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Tofino poet hopes to inspire love of nature with Hazard, Home

Christine Lowther publishes book of poems she hopes will inspire amazement in nature’s miracles
Tofino writer Christine Lowther with her recently published book of poems, Hazard, Home. (Warren Rudd photo)

Tofino writer and tree advocate Christine Lowther has published a book of poems she hopes will inspire readers to find amazement in nature’s miracles.

The title, Hazard, Home, comes from a poem within the book with the same name.

“I wanted to write about trees that arborists too quickly deem hazards and cut them down because hazard trees, like the standing dying trees and standing dead trees, are the best trees for wildlife,” she said.

She cited the book Wildlife and Trees in British Columbia by Mike Fenger, John Cooper, and Todd Manning, published in 2006, as a key source of inspiration for her poetry.

The poetry throughout Hazard, Home surrounds five main sections: waters, sounds, birds, trees and people.

“It is a lot of nature writing and some activist writing, but also the whole volume is making an attempt to decolonize those genres and it is just an attempt because decolonization is an ongoing process of learning and unlearning,” she said.

She explained that the poems in the book were all written at different times and she published several works during the time Hazard, Home was coming together.

“When you start, you’re not even thinking about the book because it’s years and years and years ago and you’re just writing poems and you’re sending them out to literary magazines and seeing if you can get them published because if you have enough poems for a book, publishers are only interested in publishing them if at least some of them have appeared in literary magazines already, so it’s such a long process,” she said. “Basically, I was just sort of going through life writing poems, sending poems away, getting accepted, getting rejected and then finally I came to the point where I was like, ‘I have enough for a book now.’”

She added she is currently writing a blockade memoir, drawing from her diaries, and acknowledged that nature is an often occurring theme in her work.

“It’s the thing I most love in life,” she said. “I live where I can instantly go into the woods for half-the-year and the other half of the year I’m away from civilization and I can just get into my kayak. Every day and every night I’m hearing things, I’m seeing things, sometimes I can identify, sometimes I can’t and they’re always surprising. So, it just fascinates me and it keeps me sane. I just feel a lot of gratitude. I’m not a religious person and I can also say nature is full of miracles.”

Hazard, Home is Lowther’s first book to feature artwork by her sister Beth Wilks who drew the cover’s hummingbird as well as the art seen throughout the pages.

“She makes these incredible, incredible drawings,” Lowther said of her sister. “She does amazing animals…It’s coloured pencil with a few pens, no paint at all and the detail is amazing.”

Lowther said she suggested to her publisher that they use her sister’s designs for the cover and the publisher was happy to oblige after seeing Wilks’ work.

“Figuring out a cover that both the writer and the publisher likes and wants is difficult,” she said, adding that after she showed her publisher Wilks’ website—— the only difficulty became which drawings to choose for Hazard, Home.

“This book is really just one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen and definitely the best cover I’ve had…I think it’s very pretty to look at and to hold.”

Lowther is a member of Tofino Natural Heritage and an active letter writer to Tofino’s municipal council advocating for tree retention within the community.

“Usually in vain,” she said. “Sometimes I need to write poetry about it because it’s just so much of a losing game a lot of the time.”

Living in Tofino gives Lowther a front row seat to not only spectacular natural surroundings, but also development pressures threatening those same surroundings as the town looks to keep pace with a growing need for housing.

“A lot of this land, stolen land obviously, is now publicly owned by developers who want to make money and they want to make the most money that they can. We might end up with a lot of housing and not enough water and not enough shade and some landslides and floods because the trees hold the land,” she said.

She added her experiences working with Tofino Natural Heritage and advocating for trees have impacted her poetry and the frustrations of her efforts can be heard within Hazard, Home.

“The tree section of the book does have a few angry poems in it,” she said. “It doesn’t start out angry, but it’s hard to have a whole section on trees without any anger in it because they just come down all the time.”

While Lowther’s letters to her local government haven’t often included poetry, the two venues for expressing her advocacy meshed together when she served as Tofino’s poet laureate from 2020-2022. She was the second person to hold the position following Joanna Streetly and suggested that Tofino’s launch of the poet laureate program symbolized a change in thinking.

“People maybe didn’t look at poetry as some bizarre, alien movement and all of a sudden I could send poems to people, I could include a poem in a letter to council and this was new and exciting, not that I’ve done that very often,” she said, adding she’s considered putting all the letters she’s written to the town’s council into a book.

“Sometimes you can feel alone because most people care about affordable daycare or housing and I just sometimes feel like there’s not enough people making trees a priority.”

Hazard, Home is Lowther’s fourth solo poetry collection. She’s also written two memoirs, edited two anthologies and co-edited two anthologies.

“Poets are always growing. Writers always need to hone their craft, always continue, nothing is ever finished. You’ve always got to work to get better,” she said.

She hopes to see more readers open themselves up to poetry and said she often advises readers of prose to try to read one poem a week.

“When you sit down to read tonight, do me a favour, read one short poem. It won’t kill you. That’s all I ask. It doesn’t have to be every night, it can be once a week, one short poem, I don’t think it’s asking a lot,” she said. “In B.C. and a lot of Canada, I think it’s under-read unless you’re a poet obviously…Find one that you like and just read it and then try another one the next week.”

She particularly encourages readers to seek out Canadian poetry, especially Indigenous poetry.

She said she hopes readers of Hazard, Home take away “a sense of wonder and amazement at the natural world which then leads to the urge to protect it.”

She thanked the Common Loaf Bake Shop, Mermaid Tales Bookshop, Tofino Arts Council and Clayoquot Writer’s Group for supporting her and other local writers’ work and fostering a positive vibe for creativity.

“They’ve been really supportive,” she said. “We’d be nowhere without these people.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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