Alexander MacLeod’s “Lagomorph” and the Ecological Uncanny

by Owen Schalk

The short story “Lagomorph,” which appears in Alexander MacLeod’s collection, Animal Person, is told from the perspective of David, a narrator who is alienated from himself and the external world. The reasons for his alienation seem personal: his marriage has ended in separation and his children have moved out, leaving him alone with too much time on his hands. The locus of his alienation, however, is his pet rabbit, a liminal creature who embodies David’s feeling of estrangement from his own life.

By constructing David’s alienation around the figure of the rabbit, “Lagomorph” concerns itself with the alienation that builds out of estranged personal relationships, the ways human beings view themselves in relation to other living things, and specifically, the alienation that results from the defamiliarization of naturalized categories of thought. As a result, MacLeod’s exploration of his narrator’s interiority expands into a meditation on concepts, categories, and the privileging or de-privileging of human agency—a process that environmental scholar Taylor Eggan refers to as “the ecological uncanny.”

Throughout the story, MacLeod constructs the rabbit, Gunther, as a being defined by his inability to be concretely labelled. The man selling Gunther declares that “[r]abbits are right there, you know, right on that line…You either want to be friends with them or you want to kill them and eat them for your supper” (6). But before adopting Gunther, David thinks, “Maybe a rabbit is almost like a cat” (5). He also notes that “you can never be sure where you stand relative to a rabbit” (2). David’s inability to define Gunther by the biological categories available to him—he is not a cat, but like a cat—brings into focus the destabilization of previously fixed categories at the heart of David’s alienation.

Over the course of the story, David is preoccupied with finding the correct words to encapsulate concepts, people, and relationships. He states, “I never thought of myself as an animal person,” nor did he grow up in a “pet family” (3). He also notes that he preferred the term “partnership” to “marriage”: “We felt like a partnership described our situation better…But I’m not sure what terminology you could use to describe what we are now” (3).  Furthermore, after adopting Gunther, he is fascinated to learn new terminology related to the species such as “altricial” (a species that is undeveloped at birth) and “binky” (a jump rabbits do when excited).

David’s fixation on words relates to his focus on auditory expression. At the story’s beginning, he notes that the rabbit’s inability to make a sound is the reason he feels so unnerved in its presence. In Gunther’s silence––his refusal to speak a word and concretize the relationship between them––the rabbit draws David’s attention to the fact that the world is not his to define, that forces external to his perception––a pet, a spouse, a child––have specific realities wherein they read and define him as well. Staring into Gunther’s eyes, David thinks:

I know that he is reading me at the same time––and doing a better job of it–picking up on all my subconscious cues and even the faintest signals I do not realize I am sending out…I need this rabbit to find words, or whatever might stand in for words. I need him to speak, right now, and tell me exactly what the hell is happening (2-3).

David’s alienation from the rabbit’s world relates to the concept of the “ecological uncanny” outlined by environmental scholar Taylor Eggan. Mixing Freud’s concept of the “uncanny,” which is simultaneously familiar and strange, with literary ecocriticism, Eggan posits that the supposed barrier between human beings and the natural world is an ideological construction that, once punctured, does not always inspire awe in the human subject. Human beings are generally socialized in a cultural climate that leads “to [an] understanding of Nature as little more than a mirror of ourselves, reflecting our desires” (14).  However, the ecological uncanny describes “the strange (and hence estranging) way in which [n]ature persistently defies our desire for it to act as a mirror” (16).

Eggan writes: “Because the ecological uncanny draws attention to human finitude, it invokes fear of the unknown. Taken to its extreme, this fear sponsors apocalyptic visions of the world’s end” (iii).  This apocalyptic tone is evident in David’s early description of staring into Gunther’s eyes:

He has these albino eyes that go from a washed-out bloody pink ring on the outside through a middle layer of slushy grey before they dump you down into his dark, dark red centre…sometimes when he closes in on me like that and I’m gazing down into those circles inside of circles inside of circles, I lose my way, and I feel like I am falling through an alien solar system of lost orbits rotating around a collapsing, burning sun (1).

This passage breaks down the barrier between the rabbit and the human as David metaphorically “falls into” Gunther’s eyes, enters his brain, and finds himself in an “alien solar system.”

David sinks into the rabbit’s eyes. Barriers between seemingly fixed categories decay as the marriage, once a stable and harmonious partnership, plunges into indefinability, and David is left staring into the ecological uncanny that results from his own inability to define the world. In this way, MacLeod’s story is an example of a character’s interiority leading toward a meditation on larger themes: a lonely man who, by contemplating his rabbit, contemplates the conditionality of human experience itself.

Works Cited

Eggan, Taylor. The Ecological Uncanny: Estranging Literary Landscapes in Twentieth-Century Narrative Fiction. Princeton University Press. 2017.

MacLeod, Alexander. “Lagomorph.” Animal Person, McClelland & Stewart, 2022, pp. 1-27.


Owen Schalk is a writer from Winnipeg. He is a columnist at Canadian Dimension magazine, and his non-fiction writings have been published by Liberated Texts, Monthly Review, Protean Magazine, and others. His short stories have also been distributed by a variety of print and online publishers, including Fairlight Books, Sobotka Literary Magazine, and antilang

Book Review of Nick Laird’s Poetry Collection Feel Free

by Josiah Nelson

In 2018, Nick Laird and his partner Zadie Smith each released a book titled Feel Free. While his collection was comprised of poems, and hers of essays, the shared title seemed, if not intentional, then at least conspicuous. At their joint reading at Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris—meant to launch Laird’s collection and promote Smith’s—Laird offered a simple, accidental explanation: he had titled a poem “Feel Free” in 2014, and Smith had liked it too much not to use it for herself.

The anecdote seems relevant because, despite its title, Laird’s collection explores the ways in which we’re tethered—to our environment, society, or in this case family—and the desire for freedom that might engender in us. In the collection’s first poem, “Glitch,” the speaker recovers from fainting, “risen of a sudden like a bubble / to the surface,” but longs for the reprieve of that liminal, unconscious space: “and all // particulars of my other life fled except the sense / that lasts for hours of being wanted somewhere else” (5). 

