Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2008

Canons To The Right

For many of the past 20 years, I have been an unpaid poetry activist (organiser, editor, anthologist), working to develop an alternative community of internationally-linked poets. Alternative to what? At any rate, the "revolution" has failed to materialise. Most poets, young and old, are so embedded in the mainstream marketing-based structures of publishing they do not either recognise any alternatives, or do not feel the need for one. The others, those restless atomised few, are either too aggressively individualised, or damaged, to form productive alliances. Herding cats, indeed. Let us stop for a moment and ask ourselves, as a thought experiment, what the poet might wish for, might dream of - I avoid saying "in their career" - because the English tend to want to promote the idea of the modest, amateur poet (masking, sometimes, self-promoting careerism behind the scenes). Well, a poet might want, in this order: to write a good poem; to get the poem published in a

Open Field

CNQ ( Canadian Notes and Queries ) ran a balanced, if at times robustly critical, review of Open Field this summer last (2007), written by James Pollock . He noted the energy of the editor, and also the surprising, and somewhat disappointing fact that Americans seem almost entirely disinterested in Canadian poets (as this was the first poetry anthology of Canadians published in America for 40 years or more). Pollock singled out a half dozen poets who he felt deserved their place in the book, including, I am pleased to say, myself. He writes: "I also enjoyed the poems of Todd Swift very much, most of them skillful and moving lyrics in the stoical English tradition of Auden and Larkin .... I am especially attracted to his witty homage to Wallace Stevens . .... How could one not be charmed by such a display of metaphorical inventiveness, particularly if one shares Swift's love for Wallace Stevens (and who doesn't?). Of all the best poets in Open Field , Swift is the one

Money and Amis

Martin Amis is a famous British novelist - maybe the most famous - and he thinks of himself as something of an Orwell , too - an essayist lucidly battling dogma and cant where he sees it. He is also a university lecturer, and his hourly rate has just been published, as £3000. That's just under 100 times more than most any other lecturer makes (it tends to be around £37). Obviously, the department was buying a brand, as well as a creative writing teacher - and the number of applicants went up by 50% when his position was announced. However, creative writing departments in the UK are dangerously close to making the same cheapening and trivialising mistakes the poetry community has already made of late - that is, in the process of seeking to popularise what they do, they have begun to use the marketing and PR techniques of the advertising and political spheres. It is often said, sotto voce, that British Poetry needs a " Saatchi " - that is, a rich, spin doctor, to "sel

Scottish Genius

The Guardian has an interview , today, with the 88-year-old poetic genius, Edwin Morgan , Scotland's greatest living poet, who should have won the TS Eliot Prize for this year. His loss will, in time, be seen as both emblematic of the current climate in certain British poetry circles, and quite sad - but also deeply silly. Not only was he clearly the deserving winner, anyone with class would have decided it was a just and fitting bit of icing to a great cake of a career. Sadly, lesser minds, and more importantly, spirits, are currently bossing things about - without an ounce of Morgan's wit, open-minded playfulness, or international curiosity. In listing his influences, Sarah Crown the interviewer, notes that some names are less popular now - and then mentions Hart Crane . Only in the UK, where many in the new gang of poetry top dogs thinks anything even slightly modern, rhetorical, or American, is rubbish, would Hart Crane be so thought of - elsewhere, Crane is still beloved

It's Broke, Fix It

The international money markets, and the world capitalist system, were thrown into turmoil this week, and it now seems an eccentric lone young French man, like someone out of an existential novel, had much to do with the problem . His $7 billion losses may have done more financial damage than any terrorist - or anarchist - could have dreamed of. This raises questions, some of which may not put the banking system in a good light - and one of the questions is, surely, what connection to reality does some of this "trading" bear? If it is possible for one person to concoct a virtual, imagined alter-ego, or series of identities, and therefore conduct business in this post-modern, post-identity fashion, has the economy become a cyborg, or cyber-untrustworthy? I imagine a poetics of money - or economics of poetry - can be derived from this - he was, after all, into derivatives. What is the difference between imagining one is a billionaire, and being one? No difference - all the diff

