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Poets in Profile: Rhea Tregebov Open Book Toronto

 

Rhea Tregebov is the author of All Souls’ (Vehicule Press). Her seventh collection (and her first since 2004), All Soul’s confronts the inextricable fears of both change and standing still.

Today we speak with Rhea as part of our Poets in Profile series, and hear from her about the poetry of Raymond Carver, the poetic possibilities of public transit and her tips and tricks for a poem that has stalled.

Find out what inspires, confounds and delights today’s Canadian poets by following our series.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Rhea Tregebov:

I grew up bookish and often home sick from school, so from an early age lived, to some degree, in my head. But I think it was a junior high school English teacher who really set me off on the road to becoming a writer. She was the only teacher who encouraged us to do creative writing, an unusual activity in those days in the schools, and her considered praise of what I wrote made me believe in my writing.

OB:

What is the first poem you remember being affected by?

RT:

This goes back a very long ways, before I could read. My mother is a beautiful storyteller and she had, and still has, passionate convictions about social justice. So I remember listening spellbound as she recited “The Song of the Shirt” by Thomas Hood, a lament for working class oppression. The first verse went: “With fingers weary and worn,/ With eyelids heavy and red,/ A woman sat, in unwomanly rags, /Plying her needle and thread– / Stitch! stitch! stitch! /In poverty, hunger, and dirt, /And still with a voice of dolorous pitch / She sang the “Song of the Shirt.”” I can still hear my mother’s voice reciting it and feel the strength of her belief that this was not how the world was supposed to be.

For the rest of the interview, go to http://www.openbooktoronto.com/news/poets_profile_rhea_tregebov

For more information about All Souls’ please visit the Vehicule Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Poets in Profile interviews in our archives.

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Winnipeg Free Press Review of All Souls’

Born in Saskatoon and raised in Winnipeg, Vancouver-based Rhea Tregebov begins her seventh collection, All Souls’ (Signal, 78 pages, $18) with a poem in which “You thought all the poems had grown up / and left home. You didn’t expect to find one / putting its little hands on your face.” A fine, fitting metaphor for the moment of poetic inspiration, which is notoriously difficult to place into words.
To read the complete review, go to Winnipeg Free Press or here.

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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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The Toronto Quarterly Interview with Rhea Tregebov on All Souls’

TTQ – What inspired you to start writing poetry?
Rhea Tregebov – I was sick a lot as a kid, stayed home from school living in my imagination, very immersed in reading. So that living in my head was what got me started as a writer. Why it was poetry that drew me is a little more obscure, but I think it was in part a distrust of the causality (this happened because of that) that plot implied and in part a strong sense of the value of what went on in my, and by extension, others’, heads – that interior life. 

TTQ – How difficult is it for you to write a great poem?
Rhea Tregebov – Very rarely does the writing come easily. There are a few poems that have come just as gifts, but mostly it’s a question of revision after revision and a lot of sweat in working through to get it right. It feels like I often start with an amorphous block of marble and then have to write my way through, chipping away to the shape of the poem inside. In terms of figuring out what is my best work, that’s pretty hard too, but luckily I have some very adept fellow writers who help me out with that evaluation.

 

To read the complete article, go to http://thetorontoquarterly.blogspot.ca/2012/11/rhea-tregebov-all-souls-interview.html

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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.

 

To read the whole feature, go to http://vancouverisawesome.com/2012/11/28/read-all-over-rhea-tregebov/

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Maisonneuve review of All Souls’

All Souls’ (Signal Editions), Rhea Tregebov‘s seventh collection of poetry, unwraps the banal, beautiful experiences of a uniquely Canadian life. The lines are delicate but visceral: ‘Soon / it will rain, soon wind will spread / the prairie dust, moths will give up / their lives against the glass,’ Tregebov writes in ‘House Work.’ Tregebov’s poems are thoughtful and confident, but never overreach. Her use of language is effortless, allowing the book to contemplate—sometimes quietly, sometimes more forcefully—the way in which small moments speak to a larger human consciousness.” Taylor Tower, Maisonneuve, Issue 45.

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Poem for All Souls’ Day

The title poem of Rhea Tregebov’s new book on this dark day…

All Souls’ Day

 

 

Some moon – full, and fall.

So close it grazes the houses.

The clocks gone back now – six

and it’s near dark. That moon

bright, though, and this city. Cars,

their lights, wash by on pavement

made for them. This sidewalk,

its dates marked in concrete

(1977, 1992), made for me.

By someone. That someone

a soul now perhaps, body

done, in earth. Winter soon.

 

© Rhea Tregebov

from All Souls’, Signal Editions, Véhicule Press, September 2012

ISBN: 978-155065-338-0

http://rheatregebov.ca

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Recordings of Yiddish Stories and Poems by Women Writers

Readings by members of the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle (recorded in 2011).

 The Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle meets monthly in order to read, hear, and discuss stories and poems by female Yiddish authors that would otherwise be forgotten. By rescuing the stories of these writers, the participants in the Reading Circle are also able to enjoy listening and speaking their mameloshn, or mother-tongue. 

Yiddish was the language of Central and Eastern European Jewry and was brought to Winnipeg by Jewish immigrants. Many of the women in the Reading Circle are the children of immigrants and thus grew up in Yiddish-speaking homes. Some of them were students at the I. L. Peretz Folk Shul, a Winnipeg Yiddish-language school that was the first full-time Jewish day school in North America. Other members immigrated to Winnipeg from Europe after the Holocaust. 

The Winnipeg Reading Circle has been remarkably active since its inception in 2001. In 2007 the group published an anthology of English translations of their favourite stories, Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers, edited by Rhea Tregebov (Toronto: Sumach Press; New York: The Feminist Press). The Reading Circle was also recognized by the UNESCO and was included in its Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation.