But as much as freedom calls to Laird, so too do the demands of domestic and parental life. In “Fathers” he reassures one of his children: “There’s no use getting all het / up: I give you a bed for your tiredness: I give you / some bread I have toasted and buttered: I give you // a stretch of the earth” (8). The repeated short “e” vowel sound finds comfort in this routine of reassurance, but the enjambment, which breaks the line twice on “I give you,” perhaps betrays a sense of weariness. 

Laird isn’t merely interested in exploring fatherhood, but also in his identity as a son. Feel Free is split into three sections, but each section features a poem titled, “The Good Son,” a triad thematically linked in their exploration of violence and obligation, featuring fathers who float above as ghost or memory. In “Silk Cut,” Laird recounts a childhood experience of reaching for his father’s hand and finding instead “the red end of a cigarette” (20). The poem then leaps forward, finding Laird and his father powerless and bereaved after the death of Laird’s mother. The poem, a single sentence spread across four breathless quatrains and absent of a final period, ends, “we are going home, waiting / at the turn for the traffic, when I find / I have to stop my hand from taking his” (20). 

Despite Feel Free’s preoccupation with restrictions and familial obligations, its title shouldn’t be read as purely ironic; there’s a levity of language, voice, and form that buoys the collection’s tone and demonstrates Laird’s desire to follow his title’s directive. Both “Grenfell” and “Manners” invoke a corporate, bureaucratic voice to comic and a surprisingly earnest effect, while “The Vehicle and the Tenor,” “Parable of the Arrow,” and “Cinna the Poet” feel contemporary but esoteric, told by distant, almost oracular speakers. 

Laird’s formal range is wide, too, playing with monostiches, couplets, tercets, quatrains, quintains, or, like “Watermelon Seed,” a half-page stanza to distill a domestic moment: “I like watching you at work: one dangles / from a tine, expelled and slickly black, / suspended by a tendril of thin pink pulp till / you flick it with your index finger / expertly at the sink. Plink” (37). The scene is acutely observed, but also conveys the speaker’s wonder with euphonic “e” and “l” sounds, and repeats a short “i” sound that finds a satisfying resolution in the poem’s rhymed ending. 

And perhaps this scene is precisely what Feel Free is attempting to get at: the ways in which we’re tethered to others, and the sort of precious, ubiquitous moments we become privy to as a result. The titular poem ends with the speaker soothing his daughter to sleep and remembering loci of freedom, emphasizing the feel part of the title: “Tickling your back, Katherine, to get you to sleep, I like to lie here / with my eyes closed and think about my schoolfriends’ houses before / choosing one to walk through slowly, room by sunlit room” (15).  

Laird’s collection beautifully captures the sense of claustrophobia that can attend a settled life, but ultimately celebrates it, suggesting that life is best lived in the messy, restrictive web of community and family—even if this might mean having to share the occasional title. 

Works Cited

“Feel Free: Nick Laird & Zadie Smith,” 2018. Youtube, uploaded by Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, 19 July 2018, 

Laird, Nick. Feel Free: Poems. 1st American edition, W.W. Norton and Company, 2019. 


Josiah Nelson is a second year MFA in Writing student at the University of Saskatchewan. He’s currently writing a collection of short stories exploring precarity, coming-of-age, and iconoclasm. His work has appeared in Exclaim!the Culture Crush, spring magazineFractured Lit, and the Rumpus, among others. He lives in Saskatoon.

A Review of Sorry for Your Trouble: The Irish Way of Death by Ann Marie Hourihane

by Aliza Prodaniuk

Well-researched, explorative, and poignant, Ann Marie Hourihane’s latest non-fiction book, Sorry for Your Trouble: The Irish Way of Death (2021), meditates on how the Irish handle “death with a unique blend of…the funny bits, the sad bits, and the hard-to-explain bits,” while asking how our death practices inform how we see ourselves.

Hourihane wastes no time digging into her content in an attempt to answer this question.  While visiting a hospice, she writes, “I was looking for people who were about to die and were interested in talking about it” (2). From here, Hourihane attends an embalming, she talks to suicide awareness and abortion rights organizations, she follows a team working to locate the remains of IRA victims, and she explores Ireland’s relationship with drug addiction. 

What is striking about the content of Sorry for Your Trouble is that no topic is off-limits for Hourihane. Sensitive subjects are deconstructed and laid bare, such as in the chapter “Mothers and Babies,” where Hourihane explores “Ireland’s culture of shame around the  children born to unmarried women” stemming from Catholic influences (126).

While examples like this highlight problematic social dynamics in Ireland related to death practices, Hourihane balances this with the witty and sometimes unusual. In the chapter “The Website,” this is particularly evident. The section discusses the website, Ireland’s one stop-shop for all services death-related. The website offers “services that newspapers and radio stations couldn’t, covering the entire country and easily searchable…There are many jokes about the stereotypical Irish mammy scanning the death notices…first thing in the morning and then ringing people up: ‘You’ll never guess who’s dead’” (66-67).  

In the chapter “Sources,” Hourihane states that Sorry for Your Trouble is a “work of journalism—a book about how we do death now, based on reporting done over the past five years” (273). While the work draws from a variety of sources, including audio recordings, Hourihane notes that the book’s “most important sources are the people who have spoken to [her] about their experiences and given [her] access to their lives and their expertise” (273). These personal accounts lend an emotional edge to the sometimes rigid and journalistic style of writing. 

Whether you are Irish or not, Sorry for Your Trouble speaks to the universality of death. While the audience for some essays is primarily those of Irish heritage, others speak directly to Ireland’s growing multicultural identity. In the chapter “The Body,” Hourihane discusses both the Irish rationale for embalming and the Muslim-Irish community whose tradition of “shrouding a corpse” (76) holds religious value: “The washing of the dead, according to Sharia law is similar to the washing done by the living to prepare themselves for prayer” (76). By making such comparisons, Hourihane’s goal is clear. She is not here to exclude or judge. She is here to document the constantly shifting fabric of Ireland’s death practices.  

Sorry for Your Trouble: The Irish Way of Death by Ann Marie Hourihane is overflowing with sensory details with an aftertaste of society’s greatest vulnerabilities. The writing is commanding, and the form and content is engaging. Most importantly, the book “sheds fresh, wise and witty light on a key pillar of Irish culture: a vast but strangely under-explored subject” (Cover copy). As Hourihane unravels her own relationship with death, readers are invited into a space where they can safely do the same. One must read the book to reach Hourihane’s conclusions, but by the end, you too will begin “to look upon death as a companion and true friend” (212).

