A note on writing Irene.
I'd been in Germany that summer. 1990. Teaching Canadian literature. An adventure, it was an adventure. We'd thrown ourselves into it, travelled all over the place, seeing, meeting. It was a summer to dream of, a privilege beyond belief. We'd loved it, but we'd increasingly looked forward to coming home. And when we didâthis would have been within a few days of getting backâmy sister Lynn called from Estevan. Our mother was on her way to Regina for an operation. Cancer. It looked bad.
I'd been shaken, that summer, when I'd called my mother and her voice had sounded so shaky. And then the letter from her, Diane bringing it with herâthe handwriting weak and wobbly.
The night Lynn called I dreamt of my mother in hospital and dizzying lights. We drove to Regina. And learned my mother was dying. I wrote bits and pieces over the next few months, and they became the basis for Irene. I'd written a poem, Fielding, about my father's death years before, and now one about my mother's dying.
I wrote and revised and added pieces over the next few years and this is what I've got. In the interim it's taken on some associations, connections with the Persephone story perhaps most obviously. It's fairly narrow in tone and voicing, and quite unlike some other books I have done, but I don't want to fiddle very much with the tone, not wanting to violate what is there. So the book is very personal, very close and emotional to me.
An elegy. It's an elegy.
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