LITERARY LOCATION: 131 Water Street, Gaslight Square

At age 24, Mona Fertig established her first Literary Storefront operation at this location, in a vacant upstairs dress shop, suite #213. Her concept of a communal meeting place for literati was inspired by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris during the 1920s. Two hundred people attended the opening on May 13, 1978. In March of 1980, the literary storefront moved to its second location, nearby, upstairs at #1-314 West Cordova. There were more than 600 literary readings and events during the four years of Fertig's directorship. In 1982 she transferred management to four committees and her board of directors in order to move to Montreal. Wayne Holder and Tom Ilves (later the president of Estonia) took over the reins but the Literary Storefront Society was dissolved in January of 1985. In 1990, Fertig moved to Saltspring Island, with her husband Peter Haase and their children, where she and Haase started (m)Öthêr Tøñguè Press, a private literary press later renamed Mother Tongue Publishing.

ENTRY: Mona Fertig was born in Vancouver on February 14, 1954 and grew up in Kitsilano. She attended the Vancouver School of Art and was the Education & Special Events Co-ordinator for the Surrey Art Gallery. In 1978, at age 23, she opened the Literary Storefront in Gastown, Vancouver. Its literary salon concept was inspired by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris during the 1920s. The Gastown facility hosted readings and housed the first B.C. office of the Writers' Union of Canada (1978-1982).

Since 1990, when Fertig moved to Saltspring Island with her husband Peter Haase, and their children Sophia and Paris, the couple has operated (m)Öthêr Tøñguè Press, a private literary press. Haase is a letterpress printer and electrician. The couple met in 1975 after Haase had played and sung at the Kings Head Pub in Kitsilano. "Four of us took off to the Spinning Wheel on the night of March 15th, 1975," he recalls. "I parked my old Chevy Caprice in the back alley, went in to see Doc Fingers play blues piano, and discovered my car had been towed. I took the bus to catch up with friends and met Mona, the love of my life, on the Granville Street bus at 2 a.m. The rest is history."

Mona Fertig has published seven books and five chapbooks of her own, and given readings from Vancouver to Newfoundland; from New York to San Francisco. She has been a bookseller, founding member of the B.C. Federation of Writers, a member of the Femininist Caucus-League of Canadian Poets, a B.C. Book Prize Committee member, B.C./Yukon Rep for the Writers' Union of Canada and B.C. representative for P.E.N. Canada.

Described by Fertig as the first major anthology on the birth process in Canada, her A Labour of Love: An Illustrated Anthology of Poetry on Pregnancy and Childbirth was inspired by Judy Chicago's 'A Birth Project' exhibit. The premise of the book was condensed in a quotation from the imagist poet H.D., "The brain and the womb are both centres of consciousness, equally important."

Her long and deeply felt poem that encapsulates her impressions of life on Saltspring Island, entitled This is Paradise (2005), doubles as a lament and a celebration.

The Unsettled, from Kalamalka Press in Vernon, was Mona Fertig's first full-length book of new poetry in twelve years. It is No.7 in the Mackie Lecture and Reading Series published by writers-in-residence at the Mackie Lake House every fall in Vernon. Mona Fertig was writer-in-residence at Mackie House and worked on the manuscript while she was there. The Unsettled is the metaphor for poems of homelessness, uncertainty, development, politics, relationships, wilderness, and the spiritworld.

Mona Fertig welcomes stories and photos from anyone who remembers her Literary Storefront days. Write to Mother Tongues Press (aka (m)Öthêr Tøñguè Press) on Saltspring Island.

