Publication is just the beginning

So now I have a book! A real, official, book, my first full-length book of poetry, Eigenheim (pictured in the right sidebar), published this spring by Turnstone Press. It was launched at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, who do a fine job with these things, and although seeing my face on a poster was mildly unnerving, the event itself was quite enjoyable.

Someone asked me recently if anything had surprised me about having this book published. I had to think about that for a moment, but yes, there were some surprises. One of them came before publication, when I first saw the proofs. I expected that my poems would look more impressive laid out in book format, but was surprised at how much more impressive they looked. Hard to say why that is—maybe the fact that the poems look longer when they’re laid out on the smaller book-size pages.

Then there was the day, about a week after the book was launched, when a neighbour came to the door asking if I would sign his copy. I’d hoped and expected, of course, that people would buy and read the book, but it was the fact of someone actually coming to the door that tickled me.

And there was the cousin who happened to be in town for meetings, and happened to see the advertisement for a reading I gave last week, and the couple from my hometown who recognized my name on the front cover. Rationally, it makes sense that people who know me or my family would hear about the book through various branches of the grapevine, but it’s still a pleasant little surprise every time it happens.

Then—and this was what I found most interesting—the book itself surprised me. You’d think I would know my own work pretty well by the time it’s published, but as I chose poems to read at the launch, things leaped out that I hadn’t seen before. I knew, for instance, that quite a number of poems touch on themes of language, listening, and silence, but hadn’t noticed just how pervasive those themes are throughout the book. Nor had I noticed how often, and in how many ways, rain appears in the poems.

Now that Eigenheim has been launched out into the world—left home, so to speak—it will gradually find its readers. Much of the time I won’t know what happens when those readers encounter my work, but if their responses do reach me I may well be surprised again.


  1. Joanne, I have a question about a book review and am looking for a means of contacting you. If you would, please respond to the email address I have entered. Thank you.
    Steve Nolt, Book Review Editor, Mennonite Quarterly Review

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