Dreamland Theatre disappeared into the sawdust and mud of time, but through the welding of words, it still lives a ghostly existence.
Rob Budde, creative writing professor at UNBC, and poet/novelist, tagged his latest book of poems Dreamland Theatre, and the front cover depicts its era: early 20th century Fort George. It's a collection of original work grown from the silt and clay soil of the Lheidli T'enneh region, and it has landed him on the list of finalists for this year's BC Book Prize.
Budde joins Jen Currin, Kayla Czaga, Patrick Lane and Cecily Nicholson on the shortlist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, part of the West Coast Book Prize Society's suite of annual awards.
"It is really nice, and one of the things I wondered about. Would I be accepted as a B.C. poet? I've been here a long time, but I come from Manitoba and I was never sure when I might become known as a B.C. writer," Budde said.
Dreamland Theatre is a followup to his 2007 poetry book Finding Fort George. He called it "an extension" of that collection, but with more richly coloured political tones.
"When you write about a northern small city, your sense is you are limiting your audience, but artistic integrity kicks in and you tell yourself not to pretend you are not from a certain place, and you hope there are broader audiences interested in subject matter of any location," he said. "I do know writers who sort of erase markers of place in their work, and I like some of that, it is more about language, but that is not my aesthetic at all."
He has noticed other writers doing the same with Prince George and its historic/geographic personality. It is becoming its own subject of art, in that local people are giving it local representation.
"A book of poems can be a kind of archeology of place. It is reading a place into history," he said. "I've noticed Prince George being erased by a lot of its artists in previous times but now I see a lot of thinking on this place coming through. It is such a constructive process - building a city not just out of buildings and roads but out of poems and paintings and songs. And that, I think, has a quality to it that fits well under a dreamland title."
He appreciates that word all the more since it was a real building here, once upon a century ago, and it is once again a building in the form of Dreamland School of the Arts founded last year by musicians Jeremy and Erin Stewart.
Budde's inclusion on this year's shortlist of B.C. poets gives him something to warm him from within as he walks the UNBC Faculty Association's picket lines each day. The group has been on strike for one week, but he feels encouraged that talks are underway to negotiate a settlement. He looks forward to resuming his classroom duties, but looks forward, too, to the winners of the seven BC Book Prize categories being announced on April 25 at the Lieutenant Governor's BC Book Prizes Gala in Vancouver.