Theresa Kishkan, Red Laredo Boots

In recent weeks I've been saying loudly and often how much I've come to appreciate Theresa Kishkan's writing. Her essay collection Phantom Limb came along at just the right time, the usual late-semester near-crackup that has to be joked about or else it might come true next time around, and it made for excellent reading while I was in Salmon Arm for the week-long death of my beloved grandmother. While there, I picked up Red Laredo Boots, Kishkan's previous essay collection from Terry Glavin's inestimable Transmontanus imprint from New Star Books, and it may have been the perfect book for this intense, ungraspable week. It was good enough that my aunts, who stayed on after I left, confiscated the book so they could read and reread "The Road to Bella Coola," separately and together, in which Kishkan recounts a trip through BC after the death of her friend, who from internal evidence I think was Gayle Stelter, and the subsequent memorial service. The details of this essay, as with all of them, are light and true and sharp: "we cleaned out your purse, so your husband wouldn't have to do it, and you sent it home with me because I'd always liked it." If you've been through a death, this is something you recognize, and something you wish you could put so bluntly and poignantly at the same time. This essay ends with a lovely paragraph:
On the road to Bella Coola, I saw everything twice, once for myself and once for you. The purple vetch, hawkweed, smell of sunlight on river rock, pine sap, and the unbearable sweetness of wild roses crowding the path to the water pump, all garlanded by golden asters, shining arnica, salsify the colour of your ribbons. Sorrow is a keen companion, hunting the roadsides and skies for images to hold the memory of a beloved spirit, light as pollen in warm winds off the river.
Well, maybe it's better for someone who grew up in the BC Interior with these plants and winds, but that's my world she gives back to me in this paragraph, that she gave back to me that week. I wish I'd been able to read this book in a gulp, but it was interrupted by a three-week return to marking and lecture-planning and so on. It's important that Red Laredo Boots stayed with my mother and aunts, who made good use of it after the death of their mother, my grandmother, but I didn't get to stick with it. If I'd been smarter I'd've picked up another copy, either from a store or from the library, but I wasn't in much condition for smart. Thanks, Theresa. From all of us. Keep that candle burning bright.


Anonymous said…
I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother, Richard, and am glad my book offered a little solace. Thanks so much for such kind words about my work. I'm currently burrowed in a new project and your support makes it feel quite worthwhile!
richard said…
Thanks, Theresa. Your books were just what I needed.

You remarked in an earlier comment that you've been reading Deur & Turner's Keeping It Living, so I've been quietly curious! How's the work going? And is it book-length, essay-length, poetry? I'm looking forward to it, whatever it turns out to be.

(I've been wondering how much poetry you've worked on in the past while, too, but a blog comment space is hardly the place for that sort of conversation! I have your email address from your comments on the ALECC listserv, so maybe I could drop you a note?)
Anonymous said…
I'd love it if you emailed me, Richard! Lots to talk about. I enjoy your blog, go to it fairly often -- the idea of someone celebrating books is pretty hard to resist!

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