ASLE-Canada Newsletter
Issue 2: Spring 2006


Bleiler, Lyn, Chris Burn, and Mark O'Donoghue, eds. Heart of the Yukon: a Natural and Cultural History of the Mayo Area. Mayo: Village of Mayo, 2006.

Bowling, Tim. Fathom.Kentville, NS: Gaspereau P, 2006.

Tim Bowling’s latest collection of poetry takes stock of memories, ancestors and friends, years spent and fish caught. Amidst the pong of the salmon fishery that is his heritage and was once his occupation, Bowling navigates the culverts, rivers and harbours that lend a fluid tumble to his verse. Acting as poetic tenderman, Bowling writes of the foggy pulse and spill of British Columbia’s Fraser River delta, and the similar pulse and spill of memory itself.

Bowling’s poetry progresses in the rhythms of his subjects, pulled by the coursing of generations through the decades and of a river along its banks. Offering fresh variations on subjects that have spurred his poetry from his very first collection, Fathom is characterized by strong narratives and a potent lyric energy. These poems share a personable tone and nimble focus on the dense terrain of memory and occupation, and the overlaps that occur between. They also reveal a new level of trust in images and their inherent connections to one another. Bowling’s natural poetics reflect the ease and occasional mischievousness of a good host, introducing parallels and leaving them to chat amongst themselves. -- Gaspereau website (

Brandt, Di. Speaking of Power: the Poetry of Di Brandt. Selected, with introduction by Tanis MacDonald and an afterword by Di Brandt. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2006.

Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandtintroduces the reader to the lyric power and political urgency of the poetry of Di Brandt, providing an overview of her poetry written during a prolific and revolutionary twenty-year period.

Beginning with her early poetic inquiries into the dynamics of gender, religion, and the politics of language, Brandt examines the use and abuse of power as a cultural issue, emphasizing cross-cultural and domestic relationships. Particularly engaged with questions of motherhood, the land, violence and reparation, feminism, and spirituality, Brandt explores ecopoetics, an ecology of poetry, as a possible antidote to the cultural despair of the twenty-first century.

Editor Tanis MacDonald's introduction outlines the major movements of Brandt's work, emphasizing the relationship of language to power and the value of a dissenting voice in a forceful cultural poetics. An afterword by Brandt completes the volume. -- Wilfred Laurier University Press website (

Collignon, Béatrice. Knowing Places: the Inuinnait, Landscapes, and the Environment. Trans. LinnaWeber Müller-Willie. Edmonton, AB: CCI Press,2006.

(The above is a translation of: Les inuit, ce qu'ils savent du territoire. Collignon’s text includes a summary in Inuktitut.)

Conn, Jan. Jaguar Rain: the Margaret Mee Poems. London, ON: Brick Books, 2006.

Jaguar Rain is a rare text: at once a book of stand-alone poems and a work of scholarship, with textual notes and bibliography. Written in the voice of Margaret Mee (naturalist, explorer, and painter of flowers in the Amazon between 1956 and 1988), the poems are infused with wonder at a discovered new world of extraordinary richness, which is also an old world still governed by myth, and the ecological interdependence of everything: plant, animal, human, god; the living and the dead. Sources for this collection include Mee's journals, sketchbooks, and paintings. Jan Conn is a scientist by education and occupation, but biologist meets poet in the deep dive into the soul of the rainforest. She creates the Amazonian world from inside, from her own ardent research travels there, as well as through the sharp eyes of Margaret Mee. – Brick Books website (

Dagg, Anne Innis. Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier UP, 2006.

In the 1950s, Anne Innis Dagg was a young zoologist with a lifelong love of giraffe and a dream to study them in Africa. Based on extensive journals and letters home, Pursuing Giraffe vividly chronicles the realization of that dream and the year that she spent studying and documenting giraffe behaviour. Dagg was one of the first zoologists to study wild animals in Africa (before Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey); her memoir captures her youthful enthusiasm for her journey, as well as her näiveté about the complex social and political issues in Africa.

