Writing duo married to their work, each other

Wed Oct 1 2003

By Liz Katynski

IT will be an evening for enthusiasts of poetry and language, hosted by husband and wife writers, each with their own new book to celebrate. University of Winnipeg assistant professor of English Mark Morton, and his wife, Melanie Cameron, are launching their latest books on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park Shopping Centre.

Morton's book, The Lover's Tongue A Merry Romp Through the language of Love and Sex, looks at the lingo of sex and love over hundreds of years. Cameron's book, wake, is her second collection of poetry.

The two titles are quite different, so creating segues between their readings on the night of the launch will be a challenge, says Morton.

"My book is quirky. Hers is profound. Mine is a book about sex. Hers is poetry, and sex is really one of the eternal themes of poetry. But our books are really quite different," says Morton. Cameron agrees, and says the way they go about writing is also quite different.

"I muddle into it, discover what it is I am writing, and reshape it. He does so much research, and writes effectively from that," says Cameron. "Poetry and non-fiction are so different. Poetry takes a different stillness... but we are both present in each other's work, to some degree."

This is the second book Morton has written about the language used for a certain topic. His first book explored the origins of food words. "A lot of people enjoy language and food. Sex was another good topic," he says.

While his first language book was structured like a dictionary, where readers could look up individual terms, this one is organized by themes. It looks at a variety of terms for body parts, actions and more, some going back up to 1,000 years. There are slang, medical and colloquial words, from the tame to the more risque.

The book took three months to write and about a year to research, although he has been researching it in to a degree for a few years.

Among the interesting bits in the book is the fact that in the 16th century, loved ones were often called by animal names like turtle, mouse, creet mouse and chick. In the 19th century, they were more often associated with food names like cabbage, crumpet and dish. "Every era has its different tendencies, especially in terms of endearment," says Morton.

He describes his book as "a great book for lovers and language lovers, and accessible to a general audience" rather than academic in tone.

Cameron's book focuses on memory and is divided into several sections that explore its different aspects. Her first poetry collection was released four years ago, and she has been working on these poems off and on since that time.

One section deals with with how place/landscape hold memory, and how cultures layer over the memories of other cultures. Set in Winnipeg, it refers to specific sites in the city including the old CP rail station (now the Aboriginal Centre), the Golden Boy atop the Legislative Building, St. Boniface Cathedral, the statue of Louis Riel, and The Forks.

Cameron considers herself primarily a poet, although she is also exploring fiction. She is a full-time writer, poetry co-editor at Prairie Fire magazine, and has taught at both Winnipeg universities.

The launch will also feature a jazz performance by Sister Dorothy.