How This Book Came to Be:
An Introduction to “Home and Away”

Over the years, Dymphny and I have spent hours talking about the idea of home: over coffee, meals, wine, the phone, by email. Again and again our conversations have circled around to this one topic, partly because our experiences have been so different, and partly, because – paradoxically – our values are so similar.

I was, and continue to be, fascinated with her upbringing; her stories about her bohemian artist parents that built a house on a mountainside where the only road was a donkey trail and lived off the grid with no running water. Of all the mountain towns she lived in during her childhood (more than one for each school year). Of how her family left everything in Amsterdam and came to the wilds of Canada like the pioneers of a hundred years ago. Theirs was a gypsy life – one of adventure, new people, new places.

In her turn, Dymphny was intrigued by my narrative of growing up in the farmhouse my grandparents built the year my father was born. Of my childhood in the house that is the only place he has ever lived, my dreams dreamt in an antique bed that one of my aunts once slept in, a petrified piece of her gum still stuck behind the headboard. Dymphny keeps asking me about those stories, unable to comprehend what it is like to know the history of the walls, the floorboards, to know who put up which layer of wallpaper in what year, and about the arguments that were fought over the colour and pattern and the grudges that were still held decades later. Mine was, and still is, a home firmly rooted in the history of my family, in the farmland that supports us, and in the life of one small town where farm families have known each other for generations, a town where I had many of the same teachers as my parents did a generation earlier at the local school.

All of this talk eventually led to a question: What did the idea of home mean to other people? And then, of course, came more questions: Are we shaped by what we do and where we live? How does this affect our sense of place? Is home where you reside… or is it where you are from? Can you go back home after years of being away? Does the landscape get under your skin… do you carry it with you when you go?

To answer our questions, we put out a call for new poems, and the responses that flooded in were richer and more varied than we had hoped. The 123 poems in this anthology – by 68 of Alberta’s finest poets, one of whom will be featured here each day until December 21 – explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home.

Some of these poems embrace the broadest definition of home, of the Earth as our one shared home, while others celebrate the small joys of home, such as clean sheets or watching a sunrise while drinking tea. Still others examine the connection between work and home, and how work sometimes takes us, or those we love, away from home. Some poems examine the role other people play in making a place home, while others tell the stories of ancestral homes.

Ironically, Dymphny and I are publishing this book at the same time my home is changing. The family farm is an endangered species, due to the pressures of chronic drought, the ongoing repercussions of mad cow disease on the beef industry and the financial reality of high prices for equipment and land opposed to low prices for crops. So it is not likely that I or one of my three siblings will ever farm the land my grandfather bought in 1927 and that my father has farmed for the past 45 years. While one of us may – or may not – someday live in that old house by the river, I have to face, for the first time, the reality that my heart’s home will one day not be there. All of this has made me think more about the idea of “away” or rather the idea of “not home.”

Some of the poems in this anthology explore the idea of “away” and speak of homes lost through time, change in circumstances, and even war. They speak of feeling lost in the world, of searching, and finally, finding a new place to make one’s home. And they give me hope.

Instead of answering our questions, the poems collected in this anthology have sparked even more conversation about the idea of home, and how that idea shapes our lives. As part of the editorial process, we asked each contributor: “What does ‘home’ mean to you?” Their answers are thought provoking, and we have included some of their responses with the contributors’ notes. Our conversation will continue, and we invite you to join in, to allow these poems to challenge your notion of what “home” is and to see your own home anew.


~ Angela Kublik

Angela Kublik is an Edmonton based writer whose poetry has appeared in The Prairie Journal, Legacy, and FreeFall, as well as online at DailyHaiku.Org. She edits, an online journal that provides a forum for emerging and established poets. She is also the co-founder/publisher of House of Blue Skies, Alberta’s newest micropublisher, and co-editor of the best-selling anthology Writing the Land: Alberta through its Poets, with Dymphny Dronyk. The anthology is currently in its third printing.

Read Angela Kublik’s poetry:
New Year
Summer Away
Fire Tower on Nose Mountain

Editor’s note: This post is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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