Author Tags: Fiction, First Nations, Poetry
In 2005, Linda Rogers flew to Cardiff in May to accept the £5000 winner’s cheque for the Cardiff International Poetry Competition sponsored by The Welsh Academy and announced by Gwyneth Lewis, Wales’ new National Poet. Her winning poem ‘He Saw the Pale’ is about the 2004 tsunami tragedy. One of Victoria's most integral literary personalities and its Poet Laureate for 2009-2011, Linda Rogers is the past President of the Federation of BC Writers (1990) and The League of Canadian Poets (1997). She was the host of Shaw Cable's TV programme about books and writers, Bookshelf, and regularly contributes reviews for the CBC, and national periodicals, including The Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, B.C. Bookworld and Quill & Quire. There is critical study on her work, Linda Rogers: Essays On Her Work (Guernica Editions, 2003).
Linda Rogers' Say My Name: The Memoirs of Charlie Louie (2000) is based on the life of a young Cowichan man who took his own life. It's written in the fictional voice of her dear family friend Charlie Louie who she met in 1972. When his parents died, Rogers wanted to adopt him but couldn't. "I was heart-broken," she said, "but I respected the fact that I was not allowed to adopt Charlie because I was not First Nations." Of the title Say My Name, Rogers said, "I was going to the post office one day and everyone was talking about someone being run over by the train. I asked an RCMP officer what was up and he said, 'Oh, it was just an Indian kid.' I remember decking him with my purse and calling him an asshole. Aboriginal kids are invisible, they're treated like scum."
After being invited to the Festa Iberamericana in Holguin, Cuba, with her partner Rick van Kruegel, a musician, Linda Rogers wrote her novel Friday Water (2003). The title Friday Water refers to one day of the week that water was turned on. "I thought how much Cuba, so feminine, so beautiful, so resourceful is like a woman with cancer," Roger says. "My woman with breast cancer is a ballerina. We loved the dancing in Havana. The Cuban ballerinas have the technique of the Russians, the lyricism of the British, the posture of the Spanish and the energy of the Americans. All those qualities are necessary when facing a huge physical and psychological challenge."
Linda Rogers' epistolary novel, The Empress Letters (Cormorant, 2007; republished: Ekstasis 2015), takes the form of letters written by a dying woman to the daughter she is en route to China to find. Her publisher Marc Coté writes, "The letters explain to that daughter, Precious, the circumstances of her birth – which go to some length to explain the situation in which Precious is now stuck, as she has been possibly kidnapped in China by a family at war with her father’s. The letters also describe the life into which her mother, Poppy von Stronheim Mandeville was born. The daughter of a member of the Austrian aristocracy and a California fruit farmer, Poppy lives the first part of her life in New York, where her mother accidentally shoots her father. From there, with a new stepfather, the family moves to San Francisco, and then to Victoria. Poppy grows up on Beach Drive in Oak Bay; she is taught art by Emily Carr. She attends the dance party at the Dunsmuirs when the Prince of Wales comes to visit. She becomes pregnant – whether with the son of her nanny or the Chinese houseman – gives birth to Precious and leaves Victoria to live in London among the bright young things – the Duchess of York and Tallulah Bankhead, among others. She marries a man who turns out to be homosexual – “lavender marriages” they were called – and returns home to Victoria, whereupon she discovers that her trust funds, her mother’s fortune, and her father’s estate are depleted and the family is now living off the proceeds of opium smuggling and rum running."
In Linda Rogers’ sequel to The Empress Letters, the tragedy-prone lead character of Precious in The Third Day Book (Cormorant $20) is married and raising a deaf daughter in Victoria. When she discovers she is again pregnant, bittersweet memories of her time in Hong Kong with her Chinese father and stepmother begin to stir, reminding her of the fragility of the present. Having outlasted a funding crisis, Ekstasis Editions, the 32-year-old literary press in Victoria run by Richard Olafson, took over publication of the trilogy after Rogers claimed her second volume had received only a minimal print run. This prompted Olafson to jump into the breech, redesigning covers for the trilogy, re-editing all three books and making them all available in 2014-2015. Volume two was renamed Tempo Rubato.
