Vancouver for Beginners – The city through a poetic kaleidoscope

“Poetry gives you the opportunity to describe things as they really are, in a heightened way, to bring out what is actually there,’’ says Alex Leslie, author of the new book Vancouver for Beginners.

Leslie has always loved to read and write. As a child she found herself amazed with the tales by authors like Jules Verne and Agatha Christie. This love of stories and story-telling grew with her as she aged and has led her to write multiple books of her own, including Vancouver for BeginnersWe All Need to EatThe things I heard about you and People Who Disappear.

A literary world expands

Photo courtesy of Alex Leslie | Alex Leslie, author.

As she reached her teenage years, Leslie found the world of poetry and short stories and by her early 20s, she already had her work published in literary journals. Her work has also been nominated for multiple awards and she has won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize as a top Canadian LGBT Emerging Writer.

For the last 6 or 7 years, Leslie has been writing poems about the many diverse facets of her hometown of Vancouver. She has used a mixture of realism and surrealism to take readers on a journey of Vancouver, one piece at a time.

“I hope that people have the experience of relating to the city when they read Vancouver for Beginners. I hope that they think, ‘Oh yeah! I recognize that tree on top of the building,’” she says.

The inspiration for Vancouver for Beginners came about after Leslie read the book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Invisible Cities is a book of prose poems describing 55 fictitious cities through parables on different aspects of the human experience. By the end of the novel the reader learns that each city described is actually just different aspects of a single city, Venice.

“He wrote about Venice in quite a kaleidoscopic way,” she says.

Leslie loved this idea and began writing her book about Vancouver. She has worked in the field of social work and has been involved with community volunteering most of her life. This has offered her a unique perspective not only of the city, but also of the humanity that lives here.

“Parts of the book are about disorientation. I grew up here and Vancouver has changed completely in my lifetime. It’s a disorienting feeling watching your home change before your eyes,” she explains.

Photo courtesy of Alex Leslie

The book explores alternate possible futures and touches upon the extreme stratification between the rich and the poor that she feels has become more apparent within Vancouver over the years. She also explores the power that nature has over the city; being surrounded by ocean and forests plays a big role in making Vancouver the city it is.

Vancouver for Beginners is available for purchase on Book*hug Press’s website and Leslie will be appearing later this month as a featured author at the Jewish Book Festival on Feb. 10 at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.

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