Works Cited 

Hourihane, Ann Marie. Sorry for Your Trouble: The Irish Way of Death. Penguin Books, 2021.  

Cover copy. Hourihane, Ann Marie. Sorry for Your Trouble: The Irish Way of Death. Penguin Books, 2021


Aliza Prodaniuk is a writer, reader, and adventure seeker living in Sarnia, Ontario. Her writing has been published in various magazines and journals, exploring anything from science, travel, interpersonal relationships, and beyond! She successfully defended her MFA thesis in September and is excited for new writing opportunities ahead.

Kristine Scarrow Interviews Chelsea Coupal

Kristine Scarrow: What was the impetus for The Slow Reveal? How did it come to be? 

Chelsea Coupal: The Slow Reveal is a chapbook – it’s a small sample of work from my second poetry manuscript. I’ve been looking for a publisher for that second manuscript, and in the process, Anstruther Press offered to publish a selection of the manuscript’s poems as a chapbook. 

KS: Your 2018 release Sedley is a favourite of poetry collection of mine; there is an honesty and rawness in the poems about growing up in rural Saskatchewan. How was writing this collection different for you from Sedley? What can readers expect from The Slow Reveal? 

CC: In a lot of ways, the work in The Slow Reveal isn’t a huge departure from the work in Sedley. If you like Sedley, I think – hope! – you’ll enjoy The Slow Reveal. I still write about rural Saskatchewan. I still write what might be considered coming-of-age poems. I still like the constraints of form poetry. Maybe I always will? 

I’m sometimes concerned that I return too often to the same sort of subject matter, but fellow writers have reminded me that even if we revisit certain topics, we’re not the same people we were when we wrote those earlier poems, so the work won’t be the same either. It’s impossible for it to be the same. I’ve also been reassured that this is a common concern among writers – that our work isn’t growing and evolving as it should if we continue to explore the same themes. 

I read some writing advice somewhere – and I can’t remember who wrote or said this – but the line was: “Write what haunts you, not what interests you.” And that stuck with me. I feel like that advice is often in the back of my mind somewhere when I’m writing. If it haunts me, it’s probably worth getting down on paper. Some other advice I return to was given to me by Sandra Ridley at Sage Hill a couple of years ago. She challenged us to ask ourselves, as we drafted and reread our work: “What’s at stake?” 

The main difference between drafting this collection and drafting Sedley is that I drafted the majority of the poems for Sedley as a grad student, so I had a lot of structure while writing that manuscript. I had thesis advisors I met with regularly. I had deadlines. It was a great environment to draft the manuscript in. It forced me to write regularly.

This manuscript, I wrote with a lot less oversight, so I hope it’s decent. Nobody’s asking where the poems are. There are no deadlines. I’ve found it a bit harder to stay focused and productive working mostly on my own, but I’ve had lots of generous readers along the way, even outside of a classroom setting, so I’ve been lucky. 

KS: Tell us about the process of curating your work into a collection. How did you decide what poems to include in The Slow Reveal?

There are only eight poems in the chapbook, so I chose a few of my favourites from the larger manuscript. I also chose some that hadn’t been previously published – I wanted to make sure the chapbook contained poems that people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to read anywhere else. 

KS: Have you always been drawn to poetry? 

CC: Honestly, no. I didn’t really get interested in poetry until I was an undergrad in university and started reading contemporary poetry and trying to write it in some of my early creative writing classes. 

I knew I was interested in writing in high school. When I started university, I was a pre-journalism major. I thought of writing in practical terms only: “Writing is a skill I have. Maybe I could get paid to write. Maybe I could be a journalist.” It didn’t even occur to me that there were people living and working in Saskatchewan who also published their own creative writing. I assumed you had to live in Toronto or New York to publish anything.  

I also didn’t expect to end up writing poetry. In high school, I read novels, mostly. And even my first year of university – before I discovered contemporary poetry – I thought of poetry as this challenging, mysterious form of writing. I don’t think I even realized that people were still writing poetry. Overall, I didn’t give poetry a whole lot of thought until I was studying creative writing.

With poetry, you don’t have to worry about plot. I like that. Whenever I tried writing short stories, people would ask me: “What was the point of that?” And I’d be like: “Oh, does there have to be a point?” 

KS: Who or what influences your work?

CC: My own experiences, what I’m reading, what I’m watching and the music I’m listening to. 

KS: What would you like readers to take away from your writing?

CC: Good question. It’s not really something I think about that much. Should I? Ha, ha. Other than – I hope they like it? I just want them to enjoy it! I hope they feel something when they read it. 


Chelsea Coupal’s first poetry collection, Sedley (Coteau, 2018), was selected by Chapters Indigo for an Indigo Exclusive edition and shortlisted for three Saskatchewan Book Awards; her work has won the City of Regina Writing Award; been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and appeared in more than a dozen Canadian literary journals and anthologies, including Arc, EVENT, Grain, Literary Review of Canada and Best Canadian Poetry.

Kristine Scarrow is the author of four young adult novels, all published by Dundurn Press. Her work has also appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. This past year, Kristine completed a short story collection Only Human through the MFA in Writing at the University of Saskatchewan. She is currently working on another YA novel and an adult fiction medical novel. She is currently serving as the Saskatoon Public Library Writer in Residence.

Gunnar Ohberg Interviews Kristyn Dunnion

Kristyn Dunnion, author of Stoop City

Gunnar Ohberg: Have you always wanted to be a writer or was there something in particular that drew you to writing?

Kristyn Dunnion: Growing up watching a lot of bad TV in the 1970s, I was heavily influenced by tough chicas like Pinky and Leather Tuscadero (Happy Days), by the Lady Detectives of Charlie’s Angels, etcetera. I wanted to be like them. Writing is something I’ve come to, more and more, as other excitements have fallen away and as my attention span (and ability to sit still!) has grown. I appreciate the solitude of writing and the discipline of playing with language to get things ‘just right’ in a way that’s so different from collaborative theatre or activist/community projects, from other work I’ve done over the years.

GO: Your books cover a wide range of genre: dystopian, domestic drama, murder-mystery thriller, sci-fi fantasy. Does your experience as a writer change depending on the genre? Have you found some genres easier or harder to write than others?

