"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Gathering Place for Expression: The Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market

One of the main features of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival taking place in Great Village on 8 August 2015 is the Festival Market where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of writer Mary Ellen Sullivan and Open Heart Farming.
Mary Ellen Sullivan grew up on a farm outside Guelph, Ontario, and now lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Much of her writing is inspired by her love for her childhood farm. After moving to Halifax in 1995 she developed valued friendships with farmers and other people involved with food and farming issues. As a community occupational therapist she was honoured to hear people’s life stories in their homes.

Her poems and prose have been published in Rural Delivery Magazine, and Rhubarb — a publication of the Mennonite Literary Society, as well as online by The Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, and Canadian Jesuits International. Her short story “Raising Nellie” is included in the Nimbus 2014 anthology In the Company of Animals: Stories of Extraordinary Encounters. She was the recipient of the 2012 Elora Writers’ Festival writing competition for poetry and the 2014 Atlantic Writing Competition for poetry.

Mary Ellen started Open Heart Farming, an annual collection of farm and food-centric poems by Nova Scotia poets in 2012 and writes the Open Heart Farming blog http://maryellensullivanblog.tumblr.com. She has read at farmers markets and other locations in across Nova Scotia. She participates in the Canadian Agriculture Literacy Week, speaking to elementary students about agriculture in Nova Scotia. Through these and her involvement in other food and farming initiatives, she strives to share the voices of farmers and people involved in food justice issues. She is grateful to the mentors she had as a child that have led her to pursue these actions. And she loves Elizabeth Bishop’s writings.

 Mary Ellen reading at Farmers' Market in Mahone Bay, N.S.
Open Heart Farming is a spinoff of Open Heart Forgery, which is marking its fifth anniversary this year.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Gathering Place for Expression: The Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market

One of the main events of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival taking place in Great Village on 8 August 2015 is the Festival Market, where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of potter Marie Eaton.
Marie Eaton has been doing pottery for 30 years. Her elegant, eye-catching work is high fire functional stoneware. She does several glaze colours. Her pots are dishwasher safe and can be used in oven or microwave. Check out The Shoreline Journal for a picture of Marie (top right) with her pottery.
[Ed. Note: Tea would taste so good in such a beautiful cup!]

You can see more of Marie’s work at on her Pinterest site.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lifting Yesterday – Supplement – Chapter Six – Sable Island

Chapter Six of Lifting Yesterday continues the “biography inside a biography” narrative. This chapter follows Bishop’s life from the time she left Nova Scotia in 1930 to the point when she left for Brazil in 1951. As always, Bishop’s life was filled with fascinating, strange, (un)predictable twists and turns. This was the time in her life when she fully established her writing career, an important period for any writer.

Researching and exploring this time took me, again, to many unexpected places, none so unexpected as Sable Island. Like all Nova Scotians, I was fascinated by Sable Island growing up. Because most of us here believe we will never visit this isolated sandbar so far off the coast, it holds a mythical kind of magic in Nova Scotians' minds — and especially alluring are the wild horses that have lived there for centuries.
Horses near West Light – photo by Zoe Lucas
Bishop heard about Sable Island early on. Her great-grandfather was likely shipwrecked there in the mid-1860s, that is what family oral tradition held. As she wrote to Katharine White on 21 June 1951, “Of course I heard so much about it when I was little that it has haunted my imagination most of my life.”

When I learned that Bishop actually visited Sable Island in 1951 I was astonished. It is no easy feat to get there today, so getting there then would have taken focused determination — like her trip to Newfoundland in 1932, another remarkable island a journey, which is also part of Chapter Six.

Bishop not only visited Sable Island, she also wrote about this trip. Her intention was to write an article for The New Yorker, which never happened – Brazil intervened; but she worked on “The Deadly Sandpile” for some time. There is a remnant of this article in her papers at Vassar Collage. During the trip, she kept a diary. It, too, is at Vassar. I obtained photocopies of both these documents and transcribed them. The journal is extensive, so it was a considerable task.

Having an excuse to research Sable Island was a bonus. As anyone in Nova Scotia – or Canada for that matter, perhaps globally – knows, if you research Sable Island your path will take you to one of its most famous residents: Zoe Lucas (who has lived on Sable Island since the 1970s and knows more about it than any other person). I met Zoe many years ago through mutual friends. She was quite interested in the fact that Elizabeth Bishop had visited the island. When I lived in Halifax and when Zoe ventured to the mainland, we would meet for breakfast and have wonderful conversations about all things Sable.
Zoe being investigated by a foal. Photograph by Janet Barkhouse
And then the day when Zoe asked me if I would like to go to Sable Island! Are you kidding!! She had invited her good friend Janet Barkhouse (the daughter of beloved Canadian children’s writer Joyce Barkhouse, whose book Pit Pony, about a Sable Island horse used in the coal mines of Cape Breton, is a classic), and there was an extra seat on the fixed-wing aircraft that ferried scientists, bureaucrats and visitors to and from the island.
Pilot Debbie getting ready for take off at the Halifax airport. Photograph by Janet Barkhouse.
On a gloriously clear day in May 2008 we went. I will never forget catching my first glimpse of the long crescent of white sand in the middle of the ocean.
Approaching Sable Island. Photograph by Janet Barkhouse.
Bishop approached Sable Island on the Coast Guard ship Cornwallis, so her experience would have been much more gradual and mysterious. As she wrote in her diary, “We were about a mile off SI; not rough but quite a swell, as there usually is apparently. The fog came & went rapidly – sometimes one could glimpse the island, then it wd [sic] disappear in an instant. A stretch of yellowish sand, high dunes with beach grass on them, a tower … frame-work of the new lighthouse.”

