A project unlike anything else

Local literary mag Prairie Fire celebrate its 30th anniversary by launching The Boreality Project

Prairie Fire, Manitoba’s magazine of Canadian writing, has named Winnipeg poet Katherine Bitney the first writer-in-residence in the magazine’s 30-year history. Bitney is also one of several collaborators working on the magazine’s Boreality Project. Cindy Titus

“We want to celebrate our achievement of publishing our 30th volume by doing something that, to the best of our knowledge, no other Canadian lit-mag has ever done.”

That’s what Andris Taskans, the editor of Prairie Fire, had to say when asked about The Boreality Project and Prairie Fire’s first-ever writer-in-residence.

Boreality is part of a two-year project by Prairie Fire Press, in collaboration with the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, whose purpose is to celebrate the boreal forest of Manitoba through a multidisciplinary approach involving writing, music, sound and photography, Taskans said.

An illustrious team of Manitobans, led by Janine Tschuncky, the magazine’s managing editor, has been assembled to assist in this project.

“I really wanted to become involved, to be the person co-ordinating the project, because the boreal forest provides a lot of meaning to the work that I’m doing. I lived in the forest on three occasions—when I was eight, 16 to 18, and right after my mom died at age 21,” Tschuncky said.

“Since I came to Canada from Switzerland, the boreal landscape has always given me so much strength emotionally, physically and spiritually. This project seemed like a doorway - a slightly different doorway - back into the forest where my work might contribute something, give something back to the forest.”

Tschuncky added that she works with “the knowledge that we are creating something beautiful that may create more awareness about the significance, beauty and importance of Canada’s boreal forests.”

Sid Robinovitch’s name will ring familiar to Winnipeggers through the many compositions he has scored for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO), Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the New Music Festival and more.

“My involvement was as a result of a commission from the MCO. The opportunity presented itself and I accepted. This is what I do. I’m a composer. I add the musical component,” Robinovitch said.

The MCO was one of the initiators of the project.

“The chance to bring together a multi-media team in a collaborative project regarding the internationally known boreal forest excited us,” said Vicki Young, MCO’s general manager. “We believe that this project will expand our audience and reinforce our reputation for innovation and excellence.”

Local soundscape artist Ken Gregory will be sampling the environment on field trips into the boreal. While also informing Robinovitch’s score, Gregory’s recordings will become a solo sound installation.

As if there would be time given the hectic pace of this project, local writer and poet Katherine Bitney will act as Prairie Fire’s writer-in-residence, launching this phase of the project on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Aqua Books, 274 Garry St.. She will then set up shop at Aqua twice a week until the end of October.

Bitney’s general focus will be to assist those writing about or writing from the boreal. If you fall under these guidelines, then call 943-9066 or e-mail borealkate [at] gmail.com.

Published in Volume 63, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 15, 2009)

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