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

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Great Village School -- drawing by Laura Sharpe

This delightful drawing of the Great Village School was done by Laura Sharpe, who is the writer and resident of the village managing The Elizabeth Bishop Festival facebook and twitter sites. She posted this image on these sites, but I wanted to add it here, since it is so charming.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Emma FitzGerald's upcoming book

Emma FitzGerald, one of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival artists, has a new book coming out this fall with Formac Publishing of Halifax, N.S. Congratulations Emma! Though the book will not yet be available at the time of the festival, you will be able to see some of Emma's wonderful artwork at the Festival Market and she will be participating in the visual arts conversation in the afternoon. So, come to the festival and meet this exciting and gifted artist and learn more about her book. I gather there will be a launch in Halifax in the fall (click on the image to enlarge).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Painting 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, will be a conversation with four exceptional visual artists: Emma FitzGerald, Carol Laing, Joy Laking and Linda Rae Dornan. This conversation will be moderated by writer and Mount Allison Fine Arts professor Anne Koval. This profile is of moderator Anne Koval.


Anne Koval (https://kovalcurator.wordpress.com/) is a poet, curator and art historian who teaches at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. She has long been interested in the intersection between image and text and is currently working on a collection of ekphrastic poems, After Art.  Her recent curatorial projects include Paper Doll, an exhibition centred around an archival collection of handmade paper dolls and clothing by poet Sylvia Plath with the work of seven contemporary artists. Last spring she curated and performed in MUSE an exhibition held at the Banff Park Museum in partnership with the Whyte Museum. She is currently working on a contemporary exhibition Fairy-Tails that looks at the narrative relationship between animals and humans. She has just embarked on writing a biography of the painter Mary Pratt.
 Cover of catalogue for Paper Doll exhibition

Anne has had a long relationship with Elizabeth Bishop, once doing a residency at the house in Great Village and also participating in the Elizabeth Bishop conference “It must be Nova Scotia: Negotiating Place in the Writings of Elizabeth Bishop,” University of King’s College in Halifax. She is always happy to return to Great Village, which she considers a very special place.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Take a wagon ride with Elizabeth Bishop (a.k.a. Beth Terry) at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

One of the most popular attractions during the Elizabeth Bishop Arts Festival in 2011 was the horse and wagon ride through Great Village. Gordon Lewis, his wonderful horses and a brightly coloured wagon took eager visitors along “Nelly the cow” route (that is, Scrabble Hill Road). On board was Elizabeth Bishop – that is, Truro, N.S., actor Beth Terry portraying Bishop, who told stories about her childhood in Great Village.

Beth Terry will be reprising her role as Elizabeth Bishop, and Gordon Lewis is back on the wagon seat as Pa Bulmer, at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival in Great Village on 8 August 2015.
Beth Terry has been performing for 30 years, both on the stage & behind the scenes. Originally from Newfoundland, Beth moved to Nova Scotia in 2002. Since 2005 she has been teaching music in Truro, where she lives with her husband, and four children. Beth has been involved in community theatre, and recently scored an award winning one woman play called “Mabel’s Last Performance,” which performed at the 2014 Halifax Fringe Festival. Beth is excited to be taking on the part of Elizabeth Bishop again this summer, to share the rich history of this extraordinary woman!

Gordon Lewis, a.k.a. Pa Bulmer and his colourful wagon and
wonderful horses, Beth is tucked in the seat behind Gordon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Suzie LeBlanc to do fund-raising concert for St. George's Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia

I am excited to let you know that our own Suzie LeBlanc is back in the province to do a fund-raising concert for St. George's Church in Halifax, N.S., on Sunday, 24 May 2015, at 3:00 p.m. The funds are for the music programs at St. George's.

Friday, May 15, 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 photographer Brenda Barry.