KD: With each new project, I try to stay open, curious about exploring the world of the story. For me that includes style and genre — I’m more concerned with discovering the aesthetic and getting to know the characters, really inhabiting their bodies and dreams, than with categorizing how it will be told. For me, genre is more of an internal discovery than a conscious choice. One exception is short fiction, which I actively pursued with the misguided notion that it would take less time to write. Ha! I spent almost eight years revising some of the stories that ended up in Stoop City(Biblioasis, 2020). Each book is compelling and challenging (to write) in its own way. Each has been driven by an emotional landscape or unanswered question, by stark imagery and sometimes by an audacious character/voice that will not be dislodged from my head, otherwise. 

GO: In addition to writing, you are a performance artist, a former cabaret performer, and have been the bassist for multiple rock bands. Have these creative performances influenced your writing in any way?

KD: Yes! Visual arts, too, are a deeply satisfying medium to balance the two-dimensional world of text. I am happiest in a studio, mucking about, experimenting. I urge writers to balance that part of their life with physicalized movement, with martial arts or dance or something like that. Making music, co-writing songs, working with other artists to stage something, these are all invaluable experiences that help flex creative muscles and teach us new vocabulary, new ways of thinking, communicating, being. I resist the convention of committing to a single modality within the vast artistic universe, or to a single genre in all of literature; categorization like this, which might serve to inspire expertise and deep understanding for some people, feels restrictive to me. 

GO: You’ve also worked in a shelter system since the COVID pandemic began. How has COVID impacted your writing, if at all?

KD: At first, things weren’t too different, in that I was deep into final revisions for Stoop City, which gave me a framework for continuing to write. Launching a book during the pandemic was strange. One of my favourite parts about being an author is travelling and giving public readings, meeting readers and other writers, and that dynamic in-person element was missing. But it’s astounding to have access to online technology that facilitates connection, and those advantages have been pretty cool. The paid work I do outside of writing is so focused on pandemic response and active front line work, which brings its own stressors and challenges. There have been points during the pandemic when I was unable to read for any length of time (I’d switch to short essays and poetry), or felt too despondent to write (I completed two jigsaw puzzles, instead). People say, “Oh, are you going to write about the pandemic?” and I’m like, “No way, so redundant!” I’m working on a sequel to the dystopic Tarry This NightGlean Among the Sheaves explores abundance, reciprocity, alternative concepts of the Divine. For a change, I want to conceive of a possible future which is not in itself terrorizing: the antidote to white supremacy, to patriarchal capitalism.

GO: It’s been noted that punk and heavy metal have some influence in your work. Can you tell us more about that relationship between music and literature for you? Are there particular songs or bands you listen to for inspiration?

KD: Oh, yes, music fuels me. Each book has its own playlist — what I played while writing, that (hopefully) seeps into the text, contaminating readers. I listened to a lot of doom/sludge metal for Tarry This Night, and wrote hymns in the stairwell of my building: creepy! As a bassist, I’m partial to Black Sabbath, the Melvins, Sleep and Bolt Thrower, to name a very few. 

GO: What books were essential to your formation as a writer, and are there any books you’d recommend for any beginning writer?

KD: Books were a lifeline for me as a kid; the public library in town was a safe haven. It’s so subjective, what book (or band) will knock someone’s socks off, and I continue to be astonished by new or new-to-me writers. The stories I remember most vividly from childhood were emotionally devastating, so much so the books were sometimes confiscated until I’d ‘calm down.’ Books that told me about another person’s struggles in their differently-lived life nurtured deep empathy in me as a reader, as a human. This is probably why I write – primarily to express those intimate longings and, secondly, in hopes for some kind of connection, however anonymous it might be.

For a beginning writer, especially, read widely. Read outside your comfort zone: different genres, diverse writers. Listen to authors speak about their work (so much is accessible online now); this is how we learn to talk and think about our own work, and to place it in the context of what has come before, what’s current, whatever will come next.


Kristyn Dunnion was raised in the southern-most tip of rural Canada and now lives in Toronto. She has authored six books, most recently Stoop City (Biblioasis, 2020), winner of the 2021 ReLit Award for short fiction, and Tarry This Night (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017). Recent work appears in Best Canadian Stories 2020, Toronto 2033 and Orca. A queer performance artist and heavy metal bassist, Dunnion is also a community mental health support worker.

Gunnar Ohberg is a member of the University of Saskatchewan’s MFA in Writing program. His poems and short stories have recently been featured in The RacketThe Mark Literary Review, and in media res. He is currently working on a dystopian novel set in South Carolina. Sometimes he plays in rock bands.

Brandon Fick Interviews Guy Vanderhaeghe

Guy Vanderhaeghe, author of August Into Winter

Brandon Fick: With your first novel in a decade, August Into Winter, you’ve returned to historical fiction. What sparked your interest in learning and writing about history? Growing up, were you aware of major historical events as they were happening, or interested in your own family’s personal history?

Guy Vanderhaeghe: From a very early age, I was interested in the past. It began with the stories my grandparents told me about their lives, which I drank in. The things they had lived through: prairie fires, the Spanish influenza pandemic, the First World War, the Depression, The Second World War, always seemed richer, more momentous than my own stale existence. These anecdotes prompted me to read history in an attempt to learn more about the world as it existed then.

And yes, even as a child, I was aware of major historical events. Not to make myself sound too precocious, but I was a news nerd at quite a young age. I can recall the world teetering on the verge of nuclear war, sitting at my desk with my classmates listening to the radio as the Russian ships carrying missiles to Cuba approached the United States Navy’s blockade, which was determined to prevent the weapons from landing. Kennedy’s assassination made a huge impression on me. I watched and listened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream speech” on television. And so much more, the Hungarian uprising, the Berlin Wall going up, Gary Powers’s spy plane shot down over the U.S.S.R. and the embarrassment that debacle caused the United States. The Cold War and the dread of nuclear annihilation was very much part of my childhood psychology.

BF: What was the impetus to write August Into Winter and what did the research process look like? Having written multiple historical novels over many years, has your research process changed in any way?

GV: The initial impetus was one of those stories I mentioned earlier, which was told to me by my father. Immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, my hometown experienced a string of house break-ins that turned out to have been committed by the son of one of the most prominent families. He killed the RCMP officer who arrested him and fled. A posse was formed by veterans of the First World War, and they went off in pursuit of him. Unlike the character in my novel, Ernie Sickert, the murderer killed himself when he was tracked down, brought to bay, and surrounded. But the actual incident was nothing more than a nudge that got the narrative moving forward, unfurling. The characters in my novel bear virtually no relation to the real-life murderer or to much else that has to do with what I know of the incident. They are pure invention.

