Not an Island Spring 2022

Spring, At Last!

Dear readers, you’re in for a treat as you emerge from your snowy dens. In this issue we learn about an ancient Japanese form of poetry related to its better known cousin, the haiku. Isabella Mori introduces us to the Japanese poetic art of the haibun, then Anne Miles puts us under a spell with her trio of haunting poems. Not to be outdone, proseter Robin Lamarche takes us on an intriguing kayaking journey and Marilyn Browning lets us in on the secret life of paperbacks.

The deadline for the Summer edition is Tuesday, May 17th for your poetry, fiction, nonfiction and scripts. If you haven’t submitted before, let’s showcase you in this next issue. Send your submissions to

Enjoy the bright colours, birdsong, blossoms, and other promises of the season.

by Cathalynn Cindy Labonté-Smith on February 21st, 2022


About Haibun

by Isabella Mori

A haibun is a Japanese literary form that combines short prose with fiction, or, to paraphrase Robert Hass, a master of the form, a “prose poem with a leap to haiku”. Haibun first appeared in Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road To The Interior in the late 17th Century. With his famous haiku about the noise made by a frog jumping into a pond, Basho is to this day the world’s most well-known haiku poet. Narrow Road journals Basho’s long travel by foot through the Japanese countryside, full not only of the details of his journey but also of musings about his life, his occasional fellow travelers, the history of the places he visited, and so on.

Many contemporary haibun are also about travels. However, there is a delightfully wide variety of approaches to haibun. An example is this one , which recounts the experience of being a personal care provider and looks at the similarity between that and the life of another famous haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki, who was bedridden for a long time and attended to by his sister.

What most haibun have in common is that the prose part is relatively short, succinct, focusing on a felt experience, and often quite lyrical. The haiku does not usually repeat content but takes it into a slightly different direction or underscores the content through a variation on a theme touched on in the prose. If you’d like to delve deeper into haibun, this is a good article

Editor’s Note: This Haibun was composed prior to massive flooding experienced by the Merritt area in the winter of 2021, destroying homes and devastating the lives of the residents. This poem captures a happier time in Merritt’s past.

Nicola Valley, Spring 2018

by Isabella Mori, Spring 2018
A Haibun

My crumpled white-woman soul needs the wide open spaces of the Nicola Valley. It’s the valley of N’kwala, powerful leader of the Okanagan peoples two hundred years ago. The Spokane called him Hwistesmetxe'qen, Walking Grizzly Bear.

My soul and my feet need – they itch – to roam the wide open spaces of the valley and its waters once teeming with salmon.

this wild field …

ten years from now nothing

but manicured lawns

My soul needs to be smoothed out by the raging waters of spring.

Ten thousand years ago, glaciers created the Nicola Valley, a wide valley, with mountains all around. At the hub of it lies a city, Merritt. In my room at the Super 8 Motel I open a new book, The Fountains of Paradise. High up in the mountains of Asia, it tells us, two thousand years ago, a King called Kalidasa ordered a Persian artist to create secret murals of fifty beautiful goddesses, beauties King Kalidasa alone was allowed to see.

Merritt, I read on the street corners, on banners, in the tourist center, is the country music capital of Canada. It also has murals of country music stars. They’re everywhere: Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson, Reba McInyre, Johnny Reid. Everyone is allowed – urged – to see them.

I read, too, a lone sign telling the country music world about N'kwala. “A local chief,” it says. You can go bowling right by the N’kwala Park, not far from where N’kwala led an army of warriors.

Meanwhile, more to see: Willows blooming neon green, crows beginning to nest, and the snow melt waters – wild mountain warriors all – bowling over shores and roads.


flirting with the mountain ridge

in this wide valley

Isabella Mori lives in Vancouver and is the author of two books of and about poetry, including A bagful of haiku – 87 imperfections. They write poetry, short fiction, novels and nonfiction. Poetry and short fiction have appeared in publications such as Kingfisher, Signs Of Life and The Group Of Seven Reimagined. Isabella is the founder of Muriels Journey Poetry Prize which celebrates loud, edgy, socially engaged poetry. In March and April of 2021, they were the writer-in-residence at the Historic Joy Kogawa House.


by Anne Miles

Oh moon!

You've grown up so fast

this month.

Last I looked

you were a slim, bright crescent

in the dusk.

Now you're almost full

and the tide, the tide...

you've pulled it up

tight to the shore

till there's no beach left--

just water, blue-gleaming

from one shore of the channel to the next.

By the time you're full

the sea will have climbed

halfway up the seawall

because it can't contain itself

for love of you!

Old Snapshot from Before We Met

by Anne Miles

You sit there big, expansive.

You wear your “anti-uniform”:

jeans, black tee-shirt,

flannel shirt over it

watch cap, keys on belt loop.

A dark curl of chest hair

peeps out at the tee-shirt's neck.

Your style didn't change much over 28 years.

You smile, dimples showing.

I want you so

I want to be there.

I want to hold your big, warm hand again.

I want to sit in your lap.

Of course you're too young for me

in this picture—I'm older, now

than you ever got to be.

I want to live it all over again

to be kinder to you

to live together without our dark sides cropping up

to make trouble

the way that dark sides always do.

But here you sit

caught in time in this picture

all potential

looking as I remember you

waiting, your big heart open,

waiting for the near future

when I will walk right in, and stay.

No Pathway Back

by Anne Miles

The sign that once said, 'Grandma's Place”

in front of the low, white house near the beach

has been replaced

by one announcing

“For Sale, Ocean View”.

The fairy path that Grandpa made--

the one that led from the woods

to the safe back yard and to the swing

under the maple tree--

goes nowhere now.

Someone has blocked the gap in the hedge

nailed a sign to the tree--

a sign that says “No Trespassing”.