[Barbara Pedrick photo]
THE THIRD DAY BOOK, Cormorant Books, 2010
THE EMPRESS LETTERS, (Cormorant Books, 2007; republished: Ekstasis 2015)
FRIDAY WATER, Cormorant Books, 2003
SAY MY NAME: The Memoirs of Charlie Louie, Ekstasis Press 2000
THE HALF LIFE OF RADIUM, Sono Nis 1994
George Fetherling and His Work (Toronto: Tightrope Books, 2005).
DROPPED THREADS 2, Random House, 2003.
Al Purdy: essays on his work, Guernica Editions 2002.
bill bissett: essays o his work, Guernica Editions, 2002.
P.K. PAGE: essays on her work, Guernica Editions, 2001.
THE BROAD CANVAS: Portraits of Women Artists, Sono Nis 1999.
WORM SANDWICH: Poems for Children, Sono Nis, 1987
THE MAGIC FLUTE, Porcupine's Quill, 1988
FRANKIE ZAPPER AND THE DISAPPEARING TEACHER, Ronsdale 1994
BROWN BAG BLUES, Studio 123, 1990
MOLLY BROWN IS NOT A CLOWN, Ronsdale, 1995
MUSCLE MEMORY, Ekstasis Editions, 2010
THE BURSTING TEST, Guernica Editions, 2002
REHEARSING THE MIRACLE, Poppy Press, 2002
HARD CANDY, Sono Nis, 1994
LOVE IN THE RAINFOREST: Selected Poems, Exile, 1995
HEAVEN CAKE, Sono Nis, 1997
THE SANING, Sono Nis, 1999
BREAKING THE SURFACE: Five Canadian Poets Introduce New Voices, Sono Nis, 2000
FRAMING THE GARDEN, REFLECTIONS OF VICTORIA (Ekstasis Editions, 2012)
Cardiff International Poetry Competition, First Prize (Wales)
Cardiff Poetry Prize (Wales)
Petra Kenney Award (U.K.)
The Milton Acorn People's Poetry Prize for The Saning
Bridport Poetry Prize (UK), second prize
Shaunt Basmajian Award, Canadian Poetry Association
BC 2000 Award for THE BROAD CANVAS and BREAKING THE SURFACE
Literary Network's Top Choice in Canada Award for The Saning
Victoria Arts Council Poetry Prize
Priz d'Anglais, Centre European Pour la Promotion des Artes et Lettres
Victoria Arts Leader of the Year
Acorn Rukeyser Award
Cardiff Poetry Prize (Wales), third prize
People's Poem Award
National Poetry Prize
Reuben Rose Poetry Prize (Israel) - 2nd
People's Poem Award
Stephen Leacock Poetry Prize, 2nd
Saltwater Festival Poetry Prize
Hawthorne Poetry Prize, BC Cultural Services Awards
Reuben Rose Poetry Prize (Israel), 1st, 1995
Dorothy Livesay, BC Book Prize, 1995
Stephen Leacock Poetry Prize 1995, 4th
Stephen Leacock Poetry Prize 1994, 1st
Governor General's Confederation Medal for Poetry & Performance, 1993
Bumbershoot, Seattle Arts Council Poetry Prize, 1988
BC Writer's Poetry, Federation of BC Writers, 1988
[LITHIS / BCBW 2012] [Barbara Pedrick photo] "Poetry" "First Nations" "Fiction" "Cuba"
Friday Water (Cormorant $22.95)
Linda Rogers’ second adult novel, Friday Water (Cormorant $22.95), is another act of empathy. Ariel Grandmaison has her hands full: Her filmmaker husband is locked in a Cuban jail, a man is shot outside her house the night before her chemotherapy for breast cancer, and her daughter Rumer is menstruating for the first time. 1-896951-48-1
[BCBW Winter 2003]
The Empress Letters (Cormorant $22.95)
The process of writing fiction in the form of letters was crafted to escape the censor’s harsh judgments in the late 17th century. As this oldest form of the novel, the “epistolary novel” seems to be making a comeback of sorts. It has been utilized recently by the likes of Stephen King—and now Linda Rogers.