Yiddish is no longer spoken or understood by the majority of Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Central and East European origin). The women of the Winnipeg Reading Circle belong to an increasingly small group of Winnipeggers fluent in the language. The stories and poems presented here have been translated into English, but the women who read these stories for you hope that by listening to the original Yiddish, even those who do not understand the language will get an impression of  the humour, linguistic musicality, and emotional depth in the Yiddish language and Yiddish literature. 

To access the website, click here.

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Bio formatted on Tatiana de Rosnay’s

Having just seen the film version of Sara’s Key, which alternately moved and frustrated me, I looked up the biography of the novel’s author, Tatiana de Rosnay and must confess I found a wee bit of hubris in the expansive coverage of her lineage. To that end, I have modelled my own biographical note based on her format… RT

Rhea Tregebov was born on August 15, 1953 in the suburbs of Saskatoon. She is of Russian Jewish  descent.  Her father was Canadian civil engineer Sam Block,  her grandfather was wrecking and salvage company owner James Block. Rhea doesn’t know the name of her paternal great-grandmother but she wishes she did.  Rhea’s mother is Canadian, Jeanette Block, daughter of delicatessen owner Aaron Grosney, and  great-great-granddaughter of someone who was probably a very interesting person. Rhea is also the niece of moving company owner Hymie Block.  Rhea was raised in Winnipeg, where her father designed irrigation ditches and brought in indoor plumbing to rural Manitoba communities while working for the provincial government. He was always home by 5:30.

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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.

 http://liliannattel.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/the-knife-sharpeners-bell/

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

Globe Books Special

Jim Bartley’s top 5

THE KNIFE SHARPENER’S BELL
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

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/jim-bartleys-top-5/article1814783/

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2010 J. I. Segal Awards presented November 10 Montreal

The 41st J.I. Segal Awards Gala of the Jewish Public Library honoured the winners in eight categories on Jewish themes. These prestigious awards, presented every two years, are designed to encourage and reward creative works on Jewish themes and to perpetuate the memory of the great Canadian Yiddish poet J.I. Segal. The prizes were awarded at a public ceremony on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gelber Conference Centre in the Jewish Public Library, 1 Cummings Square (5151 Côte Ste-Catherine Road), Montreal. For information, call 514-345-2627 ext. 3017 or visit www.jewishpubliclibrary.org.

This year 10 recipients were awarded in the following eight categories:

Prof. David E. Fishman and Boris Sandler for the Dr. Hirsch and Dora Rosenfeld Prize for Yiddish and Hebrew Literature;

Rhea Tregebov for the Shulamis Yelin Prize in English Fiction and Poetry Prize on a Jewish Theme;

Jeffrey Veidlinger for the Tauben Prize in English Non-Fiction on a Jewish Theme;

Maurice Chalom for the Prize in French Literature on a Jewish Theme;

Moshe Dor for the Barbara Kay Prize in Translation of a Book on a Jewish Theme;

Esther Trépanier and Allan Levine for the Prize in Canadian Jewish Studies;

Nira Friedman for the Yaacov Zipper Prize in Education;

Garry Beitel for the Michael Moskovitz Prize in Film on a Jewish Theme.
 

Rhea Tregebov’s debut novel The Knife Sharpener’s Bell has been selected the winner in the the category of Prize in English Fiction and Poetry on a Jewish Theme. of the prestigious   The last winner in 2008 was Leonard Cohen for The Book of Longing. Other past award winners include Irving Layton and Adele Wiseman.

Jury citation: “In reading, we adventured from the pale of Russia to the suburbs of Toronto to the fields of Saskatchewan—in both verse and prose. The decision was indeed difficult. Rhea Tregebov’s first novel The Knife Sharpener’s Bell stood out for the beauty of its prose, the ambition of its scope, and the strength of its story.  [Tregebov’s] sensitivity to language and attentiveness to history are both evident in this riveting bildungsroman, which has already garnered other award nominations and considerable critical attention. We congratulate her on this debut novel, and we look forward to her future books.”

The J.I. Segal Awards of the Jewish Public Library are made possible by the J.I. Segal Cultural Foundation, founded by the late Dr. Hirsh Rosenfeld and Mrs. Dvora Rosenfeld. They were established in 1968 to honour and perpetuate the memory of  J.I. Segal, and to foster Jewish cultural creativity in Canada.

J.I. Segal (1896-1954) is acknowledged as one of the most respected Yiddish poets. His work is characterized by its deep lyrical expression and evocation of the dignity of Jewish life in the Eastern European shtetl and in Canada. Segal strove to show that “a people and its culture are inseparable.” His poetry lives on in Yiddish and in translation.

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Knife Sharpener’s Bell Wins Segal Award

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell has been selected the winner of the prestigious J.I. Segal 2010 Awards in the the category of Prize in English Fiction and Poetry on a Jewish Theme. The prize is to be awarded at a public ceremony on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 in Montreal. The awards, presented every two years, are designed to encourage and reward creative works on Jewish themes. The last winner in 2008 was Leonard Cohen for The Book of Longing. Other past award winners include Irving Layton and Adele Wiseman.

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YouTube video Rhea Tregebov reading at La Muse

A glimpse of the amazing La Muse Writers’ Retreat. Rhea reading new poems, some written there. Two links: one (5 1/2 minutes) and the second one  (less than a minute). The baby cooing is John and Kerry’s daughter Gloria, one of  the muses of La Muse.

Part 1

Part 2

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La Muse Writers’ Retreat

For writers at any stage in their careers who are looking for a great writers’ retreat at great value, check out the website of La Muse in Languedoc, France.

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