Questing and Questioning
February 8, 2016
I expect the mentorship to provide structure and motivation for my writing practice, connect me with other Toronto writers, help solidify my identity as a writer in this city, and support me in completing a manuscript I can confidently submit to publishers.
Two and a half years ago I decided to leave Nova Scotia where I had lived for my entire life, and move to Toronto. Once here, my identity as a queer person, as a Maritimer, as a white settler, and as a writer seemed to undergo a significant shift. My mid-life change, the separations, the dislocations and heart-sickness all made their way into my writing. During that time I also travelled twice to Guatemala and witnessed stories of displacement and struggles for land justice that shifted my ideas about relationships to land, home, and dislocation. The poems that have emerged from those experiences seem to belong together.
My family roots in Nova Scotia stretch back seven generations and I grew up feeling very entitled to say I belonged there. I bought a piece of land and began to settle into permanent rootedness. Once I uprooted myself and moved to Toronto, I no longer had that to lean on. My poetic voice has been stretched and challenged by exploring for myself the experience of destabilization and uncertainty. I feel that I’ve moved away from a predictable, comfortable voice toward one that is questing and questioning.
I tend to write on the move. I carry small notebooks and capture images, emotions, experiences as they happen. At my desk, I patch together fragments to create drafts of poems, which I rewrite until they feel complete. During that process I share drafts with other writers for feedback, and read them out loud to listen for rhythmic glitches or phrases that don’t sound true.
If I can choose from among writers no longer living, I would pick Elizabeth Bishop. Among living writers, I would choose Louise Glück.
In my perfect world, writers are adopted by cafes and pubs and skating rinks—every place has a writer-in-residence who is offered support, encouragement, audience, solitude, sustenance. There is generous, easily accessible financial support through a wide range of funders, beautiful places around the world where writers are invited to stay and work, and excellent cheap health insurance for writers so we can get the glasses and dental work and back care we need.
Ten years from now, I will have at least two poetry books and a set of short stories published. I will be invited to teach at the Banff Arts Centre and at a Toronto university, and I will be leading writing trips to Latin America. A highlight will be the two book launches for my first poetry collection, one in Toronto and one in Halifax. A low point will be the necessity at times to set aside projects to earn regular secure income from a 9-5 job to support myself and my family.