Get to Know them First: Christine Fellows & Burning Daylight

October 7, 2014

Welcome to our next instalment of our “Get to Know Them First” series, featuring some of the most exciting Canadian writers-to-watch at the beginning of their writing careers. Today’s post features Burning Daylight by Christine Fellows, a unique poetry collection in which poetry and music collide. 

Follow along with the series here

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Welcome to our next instalment of our “Get to Know Them First” series, featuring some of the most exciting Canadian writers-to-watch at the beginning of their writing careers. Today’s post features  Burning Daylight by Christine Fellows, a unique poetry collection in which poetry and music collide. 

Read on to learn about Fellows' pet fish heads, her publishing process, and sibling rivalry. 

Follow along with the series  here

The Book

Musical theatre meets poetry in Burning Daylight, a poetry collection and song cycle drawing together the Yukon Gold Rush of the early 20th century and the Arctic iron ore mining mega-projects of the modern day. Through a feminist lens, it examines dislocation, isolation, family and frailty, reflected in our relationship with the ever-changing northern landscape.

The Author

Christine Fellows songs are resolute, tuneful vessels filled with fully-formed characters and wondrous locations, lashed together with the spirit of collaboration and feminist intervention. They have sailed her to venues all over the world, sent her wheeling down the centre aisle of a darkened church wearing a papier maché bat head, set her down in a community centre near the Arctic Circle and a palazzo garden in Venice, Italy, and left audiences altered and amazed. Burning Daylight is her first poetry collection, and her sixth studio album. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

We asked author Christine Fellows to tell us about a few of her firsts:


Tell us about the first time you realized you wanted to be a writer.
My sister swears this isn’t true, but I have a vivid memory of her recuperating in hospital after she almost died from a burst appendix. Someone gave her a little red portable typewriter. I coveted that typewriter with a desire so fierce, and she doesn’t even remember it! I really loved to type, and mostly just as an excuse to play with the typewriter, I would type long, run-on-sentence stories with abrupt endings. That remains my signature writing style to this day. 

Tell us a little bit about the experience of writing your first book.
Burning Daylight is my first book. It’s actually a full-length album paired with a poetry collection. The album came first. The poetry part of the project happened later, very much by accident. It had never occurred to me to write poetry; it had never occurred to me to publish a book. It started in a poetry workshop led by the wonderful poet Jennifer Still, in which she had us write in the dark together, in the vintage planetarium at the University of Manitoba. I got the fever in me in that darkened planetarium, and the poems started pouring out. I stopped writing songs altogether and focused entirely on putting words and images on the page and moving them around, without the constraint of having to set them to music. It was absolutely exhilarating. In the end, the two pieces—album and poetry collection—fit together really well, thanks in large part to John and Rick at ARP, the design team at UrbanInk, and visual artist Alicia Smith, who created a series of stunning collages for the book.

What are the first five words that come to mind when you describe your book to someone?
Winter was hard on everyone.

What was your first job? Was it anything close to writing?
I was an Emergency Driver for a wildlife rescue, essentially wrangling maggoty seagulls into cardboard boxes and transporting them to and fro. It probably was more useful in preparing me for being a touring musician than a writer per se, but there are similarities—trying to get the seagull into the box, for one. 

What is the first book you remember reading?
A box set of Moomintroll books by Tove Jansson. Those books were a long-standing obsession when I was a kid. I must’ve read them hundreds of times. 

What was your first pet?
My family always had dogs and cats, but those were the family pets, not my own.
My dad would bring me back the fish heads from his fishing expeditions and I would keep them in ice cream pails and play with them for hours. Those fish heads were my first and dearest pets.

The Publisher

ARP Books was founded in 1996 by musician John K. Samson and writer/editor Todd Scarth. We chose the name Arbeiter Ring to express our solidarity with the rich history of the social justice movement in Winnipeg.

Our mandate is to publish a dynamic combination of cultural, fiction, and non-fiction titles with an emphasis on progressive political analysis of contemporary issues. Our authors are world-renowned academics, first-time novelists, community activists, and established writers from all over Canada who share our belief that the written word can change the world, one reader at a time.

Why do you feel it’s important to publish works by new authors?

It is always fun to publish a book by a new author, and I think small houses like ours are in a unique position to do so. 

Tell/show us the first cover concept for the book and how it differs from the final look.

The cover is actually one of those rare instances where we all knew it would be that image, right from the first meeting we had with the designers, Urban Ink. It just seemed obvious. The structure of the cover was totally new to us, though — a die cut, with an extra fold and a flood of colour. It was exciting, and a bit scary, as none of us could really know exactly how it would work until we saw the final printed book. I love it.  

When did you first know you were going to publish this book?

The idea came together slowly and methodically. We had just put out a wonderful book,  Islands of Decolonial Love, by Leanne Simpson, which included links to songs she had created with musicians, and a cassette tape. It made us want to keep pushing the edges of what a book could contain. It was also our first time working with the Winnipeg designers Urban Ink, and we really wanted to work with them again. Christine was making a record around the same time, and was writing poetry and travelling to the north. Once the artist Alicia Smith started making collages in response to Christine's work, we knew it would be a great opportunity to make a beautiful book, which could incorporate music, words, and images. 


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