Some people call plants that grow of their own volition weeds. Catherine Owen, a local writer and all-around creative, calls them gifts. Originally from Vancouver, Owen moved to Alberta Avenue in 2018. “I’ve put roots down here through owning a house and planting a garden!” says Owen.
Firmly rooting herself in this region, the theme of soil and growing things might reflect the logo and theme colours she inherited in the house. “My partner calls me ‘the word farmer.’” Her writing style matches the farming lifestyle, putting in two to three hours of writing before breakfast. Fueled by coffee, her mornings are reserved for writing poetry, no matter the time of year.
Calling her house Delilah may balance the masculine energy of a previous owner, who was the John Deere fan and collector. The apt word farmer nickname fits. Owen says, “I need the focus of my John Deere writing studio.” Her writing space is indeed dark green with yellow accent colours and has an original John Deere logo on the wall.
Unlike farmers, she takes one day off a week, aiming for 1,500 words of prose in the afternoon on the other six days.
When she’s not planting words in her journals in the summer, her backyard calls her. Owen admits, “My little garden is crazy.” Never having had one before, “I now can’t go away between May and October.” She plans her writing around the seasons. “Prose is for winter survival when I write novels. Poetry takes over in the summer.” While poem drafts can be dashed off, most writers will agree that writing prose requires more concentrated time, making it perfect for blustery, snowed-in days.
“House ownership is a different life.” Owen says, “I have to focus and cut out things I used to do when I just had an apartment.”
Owen composed her first poem around the age of four. “Then I wrote horrible heavy metal lyrics in high school. I called one song ‘Hellhole,’ but then at 19, I dedicated myself to poetry.” The song title is ironic when you consider her mother was a nun for 12 years before she left the convent and had a child with a man 11 years younger than her.
The oldest of five, Owen says, “My parents are the most supportive, wonderful human beings. Never once did they tell me to make a more sensible, logical money-making choice in life. They always come to my readings and talk about my books.” Owen’s dad is an “extreme pun master.” A truck driver for 50 years, he would write little poems on the back of his waybills. “I’d buy him a notebook and nope. He stuck to the back of waybills: ‘That is too serious.’”
Describing her parents as culturally-minded people, Owen says, “They made sure their five children had access to art and culture in the ‘70s and ‘80s.” Owen took violin lessons, but clearly words are her jam, as she has also interspersed publishing poetry collections with fiction and memoir. In addition to the inspiration and support of her parents, two writers have been major influences. John Ashbery, a surrealist American poet, inspired Owen’s book Dear Ghost.
She mentions Neil Peart (the drummer from Rush) next, who wrote a memoir of loss called Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road after his wife and daughter died. “It is the best book about grief, offering a brief overview of the whole process.”
Owen has published 15 books, 11 of them poetry, and the 16th book coming out in spring of 2024 is called Moving to Delilah. “It’s about relocating from Vancouver to Edmonton in 2018.” Owen is a welcome transplant to the Alberta Avenue area and growing like a weed in her profession.