Fractures Song Cycle

I’m very excited to announce this project! Composer Frank Horvat has been working with soprano Meredith Hall to develop a thirteen-song cycle for voice and piano. One of my poems, “Alms” was adapted for one of these songs! (It’s been re-titled as “It Was an October Day”.) Frank and I collaborated previously on his SSAA choral piece “Helianthus” and working with him is always a pleasure.

Meredith will be giving a few workshop performances of these songs in the coming months, and they will all be recorded as a CD next year. I’ll let Frank tell you the rest!

Faith CAL, part 3

Previously: part 2, part 1

Over the past two weeks, my afghan has gone from this:

…to this:

Part 2 squared the squodgy octagon, and now the blanket will continue growing as a square until it’s finished. This next section only added ten rows, but those rows pack a lot of visual and textural interest! It started with the first base row of fans (in white), and the height difference between the top of the fans and the single-crochet stitches in between them meant that there was a lot of space to fill with various tall stitches until everything evened out together. (Mostly.)

The fans were built with a cluster of treble stitch, followed by a cluster of double and treble stitches made sort of on top of each other. Honestly I’m not sure why that one wouldn’t just be another row of trebles, as all the doubles seemed to do was add bulk on the back. After that came some double crochet clusters in the light blue, and the top rows are mostly singles.

In between the fans, I got to do more popcorn stitches (new favourite), and the ridges were built up by alternating double crochet stitches with front-post trebles.

For some reason it was those blue DC clusters that gave me the most trouble. There are supposed to be eleven of them on each fan. My fans do have eleven clusters… except for the ones that have ten. Or twelve. (This is one of the consequences of most of my crocheting time being relegated to after the kids are in bed.) I didn’t notice until my stitch counts stopped adding up properly in the silver row! Fortunately I’ve been crocheting long enough that I knew how to fudge things to get back on track — some skipped stitches here, some extra stitches there — and I didn’t have to rip anything out. It’ll do. Everything from the silver row onwards is correct, so I don’t anticipate any problems joining the first row of the next section.

If I were making a lap robe or fancy baby blanket, this is probably where I would stop. But I’m not! On to part 4! Tallyho!

Reading Round-Up: August 2022

Oh, August. Is it the worst month of the year? Very probably. But at least there were books to read to take my mind off things:

  • Some Great Thing (Lawrence Hill)
  • Caliban’s War (James S. A. Corey)
  • Abbadon’s Gate (James S. A. Corey)
  • Nothing More Perfect (Marty Gervais)
  • The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass on Tour (Adrian Plass)
  • Cibola Burn (James S. A. Corey)
  • Nemesis Games (James S. A. Corey)
  • Book Lovers (Emily Henry)

At this point you may be sensing a theme. In August I continued my foray through James S. A. Corey’s sprawling “Expanse” series of sci-fi doorstops. The trouble with reading them all in a row is that they’ve blended together in my mind to a certain degree — which makes sense, I suppose, since they’re telling one big story. In the first book of the series, Leviathan’s Gate, humanity has populated the solar system but not beyond; the sudden and violent introduction of an alien virus/technology/something changes solar geopolitics (solarpolitics?) forever, as well as the lives of countless people on Earth and far beyond. In these further installments, Corey expands the original cast and continues to explore the political, scientific, and social ramifications of that upheaval, with the requisite amount of wacky sci-fi stuff, space battles, alien landscapes, etc. Interestingly, the focal shift from book to book also engenders a tonal shift. Nemesis Games was very personal and intimate, and included a lot of character backstories that I’d been dying to read. Abbadon’s Gate was a bloodbath, easily the goriest of the series so far. Cibola Burn was almost a settlement-of-the-West-style colonial narrative. I’m always curious to see how the next book is going to shift, as well as to find out what happens next in the overall story.

Nothing More Perfect is a short book of poems by Canadian poet Marty Gervais. They’re have a sweetness and a sincerity about them that a lot of contemporary poetry eschews, but it’s quite refreshing, actually.