Poem by Sina Queyras

Eyewear thinks Sina Queyras (pictured above) is one of the most refreshing, innovative and provocative poets to appear in North American writing over the last few years, and is glad to welcome her here, today. She edited the key book, Open Field: Thirty Contemporary Canadian Poets (Persea, 2005), which is one of the first anthologies published in America in the last few decades to consider the new poetry now coming from Canada. She is is the author of Slip (ECW, 2001) and Teeth Marks (Nightwood, 2004). Her third collection of poetry, Lemon Hound , won the Pat Lowther Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Expressway is due out from Coach House in spring 2009. She is currently writer in residence at the University of Calgary where she is working on several projects including Autobiography of Childhood , a novel. 11. This happened before. Then we ran. And the cable hooked us to a big Dish. We signed up for more. Golden arches nosed up out of concrete and we were delighted. Everyone bou

World and Earth

Poet-critic Adam Kirsch has an interesting, if arguably somewhat simplistic, essay on the relationship between Heidegger and contemporary mainstream English-language poetry, in the January 2008 issue of Poetry . One of the essay's problems is that Kirsch tries to suggest that the early High Moderns ( Yeats, Eliot, Stevens , for example) were "world" oriented, trying to impose a vision of mastery, remaking the order of things, while the "earth" poets, like "post-Catholic" Heaney (and I think the post may be a little overdetermined here) modestly, and ethically listen to things, and show the ordinary in an extraordinary light, unforcing nature's hand, but being midwife to its exposure and celebration. The problem with this is that the so-called "metaphysical" approach of poets like Heaney, with its strong, neo-classical emphasis on an austere diction, and an ethos of silence and epiphanic apprehension, is deeply moral in precisely the or

Quantum of Solace

The new Bond film's title has been revealed , and it is Qauntum of Solace . No, really. I am impressed. This is a talking point - the weirdest title of a mainstream film since The Silence of the Lambs , and surely much weirder than that. This may be up there with "A Toccata of Gallupi's" or something quarkian from Joyce .

The Death of Heath Ledger

I am very sad to have heard, last night, of the death, apparently by overdose of sleeping tablets, of the fine young actor, Heath Ledger . The loss of any young person is a tragedy - and is perhaps especially moving when so much promise is left unfulfilled. Surely, the media, and everyone in general, must be more sensitive to the toll that "celebrity" is taking - the news recently has been filled with shocking tales of drug abuse and public misconduct, involving genuinely talented actors and singers, that many people love. Ledger was, by all accounts, including his own, sensitive to the glare of public interest and media comment; and obviously a highly gifted actor. Personal problems had recently impacted on his fragile nature, with the result that, apparently, he had trouble sleeping. All creative artists know that state. I don't have much more to say, now, about this sad sad news - except that this feels very large, indeed, like the death of a James Dean for our time.

Review: Girl In A Coma & Morrissey Live At The Roundhouse

I happen to think that Morrissey is one of England's great, living geniuses - in the realm of provocative culture, and, more specifically, as a singer-songwriter. His earlier work with seminal band The Smiths created the most significant indie back catalogue of the British 80s, and his own songs, although somewhat patchy or worse (more on this in a minute) at times, have continued the brilliance - "Everyday Is Like Sunday", and "Irish Blood, English Heart", are already modern classics, for instance. Therefore, Eyewear was genuinely thrilled to attend the first night of his week long residency last night (in support of his Greatest Hits , out on February 11) at Camden's fabled Roundhouse (serving only vegetarian food for the week), in London - easily one of the most commodious and clean venues possible (and generously intimate). Crushed up near the front of the Main Space - but out of harm's way (much body surfing and thrashing occurred later on) - I w

Review: No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men has been hailed as a bona fide masterpiece by just about every living critic, so I want to make a few comments slightly to the contrary, maybe like one of the ornery 'ol coots in the film itself. The directors are smug as smug can be, and always have been. Their triumphs (like Fargo ) seem to be achieved despite their winks and nods. Compared to sublime, dark masters of the post-modern, like David Lynch , their cinematic works seem like the Mad Magazine spoofs of the real things. That was their skill and brilliance, this pastiche-style. This new picture is being rewarded with awe, and shucks it's great, because it has none of that. It is as if someone stripped off all the layers of paint on some old farmhouse floors, and let the original grain earn its keep. The mise-en-scene is controlled, and exact. The camera is steady, and it is eagle-eyed. I very much enjoyed the book this movie is based on, and can attest to the verisimilitude of the transition fr

