Coming up: The River Answers’ book launch Wednesday Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. see on Facebook Live or join the Zoom: Jude Neale introduces her ninth published book of poetry to the world. The evening is also a book launch for well-known B.C. poet Susan McCaslin.
Jude Neale’s ninth book of poetry, The River Answers, is a beautiful testament to the human spirit, the delicate relationships we form with friends and family, and our finding the humanness in one another when things go awry. Her language is evocative, drawing our attention beyond the obvious while at the same time asking us to stay with her in moments that are heartfelt and seemingly ordinary. An accomplished opera singer in another life, it is no surprise to find her words become lyrical rhythms beating out the essence we all are searching for in these difficult times.
Whether writing about family or the effects of the pandemic or the devastating aftermath of the destruction of a Palestinian hospital, Neale weaves her thoughts and feelings into tightly woven tapestries, a picture at a time. She invites us into her grandmother’s world through the lens of an adoring child, yet the language is anything but infantile. Neale explains, “I would pin your memory/ to the river, Nana,/to make you stay.” An explanation? A Confession? The beginning of a beautiful dialogue between Neale and her reader as she explains her purpose, her dreams, desires and ultimately path as “The river remembers,/me standing behind you,/following your life like a map.” And so the journey begins as we weave in and out of story, sometimes a thought and time.
A small complaint? Perhaps giving one more thought and page to Trump but then it is a sign of the times we are in. “We shout at our TVs/And turn you off” writes Neale as she captures what most of us don’t want to admit to, how caught up in the whole affair we had become. We aren’t left here long as Neale returns to the quiet moments of family, and the tenderness of what it means to be seen.
Bonnie Nish is Executive Director of Word Vancouver and Pandora’s Collective Outreach Society. Bonnie has a Masters in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University and a PhD in Language and Literacy Education from UBC. Bonnie is also a faculty member at the Vancouver Expressive Arts Therapy School.
She has written Love and Bones, edited Concussion and Mild TBI: Not Just Another Headline and co-authored Cantata in Two Voices with Neale.