Maggie Quirt in York’s Department of Equity Studies is reluctant to admit, now that she has won the 2011 Markham Arts Council Poetry Contest, that she used to think Canadian poetry was boring.
That was a long time ago now, she says, back in a time when she was less informed about the richness of Canada’s offerings. Since taking a graduate course in Canadian poetry of the 1960s with poet Stephen Scobie, she has been hooked. “Leonard Cohen, John Newlove…they turned my view completely around on Canadian Poetry,” says Quirt. “I’ve been loving Canadian poetry ever since.” And, writing it.
Right: Maggie Quirt
Quirt entered the Markham Arts Council Poetry Contest on a bit of a lark. After dropping off her daughter at art class, Quirt picked up a newsletter in her local coffee shop and saw an ad for the contest. She went home and immediately polished a few of the poems she had written while in British Columbia – Ontario in the middle of winter has not inspired her – chose three, and submitted them.
Her poem “The days you left behind” won first place, while her poem “Ink drifts” received an honourable mention. The results both surprised and delighted her. “I was really tickled.” What was particularly encouraging, though, she says, was that the judges pick matched her own instinct of which poem was best and second best.
With two daughters, ages four and seven, Quirt says it leaves little time for the “introspection and reflection” required for writing poetry. She also pushed her poetry writing aside while completing her PhD. “If I wrote a line of poetry, I felt it was taking away from my dissertation.” But now that’s behind her, and with her recent win, and unstinting encouragement from her husband, she just might make a little space for writing poems once again – although they may not be to her daughters’ taste. Her eldest wondered why the winning entry didn’t rhyme.
Quirt, who teaches Critical Studies in Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will read her winning poem during the Markham Arts Council’s first open mike event Thursday, March 24, from 7 to 9pm, at Cubbii Market, 10-33 The Bridle Trail in Unionville.
By Sandra McLean, YFile writer