Review: Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution wants to be a great film - a stylish, exotic thriller of the first order - and, compared to works of deep, sublime composition, like Vertigo - it fails. Ang Lee is often considered one of the most significant contemporary directors, and The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain are lovely, important movies, so Eyewear went in very much wanting to approve of his new feature. I was especially drawn in, because the theme - being a lover in the house of spies - is not original at all (despite what some breathless critics have written) - but rather old hat. And I like old hats, especially fedoras. In fact, Lust, Caution is Lee's very well-crafted version of a Grindhouse retro-homage, a la Tarantino : an examination of themes, tropes, and subjects, from propaganda and film noir and soft porn cinemas - Sade meets Said. It is, of course, first and foremost about Orientalism - the villains and the heroes are all Asian, removing that Hollywood ban that says the inscrutable o

The Oxford Forum

Asked about message pictures, the director famously said he'd use Western Union if he wanted to send a message. I've just sent one, via The Oxford Forum , on British Poetry and the Internet.

Bobby Fischer Has Died

One of the strangest, and most controversial, American geniuses of all time - in some ways a bizarre echo of Pound (the early stylishness in London, the later radio-racist rants, the anti-American later years in enigmatic exile, even incarceration, the bearded phase, the undeniable mastery and innovation of his chosen form) - Bobby Fischer - has died , in Iceland, age 64. A Fischer king among pawns, yet arguably a dunce among men, he got as much wrong as right in his life, but in the world famous Cold War battle against his Soviet rival, became as defining an icon of his age as Sputnik, or The Beatles . New obituary in The Guardian worth reading .

Poem by Emily Dening

Eyewear is very glad to welcome Emily Dening (pictured) this Friday. She was born in London and lives in Cambridge. Dening studied English Language and Literature at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and is currently working in a sixth form college library. She’s been widely published in poetry journals and in 2003 one of her poems, "Lifeline", was workshopped at the Aldeburgh Poetry Masterclass. I've been following her work closely for the past few years, and can recommend, highly, her good-looking collection, A Stash of Gin , which has just been published by Mainsail. The Red Trousers As you swirl them from the bag magnolia walls throb. My mouth bubbles platitudes which you prick, deft and quick, sousing me with relish of my mother’s shudder at mothy velvet dressing-gown, stained crêpe de Chine dress and fug of patchouli, her shameful desire, like a secret stash of gin, for me to be dropped on someone else’s doorstep, replaced by a twinset and pearls. They gush d

Heard The One About The Starlet and The Writer?

Last year, Eva Green won the Rising Star award at the Orange BAFTAs - and this year the ceremonies promise to be even more glamorous. The old joke goes that the starlet was so dumb, she slept with the writer - but the striking film writers in America silenced the Golden Globes, and look set to do the same for the Oscars, which means London may get a world-class awards night. Eyewear , like all UK citizens, has yet to see some of the films nominated (members get sent copies to watch at home in some instances before general release), but can make some predictions - want to bet? Atonement will likely win Best Film. The Bourne Ultimatum should win Best British Film, though Control may do. The Bourne trilogy was astonishingly good genre work, and has rejuvenated The Bond series in the process, so deserves the kudos. Film Not In The English Language should go to The Lives of Others . Lead Actor will be Daniel Day-Lewis . Lead Actress will be the brilliant Julie Christie , whose w

The Fortunes

Sad news. Rod Allen , lead singer of The Fortunes , has died of cancer, at the surprisingly young age of 63. To some, they may have been pale imitations of " The Beatles kick", as my father used to call it - but to me, their sound was one of the highlights of my childhood. I recall the first time I pulled out my dad's copy of the Decca LP (he was also a Decca recording artist at the time, a slightly older contemporary of theirs), and played that vinyl, hearing Allen sing "You've Got Your Troubles". I played that song over and over that day, and for many years to come, would play it a few times a week. It remains, mostly a memory now, as one of the most haunting, thrilling, tuneful songs from that era. The Fortunes had three or four top ten hits in the US and UK, then faded from chart glory - but they kept on recording, and touring. They're not a major band, but they are a great part of what made The Sixties not only swinging, but fortunate.

