Kathy Mac

Dr. Kathleen McConnell, who publishes poetry, plays, and what she calls ‘lyric articles’ under the pen name Kathy Mac, was born on July 17th, 1961, in Peterborough, Ontario. Her father was Paul Goodwin McConnell, an electrical engineer from Waterhole, Alberta; her mother Gwendolyn Patricia Greer was from Edmonton. Mac was raised in Peterborough, Ontario and has lived since 2002 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she teaches in the English Department at St. Thomas University and is an active member of local writing and performance groups. She spends part of each summer writing in Sambro Head, Nova Scotia.

Mac moved from Ontario to Halifax to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), earning her BFA in Art History in 1986. Work followed as editor, graphic designer, poetry instructor, and (significant for her second book) self-described “Hundefräulein” or dog-sitter to Elisabeth Mann Borgese, the oceans activist and daughter of writer Thomas Mann. Mac returned to university for formal study in English literature, receiving her BA from Mount Saint Vincent University in 1993, followed by an MA from Wilfrid Laurier (1994) and a PhD from Dalhousie University (2001).

Mac’s university career and scholarly projects are central to her creative work. She works in the emerging middle-ground genre of lyric scholarship, a hybrid form of scholarly research and literary text. Described as “an ongoing wrestling match between creativity and analysis” (Omar 128), the form, Mac says, “pulls connections together that I don’t know I would have gotten otherwise” (qtd. in Lahey 22). Mac places her third book, Porn, Pain, and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (2013)—published by a literary not an academic press—firmly in this lyric scholarship genre. Her pen name originally distinguished her creative work from her scholarship, but these lines are becoming increasingly and deliberately blurred. Today, this hybrid mode of thinking and writing is a signature mark of her work, contributing to the strikingly original style and bold, layered, conceptual approaches of her essays, plays, and poetry.

Mac has published two books of poetry. Her first book, Nail Builders Plan for Strength and Growth (2002), won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry in Canada and was a finalist for the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry that year. A long poem from that book, “Tooke, Suitor to the Spectacular Givens,” received Dalhousie University’s Joseph Howe Poetry Award. Her second book, The Hundefräulein Papers (2009), documented the intense domestic and inter-species relationships in caring for the dogs of Elisabeth Mann Borgese. Written after Borgese’s death, it had, said one reviewer, “all the distinguishing Mac marks: experimental audacity; singularity of theme and content; an attractive playfulness admixed with transcendental gravity” (Higgins). Her work appears in several anthologies, including the Milton Acorn Memorial Anthology, the League of Canadian Poets’ More Garden Varieties, II, and Poets ’88. Since the late 1980s her individual poems have also been published in literary journals in Canada and abroad. From brief lyric poems to longer sequences, Mac strives to be structurally innovative, her patterned forms containing startling emotional softness and a wild, loose, intertextual play.

Mac is also known for her contribution to writing communities nationally and locally, organizing and participating in reading events, panels, workshops, fundraisers, conferences, and informal writing groups. She is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, doing editorial work on the Living Archives series produced by the Feminist Caucus; she belongs to the Writers’ Federations of both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; she is active in the WolfTree Writers, a Fredericton-based women’s writing group; and she is a founding member of the Stand and Deliver performance group, originating at St. Thomas University in 2009.

In terms of her writing process, Mac is alert to chance connections of ideas, which she then carries through with formidable discipline. Pieces leap from personal experience, film releases, or news items. Her embrace of happenstance and her willingness to draw on a range of sources, from formal texts to ephemeral scraps, influences the result. The Hundefräulein Papers, as an example, contains obituary, animal sketches, want ads, poems, recipes, grocery lists, dog philosophy, and what reviewer Michael Higgins described as “a potpourri, gallimaufry, of lyrics, elegies, found poetry, anti-poems, testamentary tributes and personal anecdotes.” Mac herself describes her 138-line “Epithalamium for W.H. Auden” as “a textual nexus—poetry and prose; fiction and creative non-fiction; the Elizabethan memoir, same-sex marriage, gay rights, and allusions to a bunch of other things like rap music and the anxiety of influence” (“On Memoirs” 2).

