Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the author of the novels All The Broken Things, Perfecting and The Nettle Spinner, as well as the short story collection Way Up. Kathryn’s short fiction has been published in Granta Magazine, The Walrus and Storyville. She is the recipient of The Sidney Prize. She's also a Page Turner.
Here, she tells us how a Bookmark on her route to school reminds her that "writers are supporting an imaginary Canada, the one that burbles up and makes itself known." If you, like Kathryn, feel inspired to become a Page Turner today, you might win a little piece of Kathryn's own imagination: her recently released novel All the Broken Things.
A poem about a cadet in camouflage on the Bloor-Danforth subway line reading Thoreau’s Walden. That is the premise of the gorgeous elegiac, urban, war poem, "Essentialist" by Ken Babstock that is featured on the Bookmark plaque with which I am most familiar. I read it at least once a month and pass it by at least once a week on my way to Jackman Humanities Building at the corner of St. George and Bloor, where I’ve been studying these last few years. I get out of the underground, or I lash my bicycle to one of the fences, and notice the plaque with this exquisite poem. When I can make the time to read it, the effect is stunning—arresting. I’m inside the poem, in the actual geography of its mental sites.
I spent a week and half in Scotland a few summers ago and marvelled at how every abutting rock or straggling elderly tree has a story told about it. I have eaten my supper in a bar commemorating the witch who lives beneath one such rock. Scotland is old and its language and stories are ancient, too. In a castle forest near Edinburgh, I came upon a stone commemorating a poet—the stone was all grown over with moss. I might have missed it if I hadn’t been told to watch out for such memorials.
Any land is only as lively as the stories about it. Bookmark understands that Canada’s literary writers are telling the stories that support an important kind of nation-building. That is, writers are supporting an imaginary Canada, the one that burbles up and makes itself known. These Bookmarks remind us of ourselves in the peculiar, singular ways poetry and fiction can do. The plaques demarcate a conversation between the writing and the landscape in uncanny ways, and show the everyday passer-by, or tourist, or Quixote another way to be in the space of the city. I love this project, and of course, I am a Page Turner. And, of course, I think you should be a Page Turner, too.