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Review of The Best Canadian Poetry in English in 2012

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The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012
Edited by Carmine Starnino
Series Editor Molly Peacock
Tightrope Books

Reviewed by Lori A. May


“The New House” by Rhea Tregebov calls upon the complexity of remembering the past, while not letting the past keep hold of us. In what flows like a love poem to a former life, a woman reminisces about the time spent in an old house. In an apostrophe to her child, she refers to this sacred space as “the one where we both grew up,” paying tribute to the sudden maturity that comes with parenthood. The poem is melancholic, though, as the speaker traces history through packed boxes and as she packs “childhood into two plastic bins.” The child is now an adult with a separate life, a life complete without the parent. The poem traces the joy of familial relationships and how these are so often tethered to a concrete place, a home, and how memories of these follow us, no matter the moves that come later in life. [...]


Lori A. May is the author of four books. Her work has appeared in publications such as Rattle, Two Review, and The Writer. Please see her website for more details.

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Quill & Quire Review of All Souls’ by George Fetherling

Rhea Tregebov opens her seventh poetry collection by telling us about a visitation she had that unexpectedly put an end to a period of literary silence: “You thought all the poems had grown up / and left home. / You didn’t expect to find one / putting its little hand on your face.”

This is a book about cycles, such as the poet’s geographical progress from Winnipeg to Toronto, then from Toronto (“I’m such a sorry mess I’ll miss it”) to the West Coast, where she teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Most of all, it centres on the cyclical experiences of families, of watching children becoming adults and adults eventually dying (or in her father’s case, getting lost in dementia): “My father can’t draw the hands of the clock, / can’t draw its face. In his own hand, the pencil / falters, rests.” “Family Dinners,” the last of three poem sequences, is the heart of the book, uniting Tregebov’s themes of childhood, maternity, and decay with gardening, dining, and impermanence.

To read the full review, go to Quill & Quire or here.

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Vancouver is Awesome feature on Reading

Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.
Rhea Tregebov is a poet, novelist and children’s writer. Born in Saskatoon and raised in Winnipeg, she spent many years in Toronto and then was lured to Vancouver eight years ago by a job in the Creative Writing Program at UBC. Her seventh collection of poetry, All Souls’,was released by Signal Editions/Véhicule Press (Montreal) in September, 2012. 

Her historical novel, The Knife-Sharpener’s Bell (Coteau Books), follows a Winnipeg family who make a reverse migration back to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. She’ll be at the Jewish Book Festival on Thursday November 29, at the Vancouver JCC.

What are you currently reading? Your thoughts on it?

I’ve just finished Linda Svendsen’s Sussex Drive, a wickedly funny Ottawa satire with a very frightening, too-close-for-comfort political message. And I’ve started Annabel Lyon’s The Sweet Girl, which features Aristotle’s daughter Pythias, and is a sequel to The Golden Mean, Lyon’s book about the philosopher. I find the way Lyon is able to enter the human mind of Classical times uncanny, unsettling, and fascinating. Since I can never read just one thing at a time, I’ve also started Rachel Rose’s new book of poetry, Song & Spectacle. I’m a long-time fan of Rose’s work, and admire as much the wisdom of how she sees the world as the technique that makes her such a skilled writer.


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Vancouver Jewish Book Fair Panel From Poetry to Prose



Thursday Nov 29 @ 6:30pm

MEET THE AUTHORS From Poetry to Prose and Back

Rhea Tregebov / All Souls’

Susan Glickman / Smooth Yarrow            

 Isa Millman / Something Small to Carry Home

Tickets: $14.00  BUY TICKETS ONLINE >>             or call 604-257-5111

Susan Glickman’s sixth collection of poetry, The Smooth Yarrow, just came out in May. According to Quill and Quire, “Glickman’s writing is defiant: like yarrow, it is lean and strong, not only beautiful, but possessed of myriad healing properties.” She is also the author of two novels for adults, The Violin Lover, which won the 2006 Canadian Jewish Fiction Award, and The Tale-Teller, which just came out this autumn, the “Lunch Bunch” series of children’s books, and a prize-winning work of literary criticism, The Picturesque & The Sublime: A Poetics of the Canadian Landscape.”

