Poet of ‘remarkable power’ speaks at Canadian writers series

On Thursday, April 1, poet and author Anne Michaels presented the 12th and final reading in the 2003-2004 Canadian Writers in Person series. This was the last of 62 such sessions that have run during the first five years of the course and reading series under the direction of John Unrau, Atkinson School of Arts & Letters professor of English.

Right: Anne Michaels (photo by David Laurence)

The highly acclaimed series is the brainchild of Unrau, who organized it in conjunction with the Master’s Office of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. The course and series will continue next season under the direction of Professor Gail Vanstone, coordinator of Atkinson’s Creative Arts and Cultural Expression program. Unrau sent the following report about the Michaels event.

Anne Michaels is a poet of remarkable power, and her reading, which was delivered in a very quiet voice, held the audience’s undivided attention throughout. She often writes from the point of view of an imagined persona, sometimes an artist or musician. All the poems she read were, in one way or another, love poems, and included specimens from her three previous collections, The Weight of Oranges (1986), Miner’s Pond (1991), and Skin Divers (1999). One of the audience’s favourites was “Sublimation”, which concludes:

Like loons we travel underwater
great distances, to surface next to each other.
We burst up from water to air
to drift beside the serrated horizon of firs.

No matter where you are
or who you’re near,
we come up for air together.

No matter my pace or distance,
it’s you I surface to.

A lengthy book-signing session, during which members of the audience were able to talk individually with Michaels, followed the reading and question period.

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.

More about Anne Michaels

Michaels, who was born in Toronto, has worked as a cultural administrator, composer for theatre and creative writing teachers. Her book, Miner’s Pond, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award and won the National Magazine Awards first prize for poetry. Her work has been anthologized in Worst Journeys (1992), Poetry and Knowing: Essays (1994) and Borderlines: Contemporary Poems in English (1994).

Michaels’ first novel, Fugitive Pieces (1996), was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Canadian Booksellers Association Author of the Year Award, and won the Trillium Prize, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, The Beatrice and Martin Fischer Award (the main prize in the Jewish Book Awards), and England’s prestigious Orange Prize.