Once in the field, she recorded the complexities of giraffe social relationships but also learned about human relationships in the context of apartheid in South Africa and colonialism in Tanganyika ( Tanzania ) and Kenya . Hospitality and friendship were readily extended to her as a white woman, but she was shocked by the racism of the colonial whites in Africa. Reflecting the twenty-three-year-old author's response to an “exotic” world far removed from the Toronto where she grew up, the book records her visits to Zanzibar and Victoria Falls and her climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Pursuing Giraffe is a fascinating account that has much to say about the status of women in the mid-twentieth century. The book's foreword by South African novelist Mark Behr (author of The Smell of Apples and Embrace) provides further context for and insights into Dagg's narrative.—Wilfred Laurier University Press website (

De Villiers, Marq. Windswept: the Story of Wind and Weather. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 2006.

The must-read natural history book of the season from the Governor General’s Award-winning author of Water.

Wind makes life on earth possible. It moderates climate, dispersing the sun’s rays and carrying moisture from the oceans to the land, where it falls as rain. Its action created the great rivers that nurtured the world’s earliest civilizations and permitted the development of the first technologies not dependent on human or animal energy. Winds affect human history, too. A Saharan sandstorm foiled the Persian invasion of Egypt in the fourth century B.C., and the Spanish Armada went down in defeat because the winds conspired with the British to blow in the wrong direction. Winds taught mankind to sail, and then to fly.

This book delves into the origins of wind and weather. It looks at the power of the oceanic storms, at hurricanes, tornadoes, dust devils, and at the way the human species is tampering with the global climate. But wind is the most forgiving of our natural phenomena and in it nature has given us a perpetual motion machine that we can use to make things better. Always engaging and often provocative, Marq de Villiers has once again given us a compelling investigation of the natural world. – M&S website, (

Goodman, Jordan E. Rattlesnake. Toronto: Penguin Canada , 2006.

The epic, beautifully-told story of a great nineteenth-century voyage of exploration, and of the ambitions and fears that propelled the pioneers during their four years on board.

Australia 's spectacular Great Barrier Reef was a graveyard for shipping. HMS Rattlesnake, an ageing British warship, was commissioned in 1846 to survey this magnificent 'Coral Sea' and to produce the first detailed chart of the New Guinea coast. Every reef, every shoal, every rock hazard had to be located and mapped with extreme accuracy. At stake was the pre-eminence of British sea power - and the ambitions of those on board.

If all went well Stanley, the ship's brilliant captain, could expect a top job in the Admiralty; MacGillivray, the gifted naturalist, would be the world's expert on the fauna of Australia and the unknown New Guinea; and Huxley, the ambitious young surgeon, could abandon the dreary routine of the naval service for the excitement of the new world of science. But a series of highly dramatic events and encounters ensures that by the time the Rattlesnake finally returns to England , the glorious dreams of at least some of her crew have met with tragedy . . .

Grady, Wayne. Bringing Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 2006.

A penetrating book on the very roots of our relationship with nature.

Bringing Back the Dodo is about how the forces of evolution and extinction have shaped the living world, and the part that humans play therein. This strikingly thought-provoking book, in the tradition of John McPhee and David Quammen, explores the very roots of our relationship with nature and challenges us to look at ourselves and the natural world around us in new light.

Wayne Grady searches our history and prehistory to explain why humans love nature and fear it at the same time. He explores the repercussions of our manipulations of nature through science, as exemplified by the Harvard Mouse, and suggests which extinct species we could clone (sadly, probably not the dodo), and whether we ought to try. He looks into the ramifications of getting up on our hind legs to walk, and what it meant to humankind when we lost our nocturnal vision. A visit to the supermarket leads him to uncover our vestigial longing for subtropical foods, and elsewhere he ponders how our instinct for “home” compares to that of other animals.

