Update: Two artistic Susans unite for Langley event

Susan Falk the painter and Susan McCaslin the poet first came together to present a show last year around a shared passion for preserving a forest in Glen Valley.

Then again, tonight (Saturday) the Langley duo collaborated again.

This time, they’re sharing their love of France, in an art exhibition and book launch that kicks off at a Fort Langley gallery this evening.

Poetic Form and the Mystical Muse: A Collaboration of Poetry and the Visual Arts was held on Saturday, May 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. and had a surprise guest.

On the day of the launch McCaslin announced the woman who saved the Fort Langley forest – Ann Blaauw – along with other members of her family, were going to attend the event.

The poetry launch featured readings from McCaslin’s newest book, The Disarmed Heart, and also turn a spotlight on the new works of McCaslin’s mentor and friend Lee Johnson, of Vancouver.

But it was more than just a book launch, McCaslin said, it was also the opening of a visual arts exhibition, The French Connection, featuring the works of Falk, as well as Maple Ridge’s Kristin Krimmel.

In advance of the show, McCaslin said: “This time we are teaming up in our mutual love of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters."

“Susan and Kristin recently spent time together painting in France, following in the steps of Monet, while I spent the fall in Aix-en-Provence writing poems about the painter Paul Cezanne. I’ll be reading some of my Cezanne poems at the gallery on the 17th,” she elaborated.

McCaslin is author of 13 volumes of poetry, including her previous book, Demeter Goes Skydiving, which was shortlisted for the BC Book Prize and earned her a first-place win in the Alberta Book Publishing Award in 2012.

Susan’s new book also contains poems she wrote to help save the rainforest – now known as the Blaauw Memorial Forest – in Glen Valley – seven of the 68 poems, to be exact.

“I live about two kilometres from the Blauw Memorial Forest and walk there frequently with my husband and dog. When I first discovered the forest and that it was endangered, I felt free to jump in and become an activist for the first time in my life,” she said.

“When I got involved, the poems simply flowed in, inspired by specific trees and epiphanies that occurred in the forest.  These forest poems became part of a section, called Open Odes, that address aspects of the natural world. They are poems of praise,” she said.

“I think paying attention to nature, restoring our sense of the sacred, is the first step toward wanting to preserve it. We look and see the beauty and then long to save what we love. Nature is not only beautiful, but is our sustaining base,” McCaslin added.

Some of her activism work came in the form of poetry, naturally, and included her Han Shan Poetry initiative last year where people from throughout the Lower Mainland to submit poems that were hung from the trees during a huge community event.

Those poems later inspired an exhibition – by Falk and McCaslin – that ultimately raised money and awareness for the (Watchers of Langley Forests) WOLF and the group’s successful efforts to save the forest.

“Susan and I became friends through our joint efforts,” and McCaslin said, and now she’s excited to be working together again.

While McCaslin’s new book was officially launched in Toronto last week, she wanted to do a separate launch in B.C. and felt this collaborative effort close to home was an ideal fit.

“I’ll be reading poems about our local Blaauw Forest [a.k.a. McLellan Forest East] and others from my new book,” McCaslin said.

While the book will be available at the gallery on Saturday night, McCaslin said it is also available at Wendell’s bookstore in Fort Langley, and through her website: www.susanmccaslin.ca.

In addition to this weekend’s book launch, The French Connection exhibition remains on display through May 25, at the Fort Gallery, 9048 Glover Rd. in Fort Langley.

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