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.
|5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.30(d)
About the Author
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.
Table of Contents
Thirty-Six Sentences on the Fraser River that Could Serve as a Very Small Nest 11
Nature Writing 101 13
To the Artist of Twenty-First Century Canadian Nature Painting 15
Fraser River, Thanksgiving 2011 16
"Who can say why or how it all blazed away" 17
Two Stanzas in Autumn 18
Meditation by Water 19
Earth Day 2012 20
Dusk from the Fourteenth Floor: a Pastoral Elegy 21
Let us look at the silver river 25
I have not brought you to this river for nothing 26
Though the duck, passing through the glittering span 27
As the crow drops down from the roof and over 28
I miss you says the river, and this is a difficult proposition 29
Every day I go to find you & every 30
Ice first and then mist and the river passes 31
The morning after it wasn't morning anymore 32
Sundays, in the frozen construction site 33
Suddenly, it's mid-December - the river 34
The inexorable, the river, and the sounds 35
And now a swan by the shipyards, an otter 36
They will disappear these ruins and this beauty too 37
Today the river is thick with wind 38
A tug passes and the river frays, splits 39
Lots of trains today, their whistles 40
Given respite this morning 41
Difficult today, the tears - and I see the river 42
You make me ache river with your - let me say it 43
Crow cries fall like snow after the snow 44
Come to the window - you call to me 45
The beach all geese today, slow sun dropping by 46
Sweetheart, I say to the river - good morning beautiful 48
They call it a brownfield, but of course today 49
Always, on opening your eyes, you gasp - 50
A strange amber stain on the river this morning - what is it - 51
Does the river need me, I wonder 52
Happy Valentine's Day river and you too of course 53
The river is so beautiful today I have no choice 54
A short line of ducks flying fast 55
Achingly beautiful - I understand this now - 56
The rain, machines but I remember - 57
And what if, after all this, river 58
The Last Aubade 59
Conniption: The River 63
One Haiku; Four Takes 65
One January Morning 66
Catch & Release 67
One History of the Fraser 69
"Love should not be written in stone, but in water" 71
What they call this 72
The River System 74