Grief borne lightly is a stoic seam that runs through all her work, whether in her choice of focus, in her counterpointing of disparate texts, or in the sharp ache of particular lines. Feminist theory and practice, and power politics in general, also recur in Mac’s work. 

Engaged with her peers at the local, regional, and national levels, Mac’s work is original in conception and execution, erudite, and accessible. In addition to the awards mentioned above, Mac was a finalist for The Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry(2010, 2011) and has also received New Brunswick’s Alfred G. Bailey Prize (2012).

Human Misunderstanding (summary):

Human Misunderstanding is the latest work by award-winning poet Kathy Mac. The first of the book’s three long poems compares a fictional child soldier (a hero) with a real child soldier (a victim). The second juxtaposes eighteenth century philosophy with one person’s search for another in downtown Halifax. The final poem explores two court cases in which an immigrant faces deportation, and torture, if found guilty of assault in a Canadian court.

Reviews:

Kathy Mac sees inside language-as-propaganda, identifying all the twists and turns that facts suffer as they become half-truths or false justifications for evils. She knows and shows that the rhetoric of the War on Terror enacts a War on Truth. She accepts no substitutes for her truth-telling, which is liberating.

— George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate

Kathy Mac has what philosopher David Hume has called an “accurate knowledge of the internal fabric.” We misread, hurt, and destroy one another at every turn. Her spare, sharp poetic pierces the heart of what matters, what it might mean if we were both human and humane.

— Lorri Neilsen Glenn, author of Threading Light: Explorations in Loss & Poetry

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Christopher Jessulat

Born in Moncton, but setting roots in Saint John, Christopher Jessulat has been a lifelong bookworm. Seeking an outlet that could accommodate his love of creative writing and the post-apocalyptic / science fiction / survival genres, his most recent project quickly took on a life of its own, culminating in his first published novel, The Decline.

Though juggling professional, personal and writing aspirations pose their challenges, Christopher is busy working on the second installment of The Decline series while cultivating a handful of other potential sources of future inspiration.

The Decline (summary)

The outbreak devastated entire nations; what little hope would be found here?

It has been weeks since the First Wave broke, and a woefully unprepared mankind has steadily lost ground to the tide of infected. Overwhelmed by the sheer number and ferocity of the afflicted, the official response has abandoned its inland posts and collapsed back to the last line of defensible terrain. 

Cut off from rescue and resupply, a desperate pocket of survivors cling to the notion of humanity while faced with a grim decision – is it worth it to be the last survivors of the human race, if you lose your humanity in the process

Thoughtful and tense, The Decline is a gripping, atmospheric exploration of loss, isolation, and the bleak realities of survival in a post-apocalyptic world.

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Shauntay Grant

Shauntay Grant is a writer and storyteller from Halifax, Nova Scotia. She teaches creative writing at Dalhousie University, and as Halifax’s third Poet Laureate she organized Canada’s first national gathering of Canadian Poets Laureate.

A descendant of Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons, and Black Refugees who came to Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries, Shauntay’s love of language stretches back to her storytelling roots in Nova Scotia’s historic Black communities. She is a multidisciplinary artist with professional degrees and training in creative writing, music, and theatre, and her homegrown artistic practice embraces African Nova Scotian folk tradition as well as contemporary approaches to literature and performance.

