Friday, 18 October 2013

Poet Explores Colours Coming Out of the Blue in New Work

On December 1st, Betsy Warland, a Vancouver-based writer and the director of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, will read from her most recent work, a book of poetry titled “Only This Blue” at the  Martin Batchelor Gallery 5:30 pm to 7 pm.


“Only This Blue” is a long poem that explores coping with a life-threatening experience through the guidance of colour. Warland experiments with usage of words and poetic structure, such as line breaks and white space to create depth and meaning. The narrator of the long poem struggles with the effects of an illness, and learns a new and uneven landscape through the use of words and colour. There are four dominant colours in the poem: green, red, yellow and, finally, blue. Warland uses colour to identify a language for her experience.


The concept of the long poem was not something Warland had initially designed. The colours came as she was going through treatment. She had been writing non-fiction for four years and facing a life-threatening experience brought her back to poetry, as she said she had a need to write “closer to home”. The book was originally meant to be written in four suites of colours, and then gradually became one long, united poem. Her inspiration of colour stems from the colours of nature. Blue is the colour of the sky, and “the sky is unknowable and yet it holds great comfort and wisdom”. Colour “became a major guide for me.”


“I don’t have a negative association with any colour, as they represent the natural world for me. When going through a life-threatening experience, it is important to find a companion or relationship. As a child, a great companion to me was nature. When we are going through a crisis it can provoke fear in other people but nature is never afraid of you,” said Warland. “Now I live in an urban environment, but I value the natural world still thriving amidst the concrete.


There is a significant absence of blue throughout the poem, until the end of the book, when blue appears as a symbol of knowledge and calm; a realization and acceptance of the illness and knowing there is nothing we are able to control.


“There is a tendency when facing a big unknown to seek structure and answers. Once you go through something like that, you realize that you don’t know what will happen. This is our human condition – our awareness of uncertainty– and learning to embrace that is freeing; is a relief! For me, blue bridges everything, as it holds all colours.”


Warland has published nine books, which includes – What holds us Here (1998) and serpent (w)rite (1987) – a memoir, Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss (2000), and essays, Proper Deafinitions (1990).   

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