Local poet releases new poetry collection

Floyd Van Slyke featured in book launch this week

Red Deer resident Floyd Van Slyke has discovered a terrific new means of self-expression via his poetry, and he’s launching a new collection July 12 at the Red Deer Public Library.

Van Slyke will be reading selections from The Hammer Strap during the event, set to begin at 7 p.m. in the Snell Gallery in the downtown branch.

Van Slyke, 86, was encouraged to begin writing by his friend and renowned author, the late Robert Kroetsch. Both men were born and raised in Heisler, Alberta and knew each other since childhood. They always stayed in touch until Kroetsch’s death in June of 2011.

“My book is really about two boys growing up – Robert Kroetsch and myself,” explains Van Slyke during a recent chat about his book. The two graduated from high school in Red Deer in 1944, and Kroetsch went on to earn several degrees and garner a reputation as an accomplished novelist, poet and non-fiction writer.

Van Slyke married in 1948, and he and his Laura established a farm and started raising their family. The years were busy as he was active in the community in several ways including serving local cooperatives. And along with grain farming, he and his family focused on egg production as well. Over time, Van Slyke became increasingly involved with egg marketing organizations at the provincial, national and international levels. He was active with the family farm until recently.

And that’s about when the idea to start writing was sparked.

“Over the last few years, we would talk about the old days,” he recalls of conversations with Kroetsch during the initial stages of developing his new creative outlet. “He would say ‘Floyd, you have a lot of good stories and you had better start writing them down.’

“I told him that I didn’t write – maybe a couple of limericks now and then,” remembers Van Slyke with a warm smile. But Kroetsch began to tutor his friend and a gift for sharing stories and impressions in poetry form began to surface. (One of the book’s poems, the engaging Old Home Town, is dedicated to Kroetsch).

“He told me I had a good way with words, and that I should keep my words simple; use everyday language and get my feelings in there also.” To Kroetsch, it was all about writing from one’s own base of experience; one’s vantage point in life.

Another acclaimed local writer, Leslie Greentree also helped Van Slyke as he carefully honed his skills. He also credits his daughter Wendy Klassen with helping him bring it all together as well.

There is no question he has a knack for painting pictures with his words. Right from the collection’s first poem, The Hammer Strap, readers are carried back to images of Van Slyke’s childhood on the Alberta prairies. That ‘picturesque’ sensibility continues with such fine highlights as Haying Time and the compelling nature of Early School Years which also touches on the appalling realities of war.

The impact and at times downright devastating effects of ‘development’ are also explored and questioned within the descriptive, raw tapestries of Precious Farmland and Mother Nature’s Way. And the reflective, heartfelt poignancy of Laura’s Trees reveals an even more personal side to Van Slyke.

Meanwhile, he’s found writing poetry to be a wonderful new means of expressing himself. “I write from my emotions,” he explains, and describes how The Hammer Strap taps into a range of experiences and subject matter from politics, childhood memories and growing old to pain, romance and love.

“It’s a way of expressing some of my feelings, my hurts and my happiness. I can put it on paper. I’m not sure how clear it all is, because poetry can be a bit nebulous – but that’s what makes it interesting.”


Just Posted

UPDATED: Red Deer will officially be the home of the Canadian Finals Rodeo

CFR has potential to bring in an economic impact of $20-30 million

WATCH: Innisfail’s Berkley the bear celebrates first birthday

Discovery Wildlife Park’s newest Kodiak is excited for life this winter

Tyler Steenbergen etches his name into Canadian hockey history

Sylvan Lake native scores huge tournament-winner at World Juniors

City council supports $25,000 for Downtown Community Development Committee

Funding supports stakeholders in developing programs enhancing downtown safety

Red Deer’s Gord Bontje gives $500,000 to A Better World

Co-owner of Laebon Homes gives the gift to celebrate 60th birthday

WATCH: Red Deer Entertainment Awards honours Red Deer’s burgeoning talent

The awards looks to become more inclusive of the entire entertainment scene in year three

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag for Canada at 2018 Olympics

The pair earned a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

Diplomacy on agenda at North Korea summit in Vancouver

Foreign ministers from 20 countries are meeting Tuesday to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Kids chained in Calif. house of horrors; parents arrested

Authorities say an emaciated teenager led deputies to home where her 12 brothers and sisters were locked up in filthy conditions

‘Reprehensible’: Trudeau abortion policy raises ire of U.S. right

“This man is reprehensible,” tweeted former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka

‘I shouldn’t have to have a husband:’ Winnipeg woman criticizes men-only club

Jodi Moskal discovered the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club continues to ban women as members, as it has done since opening in 1909.

Japan public TV sends mistaken North Korean missile alert

The false alarm came two days after Hawaii’s emergency management department sent a mistaken warning

Toronto girl dies after being pinned between vehicles while picked up from school

Police say an SUV with no driver in it rolled forward and pinned the girl against her father’s car

Most Read