Strong Stuff: TS Eliot Prize 2007

Sean O'Brien (pictured at the far right with me and Polly Clark , at one of the first Oxfam readings, which he kindly supported) has long been one of the strongest poet-critics in the British Isles - a big-shouldered future rival to the kind of muscular mastery of the traditional lyric that is basically the Heaney line, descended from Hardy, Frost , and others. He reads most impressively, with a beautiful voice. In recent years, O'Brien has scooped up prizes like some great cruising cetacean, swallowing smaller fry, and the pilot fish that surf in his wake. Now, he has pulled off a remarkable feat, tonight, winning the T.S. Eliot prize for 2007 , in its most robust form yet (the purse has swollen) - all these water images refering of course to his book of water, The Drowned Book (Picador). It is a curiously apt, even portentous, moment to win, since the UK is braced for earth-threatening floods tonight . Eyewear is not entirely surprised at this audacious win, but still a l

Is Heaney God?

The BBC has been reporting on the TS Eliot poetry prize with alarming frequency. It is as if suddenly a giant memo got handed down: POETRY IS NOT DEAD! - okay, but almost off-kilter in its perspective (because baffled media types tend to always ask the same questions about poetry). On the famous Today show, today, one of the judges of this year's Eliots (to be adjudicated tonight), W.N. Herbert , was asked about having been up for the award last year. I was up against Heaney , he said, - ah said the presenter - and then he continued, humorously - there should be a law against that . I know what he means. Eyewear concluded that the 2006 Eliots had to go to either Heaney or Muldoon , and ultimately was perhaps better given to Heaney. However, there was something about the presenter's sigh of understanding - far surpassing Herbert's playful modesty - which says something deeper, about the condition of British / Irish poetry today, and its general reception, among the chatteri

Guest Review: Nicholls On Ko Un

Sophie Nicholls reviews Ten Thousand Lives by Ko Un ‘What still still stillness,/as Yang-sul's wife,/ covered in snow, goes out to draw water,/ puts down her tiny little water jar/ and picks up the gourd dipper but forgets to draw water,/ watching snowflakes die:/ that still still stillness.’ (from ‘The Little Spring’, Ten Thousand Lives , Volume 3, 1986) Such moments of ‘stillness’ seem central to many of the poems in Ko Un’s Ten Thousand Lives . Perhaps it is this ‘stillness,’ a certain quality of awareness learned from his Buddhist training, that helped Ko Un to create a small still space inside himself during his years of solitary imprisonment in the dark. Ko Un was born in 1933 in a rural village in Korea. The Korean War killed or harmed many of his relatives and friends. In 1952 he became a Buddhist monk and he began writing in the late 1950s. He was active in the pro-democracy movement in South Korea, becoming a spokesman for the struggle for freedom, writing prolifically a

Ticking Boxes

In the UK, there is a sense of reckoning. The Arts Council has issued a new report , which is the basis of a Guardian editorial today. At the core of the report, and the deep cuts to many arts projects, is a false dichotomy made, between "ticking boxes" and "excellence". The report, in fact, confuses the idea of excellence with innovation (see the Heaney post, above), but worse, assumes that one cannot tick boxes while pursuing the "real" goals of artistic endeavour. In Britain, "ticking boxes" is a euphemism for multicultural inclusivity, and socio-economic outreach. Over the last ten years, the Arts Council funded any number of museums, galleries, theatres, ballet companies, orchestras, and publishing projects, and one of the criteria was the relevance of the work, in terms of reaching out, or relating to, any number of British (often non-White) communities. I have often heard that sneer, from the Oxbridge elite, about those damn boxes - beca

Being Rood

Tom Paulin was on the Andrew Marr Start The Week radio show this morning, on the BBC, talking about his new Faber book. Asked by the intrepid Marr of the state of poetry, especially with regards to the digital age and the Internet, what did he do? Paulin didn't talk about blogs, or e-books, or web sites, or the way the Internet is the key to getting more poems to more young readers, etc. - no, instead, he talked about how the net is a great search tool for discovering the roots of old words, like rood . Indeed, the net is a very powerful series of search engines, and this quirky answer is most intriguing, and ambiguous as hell. But a bit of a missed opportunity, maybe, too.

