5000 Miles From Utopia – My Blog

Exile on a Grid Road: In the Spotlight in the Regina LeaderPost and Saskatoon StarPhoenix

My book, Exile on a Grid Road, in the Spotlight in the Regina Leader Post
My book, Exile on a Grid Road, in the Spotlight in the Regina Leader Post

Saturday mornings, for me, are a time to lie in and ignore the sounds around me…

Footsteps on the stairs. Coffee beans being ground. The front door opened and closed as the morning newspapers are retrieved.

My goal is to stay asleep — or at least, pretend to be asleep and pretend that I hear nothing — for as long as I can. And that works, on some Saturday mornings.

But this morning, when my partner went downstairs to make coffee and get the newspapers, he discovered that my book was showcased in the Regina LeaderPost.

“You really want to get up,” he said.

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do — your book is in the newspaper.”

Fastest emergence ever of Shelley in the morning.

What an unexpected delight to see my book, Exile on a Grid Road, along with Tara Gereaux’s Size of a Fist and Jan Wood’s Love is Not Anonymous profiled in print!

My thanks to Thistledown Press, the StarPhoenix (where the review originated), and writer Bill Robertson for his thoughtful read.


Exile in great company at Chapters-Indigo, Regina

On our visit to the Chapters bookstore in Regina, SK, this week, my companion pointed out that the computer showed three copies of Exile on a Grid Road on the shelves.

I found them at the beginning of the Canadian Poetry section.

Canadian Poetry, at Chapters-Indigo in Regina
Exile on a Grid Road, in Canadian Poetry, at Chapters-Indigo in Regina

And yes, I know Banks comes after Acorn in the alphabet, though that may be news to some. So when I reshelved my poetry collection after this iPhone photo, I placed all of the copies in a somewhat more traditional alpha-order… Right between Milton Acorn and Lorna Crozier. How cool is that!

Then again, my poems were originally nestling up against a hard cover edition of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, which is pretty cool, too…

(And yes, I also know Crozier’ The Wrong Cat is also out of sequence, but I didn’t feel like reorganizing the entire shelf.)

But look at the other names here!

I’m delighted to see Shelley Banks also sharing space on this Canadian Poetry shelf with Ken Babstock, Christian Bok, Ann Carson, Leonard Cohen, Robert Curry, Michael Crummy, Gerald Hill, Jeanette Lynes, Peter Midgley, Dennis Lee, Marilyn Dumont, Lynda Monahan, Cassidy McFadzean and Jane Munro! (Someone seriously doesn’t know their alphabet if they are placing books — Lee’s and Dumont’s — together by colour in the midst of the Ms! But I’m taking this to mean that poetry books in Regina are very well browsed, and that’s a lovely thing!)

On the shelf above, there are books about/by Chaucer, Dracula, Hunter S. Thompson and Tolkein, with Angelou, Baudelaire, Berryman, Bukowski, Breckt, Dante, Rumi and the Epic of Gilgamesh on the shelf below.

Now that’s great company!


The Future is Always Beginning

the-future-is-beginningI am honoured to be asked to participate in the new “Poet Laureate Emerging Writers Reading” on November 25 at 7 p.m., at the Art Gallery of Regina, 2420 Elphinstone Street.

My thanks to Saskatchewan’s poet laureate, Judith Krause, for hosting “The Future is Always Beginning”!

I’ll be reading with Cassidy McFadzean, dee Hobsbawn-Smith and Jim McLean. For an insight into the range of work you’ll hear, here are short bios, from the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.

Shelley Banks was born in a small town in the BC Rockies, and raised in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Shelley has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC, and her first collection of poetry, Exile on a Grid Road, was published this fall by Thistledown Press. Her current writing includes photography blogs about Prairie wildflowers and birds, as well as poetry and fiction projects. Shelley lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Poet, essayist, fiction writer and journalist dee Hobsbawn-Smith is the 35th Writer in Residence at the Saskatoon Public Library. She holds an MFA in Writing. Her writing appears in Canadian, Scottish and American literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and magazines. Her most recent books are What Can’t Be Undone: Stories; Wildness Rushing In, [a finalist for SK Book Awards’ 2015 Best Poetry Collection and Book of the Year]; and Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet.

