Lady Ambivalence and her small, secret mansion by GAIL HARRIS, by Goyo de la Rosa

Published January 24, 2008 by goyodelarosa

+++   This book brings back memories of the late eighties when the legendary Egyptian muse of Fairfield ( and early film-making chum of Atom Egoyan), artdog press poetess Gail Harris (alias: ‘Cow Pattie’) still lived in an old Victorian mansion near Ross Bay Cemetary with her then husband Clint Hutzulak.  She’s long since moved way out by herself to Carrie Road off the winding Sooke Road where she now lives in a cute little A-frame chalet, just up a very steep driveway, after one goes over a narrow little bridge to traverse a gurgling stream going into Sooke Harbour.  Nearby her llamas still graze, but when poet David Jure and I decided to pay her an impromptu visit recently, not even the llamas paid us much attention.  Gail didn’t answer our knock either, perhaps freaked out because we didn’t phone first.  We tried.  The book in question is a classic of the period, with a back cover blurb explaining its intent:  ‘The ghosts of a precocious schoolgirl, a feminist spinster, and a remasculated grandfather are but a few of the personas assumed by Gail Harris in this imaginative history of a Victorian house adrift at the edge of the Ross Bay Cemetery.  This is Gail’s second collection of poetry and also the basis of a performance piece by the same name.  Her first book, The blue silk underwear of the incredible Miss Rainwater, was published in 1986 by The Coach House Press.’  My copy is autographed by the author, who is shown on the back cover in a Romantic  black and white photo contemplating eternity, no doubt, while leaning on a tombstone in Ross Bay Cemetary.  Inside, we find endpapers in a dark olive green ink of a William Morris design, a dedication to her then husband who edited the book, a list of characters, 46 pages of poems interspersed with enigmatic black and white photos and small Victorian design elements to give the pages visual interest, photo credits, and a list of photos and artwork.  The book was typeset by Dimac Typesetting and printed by Morris Printing Company, both of Victoria, and published by artdog in 1988.   Gail thanks the famous local architectural historian Stuart Stark ‘who restored the house after saving it from demolition,’…’but at last, when it has screened the hordes of house-hunters, when it has chosen an unobstructed ear with a gift for translation, then the house prepares to bring its story to fruition.  And the human with her heart, prepares to write.’  +++  These poems carry Canadian  Cataloguing in Publication Data and ISBN 0-921989-04-0.  I should note that I will transfer this note to our CCC online library catalogue of reviews at LibraryThing.  +++

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