Tag Archives: animals

Night Watch: The Vet Suite by Gillian Wigmore

I’ve been mulling over how to describe Gillian Wigmore’s Night Watch: The Vet Suite. On the surface, it is a collection of short fiction that navigates the lives of rural veterinarians and their loved ones. Yet, the word collection-with the implication of individual stories assembled in one place-doesn’t feel quite right, nor does simplifying the novel’s central force to a focus on the lives of vets. As a slim volume made up of three segments or internal story groupings, I have come to think of Night Watch as a literary triptych that investigates themes of loneliness, rural living, and care (of the non-human and human alike). Each section navigates these experiences from different perspectives and positionings, and every individual story has its own response to the moving through lines of veterinary medicine and its casualties.

This exploration of veterinary medicine at the margins appears in both overt and subtle ways; for example, the first story in the opening section “Love, Ramona” initially holds a tangential connection. As awkward lovers travel through Southern France, it is hot, it is uncomfortable, and it is affecting. It is not, however, a story about a veterinarian. Instead, Wigmore’s opening piece sets the tone for the collection rather than the focus, offering a return to a painful moment, insight into the tension between love and pain, and the intricate dynamics of a rural setting.

“However you want to categorize it, Night Watch: The Vet Suite is a good read.”

Night Watch builds a gradual engagement with the profession-moving veterinary medicine from the narrative sidelines and into the controlled centre. Through it all, Wigmore balances the brute force of the calving season with tender moments between co-workers over a cold cup of tea. Some stories land better than others, and different sections will appeal to different readers in their own way. Personally, I found myself drawn to “Bare Limbs in Summer Heat.” Here, Wigmore adeptly moves between memories of a childhood connection between siblings into a deep sense of loss in adulthood. The parameters of this hurt appear unnameable to the narrator, so much so that she begins to distrust her own memories.

Certain images will linger in the minds of readers long after they set the book aside. In “Kingfishers” Ramona sits in the discomfort of reuniting with an old friend in the wake of a personal loss. As she reflects on how their connection has changed, she recalls a time when they tried to build a fort from an old mattress. Rather than standing as a test of their friendship, the abandoned mattress “stayed in the field and after they’d gone Ramona imagined it white and rimmed with wildflowers, but she once went back to find it during a university break and was disgusted by the moulding broken-down thing exactly where they’d left it.” In these poignant yet sparse descriptions, Wigmore’s talents shine.

However you want to categorize it, Night Watch: The Vet Suite is a good read. Though spare, the stories are rich with intimate detail. The claustrophobia of the vet office is just as palpable as the stink of the barn or the sound of an animal in pain. Each story grouping is unique, but there are aspects that roll into the next and build momentum and perspective as characters navigate the love, loss, struggle, and joy that comes with a career often rooted in self-sacrifice and communal giving. A lovely book to fall into, Night Watch: The Vet Suite can be read in one sitting or savoured slowly, and offers readers a multifaceted escape into the impacts of a profession not often at the centre of literary depiction.

A library branch manager and the daughter of a veterinarian, Gillian Wigmore has published three books of poems: soft geography, winner of the ReLit Award; Dirt of Ages, shortlisted for the George Ryga Award; and Orient . In addition to Night Watch, she has written a novella, Grayling, and Glory, a novel. She lives in Prince George, BC.

  • Publisher : Invisible Publishing (Feb. 12 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 152 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1988784581
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1988784588

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife by Katie Vautour

An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife considers how animals exist in our lives and imaginations: as autonomous beings, as mimics and metaphors of our own lives, and as bellwethers of environmental damage. At times humourous, tragic, or both, these poems tell the story of natural existence in a sometimes unnatural world.

A timely suite of innovative poetry. That’s what artist Katie Vautour presents in An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife. I’m a fan of fauna – wildness, beauty, metaphorical and times anthropomorphized, animals as much a part of us as landscape and history. I like that this multimedia creator works at times with recycled, repurposed material – what I consider all writing to be. But I find a relatable common thread in this work by way of water. Firstly, through the mildly detached observation one undergoes in an aquarium. Secondly, on low-tide shores. And thirdly, in the presence of mariners – fishermen at work, reminiscent of Hemmingway’s Old Man and perhaps in present days of depleting stocks, a whiff of Ahab, chasing the unattainable.

This, from Aquarium: Inside this transparent circle of walls: / monumental fractured columns, petrified / stalks of plants. We pass useful hours, / swirl in whispering circles for days.

While this is from How to Get a Clam to Open Up to You: Strewn over dunes, old bowls / hold hollowed-out promises / of food. They’re hard cases– // the buried recluses / gush secrets.

And this, from Havana: Angling, three men / tug and struggle against / the weight of pulleys hoisting ropes. / Poles bob, braced, // wait for a snap of // the deck, the lines, / stretched to their breaking / point.

Prior to this (beyond firsthand experience) my window onto wildlife was Audubon, Mutual of Omaha and the narration of David Attenborough. Each attempt to bring the wild into our homes was in its own way poetic – a transmogrification, reinterpreting “out there” for the comfort of “in here.” It’s one thing to view nature through screens – the glass of a fishbowl, cages and pits of a zoo or the controlled risk of packaged safaris. Quite another to immerse oneself in it, be it a walk in the woods, an ocean swim, or in this case, re-examining all of it on paper – a map – an expert’s interpretation of reality. Katie Vautour’s book is much the same – innovative work delivered with unique skill. Another reinterpretation of reality, a re-examination of nature, our world, and with it the imperativeness of attention and care.

About the Author: Katie Vautour is a visual artist and writer published in a variety of literary journals, and though she dabbles in all genres, her main focus is poetry. Katie graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University with majors in Filmmaking, Painting, Drawing and Art History. She has participated in residencies in Oaxaca, Mexico, New Brunswick, and the Banff Centre. She exhibits her mixed-media work, paintings, and drawings throughout Atlantic Canada. She lives in St. John’s.

  • Title: An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife
  • Author: Katie Vautour
  • Publisher: Breakwater Books, 2019
  • ISBN: 978-1-55081-768-3
  • Pages: 84

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book (or Kindle version) through Amazon using the link below we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link: https://amzn.to/39dums7 Thanks! 

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Peninsula Sinking by David Huebert

(The following review is reproduced in part by the kind permission of Naomi MacKinnon of the Consumed by Ink book review blog. – James)

Look at the cover of this book. It couldn’t be more stunning. With stories to match. Peninsula Sinking is David Huebert‘s first short story collection. He has won the CBC Short Story Prize, the Sheldon Currie Fiction Prize, and the Walrus Poetry Prize, and is the author of one poetry collection We Are No Longer the Smart Kids in Class (which I haven’t read).

David Huebert’s stories are some of the best I’ve read. Here is a taste of all eight of them…


I read Enigma when David Huebert won the 2016 CBC Short Story Prize with this story. It’s about the grief of losing a beloved animal. What I love about this story is how well the reader is able to feel the woman’s attachment to her horse and the very real grief she feels. Huebert explains in an interview with CBC that it even comes between the woman and her boyfriend: “What I really wanted to capture was a couple in love who come across this moment where their empathy cannot do its work — where empathy is basically unachievable. And grief often does that.

The other thing I love about this story, and most of his others, is that animals are included as integral characters. As Alexander MacLeod says on the back of the book, “This book is Noah’s freaking ark. All of life, animal and human, is intimately crammed insude of it and the whole vessel has been expertly designed to stand the surrounding storm.

Read the reast of this review: Peninsula Sinking by David Huebert — Consumed by Ink

Peninsula Sinking by David Huebert