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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Readers Respond to ECHOES OF ELIZABETH BISHOP -- Part One

In June 2013, the EBSNS launched Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop: The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary (2011) Writing Competition. The editors have asked a some of our readers to provide a comment, a personal response, to the collection. We will post them over the next few weeks. We hope these readers’ responses will tempt you to buy a copy for your own library. It also makes a wonderful Christmas gift! 
You find out more about Echoes on the EBSNS website:
You can purchase online at: http://www.elizabethbishopns.org/publications.html or at Bookmark, on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, N.S.

 Response from Robert Bent

The first time I read Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop I read it just for the enjoyment. I pushed my promise to write this whatever-it-is into the back of my mind, ignored what prize the author had won in what category, and just enjoyed each selection. Out of curiosity, after each story, I turned to the brief biographies at the end of the book. The thing that struck me was not only the age of the writers, some as young as ten, but the quality of their writing and the depth of feeling. I knew in my memory that teenagers could write, for I had been a high school English teacher in a previous life. But ten! Maybe there’s hope for the world after all.

Rather than write about every selection, I want to comment on the youngest writers, beginning with Maria Duynisveld’s “Wallace by the Sea.” Of all the stories in the book, regardless of the age of the author, Maria’s opening lines are my favourite:  “Wallace by the Sea. That’s what they call it. It fits. The wharf — that’s part of what fits. The ocean view — that fits too.”

Wallace by the Sea is a beautiful village, and as Maria describes it, a wonderful place to grow up.  And she nails the ending just as effectively as she nailed the opening:  “There’s something about the ocean that makes me “me,” and I think it’s something that will last forever.”

It will, Maria. It will.

Lauren Kruisselbrink’s story, “Going Climbing” reminds me of another little girl I know who also had “a tree” in front of her house where she would climb “to calm down,” often by reading a book. She grew up to be a very special lady who had lots of adventures, but not as many as she would have wished, I’m afraid. I hope Lauren continues “going climbing” in her “tree” and has as many adventures as her life can hold.  I also know what Lauren’s gonna be. —She’s gonna be — Lauren. And that will be a treat for everyone who meets her, and reads her stories.

Dakota Jewel Warren’s “Home Sweet Home” revisits the same themes first encountered in “Wallace by the Sea,” only now it’s Neil’s Harbour. And she ends with the same sentiment, “I’ll eventually come back one day though because I can’t live without it.”  It’s true. “Home” calls you back, especially if that “home” has dear hearts, gentle people, and a trace of salt in the air; even if you only return in your memories and your dreams.  It’s true of Wallace by the Sea, it’s true of Neil’s Harbour, it’s true of Great Village, and it’s true of all the rural towns and villages scattered around Nova Scotia.

I would like to end with a word for Ryan Spencer. Yes, Ryan, I did enjoy your letter, and I’m sure Elizabeth Bishop would enjoy it too, and smile to know so few things in Great Village have changed.  Do you know why your letter was the last piece in the book?  It’s the same reason you eat dessert last — because after you’ve finished a feast, that’s the taste that lingers in your mouth.

Robert Bent lives in Lawrencetown, in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. He has been previously published in the Nashwaak Review and All Rights Reserved and a series of travel/running articles in the Run Nova Scotia Raconteur. He is currently working on a book of Christmas stories entitled Have Yourself a Silly Little Christmas along with illustrator Andrea Wood.

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