These elegant and penetrating essays, based on pieces originally published in Explore magazine, linger long in the imagination. They speak to some of our most fundamental questions about the human and animal worlds, and confirm Wayne Grady’s standing as one of our foremost literary science writers. – M&S website (

Heuer, Karston. Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 2006.

Since time immemorial, the Porcupine caribou herd has ranged the Arctic in a 2,800-mile annual trek between its winter feeding grounds inland and its summer calving grounds on the coastal plain of the Beaufort Sea. In 2003, the caribou were joined on their spring journey, possibly for the first time ever, by two humans: wildlife biologist and writer Karsten Heuer and his wife, filmmaker Leanne Allison.

Where the herd once roamed through unpopulated wilderness, it now treks from one country to another. This may well be its downfall, for under its calving grounds lies enough oil to keep the United States going for six months. Nowadays in Washington, that’s considered a lot of oil, enough to justify imperilling this venerable herd. Determined to let the world know what will be lost if drilling takes place, Heuer and Allison accompanied the 123,000-strong Porcupine caribou for five months in an uncharted course over mountain ranges, through deep snow, and across semi-frozen rivers. En route, the heavily pregnant caribou and heavily laden humans alike were stalked by wolves and grizzlies newly awake from hibernation — and ravenous.

An adventure story like no other, Being Caribou reveals the drama and beauty of the migration and brings home the enormity of the loss that will surely be felt if drilling goes ahead. – M&S website (

See Cindy Spense’s review ofBeing Caribou in this issue ofThe Goose!

McKay, Don. Field Marks: the Poetry of Don McKay. Selected, with an introduction, by Méira Cook and an afterword by Don McKay. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2006.

This volume features thirty-five of Don McKay’s best poems, which are selected with a contextualizing introduction by Mira Cook that probes wilderness and representation in McKay, and the canny, quirky, thoughtful, and sometimes comic self-consciousness the poems adumbrate. Included is McKay's afterword written especially for this volume in which McKay reflects on his own writing process—its relationship to the earth and to metamorphosis. -- Wilfred Laurier University Press website (

---. Strike/Slip. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 2006.

In this strong new collection from one of our most celebrated poets, Don McKay walks the strike-slip fault between poetry and landscape; sticks its strange nose into the cold silence of geologic time; meditates on marble, quartz, and gneiss; attends to the songs of ravens and thrushes and to the clamour of the industrialized bush. -- M&S website (

Payton, Brian. Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness. Toronto, ON: Viking, 2006.

We’ve been meeting bears in the wilderness, and in our dreams, since the dawn of human history. Celebrated in art and myth since we began drawing on the walls of caves, they cast a long shadow over our collective subconscious. Wherever bears endure, they are an indicator of the health of their ecosystem. Their decline—some to the edge of extinction—foretells a bigger story: that of our planet’s peril.

In a series of remarkable journeys, Brian Payton travels the world in search of the eight remaining bear species. Along the way, he confronts poachers in the jungles of Cambodia , witnesses the cruelty of the bear bile trade in China , and delves into the politics of panda sex. From the reclusive spectacled bears of Peru to the man-eating sloth bears of India , Payton captures the power and beauty of these fascinating creatures while exploring their unique place within very different cultures. Vivid characters, exotic landscapes, and deft storytelling make for an unforgettable trek down the braided path of bear and human history. – Editorial review (

Pollan, Michael. TheOmnivore’s Dilemma. Toronto: Penguin Canada , 2006.

The bestselling author of The Botany of Desire explores the ecology of eating to unveil why we consume what we consume in the twenty-first century.

"What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't—which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America .

Pollan has divided The Omnivore's Dilemma into three parts, one for each of the food chains that sustain us: industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and food people obtain by dint of their own hunting, gathering, or gardening. Pollan follows each food chain literally from the ground up to the table, emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationsip with the species we depend on. he concludes each section by sitting down to a meal—at McDonald's, at home with his family sharing a dinner from Whole Foods, and in a revolutionary "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. For each meal he traces the provenance of everything consumed, revealing the hidden components we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods reflects our environmental and biological inheritance.

