Winner of the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry
In 2010, Catherine Owen’s 29-year-old spouse died of a drug addiction. A year later, she relocated to an apartment by the Fraser River in Vancouver, B. C. As she moved beyond the initial shock, the river became her focus: a natural, damaged space that both intensifies emotion and symbolizes healing. In a sequence of aubades, or dawn poems, Owen records the practice of walking by or watching the river every morning, a routine that helps her engage in the tough work of mourning. Riven (a word that echoes river and means rift) is an homage to both a man and an ecosystem threatened by the presence of toxins and neglect. Yet, it is also a song to the beauty of nature and memory, concluding in a tribute to Louise Cotnoir’s long poem The Islands with a piece on imagined rivers. While Designated Mourner honors grief, Riven focuses on modes of survival and transformation through looking outward, and beyond.
Catherine Owen is a Vancouver poet and writer, the author of nine collections of poetry. A book of essays and memoirs, 'Catalysts: Confrontations with the Muse', was published earlier this year. Catherine's work has appeared in periodicals throughout Canada, Austria, New Zealand, and Australia. Her books and poems have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Gerald Lampert Award, the BC Book Prize, the ReLit Award, the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness In Literature, Short Grain, and The Earle Birney Prize. Her last book of poetry, 'Frenzy' (Anvil), won the Alberta Literary Award in 2009. She has a Masters degree in English and plays bass in the metal bands Inhuman and Helgrind.
Nature Writing 101
Our minds can turn anything romantic.
Is the problem.
The sewagy mud of the Fraser a quaint muslin & the spumes
pulsing out of chimneys at the Lafarge cement plant look,
at night, like two of Isadora Duncan’s scarves, pale, insouciant veils,
harmless. The trees are all gone but then aren’t our hearts
more similar to wastelands.
We can make it kin, this pollution, children one is sad about yet still fond of, their
delinquency linked to our own, irreparable with familiarity, a lineage of stench &
forgiveness. Our minds can assimilate all horrors.
Is the problem.
The animals will disappear and those small, strange invertebrates;
the bees will vanish & in the well-oiled waters, fish
will surge their deaths over the sand bags.
But then we keep saying, “Let’s construct another narrative. ”
The nightmares must simply be called reality.
And after this you see,
it is possible to carry on.