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Crozier’s confidences spark A Prairie Memoir

Last night, I heard Lorna Crozier, Canada’s poetic gem and a Governor-General’s-Award-winner, read from several of her books, including Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir. It always intrigues me to hear how skilled poets create evocative nonfiction prose. Their incisive attention to a moment, honed in poems, seems to bring  a fresh strength to prose writing. I can’t remember the specific lines that Crozier read that startled me with brilliant sensory detail, but the talent of her words had me experiencing the world as if peering through a carefully placed telescope with a sensitive yet powerful lens.


I can appreciate how growing up in the Prairies has shaped Crozier’s life and sensibilities, and love that she articulates how one’s soul can bond to a particular landscape. Her sentiments made me think of Sharon Butala’s deep sense of  connectedness with the prairie earth and sky. Yet my own sense of shimmering kinship with nature rests with the ocean and mountains in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike prairie people who often consider mountains claustrophic, I find looking at, and being in, them exhilarating and expansive.


In honor of Earth Day, the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt, BC where Crozier read, turned off all of its lights except for a few overhead ones that enabled her to see to read. Kudos to them for taking this initiative. Listening to her read in semi-darkness, with candles flickering, gave her words even greater impact.


Although I have not yet read her memoir, I know that in it, Crozier addresses her childhood of poverty and her father’s alcoholism. During the Q&A, I asked her if she had concerns about the ramifications within her family of exposing their “secret” of alcoholism. She said that she regretted the hurt this revelation caused her mother, and shared a related story. Unbeknownst to her, during a church service in her home town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, someone read aloud an excerpt that mentioned the drinking of Crozier’s dad — and the author’s mother was in the audience. This was her mom’s first awareness of such content.


This account gave me pause, since I am writing a memoir about a family secret and am concerned about how much it will hurt my parents upon publication. But my consideration of this issue is not enough to spur self-censorship. I need to tell my own truth.

March 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm
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