By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile
This month poet, essayist, novelist and Department of English and Humanities Associate Professor B.W. Powe released his latest book, Ladders Made of Water.
Powe’s new work is a collection featuring poems, mini-essays, stories, parables, meditations on contemporary cinema and unfinished rock opera lyrics. Blending essaying and poetry, Powe says Ladders Made of Water was writing in an impressionistic, poetic, analogical, free associative approach to open up a dialogue with readers around the subjects the book considers – spiritual crises, the Russia-Ukraine War, the pandemic, environmental collapse and what he calls the implosion of our media systems. “It’s a thoughtful work that’s reflecting on the turbulence that we’re experiencing right now,” Powe says.
The new work is notable too for being the first project published by Stream Elsewhere Press, a venture the associate professor founded in collaboration with Elliott Sheppard, a former York student of Powe’s, in order to explore the possibilities of self-publishing. “It’s a new way to get my material out there, bypassing conventional publishing houses, who often take years to edit and produce a book,” says Powe.
Because his work frequently draws and comments upon the present, he welcomes a significant benefit that results from that. “What I like about this quick turnround publishing approach is that it puts you right into the moment,” he says. “It gives you that immediacy.”
Ladders Made of Water is the latest in a growing body of work that has earned Powe numerous accolades. In 2021, his last book, The Charge in the Global Membrane – which included street art photos, poetry, journal entries, essays, memoir, aphorism, fragments, letters and meditative prose – won the Media Ecology Association’s (MEA) prestigious Marshall McLuhan Best Book of the Year Prize, as well as a York University Research and Innovations Award. In 2022, the MEA also honored Powe with its The Medium and the Light Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his overall body of work as author, poet, storyteller, professor, researcher and teacher.
Powe has been an English teacher at York since 1995. He helped to found the McLuhan Initiative for the Study of Literacies at York University, and he served as program director of the Creative Writing program at York. He is also a member of the Humanities program.
He is currently preparing Mysteria – an artefact work he began in the depths of the pandemic isolations – which Stream Elsewhere Press is planning to publish later this year.