"Our homes and families are a microcosm for how we live our lives,” says Dal creative writing instructor Sue Goyette, who will have the opportunity to share her work with an international family of writers later this month. Her third collection of poetry, outskirts, was released this year, and the award winning writer is now embarking on a short autumn reading tour.
Following The true names of birds (1998) and Undone (2004), outskirts was published in May of this year. She explains the title of her most recent book by saying that, “the poems are about the outskirts of emotion—the edge of things.” She describes these edges as transitional moments, for example the instance when a child has matured and leaves home, moving from the domestic to the wild.
The individual poem “Outskirts” won Ms. Goyette the CBC Literary Award in 2008, and the collection of the same name has received a host of positive reviews.
outskirts was launched at The Company House this spring. Seventeen people read from the book, including Ms. Goyette’s former students, her children and partner, local readers, and the author herself. “It created a great sense of community,” she says of the launch, also noting the special appreciation of poetry that comes with reading poems aloud.
She is currently reading her work in Banff, before attending the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival where she will be presenting her work at the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference at Simon Fraser University on October 20. The four-day conference will unite poets from across North America, celebrating what is referred to as “the new generation of poets,” or poets who published their first book after 1990.
When asked what particular message she wishes readers to take away from her newest book, Ms. Goyette says, “Whatever the reader gets is between the reader and the poem.” She adds that poetry requires readers to slow down and “savour” the words, and “it is great to bring the practice of slowing down to other aspects of life.”
outskirts features longer poems than Ms. Goyette’s previous collections, a style that she describes as “creating a momentum.”
“I pushed at going to the outskirts of the poem itself,” she adds. She also experiments considerably with sequential pieces, choosing the form for the different type of “energy” that it offers to the reader. The challenge, Ms. Goyette says, is that sequential poems “are a longer piece of idea to maneuver, and must be kept on track.”
Like Ms. Goyette’s previous books of poetry, outskirts is divided into sections. The first she describes as the domestic section, while the second she refers to as the “more planetary” half. It is not difficult to see connections between the two groupings of poems and Ms. Goyette enjoys how the individual pieces can “create energy between themselves—like flint.”
Ms. Goyette readily admits that her writing, and even she personally, have changed from book to book, and she contributes her evolution to her constant state of reading and writing. She also has experience writing fiction, with a novel (Lures: A novel, 2002) under her belt as well. She describes the challenge of novel-writing as different from that of poetry, saying, “[with a novel,] you have to try and maintain a whole ecosystem in your head.”
Despite her accomplishments as a published writer, Ms. Goyette states that she loves her teaching position at Dal because she is still constantly challenged and “revitalized by the talent and vivacity of aspiring poets” and the discussions in which she engages with her classes.
“The students keep me on my toes in the best of ways,” she adds. She hopes to integrate other disciplines into the study of writing poetry, and wants to expose her students to visual art, science, and architecture as just some of the many sources of inspiration.
As far as writing advice, Ms. Goyette urges poets not to force words, but to “let [a poem] come out of the ground and take its own shape.”
Ms. Goyette will travel to the Universities of Waterloo and Ottawa in December for further readings. Her next book, Ocean, will hit shelves in 2013.
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