I did a lot of research on the Spanish Civil War since one of my characters served there. Aside from conventional histories, I read a lot of first-hand accounts written by veterans of the International Brigade. I used the Winnipeg Tribune as a source for news about the early months of the Second World War because I wanted a sense of what people were thinking when the course of the war was still so uncertain. Unlike us, they didn’t know how it was going to end and capturing that mood of uncertainty was important for the book.

My research process has changed very little over the years, aside from the fact that the internet now supplies a wealth of easily accessed information, which wasn’t true when I wrote The Englishman’s Boy, my first historical novel. I always sift through far more material than ever makes its way into a novel. A fairly comprehensive knowledge gives me a measure of confidence as I write, because I feel I have a solid grip on the times and events that are part of the novel.

BF: Having reread The Englishman’s Boy earlier this year, I was struck by its themes – violence against Indigenous people, reckoning with the past, the dangers of fascism and propaganda – and how they’re even more relevant in 2021. And in an introduction to Timothy Findley’s The Wars, you said “serious historical novels are always as much about the present as about the past they claim to place before our eyes.” Keeping that in mind, what do you think August Into Winter says about today?

GV: For a long time, I’ve been concerned about the rise of the radical right in the United States and in Europe. Those men and women who went to fight for the Spanish Republic, to defend it against the military uprising of General Franco, believed by taking a stand there they could stop the worldwide spread of fascism. They failed, largely because democratic governments refused to aid the Republic, and Italian Fascists and German Nazis were only too eager to help Franco and the fascist Falange. The Second World War was a bloodier reprise of the struggle against totalitarian, anti-democratic movements. What both wars remind us is that human rights and human freedom are never completely assured.

In part, the book was written because I believe that the radical, populist right, as exemplified by men like Trump, Bolsonaro, Duterte, Modi, Erdogan, Putin, Orban, Duda – the list goes on and on – are slowly eroding the hope for a world of international law and individual liberty. August Into Winter asks the question: What is the proper response to a crisis such as this? The storming of the United States Capitol by militiamen was a page out of a book written nearly ninety years ago by Nazi SA storm-troopers. Nevertheless, so-called “respectable” politicians attempt to minimize how dangerous such actions are and they are not being called to account for it by the electorate.

BF: One of the key characters in August Into Winter is Ernie Sickert, described as a “spoiled, narcissistic man-child.” Is he comparable to Addington Gaunt from The Last Crossing, or Michael Dunne from A Good Man, characters who do “bad” things for compelling reasons? Is it a challenge to get inside these deeply flawed characters?

GV: I’ve always been interested in what motivates people to do what they do. The presence of evil in the world reminds us that it has a source, and that source is human beings. Ernie Sickert is probably the character who has given me the greatest challenge to write. At one point, my editor remarked that she felt that he bore many similarities to Donald Trump. When I think about it, she might be right. Sickert is self-pitying, vain, arrogant, childish, dangerously impulsive – and above all, forever the “hero of his own story.” I think to write awful human beings, you need to turn off your self-censor, and not be afraid to go to places that are dark, disgusting, or even terrifying.

BF: Speaking of characters, August Into Winter has a huge cast, each with layered backstories. How do writers not only manage, but do justice to so many characters?

GV: That’s a very hard question to answer and the best advice I can offer is that when you write characters be those characters. Write them from the inside, not the outside. If you do that, they have a habit of occupying the spaces in a novel that belong to them.

BF: How has Canadian literature changed since you began writing? Is there less focus on “writing Canada into being” as there was in the 1970s and 1980s?

GV: I think that the cultural nationalism of those decades is largely a spent force. As far as I can see, younger writers have different preoccupations than writers of my generation. When I was a student, we were seldom taught Canadian books; in literature departments, there was a general assumption that Canadian was another adjective for “second rate.” Writers like Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood, along with many others, put fiction, poetry, and plays written by Canadians firmly on the world stage.

BF: Do you think your writing style has changed over the years, or can you identify certain “phases” in your writing career?

GV: Looking back, I suppose my preoccupations as a writer have changed. My early work was much more “personal,” more “intimate,” and less concerned with presenting characters in a “social” or “political” context. Structurally, the novels have grown increasingly complex, and the prose is likely simpler than when I was beginning as a writer. When I was young, I was much more enamoured with fancy flourishes and rhetorical fireworks. I hope I’ve moderated and restrained some of that now.

BF: Is there a certain book or short story you’ve written that you’re particularly proud of? Or on the other hand, a work that you wish had turned out differently?

GV: I’m a harsh critic of my own work so I’m not particularly proud of anything I’ve written. I do wish that all my fiction had turned out differently. That is to say, better.

BF: Going back to history, is there a certain historical event or figure that you think is deserving of a new or updated fictional treatment?

GV: As far as I know, nobody has ever written a novel about Leon Trotsky. He is a fascinating character, multi-dimensional, a subject worthy of Shakespearean tragedy.

BF: And finally, if you could sit down with one or two writers in history, who would they be and what would you ask them?

GV: I would ask Chekhov whether he thought he was a better playwright than short story writer. I would ask Philip Roth how it was possible for him to write so well, for so long.


Guy Vanderhaeghe was born in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, in 1951. His previous fiction includes A Good ManThe Last CrossingThe Englishman’s BoyThings as They Are (stories), HomesickMy Present AgeMan Descending (stories), and Daddy Lenin and Other Stories. Among the many awards he has received are the Governor General’s Awards (three times); and, for his body of work, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship, the Writers’ Trust Timothy Findley Award, and the Harbourfront Literary Prize. He has received many honours including the Order of Canada.

Brandon Fick grew up in Lanigan, Saskatchewan. He primarily writes fiction and has been published in Polar Expressionsin medias res, and The Society. He received a Writing Diploma from St. Peter’s College and a B.A. Honours in English from the University of Saskatchewan. Brandon is currently in the MFA in Writing program at the U of S, working on a short story collection exploring masculinity and small town life.