As part of her initiative to transform her (m)Öthêr Tøñguè Press to Mother Tongue Publishing, Fertig organized an art auction at Tony Westbridge Art Gallery in April of 2008 to support her new publishing program. Approximately 30 people attended. Proceeds were allocated to subsidizing publication of David Franklin Marshall by Monika Ullmann, the first book in a projected series about overlooked B.C. artists, due in December 2008. "We sold 24 of the 40 pieces and made approximately $8,000," she wrote. "Four of the pieces sold on-line, two had competitive bids and the rest sold at the live auction at the Westbridge Fine Art Gallery. David Franklin Marshall's bronze sculpture donated by George and Mary Ann Drake of Bellingham fetched a good price and there was some exciting live bidding between two interested parties. Unfortunately David's beautiful Cahoba wood sculpture on a chocolate slate base did not sell." Financial supporters of this auction were BRIAN & VISI BATSFORD, UNITY BAINBRIDGE, ENDA BARDELL, ROBERT BATEMAN, WIM BLOM, THE CARUSO GANG, DIANA DEAN, PAUL WOLF, TINA DICKEY, PNINA GRANIRER, INGEBORG, DIMITRI & MARYA HARDMAN, P.K PAGE, LYNDA & GABRIELLE JENSEN, PETER HAASE,ANNI KNOOP, CHARLES MAYRS, SUSAN MCGILLIVRAY, FRANK MOLNAR, CAREL MARSHALL, VINCE OCHS, ERIC OCHS, WESTBRIDGE FINE ART GALLERY, PARVANEH ROUDGAR, GARY SIM, GREGG SIMPSON, SHERYL R. SMITH, IAN & CLAIRE SIGVALDASON, PHYLLIS WEBB, CARMEN ARGUELLES-LASLEY and ALAN HAWTHORNE.

With Harold Rhenisch, Mona Fertig co-edited a landmark collection of B.C. poets, Rocksalt. She was the sole editor of The Summer Book: A Treasury of Warm Tales, Timeless Memories and Meditations on Nature by 24 BC writers. [REVIEW BELOW]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Rocksalt: An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry


Love of the Salish Sea Islands: New Essays, Memoirs and Poems by 40 Island Writers by Mona Fertig (editor) and Gail Sjuberg (introduction) (Mother Tongue Publishing $23.95)

Review by Theresa Kishkan, 2019

I first encountered the term “islomania” in Lawrence Durrell’s Reflections on a Marine Venus, his memoir of living on the Greek island of Rhodes. The islomane, according to Durrell, is someone who is intoxicated just by the thought of being on an island. What better place to suffer that condition than Greece?

Well, how about the entire archipelago of islands within what has become known as the Salish Sea?

Anyone who has spent time on BC Ferries or other craft or else flown over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia has seen these islands strung out like seaglass, blue, aqua, bottle-green, tawny gold; some of them rough-hewn and craggy, some of them smoothed by wind and tide.

As a child growing up on Vancouver Island, I camped with my family on Salt Spring, rowing to abandoned farms in my father’s little dinghy. Later in my life, I visited others in the archipelago—Gabriola, Galiano, Saturna (for one of their legendary lamb feasts), Thetis, Penelakut, Quadra…

So, it was with delight that I opened Love of the Salish Sea Islands and spent a few hours transported by forty writers, hearing, as I read, the clamour of gulls following the herring, and the sound of ferries greeting one another as they sailed through Active Pass.

The contributors share their islands with generous and often lyrical attention, many cognizant of the past.

Nancy Turner, retired to Protection Island, circumnavigates her island in a rowboat: “It doesn’t take much imagination to put myself back in the days before the Europeans arrived here, to picture Snuneymuxw families spread all along the channel, pulling their cedar dugout canoes onto the beaches, camping under framework shelters covered with dense mats of cattail and tule, harvesting their food, preparing their fishnets and duck nets of stinging nettle fibre, and teaching their children the right way to do things.”

Chris Arnett describes Salt Spring Island: “People have lived on Salt Spring Island for so long that there is a soil type called Neptune that is the accumulated dark sediment of people and their activities in a single location over thousands of years. Some of these deposits are meters deep and cover acres of land.”

Taiaike Alfred recalls tiny Temosen, or Tumbo Island: “No human presence remains on the island, or rather, there is only remnant settlement, an old house and collapsing barn that settlers abandoned a century ago. When I am there, amidst the collapsed settlement and nature taking back her rock, I feel fully immersed in an unfolding, uncertain and ancient future.”

Linda Rogers remembers summers on Savary Island, watching “basket-makers from Tla’amin paddle past, imagined swans as graceful as ballerinas and remembered the proverb, ‘They thought they were burying us, but we were seeds...’”

Clearly, islands can make people contemplative. And poetic.
Diana Hayes, on a sailboat in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, watches “the sky revealing Orion’s Belt/our faithful compass.”