Isa Milman is a poet and visual artist who lives in Victoria, BC. Born a displaced person in Germany in 1949, she grew up in the United States and came to Canada in 1975. She’s a graduate of Tufts University, and holds a Masters of Rehabilitation Science from McGill, where she taught for a decade. She is the author of Between the Doorposts (Ekstasis Editions, 2004) and Prairie Kaddish (Coteau Books, 2008), both of which won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for poetry. Her latest collection, Something Small to Carry Home, was published by Quattro Books in April 2012.

Bluesy, opinionated, sly, self-chastising and tender, Rhea Tregebov’s All Souls’—her first collection since 2004—commands a range of tones wider and bolder than anything in her previous six books of poetry. Inspired by crises both personal (divorce, adult children, aging parents) and societal (global warming, financial implosion),All Souls’ bracingly addresses the quandary at the heart of our present moment: the fear of change and the fear of standing still. Enriched by a sharp palate and crackling with confidence, Tregebov’s new poems capture life in all its rueful aspects, and do so with a lyricism of considerable beauty and power.

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More on Manitoba Reads long list for The Knife Sharpener’s Bell

Manitoba Reads Longlist: The Knife Sharpener’s Bell has been long-listed for Manitoba Reads. The Winnipeg International Writers Festival, THIN AIR, has teamed up with CBC Manitoba SCENE and McNally Robinson Booksellers for the second annual Manitoba Reads, a made-in-Manitoba book celebration in the spirit of Canada Reads, Canada’s biggest battle of the books. . …  A panel of experts has selected 12 great Manitoba titles and The Knife Sharpener’s Bell has made the list! Readers anywhere in Canada or the world can  vote on their favourite to help decide what is the best Manitoba book for summer reading. Voters have from now until August 12, 2012 to choose four favourites, and those four final titles that receive the most votes will be pitched by a panel of literary pros and keen advocates in front of a live audience on Friday, September 21 2012 at the Centre culturel francais as the kick -off to THIN AIR 2012. After that debate, on-line voting will open again, with the winning title and a portion of the live debate being aired on CBC’s Weekend Morning Show on Sunday, September 23, 2012. The initial audience poll, which runs from July 24 through August 12, has a great prize pack—$150 in gift cards from McNally Robinson, a couple of THIN AIR Festival Passes, and some cool CBC merch. To be eligible to win, visitors simply leave a comment after they vote. People can vote every day, and each vote comment enters the draw. Please pass the word along to your  friends via email, social media, etc. The more votes, the better!

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The Knife Sharpener’s Bell on Manitoba Reads long list

Manitoba Reads long list: 12 books for summer reading

Tuesday July 24, 2012

In the spirit of Canada Reads, Canada’s biggest battle of the books, CBC Manitoba is proud to present Manitoba Reads, in partnership with McNally Robinson Booksellers and the Winnipeg International Writers  Festival.
Our panel of experts has selected these 12 books – including some  familiar favourites and a couple local gems waiting to be discovered -  to vote on, to help decide what is the best Manitoba book for your summer reading pleasure.


The Knife Sharpener’s Bell, by Rhea Tregebov

Rhea Tregebov - The Knife Sharpener's Bell 100.jpg

Ten-year old Annette Gershon is content enough growing up in her father’s delicatessen in Winnipeg’s Jewish North End, but for immigrant families scratching out a living in the Dirty Thirties, even subsistence is a delicate balance. Everything changes when her parents decide to take the family “home” to the Soviet Union to escape the devastation of the collapsing capitalist economy. The Knife Sharpener’s Bell is the seldom-told story of a doomed return, and a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.
Rhea Tregebov is an award-winning poet and picture book author who has proven just as adept at writing fiction. Rhea grew up in Winnipeg, wrote and taught in Toronto for several years, and now lives in Vancouver where she teaches creative writing at UBC.

