Th­e­sen hold­ing po­etry read­ing tonight

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Frank PEE­BLES Cit­i­zen staff fpee­bles@pgc­i­t­i­zen.ca

I’m think­ing it more as a re­ceiver in the sense of what we take in, ei­ther con­sciously or more of­ten un­con­sciously from the world around us.

The call comes in. The phone is ring­ing. Will you an­swer? Will you hear the other end of the con­ver­sa­tion?

The con­ver­sa­tion looks at the ends of life. The cor­ners and the straight­aways of life. It says things us­ing words and phrase con­struc­tion of a mas­ter builder. It was built into 100 pages be­tween two green cov­ers by Sharon Th­e­sen, who is both the mi­cro­phone and, as per the ti­tle, The Re­ceiver.

Among the crafters of the English lan­guage, Th­e­sen is a rare vir­tu­oso. She has been nom­i­nated for the Gover­nor Gen­eral’s Award for Po­etry on three oc­ca­sions, putting her in elite com­pany on the Cana­dian lit­er­ary land­scape. But for all that pro­ject­ing of cre­ative thought, she ob­serves that, like all peo­ple are, she is re­ally more of a col­lec­tor. Hence the new book’s ti­tle, em­pha­sized by the photo of a vin­tage tele­phone.

“I’m think­ing it more as a re­ceiver in the sense of what we take in, ei­ther con­sciously or more of­ten un­con­sciously from the world around us,” she told The Cit­i­zen in, of course, a phone call. “By some mys­te­ri­ous process it trans­mutes it­self, or can, into some kind of art form. And I think of that thing that Ezra Pound said about po­ets be­ing the an­tenna, as he said, of the race, the hu­man race. The writer kind of hears the world and trans­mutes that into writ­ing.”

This book is new in an­other sense as well. It is a mixed-genre col­lec­tion, not just po­etry. It con­tains el­e­ments of prose, es­say, and mem­oir.

What it is not, how­ever, is a di­ary. Truth frames and for­ti­fies the con­tents of The Re­ceiver but it is not a his­tor­i­cal ac­count. Even if it was, she said, that, too, would only be a fil­tered ver­sion of truth. But that’s hard to ex­plain to her el­derly mother who would, she knows, in­evitably rec­og­nize past events and mem­o­ries in this dis­patch, and it might hurt.

Th­e­sen said “I’m hav­ing fan­tasies about tak­ing a ra­zor blade to some of the pages” of the copy her mom will in­evitably re­ceive, to pro­tect her mother’s feel­ings from those truths.

Th­e­sen said the sub­ject mat­ter lays no blame nor does it point ac­cus­ing fin­gers, “it’s just the mi­lieu of what I grew up in, more of a mosiac than an ar­row aim­ing in­ex­orably at moi,” but some­times get­ting to the root of things means ex­pos­ing wounds.

“It’s a book that’s crowded with the ex­pe­ri­ence of re­cep­tiv­ity,” she said.

Part of its ba­sis came from her mem­ory of a movie seen in her youth. She re­mem­bered only that it was In­grid Bergman, alone, talk­ing mostly into a tele­phone, the plot acted out as one half of a con­ver­sa­tion but de­pict­ing a full set of life’s con­di­tions.

(The film was The Hu­man Voice, 1966, di­rected by Jean Cocteau based on his 1930 play La Voix Hu­maine.)

That era of hard lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, con­ver­sa­tions an­nounced by a ring­ing bell, no way of leav­ing mes­sages, you ei­ther ac­cept the call or you don’t, was large on her mind as she as­sem­bled the work within The Re­ceiver. And also the woman, alone, emo­tional, con­fronting im­pend­ing cir­cum­stances over which she had lit­tle con­trol de­spite sen­si­bil­ity and strength.

“You can’t al­ways shut ev­ery­thing out, and why would you want to – even though it’s not al­ways good news,” said.

The lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are wide open, vivid and per­sonal at a read­ing tonight at the Twisted Cork (an event spon­sored by the Col­lege of New Cale­do­nia). Th­e­sen will read from The Re­ceiver and dis­cuss writ­ing for those who have ques­tions.

Also read­ing at the event will be Fort St. John poet Greg Lains­bury and Prince Ge­orge’s award-win­ning prin­ci­pal poet Barry McKin­non.

It is free of charge to at­tend and starts at 7 p.m.

— Sharon Th­e­sen

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