Kate Braid's fifteen-year-career as a carpenter informs much of her new collection
Elemental (Caitlin Press), both an ode to nature and a feminist nod to blue-collar tradeswork. Below Kate tells us about a knee surgery that was the impetus for this collection and the most surprising part of being a writer.
Kate Braid: Two years ago I had knee replacement surgery which laid me up—happily, it turned out, as I was on heavy drugs. Walking was difficult, even to get to my office, and sitting was even harder, so after a while lying on the couch, I got bored and thought I might use this time to put together my next poetry book. I credit the drugs with this crazy idea. But it turned out I had a lot of unpublished work—both new, and that hadn’t fit into previous books—and it came together surprisingly easily into a book about the elements. (Was this the drugs?) So the chapters are Fire, Sky, Earth, Water and of course, as an ex-carpenter, Wood. I’d been thinking this book was utterly unlike anything I’d written before and it was only when I was telling the publisher about it that I realized how closely it echoed my work experience; I’d come to know these elements intimately in my 15 years as a carpenter.
ALU: Do you have any steadfast writing rituals?
KB: I wish!
ALU: What’s the most surprising thing about being a writer?
KB: How it has taken me over. Not that I object. But I’m amazed—and deeply grateful—at how important it’s become to me to write, to say what’s on my mind. No—to explore for myself (and perhaps, eventually, a reader) what’s on my mind. Only problem is that now when I don’t write for a while, I get crabby.
All the birds are waiting:
eagle on an abandoned post in the river
that once anchored barges of logs,
heron that startles as it flies fast, low
at the level of my eyes as I drive off the ferry.
All of them are impatient for something
they saw long ago, something
we humans with our pitifully poor eyes, weak hearts, something we can’t seem to see.
Can’t. Don’t. Won’t.
The chickadees and house sparrows twitter about it –
you might almost say angry – at the feeder.
The red-headed woodpecker knocks himself silly
trying to wake us up. Owls, gulls, crows –
no matter how hard they screech its name
we are impervious, deaf, dumb and blind
like weather vanes, so lost
in the bright moment’s breeze
that we hardly notice the dark direction in which they point.
Elemental by Kate Braid (Caitlin Press, 2018)
Kate Braid has published, co-written and co-edited 14 books and chapbooks of poetry and non-fiction, including a memoir, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World (Caitlin Press) of her 15 years as a construction carpenter. In 2016, In Fine Form, the first book of Canadian form poetry (co-edited with Sandy Shreve), was republished in a revised second edition by Caitlin Press. Braid has been recognized for her work in support of the Vancouver writing community, with a Mayor of Vancouver’s Arts Award and the Pandora’s Collective BC Writers’ Mentor Award. She lives in Victoria and on Pender Island. Visit
www.katebraid.com for more.
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