Sandy Shreve

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Waiting for the Albatross

Waiting for the Albatross, Fernie. BC: 2015, Oolichan Books
ISBN: 978-0-88982-304-4

“Poignant, salty, full of danger, these poems always manage to dock at our hearts.” – Jane Eaton Hamilton

“It’s a book of poetry and also a history. It’s formal and plain-spoken, contemplative and bloody-knuckled. It’s then and it’s now. …” – Rob Taylor

It’s the 1930s and jobs are scarce. In St. Stephen, New Brunswick, 21-year-old Jack Shreve is itching to see the world but stuck in – and bored with – the mill-work he knows he’s lucky to have. His dad, however, has a few connections and lands his son the offer of a new job as a deck hand on the Canadian Scottish. The cargo ship is about to sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, down the eastern seaboard and through the Panama Canal to Australia and New Zealand and back again to Montreal, Quebec. Jack jumps at the chance.

From February to June 1936, Jack keeps a daily journal of his experiences, detailing his observations and opinions about everything from the mundane to the amazing. His diary portrays life among men isolated on board a freighter for weeks at a time and letting loose when they get ashore.

Seventy-five years later, his daughter, poet Sandy Shreve, dives into her father’s words and, borrowing from his vivid prose, emerges with a collection of found poems that take you inside his stories about the work the men did, the conditions they lived in, and their often volatile relationships – from sing-alongs on the poop deck to fist-fights in the foc’sle.

The book also features photographs from Jack’s journey and several prose vignettes from his diary.

“Form literally elevates content in this series of collaborations from beyond the grave between parent and child, and amongst genres. Shreve is a master of the villanelle in particular, turning the details of her father’s rough diary into the sleekness of the rolling, circular, repeating form … The reader really obtains a solid sense of Shreve’s father and his salty milieu through her steadfast attention to transforming material into melody.”
– Catherine Owen (Marrow Reviews)

“In these found poems, Sandy creates a collage bearing the mark of the last century, a testament greater than its parts: a lyric-archive.”
– Renée Sarojini Saklikar (Canadian Poetries)

“She re-arranges, twists, and repeats her father’s words to highlight their rhythm and descriptive beauty but always with a view to honouring his stories.”
– Beverly Cramp (BC BookLook)