My new book, In Praise of Retreat, will be out at the end of March—so I’ve recently transitioned to ‘having written.’ As a result I’ve been in ‘kid in a candy store’ mode, deliriously reading works not related to my own book for the first time in ages, in all genres.
I just finished reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, which won the 2020 Booker Prize for fiction. The novel intrigued me as it is set in my hometown, Glasgow, and I’d been blown away by Stuart’s short story, “The Englishman” in the New Yorker. What a debut: the book is lyrical, political and resolutely Scottish. I found it heart-breaking, based on Stuart’s traumatic experiences as a gay boy growing up in with an alcoholic mother in the city’s rough tenements.
Also on my pile? I’ve been bingeing on all manner of poetry: Indigo by Ellen Bass, The New Testament by the awe-inspiring Jericho Brown, Laurie Graham’s brave, beautiful Settler Education, Bronwen Wallace’s Keep That Candle Burning Bright, which a friend gave me for my birthday.
I was gifted a subscription to the knife/fork/book poetry dispensary, which I highly recommend. January’s selection was Word Problems by Ian Williams, Phil Hall’s latest book, Toward a Blacker Arbour, and a delightful white chapbook with orange bear claw scratches, Ballad of Bernie ‘Bear’ Roy by Cory Lavender. I have also, finally, opened a box of 50 poetry books that I ordered last year from Brick and started reading. As well I just re-read The Outer Wards by the brilliant Sadiqa de Meijer.
And essays. I am currently starting de Meijer’s new book of essays, alphabet/alphabet, a memoir of a first language. I re-read John Berger’s Confabulations, beautiful meditations I return to often. I have also pre-ordered essayist Susan Olding’s forthcoming book, Big Reader—will somehow have to wait until May for that!
Reading is one of the best freedoms I know. During this pandemic, books, along with nature walks and yoga, continue to be my liberation, and solace.
Kirsteen MacLeod is a writer and yoga teacher. She is the author of two books, In Praise of Retreat (memoir/nonfiction) and The Animal Game (short stories, 2016). Her poetry and prose has appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her work has been a finalist for prizes that include the CBC Literary Award. Kirsteen divides her time between the lakeside city of Kingston, Ontario, and a small riverside cabin in the north woods.