We are indeed what we eat—and what we eat remakes the world. A society of voracious and increasingly confused omnivores, we are just beginning to recognize the profound consequences of the simplest everyday food choices, both for ourselves and for the natural world. The Omnivore's Dilemma is a long-overdue book and one that will become known for bringing a completely fresh perspective to a question as ordinary and yet momentous as What shall we have for dinner? – Penguin Canada website (

Rawlings, Angela. Wide slumber for lepidopterists. Toronto, ON: Coach House Books, 2006.

Wide slumber for lepidopterists is a poetic fantasia, a disorienting yet compelling dreamscape of butterflies and caterpillars and killing jars, where the waking mind’s prose transforms into the sleeper’s poetry. Each poem unfolds with precision, tracking the stages of sleep and pairing them with the life cycle of Lepidopterae. Insomnia is mirrored in the birth of the egg, narcolepsy in larval hatching. And when the caterpillar starts its final moult, dreams begin, weaving around us as tightly as a cocoon until we are somnambulant, a chrysalis ready to emerge as a moth.

Reading the act of sleep through pupae and moths seems incongruous, but from this unlikely premise comes a darkly erotic text that takes cues from the scientific fascination of Christopher Dewdney, the linguistic experimentation of Gertrude Stein and the aural environments of Björk to explore science, sexuality and language in equal parts.

Wide slumber for lepidopterists contains luminous illustrations by artist and bookmaker Matt Ceolin, who has managed to capture the spirit of the poems with his beautiful and disturbing treated photographs of butterflies, moths and desiccation. – Coach House website (

Saint-Aubin, Francine. L'enfant du caribou. Gatineau: Vents d'Ouest, 2006.

Qu’il soit de la forêt our du pays de la Terre sans arbres, qu’il attise avidité ou respect, le se glisse un peu partout dans l’Histoire et nos histories.

Quatre récits fictifs où le caribou imprime sa trace profonde. Caribous guérisseurs, qui aident à repousser la mort qu’appelait une adolescente blessée dans son corps et dans son âme. Caribou-effigie d’une pièce de vingt-cinq sous, qui risque de tout faire basculer entre deux sœurs. Fabuleux caribou blanc, qui préside à la renaisssance des femmes meurtries par l’existence. Enfin, ces caribous en sabots et en panache qui nourrissent les corps et les rêves d’un peuple chasseur.

Des histoires de caribous certes, mais aussi des histoires où s’animent les roches, où un enfant se transforme en oiseau, où Carcajou fait les quatre cents coups, où les rêves et le feu jouent un rôle primordial, où un jeune Innu cherche sa voie entre la tradition et la modernité. – Vents d’Ouest website (

Skidmore, Colleen, ed. This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada . Edmonton, AB: U of Alberta P, 2006.

In 1912, Mary Vaux, a botanist, glaciologist, painter, and photographer, wrote about her mountain adventures: “A day on the trail, or a scramble over the glacier, or even wit a quiet day in camp to get things in order for the morrow's conquests? Some how when once this wild spirit enters the blood…I can hardly wait to be off again." Vaux's compulsion was shared by many women whose intellects, imaginations, and spirits rose to the challenge of the mountains between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. This Wild Spirit explores a sampling of women's creative responses—in fiction and travel writing, photographs and paintings, embroidery and beadwork, letters and diaries, poetry and posters—to their experiences in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. – U of Alberta Press website (

Scott, Keith Vincent. Coastal Bears. Surrey, BC: Hancock House, 2006.

“Armed with just bear spray and the knowledge he has acquired in nearly forty years of studying bears in their natural habitat, Keith Scott hikes the wilds of Canada and Alaska, looking for bears, living where they live. His adventures and experience have made him a specialist on bear habitats and behavior, and his commitment is to teach people about these misunderstood and magnificent animals.” – Hancock House website (