The Mother of all Disasters: A Review of Danger Days by Catherine Pierce

It’s the end of the world and Catherine Pierce knows it. Her most recent poetry collection, Danger Days (2020), provides an unflinching reckoning on the fraught relationship between humanity and nature and how war between the two ensures the eventual destruction of both. At times bitter, sardonic, nostalgic, and fiery, Pierce uses both the past and present to paint a future in which humanity must suffer the repercussions of their material excesses. It is a bitter prophetic pill, sweetened with dry wit, conversant form, and tender thoughts on motherhood.

Exploring the origins of apocalyptic endings, Pierce’s poems often investigate the contradictory qualities of beginnings. “Anthropocene Pastoral,” a ruminative and oddly romantic account of a natural disaster finally realized, claims: “In the beginning, the ending was beautiful” (3). Rather than fearful, the poem’s speaker appears almost entranced by all the wondrous symptoms of their failing world: deserts blooming with flowers, air overcome with flora (3). “At least it’s starting gentle,” they note (3). Envisioning a somewhat different kind of catastrophe, “Fable for the Final Days” opens with a similar statement: “In the end, it was an asteroid” (71). Alongside the horrific details provided is a tragic denial made domestic, humans playing board games like “Clue, Battleship, Sorry,” as outside “streets [are] humped with bodies” (71) and “the soil [is] still sizzling with roaches and earwigs” (72). Perhaps no poem better argues the complexity of beginnings than “All 21 of Mississippi’s Beaches Are Closed Because of Toxic Algae,” which borrows its title from an actual CNN headline. Arranged in couplets that almost look like journalistic subheads, the poem repeats many of its sentences with the phrase “it begins” (“It begins with a sister’s / call from a car,” “It begins with a gone / jetty”) until the words become an almost anaphoric chant, culminating in, “It begins and keeps beginning. / With a sidebar headline and a bummer” (29).  

 Pierce examines many of her fears through the lens of motherhood, adding a deeper layer to her collection that is at once compassionate, witty, distressed, and intensely personal. “Strategies for Motherhood in the Age of This Age,” a sardonic tongue-in-cheek survival guide on how to be a mom when disaster feels imminent, campaigns for resiliency even as it notes the prevalent sadness of its world: “Now with that starving polar bear / now with the ‘Gun-Free Zone’ signs on the doors / of the kindergarten… So what if we recite state capitals / in the shower’s echo chamber, or avoid the sad / billboard eyes of the boat donation girl?” (18-19). In “Instructive Fable for the Daughter I Don’t Have,” a speaker pleads with their child to appreciate nature in all its gritty glory as long as she can, urging her to “wear your hair uncovered. / Wear your mouth unset. You may not find / the jewels, the mirror, the stag. But you may find / a bare possum skull… You entered the woods lost. Leave that way” (47). “Inheritance” is an epistolary poem to Pierce’s children that acts as both apology and warning, ironically noting that “when we were children… we understood that the future / was a country our parents would have / to navigate but had nothing to do with us” (15). Pierce’s maternal poetry does little to soothe the anxiety wrought by the rest of her collection; rather, the poems act as a reminder of the complications of becoming a mother in a world that seems to hold such little regard for life.

Despite the gravity of its themes, the collection is not entirely devoid of playfulness. A series of four poems is written in the style of encyclopedia entries from a fictional “Compendium of Romantic Words.” Other poems engage in conversational play with their titles: “I Spend My Days Putting Away,” begins with the line “the small blue car here” (33), while “I Kept Getting Books About Birds” starts with “as if recognizing the yellow-winged one / at the feeder… might somehow / become enough” (65). “Poem for Quicksand” employs the formal romanticism of an ode, complete with its archaic opener: “O you gorgeous torture” (64). The result is a masterclass in balancing horror and humour, a demonstration of Pierce’s ability to cover a broad range of emotions that ultimately makes her poems feel complete and completely human.

Brief moments of levity aside, there is little hope for future happiness in this grim collection. Pierce warns us that dangerous days exist and will continue to exist so long as they are ignored. Effective and explosive, Danger Days covers the death of this world from a variety of nuanced angles. But while the subjects of the poems often change, one sentiment remains unaltered: it’s the end of the world as we know it, and Catherine Pierce does not feel fine.


Works Cited:

Pierce, Catherine. Danger Days. Saturnalia, 2020.


Review by Gunnar Ohberg. Gunnar Ohberg is a member of the University of Saskatchewan’s MFA in Writing program. His poems and short stories have recently been featured in The RacketThe Mark Literary Review, and in media res. He is currently working on a dystopian novel set in South Carolina. Sometimes he plays in rock bands.

Karen Wood Interviews Merilyn Simonds 

Merilyn Simonds, author of The Holding and The Convict Lover

Karen Wood: Tell me a story about you being or becoming a writer.

Merilyn Simonds: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories. I made them up for my little sister. In Grade Ten, I started a weekly column of school news in the local newspaper. At the same time, I started writing little vignettes. I’d see two people talking and would write a story, adding my own dialogue. At university, I studied journalism, but that wasn’t the kind of writing I wanted to do, so I switched to English literature. Ironically, that stopped me in my tracks. We studied novels from a thematic viewpoint and I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t have a theme. I guess I’m not a writer.’ I stopped for a decade or more, then when my kids were little, I started writing magazine articles and how-to books. When my marriage ended, I moved to Kingston to work at Harrowsmith, a magazine that espoused the New Journalism of Hunter S. Thompson. Kingston had a thriving writing community, and so when I found a cache of letters in my attic, that gave me the confidence to write my first literary non-fiction book, The Convict Lover—the real beginning of my writing life. 

KW: Tell me about that first literary book, how you wrote it.

MS: The Convict Lover was a wonderful first literary book because I was sure no one would want to read it. I was free to bring the story to light in the most authentic, honest, engaging way possible, because my contract was solely with the material. Out of that experience I developed an ethic for literary writing that has served me well. 

KW: Your publications cross multiple genres. On your website you’ve been described as someone who refrains from categorization. Can you speak about that?

MS: The Convict Lover forced me to think through the notion of genre. What was this story? An epistolary novel? Narrative nonfiction? An exposé of Canadian prisons? A penal history? I decided that genre was not something that interested me as a writer. It is of great interest to publishers, to booksellers, and readers—it’s a shorthand way of finding the kind of books you like. But for a writer, genre brings baggage, and for me, the last thing I want when I have a body of material is to wrap chains around it and say, ‘It has to be written like this.’ The Lion In the Room Next Door, for example, was published first as a book of non-fiction stories because it was important to me to signal to the reader that these are stories, but they’re not made up. But it was also published as short stories, as auto-fiction, as memoir, and as a novel. I love the flexibility of the definition of story: a series of events; a fiction.

