Calgary was the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2012 when the Stampede hosted Aritha van Herk as Artist in Residence, providing her with a privileged insider’s view of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Stampede and the Westness of West is the result of her unique insights, a prose/poetry book that is meditative, imagistic, historical and speculative while eliciting all the humour and joy and occasional critique that the Stampede demands. Stampede juxtaposes references to Siena and Shakespeare and the Vogelherd Cave, the history of pancakes, and the history of the word stampede alongside speculations on lust, love, fences and Guy Weadick. Van Herk points to one line (on page 67) that sums it all up: “Stampede. There is only one, and that is Calgary’s.” Then she quickly adds, (on page 91): “You never know why you love something, but when you do, you cherish its faults as much as its strengths.” The book, while not uncritical, is the kind of poetic meditation that the Stampede, in all its richness and variety, has long deserved.
About the Author
Aritha van Herk is the author of five novels: Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address (nominated for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), Places Far From Ellesmere (a geografictione) and Restlessness. Her wide-ranging critical work is collected in A Frozen Tongue and In Visible Ink; she has published hundreds of articles, reviews and essays. Her irreverent but relevant history of Alberta, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, won the Grant MacEwan Author’s Award for Alberta Writing and frames the Mavericks exhibition at the Glenbow Museum and Archives in Calgary. With George Webber she has published In This Place: Calgary 2004-2011 (photographs by George Webber, words by Aritha van Herk) and most recently, Prairie Gothic. She teaches Creative Writing and Canadian Literature at the University of Calgary. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and the recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal and the Lieutenant Governor’s Distinguished Artist Award.
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