Winner of the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry
In 2010, Catherine Owen’s 29-year-old spouse died of a drug addiction. A year later, she relocated to an apartment by the Fraser River in Vancouver, B.C. As she moved beyond the initial shock, the river became her focus: a natural, damaged space that both intensifies emotion and symbolizes healing. In a sequence of aubades, or dawn poems, Owen records the practice of walking by or watching the river every morning, a routine that helps her engage in the tough work of mourning. Riven (a word that echoes river and means rift) is an homage to both a man and an ecosystem threatened by the presence of toxins and neglect. Yet, it is also a song to the beauty of nature and memory, concluding in a tribute to Louise Cotnoir’s long poem The Islands with a piece on imagined rivers. While Designated Mourner honors grief, Riven focuses on modes of survival and transformation through looking outward, and beyond.
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About the Author
Catherine Owen was raised in Vancouver and lives in Edmonton. She has published 15 collections of poetry and prose. Dear Ghost was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award and won the Alcuin Prize. Locations of Grief , her memoir anthology, is also forthcoming.
Read an Excerpt
Nature Writing 101
Our minds can turn anything romantic.
Is the problem.
The sewagy mud of the Fraser a quaint muslin & the spumes
pulsing out of chimneys at the Lafarge cement plant look,
at night, like two of Isadora Duncan’s scarves, pale, insouciant veils,
harmless. The trees are all gone but then aren’t our hearts
more similar to wastelands.
We can make it kin, this pollution, children one is sad about yet still fond of, their
delinquency linked to our own, irreparable with familiarity, a lineage of stench &
forgiveness. Our minds can assimilate all horrors.
Is the problem.
The animals will disappear and those small, strange invertebrates;
the bees will vanish & in the well-oiled waters, fish
will surge their deaths over the sand bags.
But then we keep saying, “Let’s construct another narrative.”
The nightmares must simply be called reality.
And after this you see,
it is possible to carry on.