My visit that day was unforgettable and I will be eternally grateful to Zoe for this gift. Whenever I tell people I’ve been there, they say, “Really! Wow!” I had the rare opportunity to see directly what Bishop saw and understand something of why she was so fascinated by this island, why we are all so fascinated: the horses, the Ipswich Sparrow, the interesting residents, the sand.
Me (right), with station master Gerry and Janet. Photo by Zoe Lucas.
Bishop described the island thus: “Anyone familiar with the accent of Nova Scotia will know what I mean when I refer to the Indrawn Yes. In all their conversations Nova Scotians of all ages, even children, make use of it. It consists of, when one is told a fact, – anything, not necessarily tragic but not of a downright comical nature, – saying “Yes,” or a word half-way between “Yes” & Yeah,” while drawing in the breath at the same moment. It expresses both commiseration & an acceptance of the Worst, and it occurred to me as I walked … over those fine, fatalistic sands, that Sable Island with its mysterious engulfing powers was a sort of large-scale expression of the Indrawn Yes.
Me on Sable Island! I'm just a little happy! Photo by Janet Barkhouse.
When I mentioned to Zoe that my father, Herb, was quite interested in Sable Island, she gave me a beautiful moon snail shell to give him, which he greatly prized. Over the next several years, Zoe sent my father many astonishing objects from her vast collection, accumulated during the over 40 years that she has lived there. So delighted was he with these marvelous gifts, he as set up a little display in his house: “The Sun Room Museum.”
Herb's Sable Island display. Photo by Brenda Barry.
He’s a fortunate man because now that Sable Island is a National Park, such removals are no longer permitted. His pleasure in all the objects Zoe gave him is unalloyed and he’ll show his collection to anyone who will look, and get them to sign his guestbook. I think Bishop would have envied Herb his treasure.

If you want to find markers in Bishop’s life that reveal she was, in spirit, a true Nova Scotian, one of the most obvious is her fascination with Sable Island and her determined effort to visit this place. That she didn’t complete her article is no failure, really. Bishop wrote slowly, was fascinated by so much, and died too young — she left much unfinished.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Elizabeth Bishop Festival Market: Profile of woodworker Garry Shears

One of the main activities of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival taking place in Great Village, N.S., on 8 August 2015 is the “Festival Market” where over a dozen artists and artisans will gather to share their creations. This post is a profile of Great Village woodworker Garry Shears.
Garry Shears has his great-grandfather’s tools used in his trade as a copper. He owns furniture that his grandfather made from his own trees. Garry grew up with the idea that if you needed something made, you made it yourself. He makes things from his own trees simply for the pleasure of doing so. 
[Ed. note: Garry makes things as small as spoons and as large as cabinets. I have two of his beautiful cutting boards which have made baking so much easier and a real pleasure.]

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Writing the World: Conversations with writers at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

One of the afternoon events at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village, N.S., on 8 August 2015, is a conversation with four exceptional writers: John Barnstead, Binnie Brennan, Carole Langille and Harry Thurston. This conversation will be moderated by yours truly. This post features is a profile of writer and naturalist Harry Thurston.
The Chronicle Herald rightly declares Harry Thurston as “One of Canada’s greatest writers about the natural world.”

Harry Thurston’s most recent poetry collections include The Deer Yard (with Allan Cooper) and Animals Of My Own Kind. His environmental writing has been published in many of North America’s leading magazines, including Audubon, Canadian Geographic and National Geographic. He has been awarded numerous writing prizes in both Canada and the United States, including the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Lane Anderson Award and the Evelyn Richardson Literary Award. Harry lives in Tidnish, Nova Scotia.

Harry has a new collection of poetry coming out this spring with Gaspereau Press:
Harry was involved in many Elizabeth Bishop Centenary events, including performing with Suzie LeBlanc and Tempest Baroque Ensemble during their “At the Fishhouses” tour for Musique Royale in August 2011. He joined myself, Suzie and John Barnstead in a reading of Joelle Biele’s play “These Fine Mornings,” based on Elizabeth Bishop’s letters with her New Yorker editors, in Great Village in July 2011. He guided a memorable bus tour along “The Moose” route in October 2011. We are thrilled that Harry will return to Great Village for the Elizabeth Bishop Festival.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Be a “Patron of the Festival” – The Elizabeth Bishop Festival fund-raiser

It takes a lot of resources – time, energy, materials, money – to put on a big event. The Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia is committing its many of its own resources to The Elizabeth Bishop Festival on 8 August 2015. It is also seeking some funding from the Municipality of Colchester and the provincial government. The society has also initiated a “Patron of the Festival” fund-raiser. We hope you will take time to read this notice and consider supporting the festival (please click on the image to enlarge). For a donation of $100, you can  become a "Patron of the Festival" and receive a small thank you gift and a tax receipt.  You can become a patron by donating on the EBSNS website (www.elizabethbishopns.org) or by sending a cheque to EBSNS P.O. Box 138, Great Village, N.S., B0M 1L0, Canada. Thank you.
Our board and volunteers are working hard to organize a lively, interactive, creative day in Great Village. We hope to see you “In the Village” on 8 August 2015.

Alas, we are able to issue tax receipts only for Canadian donations.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Elizabeth Bishop Festival program

Everyone is welcome to join the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia and the residents of Great Village for The Elizabeth Bishop Festival on 8 August 2015. From morning to night the village will be a lively place with lots of fun activities and thought-provoking conversations. Join us and be inspired and entertained.
 Here is the program (click to enlarge). We will be printing and distributing the program later this spring.

Keep checking the blog for more artist profiles and information about all the activities. We look forward to seeing you "In the Village" on 8 August.