"I've always looked back, but I'm looking in a slightly different way; the ground is more solid now, "Chris Lowther says of her new, as yet untitled, memoir, to be published this fall by BC's Caitlin Press. This collection of personal essays addresses a quest for balance as the writer-poet lives half the year wild - in her floathouse "Gratitude" in Lemmens Inlet, and half the year "paved" to connect with her community in Tofino.
"Living this way is both a challenge and a privilege," says Lowther, pointing out that expensive rents locally force people to get creative. Her floathouse in "God's Pocket" has provided a source of inspiration and healing over several books, from her first volume of poetry, New Power, fifteen years ago to her latest collection, Half-Blood Poems. Much of last summer there was devoted to the memoir.
"I don't have Internet at the floathouse, so any extensive research has to wait time until I get into town. But there are no distractions up there, and the quiet is profound."
This collection brings together essays that have appeared in other anthologies, along with new material such as the chapter, "We Tremble in Response: Famished for Grief, which provided part of the impetus for the book. "It became this epic love song to activism that talked about how I was in my mother's womb while she read her poetry at anti-
Vietnam War rallies. I lost both parents, so I was fortunate to find activism." She also plans to write one more chapter, a kind of love letter to Clayoquot Sound.
Now in her forties, Lowther already has a full and creative life to reflect back on including participation both in the Clayoquot blockades and saving Tofino's 800-year-old Eik tree. Amongst the five books already to her credit are two West Coast anthologies co-edited with Anita Sinner, Writing the West Coast and Living Artfully.
Her process for the memoir included poring over a wealth of her old journals as well as gleaning some family history via Christine Weisenthal's The Half-Lives of Pat Lowther, the definitive biography of Lowther's mother. "For me poetry is hard work but it is also deep joy profound joy - prose, on the other hand, is damned hard work," she said. However, she enjoyed the surprises in the writing process. "I was very excited when the punk part started coming together. We're not all just one sided," she said.
Her watershed moment was to an invitation to a show of punk band DOA whose music "venting the terror and frailty of life under Reagan, Mulroney and Thatcher - American missiles over Canadian soil, the button under threat of being pushed by accident."
The punk movement helped focus her activism: animal rights, vegetarianism, feminism, and selfacceptance. "Finally it didn't matter that I wasn't glamorous. You never had to be gorgeous in punk."
Asked what she might say in a letter to her 17-year-old self, she wishes to instill the adult's confidence in her: "You've just discovered punk; good, stay with it, stay in it."
Punk did offer her a way to begin developing her voice. "If you couldn't be in a band you'd write a zine and you'd have a way of connecting - a way of introducing yourself at a gig or action. You'd write to each other and arrange to meet at a gig." One of the penpals she accumulated was a member of what he called "Britain's fastest band" -Atavistic - and she ended up moving in with him.
For Lowther, there is no polarity between her punk and nature poet roots. "People complain that Canada has a reputation for being a nation of nature writers. Hogwash, but what the hell is wrong with loving nature?" Her plan for the future? Writing more poetry.