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Lilian Nattel on The Knife Sharpener’s Bell

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell 18 Jan 2011 5 Comments

by Lilian Nattel in Literary Tags: Rhea Tregebov, The Knife Sharpener’s Bell

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell is a novel about a Canadian family, originally from Russia, which returns to the Soviet Union – yes returns. This happened more times than people realize, when the depression was hitting hard. Communism was so respected that in 1932 Will Durant, a writer and journalist, could not get an article about the Ukrainian famine published in Harper’s or The Atlantic, because those eminent publications worried about alienating readers.

Now here I have to pause to tell you about the author of this novel, Rhea Tregebov, whose family history includes a story of returnees to the Soviet Union. Rhea is a friend of mine, an accomplished poet and writer of children’s stories. My kids still sometimes mention them. Rhea is also a creative writing prof out at the University of British Columbia.

I hope that her students appreciate her. Rhea has the unique gift of being able to criticise writing while making it sound like praise. I don’t mean that she deals in flattery or half-truths or lies, but that she has a way of putting criticism that is energizing, making one want to roll up the sleeves and get to work. Her criticism magically engages confidence in what has already been done and what can be done with that work. I don’t know how she does it.

Rhea was my mentor in a program for first novels at The Writers’ Union of Canada when I was writing The River Midnight. It was my first novel, and her feedback helped me to bring it up more than a notch. A few years later, somewhere around the third draft of The Singing Fire, I was thinking that I should quit writing and get a job pushing paper. But Rhea’s special brand of encouragement mixed with criticism got me back onto the fourth draft, which involved cutting vast swaths of the novel and starting from scratch…better.

I think that Rhea, in her own unostentatious way, knows everybody who is anybody in Canadian literature. I’m not sure that I’m anybody, but she’s been a gift in my life, and I know in many others.

Her entire ouevre, and there are many wonderful books, can be seen at her website. Have a look and do more – buy.

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The Knife Sharpener’s Bell Globe & Mail Top 100 book for 2010

Globe Books Special

Jim Bartley’s top 5

By Rhea Tregebov (Coteau)

The imminence of disaster – sensing it will come, not knowing how – infuses this tale of a Winnipeg family resettling in ancestral Ukraine. From callow childhood to belated understanding, snapshot scenes slowly coalesce into the arc of decades. Tregebov’s sorrows are admirably unlyricized, her nostalgia tart rather than sweet. The emerging Holocaust lurks like a slumbering monster, determinedly denied until it begins to claim victims.

Globe and Mail, November 27, 2010

For more top books of 2010, to go

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The Knife Sharpener’s Bell November selection for TPL book club

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell is the November selection for the Toronto Public Library’s online book club, Book Buzz.

November 1 to 30, 2010

Book Buzz is a book club  for everyone interested in reading. Participants can join from  any connected computer in Toronto, or anywhere, at any time. On the first day of every month, the Book Buzz librarian launches a new book discussion in the online Discussion Forum. Rhea Tregebov will be joining the Dicussion Forum to answer questions posted by the readers throughout the month. Toronto participants can place a hold on the book  from the Book Buzz main page. To post comments about the book, readers need to register to become members. To participate in Rhea Tregebov’s author chat, readers go to the Discussion Forums, and choose the chat folder. For  more detailed directions on registration and joining the author chat, go to:

For details on The Knife Sharpener’s Bell, go to:

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G&M Review of Eve Joseph’s The Secret Signature of Things

The poems in The Secret Signature of Things are immersed in the rich landscape of British Columbia. In the first section of the book, Menagerie, Joseph takes on the voices of 10 resident creatures, some native to B.C., some domestic. By inhabiting this variety of creatures, Joseph extends the usual limits of the lyric, allowing the reader to imaginatively enter into the point of view of the subjects of her poems – crow, carp, swallow – whose voices she assumes. Joseph employs a lean, streamlined lyric, reliant on the clarity and integrity of her images.

To read full review, go to:

Reviewed by Rhea Tregebov

Globe and Mail Update Published on  Monday, Sep. 20, 2010 12:37PM EDT

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