Nora Gould's Selah - Guest Blog

Horizons - The 2017 Edmonton Poetry Festival

This is a guest blog post from Alexis Kienlen.

Nora Gould composes her poetry while ranching in east central Alberta. This is her second time at the Edmonton Poetry Fest. She first came to the Fest in 2012, just after releasing her first book “I can see my love more clearly from a distance.” Her debut collection book featured stories about ranching and the prairie landscape. It was a portrait of Gould’s marriage to her husband, Charles. The powerful debut was awarded the 2013 Robert G. Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize, and The Stephan G Stephansson Award for Poetry from the Writers Guild of Alberta. Now Nora returns with her second poetry collection. “Selah” is one long poem that deals with ranching, and Gould’s own experiences as her husband, Charles succumbs to frontotemporal dementia.

The title of the book has many meanings. The word “Selah” can mean “and so it is…” Used in the Psalms, the word comes at the end of a section or chapter and can be used as a musical notation, or pause. The title is a perfect fit for Nora’s second book, a long poem that takes up where “I can see my love more clearly for a distance takes off.”

Nora describes her second book as a re-visioning of her first. In some ways, she saw her love from a distance in her first book, but is now able to really and truly see him as he is. “Selah” reaches back to events that happened before the story told in “I can see my love more clearly from a distance”, but also chronicles events that happened afterward. Nora calls “Selah” the anchor to her first book.

“It’s as if it should all be one book and this should be the end,” she says.

Nora’s challenge was to write about what was really happening on her ranch and with her husband as his condition progressed.

“I was writing what I didn’t think I was allowed to write. I hadn’t read a lot that was really straightforward about dementia and about living with a person with dementia,” she says. Her goal was to write something that was honest and honoured her family. While she didn’t think about it while writing, she hopes that others who have watched a loved one struggle with dementia will relate to her experience.

Ranching and the prairie landscape are a huge part of “Selah. The ranch provides the setting, and allows Nora to show a true depiction of a cattle operation. Her husband’s life is intertwined with the ranch and it is difficult to tell stories about him that do not include the ranch, she says.

Working on the ranch is also conducive to poetry writing. The repetitive nature of ranching activities like cutting hay in a tractor, or walking to get cattle, allows Nora to free parts of her mind that create poetry. She often scrawls lines on her coveralls, on stray bits of paper, or in the feed record or bale record book.

“You’ve got to use what you’ve got,” she says.

Nora Gould is one of three poets appearing on April 22, at an event called Cutlines: Through the Landscapes of Experience. The event takes place on Saturday April 22, 2017 at 1:00pm, The Almanac 10351 – 82 Avenue, Edmonton.

Alexis Kienlen is a poet, fiction writer and agricultural journalist.