For­mer ‘mil­i­tary brat’ asks: Is home a place or sim­ply where you are?

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Books - ERIC VOLMERS

In Lau­rie Anne Fuhr’s poem, Afaceis­apic­ture­more­often Than a Face, she writes, “Never knew where I was un­til I left a place.” In Saskatchew­an, she writes, “Ev­ery time I say good­bye, it rains, I never judge how much or lit­tle, couldn’t say how you fell.”

Both lines point to the heart of Night Fly­ing (Fron­tenac House Po­etry, 108 Pages, $19.95), the Cal­gary poet’s de­but col­lec­tion. Loss, dis­place­ment and lone­li­ness echo through­out the book, a re­flec­tion of the rest­less­ness im­posed on Fuhr through most of her early life as a “mil­i­tary brat” whose fam­ily was sta­tioned in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties.

“I al­ways kept com­ing back to try­ing to fig­ure out if home was a place or home was just where you are,” says Fuhr, who will hold a book launch on Jan. 24 at Owl’s Nest Books. “Maybe the sky is your roof and the grass is your floor, wher­ever you are.”

The ma­jor­ity of the po­ems in Night Fly­ing were writ­ten be­tween the years 1998 and 2004. Granted, Fuhr re­turned to them with re­vi­sions and the wis­dom of hind­sight when go­ing through the edit­ing process for the book with Cal­gary’s for­mer po­et­lau­re­atemiche­line­may­lor at Fron­tenac House Po­etry. She also re­vis­ited them at the Banff Cen­tre’s Writ­ing Stu­dio in 2016 with poet Karen Solie, a pro­gram Fuhr was ac­cepted into af­ter her man­u­script was short­listed for the Robert Kroetsch Award for In­no­va­tive Po­etry.

But while a col­lec­tion of po­etry writ­ten through the lens of a “mil­i­tary brat” may seem a de­lib­er­ate and sin­gu­lar an­gle for a book, Fuhr ad­mits the early drafts tum­bled out of her with­out much thought to how they might even­tu­ally make a co­he­sive whole.

“Each poem is very in­di­vid­ual and as it hap­pened in my life,” she says. “I had a hard time de­cid­ing how to link things to­gether the­mat­i­cally. I kept think­ing ‘Should this be a Prairie book? What should the theme be?’ Fi­nally I re­al­ized that the only thing that re­ally holds it to­gether is the mil­i­tary part.”

Un­be­knownst to Fuhr at the time, there is a whole com­mu­nity of mil­i­tary-brat writ­ers. Granted, most of them deal in mem­oirs or nar­ra­tive prose. But it was a bit of an epiphany for the poet to dis­cover this sub­cul­ture — which con­gre­gates on var­i­ous Face­book pages — even ex­isted. She ded­i­cates Night Fly­ing to “mil­i­tary brats ev­ery­where” and also du­ti­fully notes all the places where her fam­ily was sta­tioned from 1981 to 2004, a handy ref­er­ence for her fel­low brats who tend to be cu­ri­ous about such things when they com­pare notes.

Be­tween those years, Fuhr and her older brother were shuf­fled from Cold Lake, Al­berta, to Baden-soellin­gen in Ger­many, back to Cold Lake, to Ot­tawa, then Win­nipeg and fi­nally Cold Lake again. Her fa­ther Hal served in the Cana­dian Air Force, even­tu­ally re­tir­ing as chief of the 441 Tac­ti­cal Fighter Squadron in Cold Lake.

Many of the po­ems di­rectly ad­dress the anx­i­ety and lone­li­ness of life as an air force brat, such as Ap­pli­ca­ble Skills of the Mil­i­tary Brat #1 and #2, F-18 Cy­cle, and Leav­ing Ger­many. But even when the work en­ters into the more con­ven­tional ter­rain of com­ing-of-age or young love, Fuhr’s early no­madic life still casts a shadow.

“You end up mov­ing per­son to per­son the way you had once moved place to place, as though this grow­ing up as a brat kind of shapes your men­tal­ity where you want things to last but are un­able to make things last for some rea­son, ” Fuhr says. “And it is painful, be­cause as hu­mans we want to have sta­bil­ity and have steady love and know where our next meal is com­ing from and this kind of thing.”

Still, while this all may sound re­lent­lessly grim, Fuhr’s com­mand of lan­guage and oc­ca­sional flights into the sur­real of­ten give Night Fly­ing a more light­hearted tone than the sub­ject mat­ter would sug­gest.

“I think the sur­real bent of my work al­lows me to put a lit­tle bit of joy and play­ful­ness into the pain by mak­ing crazy things hap­pen un­ex­pect­edly in an other­wise lin­ear nar­ra­tive,” she says. “I’m hop­ing this book isn’t a downer. I think it’s got some of my sense of fun in it, too.”

Cold Lake Karaoke Bar, ‘Par­a­lyz­ers’ and Starz Nite­club, for in­stance, of­fer a funny look at some of the un­hinged nightlife in Cold Lake.

“There’s some in­ter­est­ing bars in Cold Lake,” Fuhr says with a laugh. “For the happy hour spe­cial on ladies’ night, if you were a woman you could get drinks for 25 cents at one point. That’s just ridicu­lous.”

What I Saw In Him: An Epi­logue is the fi­nal poem in the book and one of only two com­pletely new works she penned for Night Fly­ing. It chron­i­cles the re­la­tion­ship that brought her to Cal­gary in 2004. Since ar­riv­ing, Fuhr has im­mersed her­self in both the po­etry and mu­si­cal com­mu­ni­ties. She was man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the ex­per­i­men­tal lit­er­ary mag­a­zine fill­ing Sta­tion, cur­rently teaches po­etry at the Alexan­dra Writ­ers’ Cen­tre So­ci­ety and hosts Sin­gle Onion Open Mic. She plays bass in the East­ern Euro­pean folk/post­punk band To­tal Gad­jos and, in 2017, re­leased her de­but solo EP, Love in the Dig­i­tal Age, un­der the name bird­heat.

“I’ve been in Cal­gary longer than I’ve been any­where else,” she says. “Even though I feel that urge for go­ing all the time — ev­ery few years it feels like it should be time to move to a new city, it’s in­grained — I don’t think I will be­cause I’m so grate­ful to have closer and deeper friend­ships that can only come with time.”

AT A GLANCE Lau­rie Anne Fuhr will join poets Steven Ross Smith, Liz Howard and Richard Harrison and mu­si­cian Craig Galam­bos for Verses on Jan. 24 at Owl’s Nest Books at 7 p.m.


Poet Lau­rie Anne Fuhr’s book delves into the dis­place­ment, lone­li­ness and ro­mance of a life in many places. She now calls Cal­gary home.

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