Shauntay is currently playwright-in-residence at 2b Theatre Company (located in Halifax), and one of four Canadian authors selected by the Writers’ Trust of Canada for its celebrated Berton House Writers Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon (2016). Her awards and honours include a Best Atlantic-Published Book prize from the Atlantic Book Awards, aPoet of Honour prize from Spoken Word Canada, and a Joseph S. Stauffer Prize in Writing and Publishing from the Canada Council for the Arts. Shauntay’s work has earned her invitations to present at local and international events including Canada’s national Word On The Street festivals (Halifax, Toronto, Kitchener), Ottawa’s Versefest, the Vancouver Writers Fest (where she was the 2010 Writer In Residence), Moncton’s Frye Festival, Toronto’s Luminato Festival, Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail Writers Festival, Australia’s National Young Writers’ Festival, Jamaica’s International Maroon Conference, and the 10th Anniversary Launch of the Freedom Schooner Amistad in Havana, Cuba.

Shauntay Grant will be presenting her children’s book, The Walking Bathroom, at Fog Lit Festival 2017.

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Margaret Gracie

Margaret Gracie grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the ‘70s and ’80s. She attended Dalhousie University, majoring in Philosophy with a minor in Languages. With a Bachelor’s degree in hand, she lived and worked in Germany as a Zimmermadchen, before completing a Translation degree in Quebec and becoming an ESL instructor and freelance translator.

A born writer, she entertained family and friends with stories from early childhood andwrote her first novella during summer break at age 12. She continued to write, in English and French, throughout her twenties, and in 2001 she moved to Victoria to complete her first novel. Since then she has written two more books and a large selection of short stories.

Margaret has over a dozen years of experience working in the communications field, working as an editor, writer and consultant. She has taken a number of creative writing classes and has attended conferences and workshops in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Her work has been published in Canadian and American literary journals as well as a British anthology.

Interview with Fictionophile

Plastic (summary):

Plastic consists of twelve linked short stories that unfold the tale of Debbie Pearce, a former pageant queen who struggles to balance the responsibilities of motherhood with her relentless pursuit of the American Dream. She has it all; an enviable life in La Jolla, California, with a modelling career, a doting husband, two kids and all the fashionable clothing money can buy.

But, somehow, it isn’t enough. Image-obsessed Debbie is plagued by dissatisfaction, anxiety and an unquenchable desire for admiration. Her once-promising career is stagnant, the value of her brand diminishing with every passing day. Her two children, neither beautiful nor charming, become petulant and resentful in the face of her ill-concealed disappointment, acting out in ways that have far-reaching consequences for the entire family. But Debbie refuses to let that stop her from striving toward the life she craves … until one day her seemingly perfect world pulls her under, threatening to drown her in disappointed hopes.

Told from the perspectives of eleven interconnected characters, Plastic is a story of loneliness and longing, of alienation and acceptance, and of the never-ending pursuit of the American Dream.

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Bridget Canning

Bridget Canning’s short fiction has been short-listed for The Cuffer Prize and won awards with the BC Federation of Writers Literary Writes competition and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters. In 2015, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes (then titled Impulse) received an Honourable Mention with the Atlantic Writing Competition. Her writing has been published in several Canadian literary journals. She was selected as one of the 2015 apprentices with the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Mentorship Program. She lives in St. John’s where she writes and works as a college instructor

The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes (summary):

Wanda Jaynes is about to lose her job amidst a mountain of bills, and she suspects her musician boyfriend might be romantically interested in her friend, Trish. But Wanda’s life changes radically on a routine trip to the grocery store when a gunman enters the supermarket and opens fire. When Wanda comes face to face with the shooter, she instinctively hurls a can of coconut milk at his head and knocks him unconscious. In the ensuing media storm, she’s hailed as a hero and miracle worker. But in the aftermath of so much attention, she receives strange emails and believes she’s being followed. As her fear and paranoia grow, both her private and professional lives hang in the balance. And it takes another act of bravery before she’ll learn who she really is.

