Reading through one of poet Matt Rader’s latest works reveals a storyline so mobbed by colourful imagery the desolate space it lays bare in this province and his own family’s story has an urgent immediacy, despite the title: History.
Now teaching at Okanagan College in Salmon Arm, the writer weaves a curious tale, oscillating from past to present down a road travelled by three generations of his family —Terrace to Prince Rupert and those far off corners of B.C. we mistakenly call the North.
Rader is one of several successful writers who started and ran Mosquito Press for several years on the Coast as a means of creating an entry point into the literary world.
“The ability to publish online wasn’t the same,” he said. “We were doing it mostly just to build community.”
Nevertheless, he credits the experience with helping to launch his career, making work like his latest book, A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno, commercially viable.
Mosquito Press included writers like Michael V. Smith, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Chris Hutchinson, Nick Thran, Sean Horlor and Matt Hooton, and helped Rader transcend his Comox-area roots to build a circuitous life path through the university literary scene closer to the B.C. Interior towns his ancestors first called home.
Only a couple of writers Mosquito published did not go on to publish trade books, the group having built its own market to catch larger publishers’ eyes, and his visit to the area this week shows the bonds still hold true.
Smith now works as a professor at UBCO and helps make the selections for the Visiting Authors Series; Rader will be the second author brought in to speak of seven.
“I will do a little bit of being a mysterious poet and little bit of talking about (the poems),” said Radar.
“Poetry is a little bit of an experience. It’s like going to a music event. Everything can’t be explained.”
Admittedly some of the work is quite literary, such as the poem Freaks, Irregulars, Defects and Oddities, but others, like History, paint an intriguing picture of personal odyssey in the backwoods of B.C. that many could likely relate to.
The poet walks his readers through the steps his grandfather took to escape indentured labour on a German farm and find community in British Columbia. Down a dirt road that lead to Dutch enclaves and a sense of religious home, Rader unearths a wild western landscape as far removed from European society as one might ever imagine one could find.
Matt Rader will hold a reading Thursday, Nov. 24, 7 p.m., at the Okanagan Regional Library, 1380 Ellis St., in downtown Kelowna.