Poet Lesley Strutt: A Soft Activist

I feel deeply enlivened after our intimate gathering in the studio
listening to Lesley Strutt, poet, blogger, essayist, playwright and professor. Lesley read her poetry as well as held a conversation on the poetic life; what poetry means to her and the power it can have in changing the world.

Lesley describes herself as a ‘soft activist’. She believes in the power of words and how they have the opportunity to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Lesley assures us that some things can be changed. Part of the process of change is to listen deeply. This first step offers an opening where we can enter into another place and grow as humans.

Lesley describes a poem as a concentrated, potent approximation of something she wants to capture. Inside of that is the importance that her poetry resonates with others. Lesley clarifies that she is not an ecstatic poet, nor is she interested in a rant. She instead invites the reader into places where we don’t have all of the answers, where we can ask ourselves the big questions; what is it like to be a human being, how do we feel about growing older, or about being a woman. Through poetry Lesley is interested in situations where we might not see around a corner; in our humanness we stumble, we are imperfect. Poetry offers the place to move from our positions of comfort and complacency into those rough edged aspects of our humanness.

Lesley is also the associate member representative for the League of Canadian Poets. In this position she is a mentor, encouraging poets to bring their work into the public domain no matter the form; whether it be self published, a blog or to established journals, poems must be read but more importantly, poetry must be listened to. It is through this exchange true change can happen.


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Spring Floods

This morning I visit the Skeena River in full flood. Its torrent of water heedless of all obstructions engulf the base of cottonwoods, whole trees uproot and whip down the channel in a highway of debris, whirlpools are wild and astonishing, walking trails sucked away. The very air quivers with Skeena’s strength.

It does not seem very faraway when  Terrace was declared a state of emergency in 2007. That year the river entered our home.


Terrace Flood 2007

The community of Terrace is largely isolated from the rest of the province… A mudslide and flooding have closed a highway and left the CN main line under water.

Rivers’ underground life expands,
the earths swollen cavities form veins and capillaries
fan their way beneath our home
three blocks from the main flow.

Water rises through the concrete floor,
jack hammer releases a geyser of spray
cold and clean as  deep springs,
drone of the pump a tireless grumble.

I had a  sanctuary along the riverbank,
nook of trees in cool relief,
feel water wrap around
like soft breath upon my face
whisper secrets of  her large body

River canyons compressed waters
open streams shift in complete surrender
my refuge gouged out with spring swell
In its place a steep slice of bank.

The Skeena River is above flood stage. The discharge is the second largest recording measured in seventy-seven years. Substantial snow remains in the Skeena Basin.

The basement transforms into an underground cave,
frigid tendrils settle in walls and furnishings.
early morning mist saturates the upper rooms.
I huddle in blankets, drink green tea
remember my childhood home.

Stucco walls chipped around the bottom
like scabs continually picked away.
Wire mesh, a brittle skeletal shell exposes
fist sized holes that lead to a crawl space.

My mother alone with four small children
worn thin with this house

Water levels are dropping or at least not rising so fast. Cooler than seasonal weather has put the brakes on snow melt.      B.C. Environment Forecast Center, 2007

A thin skin of water envelopes the cement floor
trickles into sides of the hole, pump slows.
Silence fills the space with an eerie vacuum.

Months later I dream of Skeena,
a pool forms outside my door,
I dive in fully clothed,
swim out to the open river.
A shadowy presence moves alongside
swift and sure.

I am not alone

The river no longer quiet
waits just below my floor.


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Spring Bouquet Homemade Books

My bulbs are emerging from the earth and so, in anticipation for the colours of spring, I have created these homemade books for  journaling or gardening notes.

This style is dos-à-dos binding (from the French meaning “back-to-back). It is a technique where, in this case, three separate books share the same cover. I love this design because it  has different sections to organize  writing.




The dos-à-dos format dates back at least to the 16th century, though they were most common in England in the first half of the 17th century.

I love the button detail, so much fun to create!


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April: Poetry Month and a Welcome to Spring

April hails to spring with its bursting light. No wonder it is also the month dedicated to poetry. Like sap running after a dormant time, poetry finds its way into the landscape teeming with new life. The first flowering plant to appear after a long winter is Skunk Cabbage; a plant with an inner heat regulator, having the ability to melt snow around it. Like Skunk Cabbage, poetry dissolves the tough outer shells of our own protective layers, creating space for imaginal realms. Luxuriant leaves reminiscent of the tropics offer material that takes us to heady places. Yellow flowers illuminate the deep shade of winter memories. Poems become lanterns in the dark.

Feverish for spring   

Will you be there forever blossoming?
Birth the way like moose in early spring
with their mournful calls and dull eyes,
push you out all wet skinned and dewy eyed
ready to clamber towards what will surely feed you.

Can I count on you, the first to arrive forceful like a fist?
Grasping, squeezing every last charged particle
when you burst out of fecund mud
not unlike water lily,
better yet a lotus, you arrive ferocious in your golden gown
tucked inside a hooded leaf,
arrive foul stinking, grow like a B grade horror film.

Make no mistake!
I search you out fanatical with hibernation,
single minded in my intention.
A bear, all shaggy haired and skinny ribbed
plugged from the winter,
cleansing the way, for I too am fallible,
give up hope, forlorn in the endless grey
stumble about with no end in sight.
Locked jaw and monkey brain
striped of all decency,
your torch guiding the way

This poem is published in the Chapbook ‘Skunk Cabbage: poems of renewal’ which our writers group created in the spring of 2016. There are a limited number of copies still available.

