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Fauna

Cover of "Fauna" book.Ask any young person what they think about climate change and the prognosis is likely grim. They’ll recall childhood science classes full of dire nature documentaries and summers that got warmer and warmer with each passing year. I am twenty-one years old and the idea that damage done by the climate crisis will soon be irreparable is not new to me, but that doesn’t make the reality of the situation any less haunting. Life is a constant balance of doing my part for the world and trying not to think too hard about the things I cannot change.

Perhaps for this reason Fauna (Coach House Books, 2020), Christiane Vadnais’s debut eco-fiction, managed to be both beautiful and terrifying, a love letter to mother nature and a warning to those who dare cross her.

Vadnais writes with a beautiful eloquence that brings her lush and terrifying world to life. Given the fresh, natural talent displayed in Fauna, it’s no wonder Radio-Canada named her as a young writer to watch in 2020. Equally impressive, the original novel was written in French and stunningly translated to English by the brilliant Pablo Strauss.

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Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds

Cover image for Sweet Water showing a herson and pond

A watershed is actually an area of land—all the land containing rivers, lakes, and streams that drain into a larger body of water, such as the ocean. The Mississippi watershed covers forty percent of continental United States. In Canada, thirty percent of freshwater drains into the Hudson Bay watershed, which spans five provinces. So watersheds are everything, really. Everything we and all other living beings depend on.

Despite this dependence, we don’t often speak of watersheds. Unless you’re a scientist, these days you’re more likely to hear the phrase watershed moment, which derives from the British definition of a watershed: the crest of a ridge dividing two drainage areas. A watershed moment also divides, not land but time. It describes a pivotal moment after which things will never be the same, from which there is no return.

Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds (Caitlin Press, 2020) explores both of these complex ideas—the geographic watershed and the urgency of this moment—through the unique concision and grace of poetry.
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Focus on Black Writers

In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially the protests occurring throughout May and June of 2020, we have collected some of the poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction published by Black writers in Understorey Magazine, as well as a new poem by African Nova Scotian writer Robyn Martelly. We have also updated and re-printed Issue 12, a full issue by and about African Nova Scotian Women. We recognise that systemic racism also affects Indigenous people and other people of colour. For more creative work on these topics, see our Teaching/Book Club page and our Past Issues.

Who Am I?

Who am I?

A black man who no one sees?
I’m a black man, just trying to be free.

Free from discrimination, incarceration and poverty,
Free, just let me be free.
Free from stereotypes and mental slavery,
Free, will we ever be free?

Am I supposed to be ashamed?
Will I get blamed?
Just because I’m a black man.

Continue Reading Who Am I?

Women in Prison

rachel_image_scaled

Illustration by Rachel Derrah

Because it’s 2015.
And there’s women in the cabinet
But that might not seem so adequate
To women in the custody of the state
It might not seem that late for black women imprisoned at ever rising rates
Positioned by the colour of her skin to be a criminal by definition
Or it might just seem too soon for indigenous teen girls in Saskatoon
Kicked out of school in the afternoon
At night she’s trafficked on the streets and arrested as suspicious
Should we measure if our progress is finished
By the number of women ministers
Or maybe it should be the number of women prisoners
Perhaps we should consider the condition of women denied tampons or conditioner
Or something even simpler like extra squares of toilet paper.
Her body on camera so demeaning
In addition her visitors
Can be turned away for no particular reasonContinue Reading Women in Prison