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Journey without maps

A trip across the country with four vibrant poets appearing at the Whistler Writers Festival

Whistler hosts the 2014 Writers Festival from Oct. 17 to 19. Pique is running reviews of books by attending authors to celebrate. For information and tickets:

Come fly with me. From Victoria to Halifax. I'm hungry for adventure. And to come a little untethered. The way poetry can do.

It doesn't matter about metre or rhyme. The structure of the stanza. The bending of a line. What matters is the cadence of the journey. The lyricism and intelligence.

Four of the most vibrant and original voices in Canada today are coming to Whistler: Yvonne Blomer, Jennica Harper, Katherena Vermette and Sue Goyette. And they are going to take us out far and in deep. And for that 60-minute flight, there is going to be turbulence.

The journey takes off in Victoria. Blomer's third collection of poetry, As If A Raven, published this year, touches mythology, biblical text and science. Blomer bravely explores creation and destruction. In one poem, about Audubon, who, by both shooting and collecting birds, tried to capture their beauty in his paintings:

What was nest has been skimmed

for bone structure, feather lustre,

feathers, beaks, fine-boned wings;

things that have gone missing from trees.

Brace yourself. Accelerating over Vancouver, meet Harper; poet, writer and YTV producer. Harper's third collection, Wood, is a pop culture meditation on parenthood. Playful, tender, surprising and brave. Quietly powerful. All rings, grain and layers of echoing. One section of the book, "The Box," is about Harry Houdini and his wife. They have no children. These poems are their dream children imagined.

Everyone knows how this one's done.

The trick's not in mistaking it for real.

The trick is how to make one feel:

the gut-knot longing to come undone.

By Winnipeg, we are soaring at altitude. Vermette, a Métis writer and poet, won the 2013 Governor General Literary Award for Poetry for her first book, North End Love Songs. Her poems are about the importance of place, about how environment changes your life, and about what it means to be First Nations in Canada today. Vermette's poems stick with you, circling, long after the flight has landed.

indians get drunk

don't we know it?

do stupid things

like being young

like going home alone

like walking across

a frozen river

not quite frozen

and not making it

to the other side

Nothing is normal on this flight. Prepare for an emergency landing in Halifax, into Goyette's third collection, Ocean. There is nothing left to do but dive in. The ocean becomes the spokesperson for a mythical community of shore dwellers. The ocean also becomes it's own character.

We laughed at first. At the thought. Like it was

a joke. Imagine, the ocean basting us. But how often

had we walked into its salted air then licked our arms

to taste it later? We were being seasoned. Lightly. Of course we rebelled,

Goyette has a list of awards as deep as the ocean she writes about. In addition, Ocean was short listed for this year's Griffin Poetry Prize.

Click your heels and come fly with me. We will go out far. And in deep. And we will find our way back home.

Mary MacDonald is a poet, writer, and member of the Whistler writing group, The Vicious Circle. She will be reading at the Literary Cabaret in Friday, Oct. 17 and moderating Journey Without Maps on Saturday, Oct. 18 at the Whistler Writers Festival.