Literary Animals

Concordia’s Co-op Bookstore Nurtures Nature

Graphic Eric Bent

Living in the mostly urban mecca that is Montreal, sometimes the concept of nature and the other creatures that inhabit it is hard to imagine. However, for Montreal-based writers JP King, Ashley Opheim and Mark Ambrose Harris, the animal kingdom is a major source of inspiration in this concrete jungle.

The three writers will be presenting their wild and woolly works at Creature Feature, a literary event being held at the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore. It is a love letter to the earth; a celebration of the natural world and where we fit within it.

“Nature is a subject that is an inevitable inspiration for a writer,” explained Opheim. “It is in nature where we find truth, beauty, and honesty. We find a rational world that is not based on a system of economics, but rather a system of balance.”

Opheim, a Saskatchewan native and creative and professional writing student at Concordia—who, full disclosure, is a former editor of The Link—finds that the theme of nature is one that often makes itself present in her writing.

“I feel a deep connection to the natural world, as we all do,” she said. “The theme of nature versus unnatural occurs a lot in my writing. Lots of my current work is driven by my paranoia and has roots in my dislocation from the natural world.”

It’s a divide that many feel, when moving from a rural area to an urban one, said Opheim.

“Growing up in Saskatoon, it was easy to access the natural world and separate myself from the city. This is a nice feeling, one that makes me happy,” Opheim said.

“We spend so much time in traffic or surrounded by walls and artificial light—it’s important that we take time to reflect on things that make us happy.”

Taking time to escape our urban environment is not only something that is freeing, but also crucial, in a sense. “There is a tension in Canada right now between us wanting to preserve the earth but also wanting to further ‘develop’ the land. And so if our current concept of ‘developing’ looks something like the Alberta Tar Sands, well, then we really need to rethink development,” said Opheim.

As humans we often see ourselves as the only creatures roaming this planet. Fellow writers and readers JP King and Mark Ambrose Harris agree that it’s important for humans to get back to our natural roots and each reader will pay homage to the natural world in their own way.

“The poem I will be reading is a love letter or ode to my favourite animals,” Opheim explained.

“It’s a funny, light-hearted piece. I’ve never read at the Co-op Bookstore but I’m really excited to. Public reading is something that can be very empowering, not only to the writer but also the listeners. I want my writing to please the reader sonically, but also affect them in a deeper way.”

Creature Feature: A Reading / Co-op Bookstore (2150 Bishop St.) / Nov. 2 / 7:00 p.m.