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Kootenay activist launches poetry debut

Kootenay activist and author K.L. Kivi will be reading alongside Calgary author Katherine Fawcett at Oxygen Art Centre on Friday evening. - Will Johnson photo
Kootenay activist and author K.L. Kivi will be reading alongside Calgary author Katherine Fawcett at Oxygen Art Centre on Friday evening.
— image credit: Will Johnson photo

K.L. Kivi comes from a family of Estonian refugees, so quite often her work explores themes of exile and belonging. In her debut collection of poetry Unknown Hum, she brings those two concepts together.

“Some of these poems hearken to the experience of exile while others talk about what it is to really arrive somewhere,” said Kivi, whose book cover features an illustrated cluster of tree roots intermingling underground by local artist Tanya Pixie Johnson.

“I think what’s in this book that hasn’t been explored in my non-fiction as much is a really strong sense of spiritual rootedness and love. It’s kind of hippy thing to use the word ‘love’ when you’re talking about the environment, but we need to bond deeply with this place if we’re going to protect it and thrive as a species.”

Kivi will launch her book at Oxygen Art Centre on Friday evening along with Calgary author Katherine Fawcett. She said some of the poems will draw from her experiences with the Jumbo Wild campaign.

“I very much talk about what it’s like to be sitting in a protest camp, waiting, then not waiting, for the excavators and the cops to come.”

Kivi said it was important to her to acknowledge the First Nations history of the area.

“I realized after I finished there’s one only phrase in Estonian, but there’s a whole bunch in the language of the Sinixt,” she said.

“In order to keep going with the work I do, I really need to ground myself in my love for the place. For me that’s what poetry is about, is re-grounding myself with my deepest values.”

Kivi said she will endeavour to make the reading lively, and there will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue.

Before Kivi reads, Fawcett will take the stage with her collection Little Washer of Sorrows. Fawcett said she’s thrilled to share her unusual tales with a Nelson audience.

In one short piece, she narrates from the perspective of Homer’s Sirens.

“I like to take mythological characters and situations, but then make them more real. So in that one I’ve got this family of three sisters, and there’s all kinds of issues of birth order and jealousy. One of them wants to get off the Greek Island and go to Broadway. Then there’s a skinny one who likes having sex with the sailors but doesn’t want to kill anyone.”

Her wacky narratives are comparable to the work of George Saunders or Karen Russell. She said a big part of her influence was growing up reading Stephen King.

“I like hooking together the mundane and ordinary with something a little twisted, a little odd.”

The event will be held on April 10 at 7 p.m. at Oxygen Art Centre. Admission is a recommended $5 donation at the door.

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