KW: With categorization there can be porous boundaries between, for example, fact and fiction. As a writer, have you had experiences where that provoked any ethical or moral dilemmas?

MS: Absolutely. To me fact and fiction are not two sides of a coin, but a continuum. The telephone book is extreme non-fiction. Conventional biography is closely tied to facts, but as you move into towards the centre of the continuum, through memoir, interpretive biography, personal essays, the prose becomes more subjective, more informed by the writer and their memory. At the centre is a grey area, where as one reviewer of The Convict Lover said, fact and fiction meet and fornicate. At the opposite end of the continuum is speculative fiction. 

To me, it’s a question of readers’ expectations. I had to figure out how to write The Convict Lover, how to deal with the gaps in the story. I wanted to be frank with the reader about those decisions, so I wrote an Author’s Note. I think an Author’s Note is vital, especially for experimental work. And so with The Convict Lover, I said everything in italics in the letters was drawn directly from the letters, the letters had not been changed at all, no characters had been invented, all characters actually lived, etc. However, the dialogue between the characters was invented and the emotions and feelings of the characters were surmised from circumstances. I think readers are sophisticated. As long as they know what’s going on, they willingly fall into a book. 

KW: Can you speak to what is delightful for you about writing?

MS: Writing is hard, but it never feels onerous. The moment when the words fall into place and they actually say what you want them to say—well, it is profoundly satisfying. There’s an ecstasy to writing that I don’t get anywhere else, which is probably what keeps me at it. The feeling has to do with story, and all the elements of story, but equally if not more so, it has to do with language. Sentence structure is heartrate, right? You’re designing sentences to control the reader’s heartrate. There’s nothing more elemental than that.

One of the things that keeps me in this work is that I’m pushed back to kindergarten with every new project. Every body of material is new, and every body of material requires its own form. Every book thrusts me right back into a position of not knowing, and I think not-knowing is about the most exciting place to be. A writer is, in some respects, always a newbie, even though you do become adept at revision and the deep mechanics of writing, of making sentences. You learn how to dismantle something knowing that you will make it better, without being afraid that by taking it apart you’re going to wreck it. 

KW: Do you have a routine? And if so, what is it?

MS: I work well within a routine. I like to get up with the sun. I go right to my desk and work. Take a break, exercise and then go back to work. Have lunch. Normally I can manage about six hours of creative work. I write my first draft long-hand. I use a spiral-bound notebook. I only write on the right-hand side of the page. As I’m writing, I go back to the left side of the pages and make notes like, ‘Introduce George here.’ That first draft is really an exploration of the limits of the story. Some call it the ‘puke draft’. I call it the donné draft—the gift. From that, I write the first draft into the computer, print it, work it over in longhand, then go back to the computer, make those changes, and print it out, work it over.

In the afternoons I edit, make notes, take care of business, until about 3 or 4 pm. In the evenings I usually read. The last thing before bed, I review what I wrote that day. I always stop in the middle: I never end my writing day by finishing a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter. I always stop mid-thought. I read that little last bit over, and all through the night my brain is working on it so that when I get up in the morning, I have something to grab onto to get started again.


Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Merilyn Simonds grew up in Brasil, where she acquired a taste for the fabulous. She published her first book in 1979 at the age of 29. She is now the author of 19 published books, including the novel The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’  

Choice, and the creative nonfiction classic, The Convict Lover. In 2017, Project Bookmark Canada installed a plaque to honour the place of The Convict Lover in Canada’s literary landscape. Her 20th —Woman, Watching: Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the Songbirds of Pimisi Bay—will be published in spring 2022.    

With roots in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Karen Wood is an MFA student whose writing is informed by years of research and community practice, and fueled by a commitment to address gendered violence. New to the world of creative writing, Karen continues to be delighted by the extraordinary capacity of artistic expression to create space for social and political engagement, activism, and change.   

“these hard little dreams”: Nostalgia, Heartbreak, and Resilience in Sarah Ens’s The World is Mostly Sky

*Please note: due to constrictions of WordPress, the excerpts from the text may not be formatted as they appear in the text. We did our best to format excerpts as close to the original as possible.

Sarah Ens’s debut poetry book, The World is Mostly Sky (2020) is a stunning collection full of vibrancy and teeming with tenderness. Each poem, like each tooth in the first poem, “By the Skin,” is a “hard little [dream]” given to readers in the “square white envelopes’’ of each page (Ens 3).  The World is Mostly Sky is composed of three sections: “Silos,”“Wuthering: A Comprehensive Guide,” and “Powerful Millennials on The California Freeway.” In these three sections, Ens’s poetry first soars through childhood nostalgia and anguish, dives through thick waters of heartbreak and longing, and finally crashes up through clouds of young adulthood with ice coffees raised like chalices to the sky. 

The first section, “Silos,” orbits around themes of change, loss of innocence, and growing up. In “World We Rise,” three children witness a teen destroying a bird’s nest, resulting in the death of the baby chicks. In this moment, the children witness death and loss simultaneously. The mother bird “frantic / at the hydro / wire… shrieks” (10) at the loss of her babies while the poem’s speaker reflects, “did she / think she / could still / save them / & us” (11). “Silos” moves into a meditation on growing older in “Choreography of Bounding,” wherein the play of two sisters concludes with the elder sister, the poem’s speaker, stating “the choreography / of our bounding / too obvious, / & none of it real” (15). This moment, while saddening to the sister, whose face “slump[s]” (15), is also a moment of growth and maturing as the poem’s last words “before flight” (16) signify reaching for the outer world of adulthood. “Straddled” and “The Sacredness of Sleepovers” portray a darker side to growing older: the imposition of sexuality on young girls. In “Straddled,” the speaker sees girls that “straddled everything” in posters “leaning over bikes” (17) while in “The Sacredness of Sleepovers” the speaker becomes the confidant of a friend who was “touched… when [she was] just a kid” (18). “Silos” concludes with “I Promised No More Poems About the Moon,” a poem of softness and vulnerability and searching for meaning in “footprints in the field… & the faded moon” (28).

