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Sumac's Red Arms

by Karen Shklanka

Sumac's Red Arms

A practicing doctor finds antidotes both simple and sophisticated to the daily drama that is her working life.

Karen Shklanka writes clearly and unsentimentally about stitching a fight victim back together in Moose Factory, going to sign the death certificate of a radiant long-time patient on Salt Spring Island, watching a man slowly losing his memory in an unnamed city. How is a medical professional to survive these daily reminders of life's fragility and uncertainty with compassion and humanity intact, without becoming cold and distant?

She presents two very different answers to this task. One is to drink deeply of the earthy beauty of the natural world and its feast for the senses. She writes passionately about garden flowers, exotic fruits and spices, animals both wild and domestic, the crystalline beauty of the heavens.

The other is to give oneself to the nuanced, sophisticated, sensuality of the tango. She tangos, poetically, with husbands, lovers and strangers in many parts of the world. She finds in the dance's controlled abandon an embrace, a celebration of her life sufficiently intense to make her want to go on, despite what she so clearly knows about what inevitably lies ahead. We live in the physical world, she says, both the world around us and the physicality of our own bodies. It is the potential for beauty, grace and passion in both of these physical worlds that must be our touchstone and our solace.

Partial Proceeds of this book will be donated to the Vancouver Foundation, and directed toward programs for Aboriginal youth and suicide prevention.


5.5" x 8.5" 92 pages
16.95 CDN; 16.95 USD
E-Book Price
Poetry Tradepaper Adult
Karen Shklanka
Author Photo

About the Author

Karen Shklanka is a poet, a family physician and, with her husband, an Argentine Tango dance instructor. Her poetry was included in the 2004 chapbook anthology, Letters We Never Sent, edited by Patrick Lane. She was twice a finalist in ARC magazine's international poem contest, in 2005 and 2006, and has been published in numerous other literary periodicals. Sumac's Red Arms is her first book publication.

Born in Toronto, Karen Shklanka spent 14 years practicing rural and emergency medicine in small and medium-sized Canadian communities. She has lived in Vancouver, Australia, Regina, Houston, Los Angeles and Moose Factory, Ontario, and on Salt Spring Island. She received her M.D. in 1988, and, in 1990, received the top mark in Canada from the Canadian College of Family Physicians. She currently serves as a Clinical Instructor in the Faculty of Family Medicine at UBC.

More info on Karen: http://alumni.med.ubc.ca/communications/alumni-in-profile-archive/karen-shklanka-md88-mfa12/

From the author: During a time of personal crisis a couple of years after I finished my family medicine training, a poem appeared in my mind as if out of nowhere while I was on an airplane between Timmins and Ottawa. Feeling as though a rare bird had flown into my home, I wrote it down. Six months after the first poem, while driving on the freeway, the lines of another poem came into my mind. A few weeks later, I bought my first book of poetry, "Afterworlds" by Gwendolyn MacEwan, which inspired me to continue. Poetry became a doorway to my underneath thinking, as I call it now, an intuitive process that I didn't understand but which was a way to communicate experiences that I couldn't access verbally. At the beginning,I wasn't interested in publishing my poems, but showed them to close friends and other creative people in my community - initially artists and musicians who understood and encouraged me in what felt like a strange process. I subsequently moved to SaltSpringIsland where there is a large community of writers, and it was there that I conceived my first book of poems, Sumac's Red Arms.



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