LITERARY LOCATION: Former schoolhouse, 103 Esket Road, Alkali Lake

In 1974, poet Lorne Dufour moved to Alkali Lake Reserve, near Williams Lake, to help re-open the local elementary school. By 2015, the former school where he taught had been transformed for use as the Esket First Nation's community's band office. The old Catholic Church, featuring a bleeding and battered Jesus outside on a cross, was still in tact at the village entrance. In 1985, Lorne Dufour played the alcoholic priest in the film The Honor of All, the story of the Alkali Lake Reserve's largely successful battle with alcoholism. His memoir of life at Alkali Lake is Jacob's Prayer: Loss and Resilience at Alkali Lake (Caitlin, 2009).


Lorne Walter Dufour is a handlogger who lives off the grid with his wife, Diana, on their woodlot right next to Gibraltar Mine, in the McLeese Lake area. He has also worked as a counsellor, travelling showman and a poet. His book about Alkali Lake is his only work of non-fiction.

Like many First Nation communities across Canada, Alkali Lake had been ravaged by decades of residential schools, forced religion, abuse and alcoholism. But Chief Andy Chelsea and his wife Phyllis took it upon themselves to lead their community on a long and painful road to sobriety and what ensued was a dramatic transformation of a people enslaved by a seemingly unstoppable plague.

Jacob's Prayer centres around one tragic Halloween evening in 1975 when two men lose their lives and another is saved by a friend who chooses not to be destroyed by his own devastating loss. Jacob Roper, a member of the Esketemc people (formerly known as the Alkali Lake Band), is not a fictional character. He saved the life of Lorne Dufour in 1975, after Dufour had arrived to work as an elementary schoolteacher.

Born in Blind River, Ontario, on December 9, 1940, Dufour attended the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Ottawa and Michigan State University at East Lansing. He met and was influenced by poets like Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg and the Canadian poet Red Lane, as well as the poetry teacher Peter Quartermain.

His first marriage, to Joan Preston, gave him his son Adam in 1972. In 1975, he married Diana Geensen, a librarian from Williams Lake, whom he met while teaching at Alkali Lake. Before moving to Alkali Lake, Lorne had travelled with Little People's Caravan, a gypsy-style theatre company with wagons pulled by magnificent Clydesdale horses. Lorne and Diana purchased a pair of Clydes in 1976, Andy and Prince, and began logging with them near Salmon Arm, where Lorne published his first book of poetry, Spit on Wishes. The couple have raised three children, Creole Dan, Tereina Marie and Eastern Joe.

Dufour's second poetry collection, Starting From Promise (Broken Jaw Press, 2000) won the Poets' Corner Award

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Jacob's Prayer: Loss and Resilience at Alkali Lake


Spit on Wishes

Starting From Promise (Broken Jaw Press, 2000)

Jacob's Prayer: Loss and Resilience at Alkali Lake (Caitlin, 2009)

The Silence of Horses (Caitlin 2013) $16.95 978-1-927575-09-3

[BCBW 2015]