by Carla Scarano
In her career as a writer and award-winning poet, Josephine LoRe, who is based in Calgary, Alberta, is a remarkable example of an independent and committed author. She has published two poetry collections, Unity and The Cowichan Series, where poetry and photography merge, as well as a short story, Cornflower. Her work has been widely published not only in Canada, but also in the US, the UK, Japan, India, China, France, and Ireland. Her parents are Sicilian and she is currently working on a new collection about her Sicilian background.
Josephine LoRe has written poetry since she was a child and studied literature and comparative literature at the University of Rouen, in France, and at the University of Toronto. She reads her work at Shelf Life Books, Koi Café, and Loft 112 in Calgary and is a member of the League of Canadian poets, Haiku Canada, Tanka Canada, the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, and Calgary’s Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society. Her life and work are set in a network of creative writing and artistic worlds that defines her identity as a person and as a writer.
The Cowichan Series (Kouros Publications, 2019) merges poetry, photography, and music. The Canadian landscape is the main inspiration and the source of the poet’s identity. The collection is dedicated to her children and features a series of poems and pictures from a writing retreat to Vancouver Island in 2018. The work is rooted in an ancient past and yet feels very present in its freshness and emotional involvement. Music is part of this compelling collection too, composed by Jim Jackson. Therefore, visuals, words, and sound mix in a harmony that is pleasant and enthralling
Nature and the surrounding terrain are predominant; their diversity and spareness respectively in the Canadian landscape are enchanting in their astonishing beauty:
we walk among gigantic trees dressed in moss
burst of giant fern
dry creek bed
The forest, the river, and the ocean resound in the symphony of life. The poet merges with the elements, conveying a sense of having roots that are deeply established in the land and the wish to live this experience in full:
[…] I inhale
chlorophyll. observe moss on rotting log, living wood
cedars hatch atop ageless stumps, ferns
wave, regal lush, as rustling
wind builds this elaborate symphony
of forest, crescendo
was to be my solace
instead it has become my solitude
silent storms rage beneath the surface
exacting toll, unmeasurable magnitude
The imageries are strong, evoking an ancestral world that seems lost in memory but present in the poet’s mind; it is a reality that affects her emotions and makes her poetry rich and engaging. Words are important and always well chosen; they are strong words that set the tone and express the sensations the poet feels and means to convey.
The variety and essential features of towns are described too:
In this town, banana-seat bikes leaning up against
loggers’ cabins –
shingle-siding painted sapphire, mustard, sage
moss grows thick on roofs
In this town, a fire station, a butcher shop were hunters
bring fresh kill
a trailer-park down by the water nestled in a valley
ringed by peaks that remember indigenous names
(‘This Town That’)
The descriptions are witty, fresh, and effective; they give and lose perspective. The reader has an impression of what the different towns are like–their main features, which are interesting and revealing. The poem shows and hides at the same time, suggesting that there are new horizons beyond the apparently simple depiction.
Her poetry, fiction, and photography chapbook Unity, published by Loft 112 in May 2018, sets out the concept that ‘we cannot achieve unity until we are ready to embrace everyone’; this implies accepting ‘individual differences’, that is, diversity, an idea that is strongly embedded in the ethics of Canadian culture. Unify is the mantra against the fights and separations that the government’s appropriation of the land of First Nations people and the oil companies’ claims have caused. LoRe’s words resounds with those of well-known preachers and peace-makers such as John Lennon, M.L. King, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi, mirroring their unforgettable arguments and their dreams that look towards a more just and equitable society where inequality, exploitation, and violence are banned.
In a Canadian context, the fact that the First Nations were denied their civil rights and had their land stolen by the Europeans when they arrived is relevant to the notion of diversity:
they stand among the people on sacred land
among the women and the elders
and the children and the men on horseback
The protestors are fearless and try to stop the oil companies from taking possession of Indigenous lands, an exploitation of the territory and of people that has been ongoing since the colonization of Canada. The poet speaks to the experience of the First Nations people, pointing out the aggressive attitude of the police and the fierceness of the Indigenous peoples, who have a sense of justice ‘against injustice, a strong sense of wanting to right wrongs/ with the determination of a lioness/ the pride of a lioness’.
Josephine LoRe’s work is diverse, variegated, and compelling in terms of her social commitment, her concerns with nature, and her other interests, as well as in terms of her exploration of the different potentials of creative writing and photography. Emotional and personal experiences interweave with her keen observations of the environment and of the Canadian landscape; she is very much aware of her personal and national past as well as of her roots. She is a writer to note and cherish.