Writer brings island gardening tales to Houston

On Denman Island, author Des Kennedy is enjoying the first fresh chives of the season.

Des Kennedy

On Denman Island, author Des Kennedy is enjoying the first fresh chives of the season.

Shoots of chervil and sorrel are greening up his garden—a striking contrast to the red Russian kale that stood strong all winter.

For forty years, that garden is where Kennedy and his partner Sandy have grown most of their own food.

Gardens have also been at the root of Kennedy’s many books, three of which have been nominated for a Stephen Leacock humour award.

But Kennedy wasn’t born a gardener.

“I paid no attention to any of that, growing up,” he says. “I thought it was all a silly waste of time.”

The son of strict, working-class Irish parents, Kennedy said his father ruled the rows of their backyard Toronto garden like a tyrant.

When Kennedy finally struck out gardening on his own, it was entirely different—a wannabe Zen Buddhist garden tucked in a wooded corner of the monastery where Kennedy was then in training.

“It was largely ignored,” Kennedy said, laughing. “I was quite pleased and proud of it, but it made no sizeable impact on the monastic community.”

From ages 15 to 24, Kennedy joined the Passionist Fathers, a monastic order that grew up around the first-wave Italian, Greek and Irish immigrant communities that settled in the northeast United States.

But early on, there were signs that perhaps the order was not quite the right fit for Kennedy.

When it came time for him and other novices to take on a new first name, Kennedy said the other boys in the order were choosing names like Peter, Paul and other well-known saints.

But Kennedy chose Dylan, after the poet Dylan Thomas.

“I was completely captivated by Dylan Thomas then, as one gets to to be if you read a little bit at that age particularly, not fully aware of what a scoundrel he was,” he said.

Luckily for Kennedy, no one asked whether Dylan was actually a saint’s name, as the order required.

“I had a wonderful old rector at that point, and I think he said, ‘Well, if there isn’t a saint named Dylan, there should be.’”

While Kennedy was posted in a New York City monastery, he tried, with mixed success, to make a more direct link between his love of poetry and monasticism.

But Monastery Meets the Street, a poetry reading that brought monks together with some “pretty derelict-looking” poets from New York’s Lower Eastside only got through one session before the Fathers shut it down.

“It was an absolute riot,” says Kennedy.

On Thursday, Kennedy may read a few poems from his curiously wayward youth, but mostly he plans to share stories from his novels and several works of non-fiction.

It will be his first time in Houston, but Kennedy has toured the central interior and read several times in Dawson Creek.

“You run into all kinds of wonderful people,” he said.

“I often get old sod-busters who come out of the woodwork—loggers and farmers,” he adding, noting that such characters often get into his novels as well.

“They’re hard to keep out, and they always just about take your book over.”

Many of Kennedy’s fans are drawn by his experience as a bona fide back-to-the-lander—after he left the monastery for the West Coast and met his partner Sandy in the early 1970s, Kennedy set to clearing their Denman property and building a house for a whopping $4,500.

“You look back and realize how easy it was for us,” he said.

“Everything was relatively inexpensive—a lot of us built our houses out of recycled and hand-hewn stuff.”

“It’s not impossible to do it now,” he added. “A bunch of young characters here have done it with cob houses, which is good to see.”

“It keeps this place alive.”

Des Kennedy will be speaking at the Houston public library this Thursday April 5 at 7 p.m.

 

Just Posted

Gilmore Lake Fire burning near Topley

Evacuation alert and order in effect

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Houston council supports “multi-species approach” to protect caribou

This approach would include predator management

Gilmore Lake fire 100 per cent contained

The Gilmore Lake Fire, located eight km southwest of Topley, was estimated… Continue reading

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

B.C. woman set for trial in Alberta as animal cruelty investigation continues in home province

Karin Adams was discovered with eight dogs in Alberta weeks after having 16 dogs seized in Quesnel

B.C. company patents Sasquatch, the country’s first homegrown hops plant

Created by Hops Connect, Sasquatch hops are being grown commercially for the first time in B.C.

Farmers ponder impact of alternatives to pesticides being banned

The nicotine-based pesticides scientists have linked to a rising number of honey bee deaths will be phased out of use in Canada over a three year period starting in 2021.

Time to kick maverick Tory MP Maxime Bernier out of caucus, Scheer urged

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is taking issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated message of diversity in Canada, calling it a form of “radical multiculturalism.”

Thousands of police officers expected at regimental funeral in Fredericton

Two civilians were killed in a shooting in Fredericton that also claimed the lives of two police officers.

2 girls, hand-drawn map in hand, sneak out of B.C. home for adventure

The pair’s escape has transit police reminding commuters to report unusual behaviour

Ex-B.C. teachers’ union leader among latest pipeline protesters to get jail time

Twelve people have been sentenced for violating court order to stay away from Kinder Morgan terminal

B.C. not prepared for a Humboldt Broncos bus crash, group says

An air ambulance advocacy group wants an overhaul of B.C.’s emergency medical system in rural regions

Most Read