Ann Eriksson remembers Retreat Island, off Galiano Island: “blue-eyed Mary and calypso orchids left to blow in the wind.”

Alison Watt describes her stint as a naturalist on Mitlenatch Island, “its meadows … embroidered with wildflowers, camas and chocolate lilies, sea blush and brodiaea, blue-eyed Mary. Its shore … seeded with sea stars, chitons, snails, mussels, clams; the island set like a heart coupled to light, quickened by spring, slowed by winter.”

Rex Weyler follows the life-cycle of a dragonfly, specifically a Pachydiplax longipennis, or blue dasher, as he muses on names and the act of naming, specifically Hernán Cortés, the namesake of Cortez Island, a Spanish conquistador who never saw the island.

On Savary Island, Mona Fertig conjures idyllic summers: glide past summer cottages and
wide-porch houses,
where old gardens of corn and potatoes
were once fertilized by dogfish and starfish
where towels dry on rosemary bushes...

But having grown up on a large island and having lived for extended periods on smaller ones—Crete, and a small island off the west coast of Ireland—I know they can also be insular. Gary Geddes, who lives on Thetis Island but writes here about Texada Island, quotes songwriter Valdy: “Islands are differences of opinion surrounded by water.”

Des Kennedy echoes this, remembering his early years on Denman Island, half a century ago, learning the rules, spoken and unspoken. He also recalls island life at its best: “Oh, and the dances that rocked the old community hall in those days! There’d be chairs lined along the perimeter and the centre jammed with the flailing bodies. Doug and the Slugs, Pied Pear and other bands on the hippie circuit squeezed onto the little stage and played long into the night. Halloween dances were especially wild extravaganzas of outlandish costumes and questionable behaviour. Little kids would sleep safely on a bed of coats in the corner.”

The stories of how people are drawn to islands can be fascinating. But it’s even more interesting to consider why they remain, how they build lives, build houses and gardens, build community, and work to preserve the integrity of place. Mother Tongue Publishing has provided us with a wonderful palimpsest; adding to stories written on rock, beach glass, leaves of grass, old barn wood and Neptune soil.

The anthology concludes with Lasqueti Island poet Sue Wheeler’s brief “Moonlit Night, January:”
Bootprints in snow
from the porch
to where the truck
had been parked.

Tire tracks turning east
not west, out of the driveway.

So few secrets on an island.

Islands included in Love of the Salish Sea Islands are Bowen, Cortez, Denman, Gabriola, Galiano, Gambier, Hornby, Lasqueti, Lummi, Mayne, Mitlenatch, Newcastle, Penelakut, Pender, Prevost, Protection, Quadra, Retreat, Salt Spring, Saturna, Savary, Senanus, Texada, Thetis, Thormanby and Tumbo. 9781896949734

Theresa Kishkan lives on the Sechelt Peninsula. Her 15th book will be The Marriage of Rivers, a novella from Palimpsest Press, due in the spring of 2020. She runs a small press devoted to the literary novella, Fish Gotta Swim Editions, with author Anik See.



A Pocket Guide to the Unheralded Artists of BC Series (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2020) $24.95 9781896949826

The Summer Book: A Treasury of Warm Tales, Timeless Memories and Meditations on Nature by 24 BC writers. by Mona Fertig (editor) (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2017) $24.95 / 978-1-896949-61-1

The Unsettled (Kalamalka Press, 2010). Poetry. No.6 in the Mackie Lecture and Reading Series.

Rocksalt (Mother Tongue 2008). Edited by Mona Fertig and Harold Rhenisch. $24.95

Invoking the Moon, Selected Poems 1975-1989 - Black Moss Press, 2006). $15. 0-88753-429-5.

This is Paradise - (m)Öthêr Tøñguè Press, 2005

Sex, Death & Travel - Oolichan Books 1998

Mango Woman - (m)Öthêr Tøñguè Press, 1996

A Labour of Love (Editor) - Polestar 1986

4722 Rue Berri - Caitlin Press 1986

Releasing The Spirit - Colophon Books 1982

Mouth For Music - Caitlin Press 1979

Seasons That I Am - Intermedia Press 1975

[BCBW 2022] "Poetry" "Women"