Redeemer hosts launch of John Terpstra’s “The House with the Parapet Wall”
Includes reading from Hamilton author's recent book
2 min. read
February 19, 2015

Award-winning author and poet John Terpstra launched his book, The House with the Parapet Wall at Redeemer on Thursday, February 5. As part of the celebration, he shared with a room full of Redeemer students, faculty and community a reading from this, his fourth work of non-fiction. The genesis of the book is a stationary store in Seattle. There, Terpstra buys a journal, leaves the shop to sit on a park bench, and cracks the pages’ stiff spine. He begins writing; writing all about his mother. The house that is The House with the Parapet Wall is Terpstra’s childhood home, one of the brick and mortar of nineteenth-century houses in Hamilton. The book tells the story of the house and how it collides with the story of the life and death of his mother. “They came simultaneously,” he says, “I just wrote and let them come together.” What began as therapy would sprout the roots of his next prose project, the pursuit of which was encouraged by the editor of Hamilton Arts & Letters, a literary journal. His words are, as artist Frances Cockburn puts it, “ridiculously moving,” and the audience sensed their depth. At a question and answer period after the reading, one man asked the author what he learned about himself throughout this piece’s creation. Terpstra sort of laughed in referencing the fifth commandment: “Honour your father and mother.” He is more intentional now than ever in doing so, saying “It counts! And I know [my parents] will understand.” That led him to talk about their passing with a striking and refreshing sincerity: “I don’t know what to do with death, really.” His mother’s diminishing health caused her to lose abilities at the same rate she’d gained them as a child; it’s growing in reverse. “It’s not about the dying but the losing. Nobody wants to leave and miss out on what follows.” His website is titled “John Terpstra: writer and cabinetmaker,” yet he avoids drawing parallels between the two crafts, calling the concept “too cute.” But the semblance is difficult to overlook. Both entail the shaping of unlikely parts, the drawing from one’s environs, and the fusion of thought and senses. For example, when asked why he chose prose over poetry for this project, he answered with reference to woodwork: “It’s like doing a whole renovation instead of furniture alteration. It’s the longer haul.” In closing the evening, Dr. Deborah Bowen praised Terpstra for his physical and spiritual understanding of “the passing of things” and for his changing, yet recognizable, voice. She noted that people have had trouble differentiating Terpstra’s poetry from his prose when read aloud. A selection of John Terpstra’s books are available at Redeemer’s Peter Turkstra Library and Redeemer’s Campus Bookstore.

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