Brenda (left) and her hiking buddy Linda Bugden at Mill Falls in Keji
Brenda Barry loves to hike: from Kejimkujik to Chignecto, from Long Island to Tancook Island. She began to photograph the beauty of Nova Scotia’s landscapes in 2012, and last year she started to put some of these vibrant images on cards.
 Gaff Point Trail, south coast of Nova Scotia
She is one of the owners of the Elizabeth Bishop House and has, like many other photographers, taken delightful photographs of it — and of Great Village.
 Elizabeth Bishop's "high-shouldered and secretive" St. James Church

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Photography of Laurie Gunn at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival

Laurie Gunn, President of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia, is a well-known and much admired local photographer. Her work will be exhibited at the “In the Village” CafĂ© in Great Village this summer. She and her evocative images will be part of the Elizabeth Bishop Festival taking place in the village on 8 August 2015.
Laurie was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1952 and has lived her whole life close to the Atlantic Ocean. Her love for photography started at the age of ten when her parents bought her, her very first camera and she has been taking pictures ever since. She graduated from university, got married, taught school, and helped raise four children. Her photography has taken her to such places as Italy, France, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam and the Channel Islands, United Kingdom.

She has attended photography workshops and enjoyed the chance to discuss photography with other like minded individuals. In 2007 she had the privilege of doing a photography show with her good friend and traveling companion, Joy Laking (another EB Festival artist). The show was held in Truro, N.S., at the Marigold Cultural Centre (www.marigoldcentre.ca) and was called “Here and Away-Seeing the World With Passionate Eyes.”  This was indeed the highlight of her career as a photographer.

Laurie will also take your picture! She will head up the “Fun Photo Booth” where you can don a historic costume and pose for her camera.
Laurie has also photographed the Elizabeth Bishop House many times.
Laurie's photography business is called “eagle i images” because when she captures a beautiful or intriguing image, she does feel like she is soaring with the eagles.
You can see more of Laurie’s work on her website.

Saturday, May 9, 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.

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. The conversation will be moderated by yours truly. This post features a profile of faithful amanuensis and general factotum John Barnstead, in the form of excerpts from a brief interview (graciously granted to me via Ouija board, in the hallowed tradition of Sylvia Plath and James Merrill) with his erstwhile employer, the Late and Much-Lamented Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat (1992? – 2010).


 "Pub Lush or Parrish"
graphite on Bristol board
("dim, but how alive, how touching in detail")
drawn by Brooks Kind
[left to right: two unidentified young ladies; the Late and Much-Lamented Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat; SF author Spider Robinson; the Late and Much-Lamented Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat's faithful amanuensis and general factotum;  painter Brooks Kind]

MISS BARRY:  [inarticulate spluttering, as the Interviewer is ushered into The Presence (tm) and suddenly realizes that she has no idea of how to address her interlocutor: "Mister the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat"?  No, that initial definite article is just too awkward.  "Mister Pernicious"?  Far too Eudora Welty... oh botheration...]

TL&M-LPtMHFC: [ever the gracious host]  "Do sit down, Miss Barry.  No, no -- no need to genuflect first, although I quite understand.  It's a natural urge.  It is purr-fectly purr-missible to address me simply as "Pernicious."  I'm sure you've noticed that there is currently something of a fashion for celebrities of the first order to adopt one-word sobriquets -- "Madonna", "Sting", "Cher", "BeyoncĂ©", "Adele", "Rihanna" -- and one must keep up with the times. Now, where shall we begin? My extensive and extraordinarily valuable art collection? [gestures casually with his tail at the Maxfield Parrish painting behind his Louis XIV ecritoire (ex collection George Lucas -- although the substitution of a carefully-crafted reproduction has not yet been noticed at Skywalker Ranch -- Mum's the word, folks)]  My exceptional display of valour and chivalry when duelling with "Big Al" Smith in defence of the unjustly-impugned literary honour of Edward Elmer Smith, Ph.D. (1890-1965)My unsuccessful run for the Presidency of the United States of America in 1996?  Or purr-haps my --

MISS BARRY: [taking her courage into both hands and daring to interrupt] Well, actually, Pernicious, I'd like to ask you a few questions about your faithful amanuensis and general factotum, John Barnstead...

