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Blood Opera: The Raven Tango Poems

In the early 2000s, I was immersed in a five week writing residency at the Banff Centre, planning to write a poetry collection inspired by the tango. I was intrigued by my mother’s stories of dancing the tango in Paris in the 1930s, and I imagined a kind of tango songbook of poems exploring the intense human psychic dances with love, faith, family, death — the whole existential gamut. While immersed at Banff in Argentine tango music and researching the story of tango, my attention kept being drawn to the aerial feats of the mountain ravens. Raven, with his outlaw trickster energy, infiltrated my consciousness and eventually the book itself, with Raven’s laconic, ironic bursts punctuating the intense melodrama of the various tangos.

Serendipity led me a few years later to Buenos Aires, where our youngest daughter Rhiannon was living and life-changing year studying and working in a recovered, worker-run printing press. When we visited her there, we saw that tango was vibrantly alive: young and old tango orchestras and dancers on the streets and in the many milongas. I was fortunate to use the street photos of Rhiannon’s friend, Michael Gould-Wartovsky — an old bandoneon player in a plaza and couples dancing on street.

The next phase of the project was the collaboration with my MacEwan University colleague, Paul Saturley, who designed and illustrated the collection. The book was planned to be the inaugural publication of the fledgling MacEwan Press, and that commitment gave us full aesthetic control over the work. You can see more of Paul’s work at

Blood Opera: The Raven Tango Poems was adapted for the stage by dramaturge Mark Henderson and performed several times, most notably during Workshop West’s Canoe Festival with actors Calvin Malaka and Jenny McKillop, choreography by Kathleen Ochoa. If you would like a copy of the book, please contact me at

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