Spirit Quest

In Canada’s Rocky Mountains and the ranges to the west, toward the Pacific coast, there is a palpable spirit that’s impossible to resist. In these places, one cannot help but feel the presence of a greater power that need not be named. Those who travel here return changed to the far places from whence they came. Some never return. Enthralled by the beauty and power of these mountains, they settle in for the remainder of their lives. Though it hadn’t been their plan, others return again and again. Those born in their shadow carry in their hearts the mountain spirit and never forget, no matter where their lives may take them. The poems in this book explore a boy’s experience of this spirit as recalled a half-century later by the man he had become. The paintings have been created by an artist who has also been among these mountains and felt their spirit around her. The accompanying images express her own experience of these places.

Authors • Bob MacKenzie and Sharlena Wood

Category • Poetry

Language • English

Paperback • 40 pages

Dimensions • 10 x 8 softcover

Publisher • Blurb (2014) Preview Book at Blurb

ISBN-10 • 0991685849

ISBN-13 • 978-0991685844


"Not infrequently, a visual artist and a writer produce a collaboration, where the art and the text complement each other. Usually this works reasonably well, sometimes very well.

Rarely — very rarely — a partnership comes about that is so far beyond that as to be in a whole different class. So it is with Spirit Quest. Much more than a mere joint project, it reflects the coming together of two quite different individuals who found that their quests are similar, and poured their passions into this cooperative volume.

In poems that present both overall emotions and specific recollections, Bob MacKenzie invites us to share his pre-teen experiences in the Canadian mountains. While using no capitals and little or no punctuation, he steers clear of trendy gimmicks: his work is totally, and refreshingly, unaffected and honest. His exceptional grasp of the language takes us effortlessly from the implied tragedy in “Flying” to the description in “The Banff Trail” to the whimsy — and warning — in “Bears.” This book is one more example of his well-established, and almost incredible, poetic range.

Sharlena Wood, on her part, brings spiritual rather than physical geography to the project, based on her need to explore the marvels of the world in art. She uses vivid colours in her impressionist landscapes; fittingly, she adds the medium of charcoal to render burnt trees and other stark objects. Depending on the subject, her pictures can illustrate either solidity and permanence or movement and flow. Clearly, she approaches scenes with her emotions first; only after that assimilation does she apply her abundant talents to produce awe-inspiring visuals.

The poems and the art works they’re associated with often do not reflect each other directly (as in the ekphrastic model).  In the “Fire” trilogy they do, to a large extent; “Bears” and “Horsefly” demand more imagination and contemplation to make the connection. Apparently this book didn’t begin with one or the other putting forth individual pieces that the other responded to, as usually happens in a collaboration; rather, they opened their vaults to each other, agreed on most of the combinations, and added pieces to complement poems or art that they agreed had to be included. That in itself makes this a unique collection.

Spirit Quest is wonderfully engaging, dramatic and moving. It is the more so for being real and unpretentious. Do not miss this opportunity to experience the powerful synergy created by two of Canada’s most outstanding contemporary artists coming together for the first time".

~ Review by Canadian poet John Ambury


The new book Spirit Quest, published by Dark Matter Press, from poet Bob Mackenzie and visual artist Sharlena Wood is a fine example of how the arts can give us a new appreciation of the natural world. The two artists have created a series of complimentary works; Mackenzie's poems recount visits to Canada's Rocky Mountains in Western Canada he took as a child while Wood's paintings bring the passion and wildness of the region to life.

Wood has not attempted to illustrate Mackenzie's poems. Instead what she has done is provide us with images which capture nature's untamed essence. In some ways they serve as contrasts to Mackenzie's poems of the human experience of nature as seen from car windows, camp sites and family vacations. It's almost as if the two have combined to show us how the world looks from both perspectives. Mackenzie's highly personal childhood remembrances, which say as much about the warmth of his family life growing up as they do about nature, are the ring side seat to the natural world while Wood pulls us right into the wild unchecked beauty which cares nothing for our opinions.

The poems and art work in this book do a masterful job of bringing both the natural world and human interaction with it to life. By showing the world through the eyes of himself as a child poet Mackenzie helps us rediscover the awe it can inspire while Wood's paintings remind us of its sheer unbridled power. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but on this occasion pictures and words have combined to create something which speaks volumes to any willing to listen.

~Excerpts from review by Canadian Writer Richard Marcus • Read the Full Review Here richardrbmarcus.com/2014/06/book_review_spirit_quest_by_bo.html


"Collaborations take place all of the time in the literary world, however there is something truly enchanting when two kindred spirits can bring forth a sense of purpose, serenity, and wonder.

Creating a canvas of expressive poetry, coupled with outstanding visual compositions on each page, from the Canadian Rocky Mountains to other destinations in the western region, has allowed for acclaimed Canadian author and poet, Bob MacKenzie, and visual artist Sharlena Wood, to welcome the creation of Spirit Quest.

There are many nostalgic poems that may bring you back to your own childhood in the mountains or, if your journey has yet to be in this neck of the woods, you can simply appreciate Bob’s ethereal vision. In one piece calledSpirit Guide, the words resonate while Sharlena captures fragmented and ghostly imagery.


Another poem, entitled Rose Lake, gives a sense of familiarity and the elusive longing for tranquillity that is often subtle when it finally appears, yet so obvious when it leaves. The colours and vibrancy of this particular painting enhance Bob’s words.

Spirit Quest unravels itself like an artistic dreamer’s diary, weaving in and out of the scope of reality and fantasy. Spirit Quest is a journey that you may not have a map for, but you’re certainly ready for what lies ahead.

~Review by Windsor, Ontario arts-journalist Melissa Arditti • windsorsquare.ca/archives/70108/natures-spirit-awakens