Acclaimed poet P. K. Page weaves together an astonishing range of characters and themes in this remarkable selection of stories written over the last fifty years and collected here for the first time. A Kind of Fiction bears witness to an accomplished prose stylist and displays the same lively and witty intelligence that established her reputation as one of Canada’s finest poets.
Page emerges as a writer with an agile and playful imagination, comfortable with a range of narrative styles that include the comic and surreal plots of her early pieces from the 1940s, adaptations of Indian and Sufi tales, and the complex psychological portraits of her recent work. Despite the variety of styles and themes, all the stories in this collection bear the imprint of a refined artistic vision and a sense of technique and form which has been the defining characteristic of her distinguished body of poetry.
P.K. Page has written some of the best poems published in Canada for over five decades. In addition to winning the Governor General’s award for poetry in 1957, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999. She is the author of more than a dozen books, which include ten volumes of poetry, a novel, selected short stories, three books for children, and a memoir entitled Brazilian Journal based on her extended stay in Brazil. A two-volume edition of her collected poems, The Hidden Room (PQL), was published in 1997.
Excerpt from book
Mme. Bourgé Dreams of Brèsil
Is it the hot wet air that lies like a sheet on Paris, or the confiture de Brèsil in its little pot, placed by l’Inspecteur on her bedside table? Whatever the reason, Mme. Bourgé sleeps a tropical sleep, casting aside a tumble of ecru lace, her torso glistening white as magnolia soap.
Marmoset faces form and shift in the reflecting crystals of chandeliers; glittering jewelled macaws peer from sconces.
Mme. Bourgé walks in the black-green jungle, calling, calling. Who is loosed and lost among unfamiliar trees, odours of tree-moss, scents of Shameless Mary? Is it Mme. Bourgé herself, now pocked with shadows, trailing leaves and the conjugations of Portuguese verbs?
Marmosets swing in the branches, chatter and wheeze, their faces the size of her thumb’s top joint. In their eyes she sees the points of their tiny dreams. Brilliant and noisy as silk umbrellas opening, vast birds rise from her feet.
Za Za is secretive, busy with macumba. She models discarded lovers -- waxen homunculi jabbed full of pins -- forgetful now of their shapes, their given names. In a day, in a week, their beautiful strength will fail them. Mme. Bourgé scolds, ‘Oh heartless, heartless Za Za, leaving the pin box empty, the candle guttering wax.’
Late afternoon sun fills the sala with zebras, casts palm-frond stripes on sofas and chairs. Tree orchids split the baroque legs of tables, erupt in delicate durable blooms.
Green light stains the white octagonal tiles of the co-pa, stains Augusto’s hornet jacket, his lifted hands. Augusto, coffee maker to the Pretender, wears the royal coat-of-arms on his golden sleeve. Water, metallic, furious as quicksilver, falls through the green air like a school of trout; is caught in a flannel funnel, a vertical windsock, as if in a landing net. ‘Like molten lead plummeting down shot-towers, it is the length of the fall that counts’ ... Augusto is offering some simple lesson, but Mme. Bourgé is falling too. ‘When or where?’ she cries, and ‘where or when?’ But Augusto, nimble, bearing a polished tray with pie-crust edging, pours her a cafézinho black as tar.
Still half asleep in the stifling morning, Mme. Bourgé stretches a lazy arm. Into the pale trumpet of the house phone she calls Augusto. ‘A windsock for the equatorial winds,’ she sighs, ‘and little suits for the marmosets -- of satin.’
How can she grasp an air that has no hand-holds, cling to this curve of space? Mme. Bourgé waits, ear pressed to the receiver, for the reassurance of Augusto’s voice.
‘These stories -- some masterful, some apprentice work, all intriguing -- cast new light on the work and times and multi-faceted sensibility of a great poet. In the early stories, the young P.K. Page requires propriety and stupidity and other forms of containment to break their moorings and be seen in surreal air. In her fairy tales and fables and heart-breaking, heart-lifting stories of old age and sexual love and vision, she is (simply, spectacularly) transcendant. She understands beauty, and the barriers, and the way through. There is, by the reckoning of my heart, no better teacher in this world.’
P. K. Page wrote some of the best poems published in Canada over the last seven decades. In addition to winning the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1957, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999. She was the author of more than two dozen books, including ten volumes of poetry, a novel, short stories, eight books for children, and two memoirs based on her extended stays in Brazil and Mexico with her husband Arthur Irwin, who served in those countries as the Canadian Ambassador. In addition to writing, Page painted, under the name P. K. Irwin. She mounted one-woman shows in Mexico and Canada. Her work was also exhibited in various group shows, and is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Victoria Art Gallery, among others.
A two-volume edition of Page’s collected poems, The Hidden Room (Porcupine’s Quill), was published in 1997, and the full range of her richly varied work is being made available in a digital resource, The Digital Page, supplemented by a series of texts in print and e-book format published by The Porcupine’s Quill.
P. K. Page was born in England and brought up on the Canadian prairies. She died on the 14th of January, 2010.