Utilizing some of her own family history for The Empress Letters, the first installment of a proposed trilogy, Rogers has revisited some of the clandestine shenanigans of the upper class on southern Vancouver Island. Many of us would not normally associate Victoria’s opulent waterfront properties with opium smuggling, murder, and intrigue, but such things happened in Victoria’s posh neighbourhoods.
“Victoria had a very thin skin of propriety,” says Linda Rogers. “There were lots of tunnels during the era of opium smuggling and prohibition. The more I researched the early days, the more excited I got.” Rogers puts her research to good use in The Empress Letters, an epistolary novel that bristles with intrigue.
Poppy, Rogers’s fictional heroine, is in her late twenties when she begins typing her letters to her daughter whilst on board the Empress of Asia. It’s May, 1927, and the distraught young mother, en route to find her daughter, Precious, is writing to distract herself from guilty premonitions.
Her daughter, Precious, has gone missing in Peking, and it’s not exactly the best of times for an exotic, privileged young foreign girl to be without her mother in China. Chiang Kai Shek and his Kuomintang are battling Mao Zedong’s Communist revolutionaries, and the Japanese are wreaking havoc.
Consumed with grief at having succumbed to her daughter’s entreaties to be allowed to accompany the enigmatic ‘servant’ Soong Chou on his family visit to Hong Kong with the bones of his niece, Boulie, Poppy has boarded the first ship available in an effort to find her. But Poppy is an unlikely rescuer.
Considerably weakened by two bouts of rheumatic fever, she may not even survive this voyage. Fortunately she’s accompanied by a close friend, Tony, her husband’s lover. Yes, you read that right.
Olivier, whom she married a few years previously and then left when his sexual proclivities became clear, has since left his London home to temporarily settle in Poppy’s mansion, Casanora, in order to shore up the teetering household after the drug-related murder of her mother, Nora, and the subsequent loss of family income. Poppy and Olivier have continued to be the best of friends, and Poppy’s affections extend to the ebullient Tony.
Poppy’s story continues to unfold through letters typed over the ten days in her first class stateroom, while the ship calls at Honolulu, Yokohama, and Shanghai, where Poppy’s hoped-for reunion may take place. Surrounded by the ghosts of her past, she endeavours to share all with her daughter, even though her letters may never reach their target.
The spectres of Poppy’s dead father, rumored to have been shot, and of her recently murdered mother, surround her as she writes. Her first love, Alec, killed while still a teenager in W.W.1, is also not far away, and the spirits of both her beloved childhood friend, Boulie, and of her nanny, Duffie—both of whom died in the same fire from which Boulie managed to rescue Precious—continue to hover.
So much death. And so much need for rescue. Cliffhangers abound in this rakish tale. Did Nora murder her first husband, Poppy’s father? What is happening in those mysterious tunnels under Casanora? Who is Soong Chou?
Will Poppy find Precious in China? And who is Precious’s father? Is it Alec or the inscrutable Soong Chou? The plot of The Empress Letters has as many twists and turns as the tunnels beneath the heroine’s mansion. Almost as fascinating is how much of the interesting details are non-fiction: “Casanora is an actual place on Beach Drive,” says Rogers. “My great-grandmother, an amazing gardener, inspired Nora. Her beautiful landscaping is still evident. There is a tunnel from the house to the sea. As a child, I wondered about it.”
Rogers is now at work completing a family saga trilogy, based upon Victoria, that spans the 20th century. The second, The Third Day Book, will take place in 1960, chronicled by Precious in letters to be given to her own daughter, Lily. The third installment, The Cheddar Letter, will be Lily’s story. “The third book ends with a revelation that bonds the generations,” says Rogers. Having spent most of her life in Victoria, Rogers comes by her subject matter honestly, but it’s not fact masquerading as fiction. “The details in this novel are as true as I could make them,” she says, “but the story is fantasy. Any “real” characters are based on family anecdote.
