Wednesday, 25 September 2013 13:22

Geography brings Candace Savage to Lyric Theatre

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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For award-winning Saskatoon author Candace Savage, it was so important to speak about her most recent work at the Lyric Theatre’s Write Out Loud series that she wrote a request to the organizing committee.

She was in Swift Current Sept. 18 as the first guest author to speak at the 2013/14 Write Out Loud series. She spoke about and read excerpts from her critically acclaimed work, A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, that won the 2012 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
The book is a natural and cultural history of the Cypress Hills area around the village of Eastend that highlights the often ignored impact of European settlement on the First Nations people who were already living there.
She thought it was important to speak about the book at a location near the landscape that inspired her to write it.
“It came from here and so it needed to be given back,” she told the Prairie Post afterwards.
During her presentation, Savage spoke about arriving in Eastend for the first time about 12 years ago when she was working on a book about the natural history of the prairie. She soon realized it is a special place and a year later she and her partner bought a house in the village.
“Everything around you speaks of the past,” she told the audience.
She had no idea what A Geography of Blood would be about when she started writing the book about six years ago, which is partly the reason it took so long to complete.
“I knew that my job was to tell people what I have been required to learn by going back to Eastend over and over again,” she said. “It felt like the land had required me to learn it.”
Her understanding of what it meant to be guided by the land to write a book only became clear over time. She realized the land was speaking to her through her senses.
“If you’re in a place where the hills have been left by the glaciers, that means something different than if you’re in a place where everything has been bulldozed and if you’re in a place where the air smells of sage, that place means something different than if you’re in a place where the air smells of diesel fumes,” she said.
As the book’s narrator, she keeps the reader company on a journey that shifts from a more lighthearted exploration of the area to a discovery of a darker past.
“The book asks us, invites us, to reframe the story of western settlement so that we include inside that frame the dislocation and the suffering of the people who are already here and the destruction of the ecosystem,” she said. “But what’s wonderful about the land around Eastend is that it also provides us with reassurance.”
According to Savage, this history — which she referred to as the “heart of darkness” during her presentation — has been out in the open for quite a while but people are not eager to accept it as part of their history.
“In fact, we’ve worked pretty hard not to know these stories but things are changing and there absolutely is a willingness to reconsider,” she said afterwards. “We all know about residential schools now, we have an official Truth and Reconciliation Commission and we are no longer the generation who grew up on homesteads. We can consider our participation in the development of western Canada from a more distant vantage point.”
She felt it is important to have a better understanding of the past as a means to address the needs of the present.
“There’s healing work to do,” she said. “It’s important to have reconciliation in some way about the trauma that was caused to people, but it’s also important to make reconciliation with the land.”
She felt the book’s message of hope comes from the power of the land to inspire and reassure and from the generosity of the First Nations people who were willing to teach her about the past.
“We’re all here together and we have this privilege of having other cultures all around us which has very deep roots in this place,” she said. “There’s still an opportunity to learn from them and for us to form friendships and make a future that’s better than the past.”
She is not clear yet on what her next writing project will be about, but she is hoping to know soon.
“I’m pretending to be patient at the moment,” she said with a laugh.
One of the key questions she is still trying to answer is if it will be in the same vein as A Geography of Blood or completely different.
“The last words of this book are ‘this is a story that has to be marked To Be Continued’ and when I wrote that I did not have in mind any kind of a sequel,” she said. “I meant that this isn’t resolved and in all our lives this is going to continue, but maybe there is a sequel. This is what I’m not sure.”
The guest author at the next Write Out Loud event on Oct. 16 will be Regina writer and poet Katherine Lawrence. Her first poetry collection, Ring Finger, Left Hand, won the best first book award at the 2001 Saskatchewan Book Awards and her second collection, Lying to our Mothers, was shortlisted for two awards in 2006.

Read 27568 times Last modified on Thursday, 26 September 2013 09:07

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