Gabriola poet and inaugural Nanaimo poet laureate Naomi Beth Wakan’s latest book is ‘Now and Here.’ (Photo submitted)

Gabriola poet and inaugural Nanaimo poet laureate Naomi Beth Wakan’s latest book is ‘Now and Here.’ (Photo submitted)

Gabriola poet Naomi Beth Wakan puts poetry to pictures in latest book

Nanaimo’s first poet laureate releases new book ‘Now and Here’

The next book by Nanaimo’s original poet laureate contains both written and visual art.

Last month Naomi Beth Wakan released her latest book, Now and Here. It’s a collaborative effort with Maine-based publisher and photographer Christine Brooks Cote, in which Wakan, who turned 90 in july, wrote poetry in response to Cote’s photographs of New England farmhouses, deserted buildings and nature.

“There’s a kind of Cape-Cod-light-in-the-morning feeling about them,” Wakan said of the images. “It’s hard to describe but it’s really neat to combine the East Coast and the West Coast with my poetry and her photographs.”

Wakan met Cote almost 10 years ago and has written many essays and books for her over the years. Wakan said Cote would often use her own photographs as cover art and Wakan proposed they work together on a joint book of poetry and photography. Together they compiled 60 pairs of poems and photographs before editing that number down.

“I wrote poems for all the photos she sent and then she eliminated the photos that she didn’t think were quite up to par,” Wakan said. “I never waste poetry, so noted all those [unused poems] and I can send them off to different places.”

Wakan said she used to visit the New England region when she lived in Toronto. She said the area has “a whole feeling about it” that makes her think of worn siding on old houses and Cote did supply many images of “foggy farms.” Wakan said it was “quite demanding” to match her poems with the photos.

“Sometimes immediately a phrase will come up or I’ll have some actual knowledge of the photo – I’m familiar with different places and things,” she said. “I usually just sit and it usually comes up very fast. When I was poet laureate I had to do poems on demand and I’m very, very quick.”

The poems were written in the Japanese tanka format, a favourite of Wakan’s that she prefers over the other well-known Japanese style, haiku. She said tanka allows her to better express herself.

“Haiku’s very limited. It has many rules of things you can’t and mustn’t do,” she said. “In haiku you’re trying to catch a minute, a moment, so there’s no room for philosophy, whereas in tanka you can put the kitchen sink in it.”

Now and Here is available at Page’s Resort and Marina, 3350 Coast Rd., Gabriola Island, and online.

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