Here is a book of luminous encounters, contradictions, collisions, interruptions, and meditations on art, nature, justice, historical memory, and territorial occupation. Browne’s texts mine the harrowing destinies, and densities, of place, in this case, of the Northwest Coast of North America. This new work – in seven movements – is tuned to the autobiographical, alert to rhythm and improvisation, and immersed in a torrent of memory and tenderness. Here is a book for the ear. At its heart is the enigma of family. A central premise is that events are contiguous through time and space, and that ancestral experiences live on in the body physically, invisibly, mapping the present with stored-up longing and striving. The structure of the book conforms loosely to the chronological order in which the texts were composed, constituting a variation on a poet’s daybook, a record of intersections, correspondences, and juxtapositions. The book’s compositional model is borrowed from jazz improvisation; by locating a rhythm or a melodic line, and opening the field to associations, visions, rhymes, chance, interruption, and, one may wish, grace, the texts begin to summon and assemble themselves. “Art does not render the visible, but renders visible,” said Paul Klee. Why are we aching so? Where are the words and melodies that will heal us? Here also is a book of voices, its pages infused with the eros of intertextuality. Apollinaire’s spirit presides overall. Among those overheard are Marjorie Acland, Antonin Artaud, André Breton, Robert Burton, Louis Clexlixqen, Henry Edenshaw, Frantz Fanon, Allan King, Chief Joseph, Gwendolyn McEwen, Charles Olson, Pablo Picasso, Dorothy Jean Ray, Raymond Roussel, Victor Serge, Gertrude Stein, Henry Thoreau, Primrose Upton, Walt Whitman, and the Surrealist artists Kurt Seligmann and Wolfgang Paalen, both of whom visited the Northwest Coast in the late 1930s.
Colin Browne has published five volumes of poetry. His most recent publications are Entering Time: The Fungus Man Platters of Charles Edenshaw (Talonbooks, 2016) and The Hatch: Poems and Conversations (Talonbooks, 2015). His books have been nominated for a Governor General’s Award and the Dorothy Livesay Award / B.C. Poetry Prize. He is a celebrated filmmaker; his experimental documentary White Lake was nominated for a Genie Award for Best Feature Documentary. His recent exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I Had an Interesting French Artist to See Me This Summer: Emily Carr and Wolfgang Paalen in British Columbia (2016), explored the brief encounter between these two Modernist artists in Victoria, B.C., in August 1939, and presented the first extensive exhibition of Paalen’s work in Canada. His collaboration with composer Alfredo Santa Ana, Music for a Night in May, was presented at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in May 2018. Recent essays exploring the links between Surrealism and the art of the Northwest Coast have appeared in exhibition catalogues in the U.S. and Europe. He is currently working on new curatorial projects and preparing a collection of essays for publication. Until recently, he taught in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, where he is Professor Emeritus.