“Emily Carr taught painting to my aunt Elspeth (Rogers) Cherniavsky. My mother’s family and the Dunsmuirs were friends. My grandmother was friends with the Prince of Wales. My mother has a decanter with his crest on it. “I know this world as an insider/outsider, having grown up at the end of it, having observed this world of privilege.” Rogers believes that good families make for a good world. “That is the goal. There is redemption in working for peace in the family, in the community and in the world. It’s a sad fact, however, that ‘good’ characters are seldom the stuff of riveting fiction. The reader can rest assured that Rogers’ characters in The Empress Letters fall far shy of goodness. In fact, they’re outrageously naughty. We await the mini-series. 1896951805
-- review by Cherie Thiessen
Victoria Poet Laureate
Press Release (2008)
VICTORIA, BC – Linda Rogers, a local award-winning poet and writer, was named the City of Victoria’s new Poet Laureate at the City Council meeting last night. She will serve as the municipality’s literary and cultural ambassador for a three-year term ending November 2011.
“We are thrilled to have Linda Rogers represent the City of Victoria as the second Poet Laureate in the city’s history,” said Mayor Dean Fortin. “Linda is an award-winning Canadian poet whose passion and talent for prose will help raise awareness of the literary arts and demonstrate the positive impact poetry can have on our
community. Our city would be cold without the rich contribution of the literary arts.”
Linda Rogers has spent her professional life teaching, reviewing, performing and writing prose, poetry and songs for adults and children. She earned her Master of Arts in Canadian Literature from the University of British Columbia and has taught at UBC, University of Victoria, Malaspina College, Camosun College, and
online for Writers in Electronic Residence.
Rogers has been awarded the Stephen Leacock Prize for poetry, the Reuben Rose Poetry Prize Israel, the Dorothy Livesay Award for best British Columbia book of poetry, the Hawthorne Poetry Prize, and the Saltwater Festival Prize. In 2000, she was Canada’s People’s Poet as the recipient of the People's Poetry Prize, established to honour the late Milton Acorn. Rogers has served on the boards of the Pacific Opera Victoria and the Read Society and is a past president of the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers. Linda Rogers plans to continue much of the valuable work initiated by Carla Funk, the City’s first Poet Laureate, such as the popular community event, Love, Poetry and Chocolate, held close to Valentine’s Day. Victoria’s Poet Laureate is required to produce three original poems each year of the term, and present works of significance at City of Victoria events, including one presentation to City Council per year, a minimum of two official City functions or a City-sponsored event in the community per year, the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize Gala Awards, and a Greater Victoria Public Library event. Poet Laureates date back centuries when they first served the British Monarchy. Some of the earliest poetry is believed to have been orally recited or sung as a way of remembering history, stories and law. For information on Victoria’s Poet Laureate, visit: www.victoria.ca and click on What’s New?
The Third Day Book by Linda Rogers (Cormorant $20)
The resemblance between Linda Rogers and Joanna Trollope is not uncanny. The two novelists are cousins, both related to the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882).
“My cousin from Canada is a bigger Trollope than I am,” said Joanna Trollope when she met Linda Rogers at an awards ceremony at Canada House in London. The bestselling English novelist meant Rogers’ family was more closely related to Anthony Trollope than her side of the family.
With equal wit, Rogers has remarked, “Joanna and I could be sisters, but she is definitely the pretty one. She is tall and elegantly slender, whereas I.... um, love to cook.”
Rogers’ ancestors emigrated when Anthony Trollope’s mother, Frances Trollope, also a novelist, traveled to America and wrote her travel books. These relatives came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists. “My eldest son is Sasha Trollope-Wilgress Rogers,” she says. “He will never forgive me.”
In Rogers’ sequel to The Empress Letters (2007), her tragedy-prone lead character in The Third Day Book is married and raising a deaf daughter in Victoria. When Precious discovers she is again pregnant, bittersweet memories of her time in Hong Kong with her Chinese father and stepmother begin to stir, reminding her of the fragility of the present. 9781897151396