TL&M-LPtMHFC: [the ambient temperature drops precipitously to approximately −273.15° C.]  Oh.  Yes.  Well.  Carry on, then.  What may I tell you?

MISS BARRY:  Well, do you know anything about his antecedents, purr- -er- personal and literary?

TL&M-LPtMHFC:  What's to know?  He comes from Schenectady, like all good science fictions ideas.  He generally passes himself off as a pudgy, non-descript, shabbily-dressed retired professor of Russian, but with the advent of the internet that little mystification has become increasingly difficult to maintain.  In actuality, he  may be a clandestine member of Robert A. Heinlein's Howard Families, most probably born in 1869, but, like the heroine of that recent film, The Age of Adeline, has been concealing the inconvenient fact of his extreme longevity from the unsuspecting public for something like the last hundred and forty years.  A cursory Google (tm) search reveals that he is descended from a long line of inventors on one side, and of maiden aunts on the other.  He is first mentioned in literature, if I am not mistaken, in volume 14 of The Rosary Magazine (1899), pp. 599-600.  I assure you that his subsequent entirely spurious claims to have issued forth supernaturally from the footnote to chapter three of the 1939 novel Gray Lensman by the saintly Edward Elmer Smith, Ph.D. (1890-1965) -- blessings and peace be upon him -- had nothing whatsoever to do with my memorable duel with "Big Al" Smith on the New Jersey Palisades some years ago.  Alas, I can offer you no explanation for his latest appearances in the works of Hugo-award-winning science fiction author Spider Robinson, who but for his unaccountable fondness for my faithful amanuensis and general factotum would seem to me to be an entirely rational human being, one of the subtlest and most knowledgeable SF writers practicing the art today.

Barnstead himself, although more or less completely talentless, is not entirely incompetent at refilling water bowls and inventing new games to play with string...

MISS BARRY:  I see.  We've invited him to participate in a panel discussion entitled "Writing the World" at the Elizabeth Bishop Festival on August 8, 2015 in Great Village, Nova Scotia.  Has he written anything, do you know?  And, purr- -er- perhaps more importantly, has he published anything?  Has he received any literary awards or honours?  Is he distinguished?  [increasingly desperately] In any way whatsoever??

TL&M-LPtMHFC:  You've issued him an invitation?  My dear, how... precipitous of you. Let me see... I do believe he was the Indiana High School Forensic Association Champion in Poetry Interpretation for 1968, would that count?  Though purr-haps in light of the governor's recent shenanigans there one would wish to conceal that connection... And at one time he did have the largest collection of purr-sonally-received rejection slips in North America -- this was prior to a recent bonfire of the vanities in a fit of existential despair, but I am reliably informed that he refrained from consigning the very first one he ever received (in 1964, I think it was) to the flames... [sounds of rummaging in the background].  Ah, yes -- here it is --

Well, and there are the usual sorts of pretentious academic poppycock, but you'd hardly be interested in an enumeration of those, surely.  There was a rumour floating about that he self-published a volume entitled And Other Poems back in 2007, but I shouldn't lend the random natterings of literary gossips amongst the canaglia much credence, if I were you.

And now, if you are quite finished, I'm afraid I --

MISS BARRY: I do have one other question.  Does he have a favourite passage in literature?

TL&M-LPtMHFC: Oh.  Well. Just one more, then.  While he is inordinately fond of Elizabeth Bishop's works, his favourite passage in all of literature is the last paragraph of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.  He also likes The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, which contains a recipe for his favourite dessert.  Three guesses which one it is...


We are, if not precisely thrilled, at least not totally in existential despair that John will be joining us in Great Village for the Elizabeth Bishop Festival.

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.