On Tuesday, May 17 at 6pm, join Massy Books, Massy Arts, and poet Heather Haley for the in-person launch of her new book: Skookum Raven (2020, Ekstasis Editions).
At the event, Haley will be joined by interdisciplinary and spoken word artist Johnny Trinh for an intimate poetry reading. Guest guitarist Keir Nicoll will also accompany Haley with a musical performance by their duo – The Pluviophiles.
The event will be hosted at the Massy Arts Gallery, at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.
The book launch is free + open to all of our community, and registration is mandatory.
Click here to register for the event
Click here to purchase Skookum Raven at Massy Books
To celebrate Haley’s upcoming book launch, Rafael Zen interviews the poet for Massy Arts to contemplate feminist inspirations and class representation in the author’s voyeuristic poetry.
Heather Haley / Poetry, nature, flight, death
Rafael Zen – First of all, I would like to address your book’s title. Why Skookum Raven? What do you think it suggests readers – of what they might find reading your poems?
Heather Haley – I would think the title suggests to the reader what it suggests to me. Nature. Flight. Death. Poet preoccupations. The raven symbolizes all three and is quintessentially west coast.
I can hear its croak. A formidable avian, its myth looms large both in my mind and life. I’m a small-town BC girl, most at ease in the woods.
The forest is my church, the only place I pray-in my fashion-the place to reflect, to revel in solitude and one place Skookum Raven readers will be transported to.
RZ – Your book’s synopsis claims that you are an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation. Do you think these are themes that will be clear throughout this book? Why do you think you wrote these poems – and who did you write them for?
HH – I write for myself, and simply because I must. For me, poetry is as crucial as air. Certainly I’m inspired by others. The muse.
Many of the poems in Skookum Raven are in essence character studies. People fascinate and there’s likely nothing more vexing than relationships. When I look at a photograph I look for faces, and wonder about their stories.
Most of the first section, Piratical portrays a parade of humanity afflicted with our most familiar flaws and foibles.
RZ – You say that, like your foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, you write free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind. Why referencing these inspirations?
HH – I didn’t say that, the copywriter did. It’s true that I write free verse, am undoubtedly influenced by the poets cited and a staunch feminist, but do not identify with “witchy.” I find the supernatural intriguing at times but in fact I’ve always been drawn to science. I was once an aspiring anthropologist and can see an overlap to some degree between the arts and sciences.
RZ – Your poems show “a proletarian ferocity with bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys”. Why bring the proletariat to this book’s debate? Do you think your poems address class struggles – and if so, how?
HH – In a subversive manner, yes, they do. I’m from a working-class background, I’ve walked picket lines, advocated for workers’ rights and rallied against sexual harassment but my poetry is not overtly politicized. As W.H.
Auden said, “The mere making of a work of art is itself a political act.” I address issues of sexism, domestic violence and the loss of personal values in a consumerist society while carefully dodging rhetoric and didacticism.
I depict the prosaic but my work is not domesticated. I take risks in poems but they are inspired by things I have witnessed. It’s what poets do best. Observe. I am a voyeur.
From the time I was a young girl, I’ve been peeking into windows while passing houses in the night. Again, people are enthralling and that’s who I write for.
RZ – Could you choose one poem to share with our readers? One that you think encapsulates this book’s core? Why did you choose this particular text?
HH – This is not a love poem. It’s more a boundless human desire poem and speaks to our nature. We are equally susceptible and resilient, invincible and weak, our flesh, our pitiful armour, as ephemeral as our lives.
We wanted a kiss.
We wanted a moment
of no one knows us.
In a hovel or the firs
we wanted a moment
of no one watching.
We wanted a ride,
the roiling innards.
We wanted a night.
One night, to escape
the ether, the library,
all that shushing.
We wanted more
than one season
We have entered text
red as a target,
invited a stoning,
but, we are very bear.
pawing at the door,
I track charred meat
from bower to suite.
From a fly coastal trip
drenched in dark highway,
through a fuming winter
of snarling heat,
to blasted spring robins
and lilacs blaring perfume,
we have muzzled nothing,
growling in the gut wicked
as songs loud as our heads,
silent as screen voices
deep at night.