The middle section, “Wuthering: A Comprehensive Guide,” deals with love and loss, heartbreak, and longing. In “Early February & He Built Her a Nest,” a gannet falls in love with a stone bird, evoking Ovid’s Pygmalion myth in a fresh way. The bird “shape[s] her beds of seaweed, twigs & dirt” (31) despite her inanimacy. The poem “Wuthering: A Comprehensive Guide” captures falling in and out of love through bodily and disembodied movement and response. This long poem begins with capturing the movements of love: 

The body burns

red in triangles, maps

Circles from your collarbone

to your chest, pokes breath to

your inner ear,

            seeks sun, craves water

& also you.

            The body unfurls. (53)

The breaking apart of the relationship is then embodied by “huge / & heavy silence, the inevitable / sinking” (58) followed by the eventual recovering and resilience of the body in the final stanza:

the body learns to dance whole 

Routines, cook soups & stews,

sleep soundly. (61)

This poem exemplifies the primary message of this section: the coexistence of love, heartbreak, and resiliency. 

In the final section, Ens showcases the beauty and power of millennial friendships. The prose poem, “Communion,” turns the mundane to spiritual, highlighting the sacred in moments of quiet friendship. Here, “ritual” is “dyeing each other’s hair in the bathroom… [searching] the carpet for claws the cat has shed” and “[sitting] around on the kitchen floor” drinking wine (75). In these moments, bonds are formed in the “telling[s]” and “teachings” between friends, and in the ritualistic chanting of “me too, me too” (75). The power in these friendships peaks in the second to last poem of the collection, “Powerful Millennials on The California Freeway,” which evokes the freedom of becoming lost in a moment, screaming to songs on the highway, and “waving iced coffees / to the sun” (89). With details like this, Ens reminds the reader of the title, The World is Mostly Sky, giving a final salute to hope and the serendipity of everyday life. Moving through memory to heartbreak to resilience, this is a debut collection you won’t want to miss. 

Work Cited

Ens, Sarah. The World is Mostly Sky. Turnstone Press, 2020. 

Review by Delane Just. Delane Just (she/her) lives in Saskatoon and is a current graduate student in the MFA in Writing program at the University of Saskatchewan. She has had work appear in In Medias Res and The University of Saskatchewan Undergraduate Research Journal.

Have Courage: A Review of The Long Walk by Jan Zwicky

*Please not: due to constrictions of WordPress, the excerpts from the text may not be formatted as they appear in the text. We did our best to format excerpts as close to the original as possible.

Engaging heart, mind, and body, Jan Zwicky’s collection of poems, The Long Walk (2016), invites readers on a journey through a lifetime of memories, intimate moments of personal loss, grief and joy fused with images of environmental and cultural devastation. Throughout, the poet skillfully weaves metaphor with detailed descriptions of nature and difficult subject matter to tell a story of strength and returning home. This is stated with elegant simplicity in “Haydn: The Unpublished Sonatas,” the last poem of the collection: 

A winter night after snow,

the long walk home, faint smudge of moon

And climbing the stairs at last, then,

and lighting the fire, 

and slowly, gently, taking off your coat (75)     

The poem “Courage,” offered as a prelude to the four sections that comprise the collection, reminds the reader that there is much yet to be done: “And now you know that it won’t turn out as it should, / that what you did was not enough” (8). The reader is urged to witness a world that enables environmental devastation and social injustice, and to have the courage to take action, however weary they might be: “Come, step closer to the edge then. You must look, heart. You must look” (8). The line foreshadows the need for the reader to brace themselves for the difficult subject matter that follows.

The first section of the collection opens with “Into the Gap,” a poem that, along with the last poem in the collection, describes a return home through childhood memories detailed with images of an altered landscape. This poem flows like a song with a rhythm that captures the wind:

            To set out west, into the windbreak’s gap,

            and through the memory of the poplars roaring on the night

            your father died, the memory of the bench, not house, 

            he built high in their branches – you could look out

            to the first rise of the foothills – and the tunnels

            in the caraganas underneath, dog-

            haunted, their dry and scented shade. (15)

The land is explored through memories of ice-clotted mitts, mushrooms, fallen logs, wild strawberries and  events that took place years earlier. The last few lines of this poem incorporate a theme that is woven throughout the collection: “The body / knows before the mind collects itself: what held you / is what held you up, at every step, / to set out then / into the walk that keeps on walking. Coming home / without a roof” (17). The experience of coming home as a sense of completion is embodied through memories of the land despite, or perhaps because of, painful losses along the way. 

The second section uses the language of machinery, nature, and contamination to enable readers to feel in their bodies, in the way physical relationships are felt, the impacts of environmental destruction. The brutality of progress is captured through a powerful use of defamiliarization, exemplified in the poem “Near: “that put the steel in our forearms… the axle of our will is seized” (30). The individual body is conflated with culture and nature; bodies, machines, even child soldiers are implicated as labour-saving practices that promote progress. At the end of the poem, Zwicky urge the reader to take action, to speak up, “Louder. Louder” (31). 

The third section continues the journey, incorporating sorrow and joy, personal and environmental transition, departure and violation. The poem that strikes me most in the collection is “No,” in memoriam to Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, a young Somalian girl who had been raped and subsequently stoned to death to pay for the sin of being raped and reporting it. This poem again calls on the reader to witness the politicization of women’s bodies through the repetition of the words, “Because she was a woman”:

            Because she was a woman

            she’d been raped.

            Because she was a woman

            there was no excuse. (50)

As in the first three sections, the fourth has moments of beauty and joy that intersect with science, geographical distance, and environmental destruction. The world expands and contracts simultaneously and seamlessly, rendering inherent contradictions visible. 

This collection of beautifully written, pragmatic yet theoretical poems invites readers of diverse backgrounds and interests into a world of pain and joy, despair and hope. It invites them to open their hearts and join the writer on a journey home along life’s streams, gullies, and roadways. 

Work Cited

Zwicky, Jan. The Long Walk. University of Regina Press, 2016.

Review by Karen Wood. With roots in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Karen’s writing is fueled by a deeply held commitment to addressing gendered violence, informed by years of working in the community and conducting research in social work, education and health. New to the world of creative writing, she continues to be delighted by the extraordinary capacity of artistic activities to create space for social and political engagement, activism and change.