These are difficult days for all of us. Imagine how hard it must be for a young author to bring out a new book. And for the gallant publisher, in this case Invisible Books, trying to give an exciting new book a virtual launch on April 1, 2020, into a world we barely recognise.
I’m glad to play my part in beating an enthusiastic drum, or ten, because I know Claire Caldwell and her work very well. She is a cousin of mine! Her grandfather, Douglas Caldwell (after whom I was named) was my mother’s first cousin. Her father, Doug Caldwell, and her mother Judy McAlpine, both CBC Radio stalwarts in their day, are good friends. And right now they’re bursting their britches with pride at Claire’s new book.
GOLD RUSH is an 80-page collection of poems. The publisher’s catalogue description is intriguing. You can read the entire description at the website invisiblepublishing.com/product/gold-rush . It begins: “From the Klondike to an all-girls summer camp to the frontier of outer space, GOLD RUSH explores what it means to be a settler woman in the wilderness.” The description ends: “Whether they’re trekking the Chilkoot Trail, exploring the frontiers of their own bodies and desires, or navigating an unstable, unfamiliar climate, the girls and women in these poems are pioneers — in all the complexities contained by the term.”
Obviously, I’m too much of a cheerleader to be totally reliable guide to the quality of Claire’s poems. So let’s turn to JOHN IRVING: “A salute to Neil Young’s enduring prophecy “mother nature on the run”, but it’s scarier now — it’s not the 1970s. Claire Caldwell is an environmental doomsayer, but she’s also a comedic, antic storyteller, and she’s great at dark endings. Wilderness women are her storytellers; they speak with the melancholy of country music. “One day, I vanished,” says one. Another says, “To wear the moon like a breast.” From actresses fording a river: “Applause had softened us.” Nothing soft about these poems.”
Thank you, John Irving.
ABOUT CLAIRE CALDWELL. Claire is a children’s book editor at Annick Press (another fine reason to give her our support, an editor who writes!). She is also a kids’ writing workshop facilitator. Her debut poetry collection Invasive Species (Wolsak and Wynn) was named one of The National Post’s top 5 poetry books of 2014. Claire, who spent many of her early years in the Yukon, was a 2016 writer in residence at the Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon. She was the 2013 winner of The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. She has a BA from McGill, and an MFA from the University of Guelph.