Aritha Van Herk


In a lifetime of composing excuses and their alternatives, I have algebraized many such excuses for my writing. Rage, frustration, the trepidation of answering the ancient litany of the repetitive male voice declaring itself agent, keeper, and writer of all valid and valued experience. Fear of failure, the containment of patriclinous inheritance, infects my joy, my pleasure in language. Fear and joy wrestle to control the addictive and crazy tenacity of my yearning to language Joan of Arc's burning and statutory rape, to language endive and gouda cheese and the bakery in Camrose that sold brownies, to language the tough-rooted buffalo beans that bloomed in the ditches of my childhood. Tenacity, for its own sake, clinging to words, and the joy I fear that keeps words rooted, like those tough-stemmed wildflowers that signalled the arousal of spring in my Canadian prairie. We could not pick them - they refused to succumb to jam jars or vases; but we could pluck a labial blossom and suck, from its thin stamen, a tinge of incipient honey. Waiting for the rotund school bus that would carry us into town, we stood at the end of the lane and suckled wild sugar, that invitation to the bees, from buffalo beans. And for a moment, our sadness would evaporate.



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