Sue Goyette reminds us that poetry is related to ordinary life

Sue Goyette
Sue Goyette

During the latest instalment of the Canadian Writers in Person series on Jan. 26, poet Sue Goyette spoke about her 2013 poetry collection OceanYork teaching assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

On March 8, Sue Goyette visited York University to read from and talk about her collection of poems Ocean (2013), which received the 2015 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award, recognizing the excellence of a particular work of art or design from any media.

Goyette recounted the way in which she started writing the book: she had a dream about a woman who was singing beautifully and then she realized that woman was singing the ocean. The poems about the ocean then started coming to her.

“I think in metaphors. When metaphors work, they reinvigorate our language with its wildness. The space between two things is where magic happens, said the poet about the beautiful images she creates in her poetry. In her poems, there is the magic of the unexpected.

Cover of OCEAN, Sue Goyette's bookGoyette is interested in writing about the environment and our communities in a way that is hospitable and that invites a new way of thinking. “I always think before I write: what can I give back?” she said.

In this collection of poetry, she invites the reader to think about the environment in a new way. She told the audience: “I write the poem and then it takes your reading to make the poem alive again, and present.”

Goyette has been a member of the faculty of The Maritime Writers’ Workshop, The Banff Wired Studio, and The Sage Hill Writing Experience. Her first poetry book, The True Names of Birds (1998), was nominated for the 1999 Governor General’s Award, the Pat Lowther Award and the Gerald Lampert Award. Since then, she has gone on to publish four other collections of poetry and a novel.

The Judges of the Griffin Poetry Prize for which Ocean was shortlisted in 2014, said: “Sue Goyette’s Ocean is a capacious and ambitious book in which she does no less than re-write the sea and the history of our relationship with it. The individual poems are numbered from one to fifty-six, not named, as is exactly right for the way the book itself ebbs and flows… But even though the sea is a constant – sometimes more present, sometimes less, a tidal flow within the poems – Goyette’s focus is on the shore. Her interest is in the moving boundary between ocean and land, where the shore-dwellers live. Here is a place of change and myth-making, where transformation happens every day. In Ocean, Goyette’s vigorous language and large vision create an extraordinary new history of the way the sea has formed human consciousness, shoreline experience and poetry itself.”