Writer Keating reveals her dark side

On April 3, York’s Canadian Writers in Person course and reading series presented poet and novelist Diane Keating. Series organizer John Unrau of the English Department, Atkinson School of Arts & Letters, sent the following report.

The 12th reading in the 2002-2003 Canadian Writers in Person series featured Keating (left) and her new book, The Year One: New and Selected Poems, which contains a selection from her earlier work as well as a dozen powerful new poems written recently after a writerly dry spell that lasted a full decade.

Keating’s account of how this writer’s block ended (with a poem activated by a subway suicide) led to an animated exchange with members of the audience who were struck by the dark note that is so prominent in her work.

The author then read from the prize-winning Salem Letters, imaginative evocations of the experiences of two young women during the Salem witch trials and burnings, and discussed her motivation in writing.

Keating is also noted for other poetry books, such as In Dark Places (1978), No Birds or Flowers (1982) and The Optic Heart (1984).

A book-signing session, providing further opportunities for people to chat with Keating, brought this season’s series to a satisfying end.

Here is what is on deck for for next year’s series: Andre Alexis (Childhood), Wayne Johnston (The Navigator of New York), Ricardo Sternberg (The Invention of Honey), Richard Teleky (Pack Up The Moon), Olive Senior (Gardening in the Tropics), Yann Martel (Life of Pi), Karen Solie (Short Haul Engine), Barry Callaghan (A Kiss Is Still A Kiss), Lynn Crosbie (Missing Children), Steve Heighton (Address Book Poems) and Anne Michaels (The Weight of Oranges/Miner’s Pond).

The Canadian Writers in Person series of public readings at York, which is free and open to the public, is also part of an introductory course on Canadian literature.