Poem by Todd Colby

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Todd Colby (pictured) this Friday. Colby is a poet whose name could profitably be invoked at the start and end of any review of poetry (particularly in the UK) which concerns itself with words and phrases like "urban", "witty", "edgy", "hip", or "innovative". I am glad to have anthologized his work over the last decade. He has made himself indispensable to the future of a poetry that navigates by the stars of, yes, O'Hara and Co., but also is aware of Mr. Bernstein (the one in Citizen Kane , too) - but finally, teeters off the edge of the known map with his own post-punk contemporaneity, energy and - don't deny it! - sheer verve, panache and fun. So: a bit of individual with the tradition here. His advocates include Thurston Moore and Jim Carroll , so you know we're treading thrillingly. I often find myself counting to ten (as steam shoots out my ears) when I realize how little interest is sh

Viva America!

America is having an early springtime, to paraphrase Reagan , brought on by the extraordinary flowering of its grassroots democracy, as captured by the worldwide media over the last week or so. Despite the bias of many snobs in Europe and beyond, who sniff at American ways of doing things, and fear or loathe the American tendency for optimism, sentiment, and faith in public expression, the Obama-Clinton wave has been a corrective. It's impossible not to be impressed by the genuine force and energy of the people, everyday and humane, concerned and informed, who are the green fuse of these primaries. British papers, often known to mock America, are filled with editorials gushing with Niagra-like praise (the Canadian side of Niagara at that). One thing is clear: America has, despite all its flaws and foibles, the most active and open democratic system in the world today, and almost any American (short of a convicted criminal) is free to rise to the challenge of running for the Presid

The Rise of the Machines

In a surprising "comeback kid" moment that may have been partly inspired by the show of human tears (in an artificial way), Hillary Clinton has narrowly beaten Barack Obama into a winding, wounding second place (thought it should be recalled Bill only came in 2nd in New Hampshire himself, before going on to the presidency). What this seems to show is that Clinton has the machinery to get votes on the night. Looking at the numbers, Obama still appeals more widely, especially to Independents, who may yet decide the overall race for the White House - the question is, will the Democratic party take the risk and go with the attractive outsider, or opt for the safer route and back Clinton (thereby handing the final outcome to McCain ). Then again, McCain, who also won for his party last night, has problems of his own. His age, for instance. But his experience, and bravery, are second to none. The race remains close, and intriguing, even exciting. I am just sorry Obama was depriv

Bond Will Be Back

Good news. Bond 22 is shaping up nicely. The chief Bond girls have been announced, as has the latest villain (suitably French). Dame Judi Dench is back, too, with, of course Daniel Craig . The plot will follow on from the new-classic Casino Royale , promising some continuity in a pastiche-and-judo jumble of a series. The top Bond Girl will be Ms. Olga Kurylenko (cue From Russia With Love cliches), a model-actor, pictured, who recently appeared in actioner Hitman opposite Prison Break's favourite cornpone psycho Robert Knepper ; I have yet to see her act, but she looks the part. Keeping with the tradition of locating the villain on the continent, and in Art House, they've recruited Mathieu Amalric as the baddie. Eyewear looks forward to this one's eye-opener on 7 November 2008.

Who Should Win The Eliots?

I don't want to be polemical, but I feel the shortlist for the TS Eliots did not represent all the best of British poetry this year (it was a very good year and ten would never have been enough to capture this, however the list had been sliced, it must be said). I missed Luke Kennard , Annie Freud , David Morley , and Daljit Nagra , for instance, from this list - as well as John Ashbery . Of the poets on the list, one or two strike me as too newly-emerged, or yet again oft-laurelled, to necessarily require this garland. It seems to be Carcanet's year - the poets they have fielded are particularly impressive. So, who would be on the my shorter list? Strong contenders would be Matthew Sweeney , or Sophie Hannah - who take humour, formal style, and the surreal, into new places for poetry. Mimi Khalvati writes exquisitely, and is a kind of master of what she does. However, two collections demand ever closer attention, for any number of reasons. My head says Fiona Sampson , my hear

New Year Poetry Now Online At Nthposition

The city by Celeste Augé The sleeve did not prevent the scratch & Lumière by John Greiner Julia & Solitude by Brooklyn Copeland Browsing all by Gopi Kottoor Dracul by Mark Leech Ovation balladeer by Diane Tucker Balcony by Heather A McMacken Introspection by Rumjhum Biswas Firewood by Kevin Higgins Luzern Symposium: Der inszenierte Terrorismus & Recalling V-J Day, 8/15/1945 by Peter Dale Scott By a million swallows, God is the shadow the universe casts & Paradox first by MTC Cronin Dusty answer by Julia Deakin Billie Boy by Harry Reynolds The nominee by Ray Hsu

Common Readers: A Streetcar Too Far?

