A month ago today I was at Vancouver Island University (VIU) for the third day of the Cascadia Poetry Festival. I was glad to be part of a workshop that afternoon with Brenda Hillman, Barry McKinnon and Geroge Stanley. At dinner that evening at the Painted Turtle Guest House I was glad to see Susan Musgrave and meet her husband Stephen Reid. That night Paul Nelson, founder of the festival from Seattle, introduced keynote speaker Sam Hamill at VIU. What a treat it was to meet Sam at dinner on the first day of the festival and have him talk about poets as he drank his Argentinian Malbec.

The Saturday night theme was Cascadia from Different Regions and along with Sam Hamill with his powerful and poignant reading were Yvonne Blomer from Victoria; Brenda Hillman from North California; Amber Dawn from Vancouver; Susan Musgrave from Haida Gwaii; Garry Gottfriedson from Kamploops; and Harold Rhenisch from the Okanagan. As if that wasn’t already a full night we headed off to the Globe Bar and Grill downtown for the After Party marathon where about thirty poets from around Cascadia, including me, each read a poem. There are You Tube videos of most of the panels and presentations which you can see on the Cascadia Poetry Festival website here.

All of these events took a lot of planning and organizing and it was exciting to see it all unfold. Another feature of the festival was the small press fair at VIU.

For more than a year I corresponded with publishers about the small press fair that would be part of the Cascadia Poetry Festival. And then the day arrived when we physically had to arrange the space for those travelling to Nanaimo for the event.

The students lounge was already full of furniture which at first put a damper on my vision of tables all around the outside of the room. What to do with all those extra chairs, couches, big round tables? The mini couches went behind the long tables around the room. Good idea Ursula! The big round tables and extra upholstered chairs went into the centre and took up way too much space. Miraculously, a room was found to store the round tables we didn’t need. The upholstered chairs stayed in the middle to offer some seating and a conversation area for visitors to the festival.

cascadiaworkshop 032lblogI was pleased to meet all the participants in the small press fair including Marilyn Stablein who owns an independent used and out-of-print bookstore in Portland, Oregon with her husband – as well as online. She is an award winning author of thirteen collections of poetry, essays and fiction. Marilyn is also an award winning visual artist working in collage, assemblage and artist books. The featured image above is Marilyn’s aluminum painted, altered book called “Cascading Waters.” Pages fan out from the spine and various blue decorative papers have been cut in wavy patterns to simulate water. Papers include lokta, Thai, vintage atlas paper and Japanese paper. The book does not close.

marilynstableincoverblogMarilyn has exhibited her work internationally and recently published a catalogue/catalog of her artist books called Bind, Alter Fold: Artist Books. I was pleased to buy a copy, hot off the press, at the small press fair and to get to see her beautiful works of art.

What is a book to an artist, is the question some may ask Marilyn. She sees the book as artifact, the book as celebration, the book as chance discovery, the book as found object, the book as travellog, the book as sacred space, the book as cultural relic, the book as ritual object, the book as sculpture, the book as visual poetry, the book as personal geography, the book as object poem, the book as intimate museum, the book as personal narrative, the book as poetic cartography. Don’t you love that list? And that’s just a beginning. (I’m a fan of “intimate museum.”)

“Finally, the book as a unique art object,” Marilyn writes in her new book: Bind, Alter, Fold.

I’m enjoying writing “found poems” recently and thinking about found objects becoming visual poems is all the more exciting.

“By isolating, arranging and creating new contexts I hope to transform discarded, commonplace and unexpected objects and discoveries into creations that inspire curiosity and wonder,” Marilyn says.

marilynstableincollagejournalblogThere are unique creations in Marilyn’s collection including a pop up book, one made with packets of seam binding tape, a bread-shaped book that incudes a Day of the Dead bread recipe, accordion books and one made with a vintage silk stocking bag. The image here is a collage journal “New York to New Mexico, 2003-2010.” It has marbled paper covers and reformatted laser printed pages from original collages. Short commentaries accompany the imagery. Doesn’t this inspire you to start collecting maps, ads, tickets, and saving all those programs, brochures and invitations?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was inspired to get out my own altered books and collage journals. I also create collages in my daily journal especially when I’m about to start a new one and want to decorate the first page. (That’s mine with the Company of Sirens image on it.)

While you can learn various folding and stitching techniques, it’s fun to use something already bound such as the vintage silk stocking bag Marilyn used for “Blue Stocking” or in my case, those paper sample books that are already bound with different coloured papers in different sizes. Very inviting for creating your own artist book!

Marilyn Stablein’s poetry is included in Make It True: Poems from Cascadia (Leaf Press, 2014) launched at the Cascadia Poetry Festival April 30, May 1 – 3, 2015.

Memory veers
like a tidal river
doubles back, whirls
eddy-like in reverse.
No straight path between
points, thoughts, and
the litany of associations.

From “What Water Carries”

My review was published in the Vancouver Sun. Here’s the link.

And here’s the link to Marilyn’s website so you can take a look and order her book: www.marilynstablein.com.