Wendy McGrath, Hello, Empty Street & Look

Linocut relief print
image size – 3” x 2”
print size – 7½” x 5¼”

Empty Street
Linocut relief print
image size – 3” x 4”
print size – 5¾” x 8¾”

Linocut relief print
image size – 5 ¾” x 3 15/16”

When 2020 began, I looked forward to a major milestone birthday. In Japanese and Chinese traditions, this birthday would be a chance for rebirth, a reliving of my childhood—a do-over. I planned to revisit things I loved doing as a child. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Lockdown began just a few weeks before my birthday. I didn’t experience self-pity, more anxious bewilderment as things I had envisioned doing in 2020 became meaningless in the context of what was going on in the world.

As a writer and artist, I am accustomed to solitude or, at least, a practice based on solitude. I live a rich interior life and as the weeks passed, the borders between that interior life and the space in which I operated in real life seemed to disappear. I no longer had to go anywhere or be any place at a certain time so if I wanted to write, I would write. If I wanted to read, I would read. If I wanted to watch a film or a television series, I would do that. I missed my family and friends terribly, but realized I felt a great sense of freedom in my self-isolation.

I am continuing to write and make prints at home. Without a press, I use the weight of my own body to fix image to paper and have grown to love doing linocuts—a medium I had an ambivalent relationship to prior to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The year is half-over, and I realize 2020 has been a rebirth for me after all. I have recaptured that sense of discovery I had as a child—in ink, paper, and printmaking.


Wendy McGrath

Wendy McGrath is a Métis writer and artist living in amiskwacîwâskahikan (so-called Edmonton) on Treaty 6 Territory. She works in multiple genres—her most recent poetry project is Paso doble, a collection of poems inspired by the bird/wildlife photographs of Danny Miles (drummer for July Talk and Tongue Helmet). Her most recent spoken word project, BEFORE WE KNEW, is her second collaboration with producer and musician, Sascha Liebrand. Her first project with Liebrand, BOX, is an adaptation of McGrath’s eponymous long poem with the group Quarto & Sound. “MOVEMENT 1” from the CD was nominated for a 2018 City of Edmonton Music Award in the Jazz Recording of the Year category.

Major publication credits

Broke City (NeWest Press 2019)
A Revision of Forward
 (NeWest Press 2015)
North East (NeWest Press 2014) – shortlisted for Writers’ Guild of Alberta Georges Bugnet Award and shortlisted for the RELIT 2015 awards
Santa Rosa (NeWest Press 2011) – finalist for the 2012 City of Edmonton Book Award
preserving (chapbook Rubicon Press 2011)
Recurring Fictions
 (University of Alberta Press 2002)
common place ecstasies
 (Beach Holme Publishing 2000)

McGrath’s poetry, fiction, and non-fiction has been widely published.