The Sunday Times Culture section for January 6 ran several reviews which, taken together, expose, or raise, certain questions about the way in which exceptional talent is presented, and received, in contemporary Western society. The review of award-winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer relates the bizarre spectacle of a nine-year-old genius turning to his cousin and saying "ask me a question in Latin and I'll answer you in Greek", yet later in life refusing Einstein's advice, and subjecting himself to a ruinous grilling at the hands of the McCarthyite AEC inquiry. Oppie, Sanskrit-reading, was bullied terribly as a child, because he was exceptional, and most people, by definition, cannot be; exceptions are often picked on. John Carey's review is laudatory, as he ends by saying "no more absorbing biography will, I predict, come out this year". Oppenheimer is fascinating - I had never realised he was quite so wealt

Troubadour Epiphany

I am reading at one of the best series in the UK, tonight, with a very good line-up of other poets. I'll be selling and signing copies of my latest collection, Winter Tennis (2007). Do come by if in town. Monday 7th January: 8pm at the Troubadour Epiphanies—a time of gifts: with Linda Black, Alan Buckley, Maggie Sawkins , Todd Swift, Martina Thompson, Helen Mort , and Claire Crowther . 8 to 10 pm, tickets £6 concessions £5 265 Old Brompton Road London SW5 Tube station: Earls Court (District & Piccadilly Lines)

Dramatic Iowa Caucus

As Eyewear hoped, and predicted, Mr. Obama has placed first in the Democratic Iowa Caucus , held last night, beating Hillary Clinton . Less positively, the charismatic rightwing Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee , also came first for his party. It remains to be seen what happens in New Hampshire, next Tuesday, when some distance may open up between the few leading figures bunched at the head of the pack. It seems likely, given Mr. Edwards' second placing here, he will stay the course perhaps until Super Tuesday, in February, meaning the Democratic party has a three-legged race staggering on until then. The Republicans, too, should keep at least four men in the race until February 5, Mitt Romney , Huckabee, McCain and Giuliani . Ron Paul might just edge in, there, too, as his Internet-based support keeps his maverick status alive. The world may yet be saved...

Poem by Peter Finch

Eyewear is pleased to welcome Peter Finch (pictured) this first Friday of the new year. Finch is, to my mind, one of the most significant (and witty and experimental) Welsh poets of the second half of the 20th century, into this the 21st. He is also a key cultural activist: organizing, editing, publishing and writing about, poetry - in its many guises. He is a superb performer of his work, as I've witnessed on several occasions, once in Hungary on a very humid summer day that felt like Alabama, then again in Cardiff, which was much colder, and at the London Life Lines launch, in 2006. I've been happy to include his work in several of my anthologies, including In The Criminal's Cabinet . He is openly and optimistically aligned with poetry that both innovates and reaches out to audiences - in short, almost singlehandedly defining the kind of poet I thought represented the future development of the art, when I wrote about fusion poetry. Club When my father turned our house

Guest Review: Vickers on new Mennonite Writing

Janet Vickers reviews Half in the Sun: Anthology of Mennonite Writing edited by Elsie K. Neufeld with Robert Martens and Leonard Neufeldt Half in the Sun is a collection of prose and poetry from west coast Mennonite writers, including such well known names as Andreas Schroeder , Carla Funk , Barbara Nickel , Melody Goetz , and Patrick Friesen , with an introduction by Sharon Butala . The voices in this anthology are diverse, yet reveal a textural quilt of shared tensions – surviving political cruelties of Europe, the angst of settling in a new world, and the attempts to weave faith, history and hard work into the new community. The Mennonite church is present in the evidence of virtues here, but there is no preaching and no sectarian chauvinism. Faith comes through a family’s ordeals moving from a farm to a house in the city, in Schroeder’s humorous ‘Renovating Heaven’. It comes through in Darcie Friesen Hossack’s ‘Ashes’ as a woman and her daughter-in-law learn to deal with loss a