Excerpt of book cover "The Setting Lake Sun", J.R. Léveillé
Wang Mo was renowned for his drinking and he rarely started a piece without first getting drunk. Then painting turned into a party – he sang, he danced, he laughed, he waved his arms around, all while he was working.
—from "The Setting Lake Sun."
Aqua Books is hosting their Aqua Books Lansdowne Prize for Poetry series Sunday, February 12, at 7 p.m..
It brings together poets Rosanna Deerchild and Katherena Vermette of the Aboriginal Writer's Collective of Manitoba and J.R. Léveillé.
Léveillé published his first English novel in 2011 called The Setting Lake Sun. It was published simultaneously with the original French version, Le Soleil du lac qui se couche. The Setting Lake Sun is also his first novel set in his native Manitoba and describes the encounter of Angèle, an aspiring young Métis architect, with Ueno Takami, an older Japanese poet.
SCENE asked Léveillé to share with us the inspiration behind the novel.
The Setting Lake Sun developed very organically in the sense that I was inspired by a number of events from my life - although this is a piece of fiction and not an autobiographical remembrance.
This collage approach is readily explained in the novel when the poet Ueno Takami explains the disparate accumulation of objects in his cabin: "I furnished this place with things I loved. I thought that if I liked them and felt good about myself, they would just be their beautiful selves and make their own arrangements." In the same sense, inspiration flows daily, from grand things to the most mundane. There is a Japanese expression for this in the novel. It is wabi-sabi : beauty in ordinary things.
I have, as a writer, long abandoned the romantic image of the poète maudit, in favour of a discourse on the appreciation of the beauty of life, despite the hellish turpitude of the world. If all we do is harp on the negativity of the world, we shall become blind to that bit of beauty that appears before us.
I have a fondness for a certain kind of zen, that which Van Morrison might have qualified as no method, no guru, no teacher. I also find that the Oneness of zen is quite compatible with a kind of Native American spiritual understanding of nature. And so, this is a love story between a young Métis woman and an old Japanese poet.
Excerpt from The Setting Lake Sun:
Wang Mo was renowned for his drinking and he rarely started a piece without first getting drunk. Then painting turned into a party - he sang, he danced, he laughed, he waved his arms around, all while he was working. He was known for the technique they call "ink-spattering. " With his brushes, or just as often with his long braids dipped in ink, he would summon magical landscapes as if they were emanating directly from the Tao. They say that the finished work was so perfectly composed you would forget the brush-strokes and think you were looking straight into the Void.