Tonja Gunvaldsen-Klaassen

Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen was born in Saskatoon in 1968. She spent her childhood first in Calgary, and later on a farm in Saskatchewan. Her first collection, Clay Birds, won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry in 1996. Her second collection Or was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award in 2004. Gunvaldsen Klaassen lives in Halifax with her husband James and their three sons.


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Lean-To
Tonja Gunvaldsen-Klaassen

2009 / Poetry / $19.95
9781554470709 / Trade paper / 96 pp


In her third book of poetry, Tonja Gunvaldsen Klaassen writes of places made home, navigating between fixed points of origin and the flotsam that encloses, between the longevity of marriage and parenthood, and the temporary of camping trips, renovations and hospital stays. Across the collection, the poets lyricism finds a lilt and repetition that firmly pegs while leaving one side open to the unlikely and unexpected.

Where, Gunvaldsen Klaassen asks, are the leaps of logic and leaps of faith that come with the constant necessary distractions of life with little kids taking me? Things seem to be always at more than one place at a time. Wed moved from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia and were lost. I needed some kind of return a long poem, repetitions, something sustaining although provisional. We bought an old house and moved in; we drove out to sea or were sometimes driven out by ghosts or neighbours, accidents, invitations, bad luck. I wrote in a tent, I wrote in the car. And thought about the generous, endlessly generative absurdity of marriage (one plus one equals two, and one plus one also equals one). And what if you live in a marriage plus kids? I guess living with mess and emptiness, with daily repetitions that comfort but also drive you crazy, with internal rhymes that unify and imply trouble, living in the midst of is to glimpse home as a (changeable) state of mind and being.

The collection opens with August after August, a series of fourteen poems based on traditional anniversary gifts (paper, cotton, leather, wood ). The suite is a consideration of domesticity and permanence, sometimes literal in its representations of the gifts in question, more often allusive and abstract.

In a summer of camping trips to Nova Scotias South Shore, Kejimkujik National Park, and Five Islands, home is defined along more flexible terms of tent poles, clotheslines, tides and bonfires. In sight of galaxy and open ocean, the poet revisits realities too tenuous for the clamour of the household a lost child, vague uncertainties and moments of sheer directionlessness.

Lean-To concludes with On Inlet Avenue, a long poem that tells the story of a lengthy home renovation. It is a telling that combines the sounds of the everyday the scramble of childrens voices, song lyrics and half-remembered lines from books with those of ad hoc repair and the poets internal frequency amid the sometimes troubling, often zany, preoccupations of creating home.

Other Books by this Author

August: An Anniversary Suite
Tonja Gunvaldsen-Klaassen

2005 / Poetry / $4.95 CAN / $4.95 US
9781894031967 / Pamphlet

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