Richard Harrison book launch

Poetry reading and book signing to launch Richard Harrison’s new book,
On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood (Wolsak & Wynn). 
Also reading: Nasra Adem, Laurie MacFayden, Thomas Wharton
WHEN: ThursdayDec. 1, 2016; 7pm-830pm
WHERE: ChVrch of John, 10260 103 St, Edmonton


Richard Harrison – On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood
Richard Harrison is an award-winning poet, essayist and editor. His six books of poetry include Big Breath of a Wish, poems about his daughter’s acquisition of language, and Hero of the Play, poems in the language of hockey. He has published writings on literary criticism, comic culture, creative writing and mathematics. Richard also contributes to the scholarship on the superhero: with MRU colleague Lee Easton, he co-authored the book of essays, Secret Identity Reader (2010). Richard teaches composition, creative writing (poetry), and comics and graphic novels. After 11 years, Richard Harrison returns to poetry with a moving tribute to his late father in On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood.

The great Alberta flood of 2013 slides through Richard Harrison’s latest collection, its rising waters pulling his books of poetry off their shelves, washing the ink from letters kept in boxes in the basement and threatening to carry off his father’s ashes. On these waters float Harrison’s mourning for his father, who suffered a form of dementia later in life but never forgot the poems he’d memorized as a young man. Alongside these, the waters also carry Harrison’s love of comic books, his struggles with the haiku and his willingness to stay in the game, “to try again.” Combining elements of memoir, elegy, lyrical essay and personal correspondence, On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood is a generous and enchanting book, one that leaves you, like the poet, thinking about the way “characters in a novel can escape anything/except their story.”

Nasra Adem
Nasra Adem, 22, is a multidisciplinary artist and current Youth Poet Laureate of Edmonton. She has performed at poetry and spoken word festivals across North America. Nasra studied musical theatre at MacEwan University and is  the founder of Sister 2 Sister: a monthly showcase of women artists of colour and the curator for Black Arts Matter, Edmonton’s first all-Black arts festival. Devoted to creative and spiritual authenticity, Nasra is uses her artistic practice as a way of breaking barriers, reimagining realities and creating forward momentum within her communities.
Laurie MacFayden
Laurie MacFayden is an Edmonton-based poet, visual artist and journalist. In addition to two award-winning books of poetry, Kissing Keeps Us Afloat and White Shirt, her writing has appeared in The New QuarterlyFreeFall, Queering the Way, Alberta Views, and online at and DailyHaiku. Her work has been performed in Edmonton’s Loud & Queer Cabaret, Skirts Afire herArts Festival, Read and Write With Pride, and Calgary’s Q the Arts cultural festival. Her third book with Frontenac House, You Can’t Tell, will be released in September 2017.
Thomas Wharton  
Thomas Wharton’s most recent book is Rutherford the Time-Travelling Moose, a children’s story about the history of Edmonton. His first novel, Icefields, won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean division, and the inaugural Banff Mountain Book grand prize. His second novel, Salamander, was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. He has published a three-volume fantasy for younger readers, The Perilous Realm. He is currently working on a collection of short fiction.

e/view of white shirt

Paula A. Kirman has some nice words about my first poetry collection, White Shirt, on the I Heart Edmonton blog.

“How can I best describe MacFayden’s poetic style? Imagine poetry that is at times gritty and personal, that deals with love and lust and sex and broken relationships, that has a tone of a booze-filled night out before the hangover sets in, almost reminiscent of the beatnik poets from decades past. Now, imagine this kind of poetry written by a woman.

“From short haiku to longer poems, from free verse to internal rhyme, [MacFayden] expresses herself clearly with emotion and introspection. … MacFayden invites the reader into her life where she exposes vulnerability without making anyone feel like they are merely being a voyeur.”

My next book, Kissing Keeps Us Afloat (Frontenac House) drops in September 2014. Stay tuned …

fighting normal

Fighting Normal at Visual Arts Alberta, June 24-March 2, 2013

A multi-media installation featuring the poetry of Amy Willans
and visual images by Laurie MacFayden

Visual Arts Alberta Gallery,
3rd floor, Harcourt House, 10215 112 St., Edmonton, Alberta
January 24 March 2, 2013

Opening Reception, Friday, January 25, 7 – 9:30 p.m.

How do we measure ‘normal’?
How far outside the lines can we stray — and still be considered normal?
How much variation is allowed in behaviour, expression, appearance …
before we are classified as abnormal, queer, dangerous … crazy?
What if we can’t help it?

This is the house that held you
White walls and red geraniums

“My life began well,” recalls Amy. “I lived in a nice house, on a nice street …
I was the middle child of three girls. We swam, took ballet and tap classes, but most of all we skated … It was a disciplined life, but how I loved the ice — its cold murmur.”

At age 21, soon after Amy earned her first international skating position with Team Canada, mental illness struck.

“I was admitted to hospital where I stayed for three months. I never skated again.”

Fighting Normal integrates fragments of Amy’s poems with Laurie’s visuals — paintings, photographs, collage — to illustrate one person’s heartbreaking experience of mental illness and examine society’s concept of what it means to be ‘normal.’

Amy is now, at 37, an advocate and educator.

“As a psych patient, I became invisible … dismissed as crazy. The journey back has been long and unsteady, but the desire to live began to outweigh the desire to die. Somehow life opened up and I was given a second chance.”

Fighting Normal runs concurrently at the VAA Gallery with Awareness of An Altered World by Richard Boulet and Sue Seright, an exhibition reflecting two different mental health journeys: “We want to do more than cope. We want to flourish.”

Amy will read selections of the poetry that inspired this collaboration at the Jan. 25 reception, beginning at 8:15 p.m.

Refreshments will be available.

glass so blog