Poet to talk about borders, female writers and a summer in Mexico

close up of Patricia Keeney

For Patricia Keeney, writing involves border crossings: cultural, political, gendered, personal and not least geographical. Keeney, a writer and York professor of English and creative writing, knows living and working on that creative edge to be both risky and rewarding.

“The interior life from which poetry comes,” she says “is individual and collective, local and global. Whether writing family dynamics or the richly ambivalent experience of living in South Africa, the way we see things and the weight we give them determines their importance in our sense of who we are and that is always changing.”

Keeney will be speaking as part of Canada: Like You’ve Never Heard It Before, a 2011-2012 speakers series featuring public lectures by prominent York Canadianists. Her  talk, “Living on the Edge: Across Borders in Words and Poems”, will take place on Jan. 25, from 3 to 4:30pm, in the Founders Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College, Keele campus.

Patricia KeeneyKeeney will be reading from her two upcoming volumes of work, a volume of poems and conversations about poetry and female politics, You Bring Me Wings (ANTARES Publishing House of Spanish Culture), and a new volume of poetry, First Woman (Inanna Publications). She was one of the first Canadian writers to be given a grant under the North American Free Trade Agreement to open up areas of cultural exchange with Mexico. Keeney will talk about that exchange, borders, being a female writer and the summer she spent in Mexico City, where she met well-known Mexican poet Ethel Krauze.

Right: Patricia Keeney

You Bring Me Wings contains a series of conversations between her and Krauze, spanning topics such as writing, writing as a female, love and living on a border with the United States. Each translated the others’ poems from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English, which gives a unique glimpse of Canadian/Mexican relations, as well as national and personal culture, as experienced by the two writers.

First Woman reveals Keeney’s sense of woman in the world and describes her personal journeys both inward and across the globe. Her new poems are both deeply personal and political, and explore varying terrain that ranges from sexual love to family, from writing to confrontations with power and profound meditations on life and culture. Intelligent and insightful, First Woman looks not only at Keeney’s own experiences as a female writer in Canada, but also at the larger visions of people worldwide.

Keeney’s work focuses on areas of Canadian culture and literature, modern poetry and literature by and about women. As an editor and critic of both literature and theatre, she has written in Canadian journals such as The Canadian Forum, Canadian Literature and MacLean’s magazine. Keeney is the author of nine books of poetry and a picaresque novel, The Incredible Shrinking Wife (Black Moss Press).

Canada: Like You’ve Never Heard It Before is co-sponsored by the Canadian Studies Program and the Canadian Studies club. This interdisciplinary series demonstrates the breadth and depth of both Canadianist research at York and the work of outside authors.

Submitted by Samantha Peterson, a fourth-year professional writing student in York’s Department of English