Welcome to the first installation of [the League of Canadian Poets’] 2016 “Meet the Shortlist” blog series! Throughout National Poetry Month, we’re excited to introduce you to all the poets shortlisted for our book awards: the women shortlisted for our Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the new poets shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and the League members shortlisted for our Raymond Souster Award. The winners of these awards will be announced on Saturday, June 18 at a special awards luncheon at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Visit poets.ca/conference for more details! Find a complete shortlist for all of our awards here.
MEET MAUREEN HYNES
MAUREEN HYNES, The Poison Colour
Maureen Hynes’s first book of poetry, Rough Skin, won the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry by a Canadian. Subsequent collections are Harm’s Way from Brick Books, Marrow, Willow and her most recent, The Poison Colour, both from Pedlar Press. She is a winner of the Petra Kenney Poetry Prize (London, England), and her poems have been included in Best Canadian Poems in English (2010), and twice longlisted for the CBC Canada Reads poetry contest. Maureen is poetry editor for Our Times magazine.
What was your favourite part of writing this book? It’s always a challenge to compile a collection that is not uni-thematic, that is, all about one main subject. And in the case of The Poison Colour, I was pulling together poems across a range of styles. I enjoyed sorting and re-sorting my folder of poems into several types of categories to create sections. Since I wanted the poem called “Elemental” to be at or near the front of the book, I tried ordering the poems by the elements — earth, air, fire, water, and the Chinese also include a fifth, metal. Of course this was an arbitrary process, whereby I had to “weigh” each poem to determine its predominant element. In the end, I used a less defined and more intuitive way of ordering the poems, but it’s interesting to see that each section retains a core of its original “element.”
What was the hardest part? I think most poets find the very final editing stages a bit gruelling – the work that was once exciting starts to feel stale after so many workings-over. In those moments, I find it challenging to remain true to my own poetic intentions for each poem, and curious about and open to suggestions. Veering between certainty and uncertainty about individual poems: the editing process sharpens that, but also ultimately clarifies.
Where did you spend most of your time writing? Because I almost always start poems longhand in a notebook, I write anywhere – cafés, restaurants, public transit, other people’s living rooms, and in the big red armchair in my study. What helps me in getting started is reading poems – I find it moves me onto the “meditative ground” that writing a poem requires, as Don MacKay once said in a workshop. Roadblocks? Overbooking myself, taking on too much, not leaving enough room for the writing I want to do, or discovering what I want to write.
What were three major Canadian influences on this book? Literary or otherwise. Oh, dear! In fact there are many non-Canadian poets who make appearances in The Poison Colour – Louise Glück, Federico Garcia Lorca, Seamus Heaney, Joanne Kyger, Emily Dickinson, Philip Whalen, Lorine Niedecker, Charles Olson, James Schuyler. Some of these I discovered through my own study, but many are from Hoa Nguyen’s classes in Toronto, which have led me to take a more experimental path.
A great number of the poems that found their way into this book are products of poetry retreats – Barry Dempster’s in Chile; Gerry Shikatani’s “Lorca’s Granada” in Granada, Spain. Both of these poets have had a huge and sustaining influence on my poetics, and my practice.
Who is one up-and-coming writer you think everyone should start reading right away? Can I give you two? The multi-talented Vivek Shraya, whose new book, Even this page is white, is coming out this spring from Arsenal, and Kim Trainor, whose poetics in Karyotype (Brick, 2015) inspired and moved me enormously.
How do you feel being a member of the League has contributed to your professional journey as a poet and writer? Oh, in so many ways – obviously, the funding for readings and sustaining reading series across the country, and the services the League’s wonderful staff provide. Of course the League’s award nominations and awards are of huge importance to individual poets and publishers. And finally, I find that poets are very regionally identified – Ontario poets don’t know the BC or Nova Scotia poetry scenes, so the League is invaluable in bringing us together and strengthening our sense of a national poetic community.
March 24, 2016 (St. John’s, NL) – Sara Tilley is the winner of the 2015 BMO Winterset Award for her book Duke. The award, which celebrates excellence in Newfoundland and Labrador writing, was presented today at a ceremony at Government House in St. John’s.
The two other finalists were Stan Dragland for Strangers & Others (Pedlar Press, St. John’s, NL) and Leslie Vryenhoek for Ledger of the Open Hand (Breakwater Books, St. John’s).
The BMO Winterset Award is composed of a partnership between the BMO Financial Group and those involved from the start – ArtsNL and the project’s founder, writer Richard Gwyn, OC. The prize awarded to the annual winner is $12,500, while the finalists each receive $3,000. It is one of Atlantic Canada’s richest literary prizes.
Duke (Pedlar Press, St. John’s, NL) was one of 31 works by Newfoundland and Labrador authors (either native-born or resident) that were submitted by publishers from across the country. Books in any genre, published in 2015 were eligible. The jury consisted of Chris Brookes, Megan Gail Coles, and Randy Street.
The BMO Winterset Award honours the memory of Sandra Fraser Gwyn, St. John’s-born social historian, prize-winning author, who did so much to promote a national awareness of the arts of this province. Her husband, journalist and author Richard Gwyn, OC, established the award in 2000. It is named after the historic house on Winter Avenue in St. John’s where Sandra grew up.
Sara Tilley is a writer, theatre artist, and clown who lives and works in her hometown of St. John’s, NL. Her artistic work bridges writing, theatre, and Pochinko Clown Through Mask technique, with each discipline informing and inspiring the others. After graduating with a BFA in Acting from York University, Sara founded a feminist theatre company, She Said Yes!, in 2002. She received the Rhonda Payne Theatre Award in 2006 from ArtsNL, which acknowledges the contribution of a woman working in theatre in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her writing spans the genres of playwriting, prose, and poetry. She has written, co-written or co-created over ten plays. Skin Room (Pedlar Press, 2008), her first novel won both the Newfoundland and Labrador Percy Janes First Novel Award, the inaugural Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers, and was shortlisted for the Winterset Award and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize. Sara won the Lawrence Jackson Writer’s Award from ArtsNL in 2011. Her new novel, Duke (Pedlar Press, 2015), found its inspiration through her Pochinko Clown Mask work.
The BMO Winterset Award is managed by ArtsNL.
Emerging in the mid-1970s from the post-Centenary primordial soup – that potent mix of nationalism, Marxism, feminism, pacifism and, in la belle province, a wallop of Quebecois identity politics – the (fictional) Montreal video production group Vidéo Populaire was inspired and repeatedly almost undone by the creative tension between art and agitprop. Videos for the revolution. Forty years after the group’s inception, with VidPop’s history now shrouded in myth (there’s a murder, ghosts, inexplicable phenomena, notorious blowups), the author interviews 38 people associated with the group, including its four founders, some of whom no longer speak to one another. Their spliced-together transcripts tell the story of Vidéo Populaire and in the process bring into question the nature of this archive referenced in the title. In its style (pure voice), narrative arc and all-in commitment to the book’s conceit, Vidéo Populaire brings to mind Michael Winter’s The Death of Donna Whalen. A smart addition to the genre of documentary fiction. -Jade Colbert, Globe & Mail