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Folding Books: A Spark into Imagination

The creative process is a call into the world of awakening and embarking on a journey into the imagination. When we let go of prescribed ideas and formats we encourage a freedom of expression that is not necessarily linked to the concrete workings of the mind and to the world around us. Book making is a venue in which we can enter into this imagined state of awareness.

As I  explore the vast arena of making books I am  continually surprised at the possibilities open to experiment with different structures. One such form is in the category of Folding Books. In a conversation with artist and educator Joan Turecki, I was  further inspired at the depths in which she explores this art.


                                                                          The Accordion Book is one of the many styles of folding books which Joan T. creates. Within this format she shares the opportunities that are presented when ‘there is no beginning middle or end to the structure. There is a lyrical quality that allows ideas to flow outside the parameters of a standard book format.

Folding books have a sensory, sculptured quality to them – as the book unfolds stories are created that can change as they are viewed from different perspectives.

Folding books encourage surprises as they move back and forth, opening some sections while closing others to form new combinations or juxtaposition.



Folding books are playful where words transform into pictures and pictures become words.

When random words work seamlessly with strong imagery they become a form of poetry.’



As I consider all of these possibilities I am struck with the metaphors contained within these books, art like life does not often happen in a linear arrangement. Usually we circle back, come at, or face our edges in ever expanding potentialities. Occasionally we happen upon a  clear resolution but more often then not, change allows us to revisit all of the big questions in life. ‘Who am I, What is my place, and How am I to be now’ are universal explorations in being human. Through our imagination we can play with an art form that lends itself so beautifully to this exploration. Folding books offers this.





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January Journaling: Bring in the Light

As I begin the New Year with setting intentions of how to be more fully engaged with my life, I appreciate more and more how the practice of keeping a journal has supported me. It has been a constant thread, starting in my teen years when I referred to my writing as ‘keeping a diary.’ My journal helped me then to unravel the angst of hormones and identity. It sustained me throughout more than a decade of isolation, living in the bush while raising children and learning to be in kinship with the land around me. This practice accompanied me in understanding relationships, revealing truths that I was unable to see with just my thinking self. Journal writing supported me with my emotionally challenging work at the alternate school while being my friend in all of the in between points of my life.

It is therefore fitting, in this time of clarifying how to be attuned to the world around me, that I acknowledge my lifelong practice and so have decided to combine this love with my interest in book making. This month I am offering a few workshops to encourage your own practice with writing. The first workshop will be in the creation of the journal, which in itself is a wonderful thing to learn. It is using the coptic stitch method, one of the oldest book binding techniques, which allows the pages to open flat when writing. The second workshop will be, I am hoping, an inspiration to ignite or to rekindle your own desire or interest in keeping a journal. I would like to share some of my resources that have strengthened my process, when I wanted more than to simply spill my heart on the page and watch where it would go.

As an explorer into the inner realms, this is the perfect time of year which I cannot pass by. With the growing light, even if in the subtlest of ways, let it brighten a darkened corner or reveal a hidden truth for you. If not through a journal, may you come to your own process of whatever you use as a way in, shining light on what is most important for your deeper self. All the best for you in this New Year.

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Snow Feathers – poetry celebrating winter

On this Winter Solstice, I recall how I fell in love with the north. It wasn’t the local joke that captures many people to this area; that particular summer where we have an Okanagan experience when it rarely rains and the mountains, lakes, and rivers open to us unimpeded by days of grey or cold. No, I was entranced by a different season. My first winter I moved in with my sister who was renting a house on the lake. That year the winter was one of perfection, at least in my mind it plays itself out that way. After arriving from several years of living in Vancouver, a place where I felt unconnected and could not truly find my place in the business, that first winter with its brilliant clear skies, abundance of snow, and a lake that offered herself to me was a truly magical bond.  I was hooked!

This experience is one of the poems I wrote about in our chapbook ‘Snow Feathers,’ which our writers group launched earlier in December. I especially love this little collection. As expressed in the preface, ‘Winter, of all the seasons, captures the northern experience. Its rugged spirit is, at times, on the edge of the untamed. Northerners require and insist upon a spaciousness that is born from our attempts to befriend the unpredictable nature of our environment. The weather, the sense of isolation, and the increasing darkness are intense and so in turn we are challenged to invent creative ways where we are not just enduring but are in accompaniment with the powerful forces that surround us.’

Winter as well offers us the opportunity to journey inward, to slow our steps down and attune to our deeper stories. This is an invitation that I offer to you as well. Take the time to appreciate all of the magic this time of year provides.  Let it be as a frosted window into your own inner landscape, filled with marvel and depth. Let it bring to you a deepening appreciation of your own light as well as a richer connection to place. Happy Solstice!



 That first winter Lakelse lake froze
A glistening sheath encasing her black body
in secret realms where reeds and trout dream below
and I in my worn skates scritch scratch
across the surface
with cold biting my cheeks in dusky light.
Sky, a cape of pinks and mauves
gathers me in an icy embrace
pushing me forward.

It was then she moaned
a prehistoric choir song
as though reciting an ancient language
encrypted in the black ink below.
A wildness that threw me to my knees
with bloodless lips I could not answer,
instead search with trembling hands
for the thin white line of my tracks
as though I could ever leave this place

as though there was another
I could call home.


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