‘Exciting young poet’ speaks at York

On Thursday, Jan. 9, York’s Canadian Writers in Person course and reading series presented poet Karen Solie. Series organizer John Unrau, professor of English in the Atkinson School of Arts & Letters, sent the following report to YFile.

Left: Karen Solie (Photo courtesy of J McLaughlin)

The seventh reading in this year’s Canadian Writers in Person series was given on Jan. 15 by Karen Solie. Her first poetry collection, Short Haul Engine (shortlisted in 2002 for the Griffin Poetry Prize, the biggest prize in the world for a new book of poetry), reveals clearly why she is one of the most exciting young poets writing in Canada today. Many of the poems she chose to read were grounded in her prairie background and experiences, but all evoked thoughts and feelings of a wider significance.


I am a seed, a world inside
a tough weathered wrinkling
of vegetable green.
Insoluble in liquid space
of anger, fear, love,
or other human acids,
I sit on the bottom like a stone. Shifting
only slightly with tremor
or violent wave,
I ride out the winters.

But do not mistake
the stillness of my living for cold.
I am warmed enough in my smallness,
in my wet and quiet,
so as not to be judged
by warm-blooded standards.

Invisibility is my loveliness.
In assuming the posture of water or earth
I am reclaimed, while you,
large and cold and sinking on your shores,
can only hear my voice, my beauty,
through the air.
Just listen.
Even when I cry for you
it sounds like singing.

The poet, answering questions from the audience, spoke at some length about her working methods. Solie made one thing very clear: She finds writing poetry to be hard work. Each of the poems in Short Haul Engine went through dozens of revisions before being considered for publication. A book-signing session followed the reading.

About the poet

Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and grew up on the family farm in the southern part of the province. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous North American journals, including The Fiddlehead, The Mahalat Review, Event Indiana Review, ARC, Other Voices and The Capilano Review.

Right: Cover of Short Haul Engine

Solie has also had her poetry published in the following anthologies: Breathing Fire (Harbour, 1995), Hammer and Tongs (Smoking Lung, 1999) and Introductions: Poets Present Poets (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2001). Her first collection, Short Haul Engine (Brick Books, 2001), was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002.

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.