Reviews:

Bridget Canning is a fierce new talent. – Lisa Moore, author of Flannery

Like an east-coast emotional weather report, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes exposes the sarcasm, humour, resentment, and friendship that protects the core of every heart. Bridget Canning lays bare the passel of emotions that emerge once ‘the juice is shaken out of you’.” – Michael Winter, author of The Death of Donna Whalen

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Brian Bartlett

Brian Bartlett (poet, editor, and English professor) was born October 1st, 1953, in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. His publications include six collections of poetry; The Watchmaker’s Table (2008), Wanting the Day: Selected Poems (2003), The Afterlife of Trees (2002), Granite Erratics (1997), Underwater Carpentry (1993), and Planet Harbour(1989); and five chapbooks: Being Charlie (2009), Travels of the Watch (2004), Cattail Week (1981), Brother’s Insomnia (1972), and Finches for the Wake (1971). Bartlett has also edited three compilations: The Essential James Reaney (2009), Earthly Pages: The Poetry of Don Domanski (2007), and Don McKay: Essays on His Works (2006).

Though born in St. Stephen as the third of six children, Bartlett moved to Fredericton in 1957 with his parents, Lester and Marjorie (Wills). While attending the University of New Brunswick for his Bachelor of Arts degree (English with Honours), Bartlett encountered renowned poet and creative writing teacher Fred Cogswell, who called his work “kaleidoscopic” (qtd. in Compton 139). Cogswell’s sentiments were later echoed by Clark Blaise at Concordia University in Montreal, where Bartlett obtained his MA degree. He then attended the Université de Montréal for his PhD, where he wrote a thesis on the work of A.R. Ammons, a principal and sales executive who, like Bartlett, wrote a personal poetry that transcends the personal viewpoint.

After graduating with his PhD, Bartlett lived in Montreal for fifteen years while teaching at Concordia University. In 1990, he moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to teach English at St. Mary’s University. He still (as of 2010) resides in Halifax with his wife, Karen Dahl, and their children, Joshua and Laura.

In an interview with Mark Medley for the National Post, Bartlett said that he finds inspiration in a wide variety of poets: Don McKay, P.K. Page, Don Coles, and Don Domanski are his favourites among Canadian poets, while A.G. Bailey, Alden Nowlan, Bob Gibbs, Bill Bauer, and M. Travis Lane —all New Brunswick poets— made an impact on Bartlett in his youth.

Along with the critical acclaim that his work has received, Bartlett has also been honoured with national and international fellowships and awards. These include the 2009 Acorn-Plantos People’s Poetry Award, the 2004 Atlantic Poetry Prize, the 2000 Petra Kenney Poetry Award (a British award founded by Canadian Morgan Kenney in memory of his late wife, Petra), the 1991 and 1998 Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, a 1996 Hawthorndon Castle International Writers’ Fellowship, and a 1993 Banff Writers’ Studio Scholarship.

Bartlett edited The Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan and will be presenting it at Fog Lit Festival 2017.

The Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan (summary):

Alden Nowlan (1933-1983) once wrote of a desire to leave behind “one poem, one story / that will tell what it was like / to be alive.” In an abundance of memorable poems, he fulfilled this desire with candour and subtlety, emotion and humour, sympathy and truth-telling. For many years, Nowlan has been one of Canada’s most-read and beloved poets, but only now is the true range of his poetic achievement finally available between two covers, with the publication of Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan.

Nowlan takes us from nightmarish precincts of fear and solitude to the embrace of friendship and family. Delving into experiences of violence and gentleness, of alienation and love, his poetry reveals our shared humanity as well as our perplexing and sometimes entertaining differences. Nowlan’s childhood and adult years are colourfully reflected in his poetry. These autobiographical threads are interwoven with fantasies, an astute historical consciousness, and a keen awareness of the shiftings and transformations of self-hood.

Nowlan wrote with formal variety, visually shaping his poems with a dexterity that complicates impressions that he was primarily a “plainspoken” poet. His varied uses of the poetic line — his handling of line-lengths and -breaks, stanzas, and pauses — show him to be a writer who skilfully uses the page to suggest and embody the rhythms of speech. This long-awaited volume enables readers to experience his poetic genius in its fullness and uniqueness.

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