Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Poetic Encounters in Victoria, BC

While back for a few weeks' visit to my hometown of Victoria, BC, I stopped in at Russell Books, which is an amazing and iconic used bookstore. It also happens to be where I had one of my first jobs after university, which was pretty good for a book lover without much work experience at the time.

I was searching the poetry section and decided to buy a small bilingual collection of Émile Nelligan's poems, partly because I am planning to try some more translations of his work. (You can read my translation of his 'Soir d'hiver', and some information about Nelligan's sad life, here.) Much to my surprise, when I looked inside the book, I found an inscription by Doug Beardsley. It was inscribed "Montreal, Quebec, at the Hotel Nelligan", and signed with dates both in 2006 and 2009, which added a little to the mystery. He had also made a few notes in the Preface. Doug Beardsley is a Victoria poet who was also an instructor at the University of Victoria until 2006 - and he taught the Canadian Poetry course which proved to be somewhat life-altering for me (both in introducing me to extraordinary Canadian poets, and in helping to open up modern and contemporary poetry to me.) Finding a book inscribed by him at my old workplace was sort of strange and wonderful. 

I also bought Karen Solie's Short Haul Engine, one of her older collections which she wrote while living in Victoria. I've browsed through it but am really looking forward to reading it more in-depth, especially in the light of her brilliant recent work.

Finally, I came across a tidbit in a local Victoria magazine regarding poet Rudyard Kipling. He visited Victoria in 1907 and commented to a reporter for the Times Colonist (which I think was called the Colonist or British Colonist then): "I am going to take a motor drive to see the beauties of the place. But I really don't see why I should move away from here. In Victoria, it is a waste of time to look for beauty. It is always with you."

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