for tv and touring shows, and Elin, who skated with Ice Capades and runs Frozen Frog Productions, made all of this look easy.

We snacked and chatted and then, when the public session was cleared, we went downstairs in the Hillcrest Community Centre and we all got our skates on.

I was amazed how split the crowd was – 50% skaters, 50% writers! Some of the skaters were people we bumped into on a UBC freestyle session earlier in the day (Giovanni! Alexa!); others heard about it through the grapevine. Giovanni offered to sharpen Elin’s and Douglas’ skates at Cyclone Taylor, where he reconnected with Neal Countryman (who was Prince Philip in Disney on Ice). Some of the literary community members included Poet Laureate Rachel Rose, Lindsay Brown, Sarah Turner, Mohammed Kebbewar, Elena Johnson, and Mikaela Asfour, daughter of my V6A co-editor John Asfour. Leah Horlick, Anne Fleming and Gilles Cyrenne grabbed a quick photo with me after the reading. And my excellent Anvil Press Publishers Karen Green and Brian Kaufman hung in the back. Poet/doctor/tango dancer Karen Shklanka skated, too!

We all took the ice while Elin and Douglas warmed up for their presentation of “Meditation”, a duo figures demonstration with an element of moves in the field, a series of edges. Although there were only two of them they captured the sense of a school of fish or flock of birds. In fact, those moves are called “flocking”. Thanks, Lindsay Brown, for whipping out the iPhone in time to catch this!

As they skated figure eights and serpentine loops I read the poem “School Figures” over the music – I wish the soundsystem had been more collaborative, but tried my best to project. Again, so good to work with professionals who can pivot on a dime. Literally.

What was wonderful was to be on ice as they skated – we were watching near the hockey box. We could hear the edges and feel the air moving as they skated past.

Elin performed the Canadian debut of “Serpentine Loop” – you can see it here – which is a physical representation of what I am trying to evoke with words. Elin read my manuscript, drew key words out of it, thought about the structure and movement of the ideas and then turned it into a skated choreography. Not only is that a huge artistic gift for me, but it’s a new way of working for her, and funny enough, it took quite some time for the program to settle down – like mercury it slipped away and moved, shifted. Each time I have seen her skate it I have loved it even thought it has been different! She is so gifted!

Skate the book-19A surprise of the night was the gift of not one but TWO pairs teams. Diana Barkley and Geoff Squires are Adult World Champions (they learned dance pairs as adults) – and they performed a fantastic swingy number. They are coached by Canadian Olympians Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.

A second team, Canadian National Seniors Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker, who are BC Regional Champions, did their show number.

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If you have never been on ice with a high-level dance team you may not have any idea of the energy flying over the surface. 17499301_1901160786787960_7384193443629322108_n

They were fantastic – and you will surely be seeing much more of them! They had been up since 4am but were completely energized. We hope we get to collaborate in some way, shape or form.


Another gift was a visit with skating coach Jocelyn McNeil and her daughter, Tenley, who is named after our mom, Tenley Albright! I met Jocelyn at a reading at PulpFiction Books in the fall and was so happy to introduce Elin.


Here’s a group photo, by the intrepid Liisa Hannus, who shot all of the photos for the night. She even double-handed stills and video at one point! For this picture she walked out on ice before she even had her skates on. And no falling!

Skate the Book.Liisa Haanus

Thanks again to the great staff at Hillcrest, to the performers and skaters and attendees!