Lawrence Hill rose to fame in Canada with his powerhouse of a novel, The Book of Negroes (American title: Someone Knows My Name), which won the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, among others, and was later adapted as a mini-series. It wasn’t his first novel, however; that space is taken by Some Great Thing, which follows Mahatma Grafton, a cynical journalism graduate who moves back to Manitoba and takes a job with The Winnipeg Herald at the height of the controversy over official French-English bilingualism in the 1980s. It’s sharply-biting satire, and seriously funny.

Book Lovers delighted me, because it’s romance that plays with rom-com tropes in a brilliant and deliberate way. We all know the Hallmark type of story where the protagonist moves to a small town to support their ailing parent or bail out the family bakery or whatever, meets a wholesome hayseed, ditches their terrible career-focused city love interest, and lives happily ever after in Podunk, Wisconsin. But what happens to the person they left behind? Nora Stephens, a cut-throat New Yorker literary agent, has been dumped for the podunk life four times. Is lasting love just not possible for someone like her? (Spoiler alert: it is.) I also really appreciated that the things keeping the star-crossed love interests apart were not dumb romance tropes (She can’t admit she has amnesia! He’s really his own twin!) but simply the facts that life is complicated, practical circumstances can be big barriers, and sometimes you have to work through your own stuff before you’re healthy enough and ready enough to be with someone else. It’s a clever, clever book. Also quite smutty in parts. Reader be advised.

Adrian Plass on Tour is one of the “Sacred Diarist” series of short and hilarious novels by Adrian Plass (the author), featuring Adrian Plass (the character) and a bevy of his fictional friends and relations. In this installment, Adrian is going on tour as a Christian speaker, along with his wife Bridget, his son Gerald (now a wisecracking Anglican vicar), their irrepressibly-odd friend Leonard Thynn, and Thynn’s new girlfriend, the improbably-named Angels Twitten. Adrian Plass (actual person) is always a pleasure to read, now being enjoyed by a third generation in my family — my parents introduced me to his books, and I’ve introduced them to Anselm! They’re heartwarming as well as hilarious (The Theatrical Tapes of Leonard Thynn may be one of my all-time favourite books.)

Faith CAL, part 2

Previously: part 1

In the second part of this crochet-along afghan pattern, we’ve gone from this:

To this!

This section of the pattern involved first squaring-off the centre motif — I wanted to call it a circle, but I guess it’s more of a blobby octagon? Anyway, it magically transforms to a square through using stitches with different heights across each side: triples, then doubles, then half-doubles, then singles, and then reverse it all on the way to the next corner.

After the square came the construction of this funky mesh, which uses both bead and puff stitches for lots of texture. I messed up on my second row of bead stitches; somehow they crossed in my mind with popcorn stitches and I added a slip stitch / chain when finishing each one off. This left me with a lot of extra stitches to account for when I started the next row! Fortunately I noticed before I got too far along, and was able to fudge some adjustments instead of having to frog it. Ordinarily I might have gone back and redone it correctly, but bead stitches are so terribly tedious…

I do have some rippling as a result, but it’s not dire, and I think once I go on to part 3 things will start to even out again. And as this is still just a small centre portion of what will be a much larger blanket… well, nobody’s going to notice once it’s actually in use!

Even the back has its own sort of prettiness, now that I finally bit the bullet and sewed in all of my ends. Note to future self: sew your ends after every section from now on.

Onward and upward!

Nothing quite like it

I got a package in the mail yesterday from Calgary, with no return address. It had my name on it, which was curious, because I haven’t bought anything much online recently, and I don’t know anybody in Calgary. So what an unexpected delight it was to open it up and find this little beauty inside:

This is the final anthology from The Anti-Languorous Project, a literary magazine that has sadly folded. But before they did, they published two of my poems in their digital edition. As compensation I had the option of choosing a print copy of the annual anthology in which my work appeared or the cash equivalent of purchasing it — and I’m so glad I chose the anthology. It’s a beautiful little book, with a lovely page and cover texture, and just the right size to slip into my purse.

And of course… this is always the best part. I love sharing my work in online journals, but there’s really nothing like seeing it in print. Here are my words, which I can hold in my hands, as can who knows how many people I will never meet. It’s just a little bit magical.

Antilang anthologies can still be picked up at their online store, although some quantities are limited: https://www.antilang.ca/shop