In Scotland, my mother had a first cousin called Douglas Caldwell. (I may even have been named after him, since we had no previous Dougs in the family). After service in the Navy in the Second World War he disappeared, sailing for parts unknown.  More than thirty years later he got in touch, to reveal that he now lived in Canada, in Toronto,  the city that was now my home.

Even better, he revealed that he had three children , including a son named Doug, who was a Producer at CBC Radio, where I did free-lance things. It turned out that I and Doug and his wife Judy McAlpine, also a CBC Producer, had lots of friends in common. Exciting contact was made among these unknown cousins, and their children, and our lives were enriched as our families expanded.

That’s why in November Jane and I were delighted to have our house provide the setting for a launch party for a new book of poetry by Doug and Judy’s amazing daughter Claire. INVASIVE SPECIES is her first book, but followers of the poetry scene in Canada already know her as the 2013 winner of the Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. She is a credit to McGill, where she got her B.A., and to Guelph, where she earned her MFA.

As for the poetry (which inspired the National Post to single her out as an important new voice) let me just quote from the first verse of  “Bear Safety” (which Claire read aloud on our staircase):

Bears could be anywhere


On the subway at rush hour.

Between couch cushions.

In the drawer with dull pencils

and batteries and nothing

you need. In the eavestrough.

On a soccer field

during a lightning storm.

In the pocket of your dirty jeans,

your unlaced sneakers.

Run a hand under the sheets

before bedtime. Bears prefer to sleep

on Egyptian cotton.

They can usually tell if it’s cheap……..


INVASIVE SPECIES is published by Buckrider Books, an imprint of Wolsak and Wynn Publishers.