On March 23, Black Canadian poet Cecily Nicholson visited the Canadian Writers in Person series at York and talked about her collection of poems, Wayside Sang. York University Teaching Assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.
In Wayside Sang, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2018, poet Cecily Nicholson thinks through a relationship to Black diasporic experience by way of trying to connect to a birth father who was not present when she was a child. “Ultimately Wayside Sang ends up being about poetry on the road, roadways, the automobile and its industry,” she said.
Throughout this collection of poems, Nicholson links personal memories and experiences to larger cultural and social issues. “I definitely have a purpose in terms of my work, and that’s not just about poetry. That’s really how I live my life. I do have a lot of passion,” says Nicholson. “A lot of poetry that I enjoy and admire connects to real things. It’s not that I don’t enjoy poetry about a tree or nature. In fact, if I had a less distressed mind, perhaps I would write that kind of poetry all the time, but I feel that the world calls for more from us and we have these kinds of capacities.”
For Nicholson, poetry is something that moves beyond the systems of capital that dominate our lives, or potentially has the capacity to interrupt or undermine those systems. “I think poetry can serve as a tool for profound communication between communities, and it has served that function across time between communities that have been historically marginalized,” she told attendees at the reading.
Nicholson’s poetry invites us to make connections and reflect on our position in the world.