Now the children

stretching awkwardly toward adolescence

must learn they can never

come back

Anne Miles lives and writes in Gibsons, where she finds inspiration in life, nature and her night dreams. She has had poems published previously in Quarry, Canadian Woman Studies, People's Poetry Letter, Ascent Aspirations and (once, a long time ago) in Room of One's Own (as it was called then).


Sturgeon River, Alberta

By Robin Lamarche

The section of the Sturgeon River that winds through Tina’s property is dark and slow-moving. Nothing like the crashing, white-foamed rivers that chased us as we drove from the west coast through the Rockies to St. Albert. Nothing like the clear rivers rolling by in sunlit shades of blue. It’s a brown, murky ecosystem, teeming with life, dotted with bits of greenery and wood. Insects skim the surface; critters and creatures below release air that bubbles up and breaks the surface. It smells earthy, briny, healthy, alive. It creeps and crawls, wanders through Tina’s acreage and past it under the bridge.

The kayak I’m in seemed too heavy to float; it took some effort to heave it down the incline behind the house and launch. I’m in motion now, though, at an easy pace, flanked by woods and grass and brush on both sides. Tina pulls ahead, more experienced, knowing the shape of the river.

I paddle, dodging mosquitoes, breathing in the beauty, and I can’t tell how deep the water is. We round the bend and there’s the beaver dam.

It is built from profound energy. It is a Jackson Pollock painting, layered and manic, a child’s construction full and busy, the creation of a mad genius. It is made of wood, straw, brush, bark, mud. Pieces as long as a tree, fat as a log, small as a branch, short as a stick.

We can’t float over it; we have to portage. Tina expertly steers her kayak parallel to the dam, scoots out, knees bent, one foot in, one foot out, pulls it over and slides back in. I’m not so nimble. I have to fully step out of my kayak, and for a glorious moment I am standing on the dam. And it is a marvel, a miracle of engineering, a most perfect structure and amazingly I discover that it is solid as stone. It is an immovable mountain, a brick wall, an iceberg. Not a wobble nor hint of a shift under my weight. I am standing on it; I am atop a miracle. I lean down and with both hands drag the kayak over the uneven surface, position it sideways, bend my knees, and perch on the seat. Using the paddle, I push against the dam but it takes too long for me to get my center of gravity back into the center of the kayak and of course I capsize, slowly, inexorably, into the murky water of the Sturgeon River, because of my own instability. I laugh and so does Tina. The water is warm. Then I stand up, knee deep.

Robin Lamarche is a freelance editor and small-bite writer who loves living on the Sunshine Coast.

Old Paperbacks Never Die. . .They Just Tell Stories

By Marilyn Browning , February 2022

In a black recycling bag on the way to the library, I suddenly realized I had become so unpopular that it had been years since I had been taken out by friends.

Now here I was being trundled off to a book sale with fellow authors, put in bins to be pushed and manhandled by the bargain hunting public. No royalties here. My spine was killing me.

I found myself placed on a table next to a book by Judy Gill, a local romance author. She purred and rubbed my back for me but nothing seemed to help my growing dread of anonymity amongst the hundreds of writers who began appearing on the tables.

Then the logging poet, Peter Trower, wedged his spine between me and Judy and announced with male arrogance that he had just written a book about love and that he couldn't understand for the life of him why HE was at a book sale.

I saw the bodice ripper cover on his new novel and was worried, as close as we were, that I might start resembling the woman on that cover. Luckily, with another thwarted inspection of my pages, I was put in another spot on the table.

As the day progressed, old acquaintances put their hands out to me in recognition. Then they moved on when they realized that I hadn't said anything new in years. I was being put down again and again by former avid admirers.

A small child glanced at me quizzically and was swiftly turned away by their parent.

I had become a myth and not quite trusted anymore.

The men, who used to fear me, now snickered when they looked at me.

The occasional blowsy matron type would turn to me in remembrance of juvenile and hopeful questions from the 1960's but then turn away in sad resignation.

From library book sale patron to library book sale patron, I was perused, passed on and put down. An anachronism in the crowd.

When I looked around the room, I saw that I was not alone, others were being ostracized and pushed aside.

June Callwood was sulking in the corner. Rosemary Brown was all but forgotten by the side door. Marilyn French was piled knee high by the last table.

A ragtag dogeared group of abandoned feminist paperbacks, read, relished and retired, we started to crowd together. Not yet old enough to be collectible but still a remembered embarrassment of our times.

And then someone started to play Jim Christy’s poetry CD in the background. The words flew towards us like dust mites.

"The glue pot, the end of the line, terminal avenue."

Our covers no longer had "the young simper but replaced by the smirk of a certain age".

We were all slowly moving out of retired professional women's bookcases and into the maelstrom of library book sales and Salvation Army back walls.

Then a hand came through the heap of discarded paperbacks and lifted me up from the pile, lifted me up into the light once again, brushed off my ripped and ravaged title page and said, "Look, grandma, it's one of your old books."

I felt the old stirring in my spine, the power once more floating from the written word into the mind of a young and malleable reader.

Perhaps the Library Book Sale is not such a bad place to be taken after all.

Marilyn Browning started her writing career in journalism and ad copywriting. She won the national Community Living Award for a story about working with the disabled. She produced and directed and hosted a half hour shaw cable show, called Metro Magazine about the Canadian Country Music Awards in late 80s.

She had her play performed in the Vancouver Fringe Festival late 90s, and had several one acts performed in Vancouver with honorable mentions, as well as on the Coast. She has won the local Gillian Lowdnes award for contributions to the arts.

Browning has recently had a children's book published, Chins and elbows and knees, with her second one, Toeses, noses and lips, on the way.

“Living on the coast is my muse,” she says.