Creekstone Press

Northern BC's publisher


Review of Second Growth

Screefing Duff: Calvert Filteau’s Poems of Northern BC.


Tree planting culture permeates northern BC. Many of my students are or were tree planters and they carry that experience with them as an important right of passage. Despite some bastard bosses and hard times, most of the stories I hear are positive. Bonding stories. Most of all, stories of a connection to the land.

Fabienne Calvert Filteau’s first book of poems represents a relationship that is both recognizably iconic and unique to her individual experience. She accomplishes this by asserting her physical body in the language of cut blocks, mushroom shelves, “the smack of muck in our faces,” and “plastic flag tape lines.” The poems are part experiential, part familial, part love poem to the places the narrator has been, part philosophical treatise on how to be here:

     spear my shovel skyward,
     conduct electricity, survive
     and bleed silly from such bloody
     life but I
     don’t know how to confront the thunder-
     ous way I crave
     to live, the fear,
     the land, bare-

Always elegant and surprising, the poems range in the form of encounters: with family memory, with places, with history/culture (“Chilcotin/Tsilhqot’in”), with animals (cougar, bear), and with the narrator’s interaction with the land:

     I know they are not just standing. The trees creak
     like only themselves—
     I do not know what to call them—

     I have named them all Tree without watching
     the ground for cottonwood beads
     or checking the leaf’s underside for rust
     or leaning up against aspen bark
     to come away chalky and know I’m
     headed south.   

Calvert Filteau expresses a common experience in the world of Canadian poetry, one filled with the places that she loves and the work of humans relating to that place. What makes it unique is the realistic respect she brings to the land. And the way she makes the land part of her. There is tremendous range in her poems; these aren’t pretty nature poems but there is beauty here too:

     one hand clenching
     kinnikinnick, white-knuckled fistful of root-bound wild rose,
     sun, moon, blood, wind, the rolling swell of my name—

This relation to the narrator’s body, her becoming herself next to the natural world, an alliance of identity, attracts me most to these poems. I trust her. And I think her interactions with the land are healthy, replenishing, edgy but filled with hope.