Literary arts

Catching the wild poet

Canadian lake explored through poetry by Jim Harris and Glen Sorestad

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Since 1990, New Mexico poet Jim Harris and Canadian poet Glen Sorestad have made an annual fishing pilgrimage to Jan Lake along the Saskatchewan border of Manitoba, Canada. The two authors recently collaborated on a book of poetry titled “Water and Rock: Fish and Friends in the Boreal Forest.”

Both will read from the book Monday (Oct. 16), 6 p.m., at the SOMOS Salon, 108 Civic Plaza Drive. Admission is free and the public is invited.

In 1994, Harris and Sorestad wrote a chapbook of poems together called “Jan Lake Sharing,” which they based on their fishing excursions to Jan Lake. The chapbook was published in Canada. Harris noted that “Water and Rock” expands on their previous chapbook and includes 30 poems written by each of the authors, as well as a prose introduction and conclusion.

To write the book, Harris and Sorestad collaborated extensively. “We had many more poems — I had written 57 — that were [pared] down to the ones in the book. We did lots of emailing, and then we met in Galveston with our wives last year to go over what we had together, and to make the final decisions on the contents,” Harris commented in an email interview with Tempo.

Harris said the poetry that resulted in their book should be appealing to readers who enjoy the outdoors. He said the focus could be described as “the transformation magic of a unique geographical setting, forest, water, and rock.”

“I think the book came about as a natural offshoot of all the trips we have made together to the same lake in northern Saskatchewan for over close to 30 years now,” noted Sorestad.

Harris has written and published since he was an undergraduate in college. He earned his doctorate degree in American literature in 1974 from Texas A&M University in Commerce, Texas. After moving to New Mexico, he served as a professor of English at New Mexico Junior College from 1974 through 2000. Among Harris’ poetry publications are “Llano Sons” (1976), “Running Through Indian Country” (1985), “Stalking Place: Poems Beyond Borders” (1988), “Fishing North America” (1989) and “Before, During and After the Fall” (1996). Harris has also published books on folklore, ranch history and historical narratives, as well as articles, reviews and criticism.

Sorestad served as the first poet laureate of Saskatchewan from 2001 to 2004. He has taught English at a university and other levels and has written and published poetry books and chapbooks for a number of decades. He has written numerous books of poetry, short stories and has edited many anthologies. Sorestad has given more than 300 public readings of his poetry in every province of Canada, throughout the United States and in Europe. Sorestad and his wife, Sonia, founded Thistledown Press in Saskatoon, a Canadian city, in 1975. Thistledown has gained a reputation as one of Canada’s finest literary publishers.

When asked about his creative process, Harris told Tempo, “I began writing the poems with a long list of possible subjects I would like to cover. At the same time, I created a list of more general themes and recurrent images that should be in the book. Then I decided on the length of each of the poems. They would be 16-line poems in four quatrains. One poem has just three lines in the second stanza, just to keep the reader on his or her toes. Many of the first drafts were much longer poems.”

“My aim was to capture on paper and in language some of the strongly remembered and felt images of Jan Lake – verbal photographs, if you wish,” wrote Sorestad in an email to Tempo. “I always strive for simplicity and clarity in those images.”

Sorestad continued to say that his process was “to start with a remembered image, begin to find the language to express it and then continue to hone and sharpen the image, while striving for clarity of expression.”

While he usually writes narrative-driven poems in style and content, Sorestad said his poems in “Water and Rock” are “quite short and lyrical with very minimal narrative impulse.”

Harris regularly writes poetry, as well as two different weekly columns on local history and travel for the Hobbs News Sun and the Lovington Leader. He is working on a novel, which is set in Dallas, Texas, where he grew up in the 1950s. In addition to his writing, Harris has been a photographer since childhood and his work has appeared in several exhibitions and publications. Some of his Lea County photographs are on permanent display in the guest rooms of Zia Park Casino and Hotel in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Now that “Water and Rock” is published, Sorestad is busy at work on several other poetry manuscripts. He has one prose and one poetry manuscript under consideration with publishers.

For more information, call SOMOS at (575) 758-0081 or visit somostaos.org.

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