Cassidy McFadzean was born in Regina, received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and now teaches at Luther College. She released her first collection of poems Hacker Packer with McClelland & Stewart this past April, and has published poems in magazines across Canada with new work in Prelude, The Puritan, and The Walrus. She is currently at work on a Saskatchewan Arts Board-funded poetry collection, Drolleries, named for grotesque figures found in Medieval manuscripts. Two poems from Drolleries are long-listed for the 2015 CBC Poetry Prize.

Jim McLean had a long career with Canadian Pacific Railway and with Transport Canada, living and working in various Canadian locations. He is an original member of the Moose Jaw Movement poetry group, and his work has appeared in magazines and anthologies and on CBC Radio. He is the author of The Secret Life of Railroaders and co-author of Wildflowers Across the Prairies. His illustrations have appeared on book covers and in several literary and scientific publications. Coteau Books will publish his poetry manuscript tentatively titled 1957, in early 2017.

AND! For any flower fans in Saskatchewan, I would like to point out that Jim’s book, Wildflowers Across the Prairiesis simply awesome. This is the best guide I have found, and I’ve searched many for my PrairieWildflowers blog! Seriously! You might have to hunt to find it, but copies are out there…

The Road to Big River, Saskatchewan

The giant Santa Claus at Watson, Saskatchewan
The giant Santa Claus at Watson, Saskatchewan

Last week, we drove to Big River, Saskatchewan, to join Jan Wood for her launch of Love is not Anonymous. (We, being Tara Gereaux with Size of a Fist, and me, Shelley Banks, with Exile on a Grid Road, along with my partner.)

It was a mini-reading tour that also included Regina and Saskatoon, planned to celebrate our books that were published at the same time.

I’ve never been to Big River. Never been further north in Saskatchewan than Batoche. And so the drive was both familiar and new…

Familiar, because we drove north on Highway 6, the route I usually take to the Saskatchewan Writers/Artists Retreat in Muenster. That meant we passed through Watson, Home of the Original Santa Claus Day. (Started in 1932, according to the town website.) We stopped for perogies, borscht and pictures.

New, because we saw a Bald Eagle perched high in the tree along the road.

New, too, because of the different landscapes we drove through, the bush and marshes that looked like — and were posted for — moose. Hidden moose, which can be a good thing, I guess, even though my camera was at the ready for a shot.

And new, because of the risks of reading new material at the library in Big River. Materials I hadn’t read in its full format from my book before.

I’m not sure how writers on long tours manage to read the same material, night after night, each time bringing fresh excitement and enthusiasm to the performance. Acting lessons would help for this, I suspect, as for so much of life…

As for me, I guess I’m too easily bored and I wanted to tackle different pieces than what I’d read in Regina, and without thinking too much about it, dived into “Kiss of Knives,” a suite of poems about dealing with treatments for breast cancer.

Difficult to go through; difficult to read. But the feedback was positive — and I’m happy I took the risk. (And happy I didn’t over think this at the time, or I likely would have read something that would make me feel at the time, less vulnerable, and in the end, less strong…)

Exile on a Grid Road officially launched

Shelley Banks, with Exile on a Grid Road book and banner.
Shelley Banks, with Exile on a Grid Road book and banner..

Book launch? Check. Finished. Official.

All done but all the things still yet to do. And the readings this week I’m looking forward to in Big River and Saskatoon, SK.

But now, a moment just to celebrate! My manuscript has become a book, and I read from it to a packed room at Bushwakkers in Regina last week, along with co-launchers Tara Gereaux and Jan Wood.


It was fun, if stressful, getting ready. One of my friends persuaded me that having a banner of my book cover would be fun, so I arranged that.

And then another friend arranged for a cake featuring the book cover, too!

It was a wonderful time and I’m happy to be surrounded by such great friends.

Happy Book Birthday, to me!


Creating a site icon

Blue-eyed Grass — a larger view of the little icon that appears (for me, at least) on the page tabs of this site.
Blue-eyed Grass — a slightly larger view of the little icon that appears (for me, at least) on page tabs when viewing this site.

Wow — that wasn’t so hard!

(Or maybe it was, what with my computer locking up last night, but that had nothing to do with the process of creating a site icon.)

I’ve been wondering lately why my website pages show only a white square on browser tabs, while corporate and other pages display distinctive logos. Ditto, when I save a page from my site to the home screen of my iPhone.

How do they create site icons, I wondered. And today, I discovered that it’s really simple with Photoshop and WordPress.

I thought the star shape of a flower I photographed last year would work well as an icon, so here it is, post-posterizing! I now have a blue-purple starflower logo for my site. (A version of this image is also included in the muted rotating flower images at the left on my desktop site.)

The flower is Blue-eyed Grass, a lovely and very tiny summer Prairie wildflower. It can be difficult to see, as the flowers nestle close to the ground, beneath stalks of other grasses and flowers. But so lovely, up close. (I have a few pictures on my Prairie Wildflower blog.)

New Poetry Collection:
Exile on a Grid Road

Poetry, by Shelley Banks
Poetry, by Shelley Banks

I’m delighted to announce that my poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, is slated for publication by Thistledown Press on October 15, 2015!

My collection is part of Thistledown’s 12th New Leaf Series — Canada’s most well-established first-book program with a focus on Saskatchewan authors.

For more info on book launch and tour dates, check my site or Twitter feed (@ShelleyBanks) or follow Thistledown’s Facebook or Twitter feed (@ReadThistledown).

The full list for this year’s New Leaf series:

You can order any or all of these online.

Happy reading!

My poem is read at Government House

What a treat! At the Poetry Month reading at Government House on Wednesday, Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Judith Krause read one of my poems!

Saskatchewan Poet Laureate with fellow poets Bruce Rice and dee Hobsbawn-Smith, greeting Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield.
Saskatchewan Poet Laureate with fellow poets and Saskatchewan Book Awards/Poetry nominees Bruce Rice and dee Hobsbawn-Smith, greeting Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield.

Judy also very graciously told the audience about… Surprise! My forthcoming poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, to be published by Thistledown Press in Fall 2015!

What a treat, indeed! (And the readings by Judith Krause, Bruce Rice and dee Hobsbawn-Smith were wonderful! Good luck to all at the Saskatchewan Book Awards next Saturday.)

More on my book to come…

Shelley Banks — the Beach

Standing on the beach with my name
High tide at the beach with my name. Shelley Banks, at Dublin’s Shelley Banks (or Shellybanks) Beach

Across the harbour from Dublin, there is a beach with my name. The Shelley Banks, or Shellybanks.

I hadn’t realized I was a landform — or that I was perhaps named for one, so I’ll accept it as a coincidence of history and geography that we found this in Ireland, my great-grandparents’ homeland.

“I am a rock,” sings Paul Simon.

I am a beach.

We visited on a rainy October day, when the tide was high and Kittwakes and red-billed Oyster Catchers clustered on thin strips of sand, feathers fluffed and bodies turned against the wind.

2015 Sage Hill Writing Experience Deadlines

The deadline to apply for the Sage Hill Writing Experience summer session is getting closer—March 23, 2015. This is a great program, which this summer will feature classes by Canadian writers Steven Heighton, Alissa York, Miriam Toews, Denise Chong, Wayson Choy, Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady.

And, for any poets who want to work with Don McKay at Sage Hill this spring, that deadline is March 6, 2015. Friday. This week.

The Sage Hill Writing Experience offers small classes with time to write and network. Past instructors include Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes), who visited Saskatchewan last fall a for Sage Hill fundraiser. (A few of my photos from that event appear below.)

This year, the program is moving to Cedar Lodge on Blackstrap Lake near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. For details on how to apply,  see the Sage Hill Writing website.