Mi’kmaq writer, poet, and arts journalist, Shannon Webb-Campbell, is among the writers who will be sharing their work at the eighth annual SPARKS Literary Festival on January 22nd at MUN.
Shannon’s first collection of poems, Still No Word (Breakwater, 2015), was awarded Egale Canada’s Out In Print Award and has generated a number of invitations from across the country for her to appear as a speaker and teacher.
Throughout the collection, her language is simple and precise. Last View of Bell Island, for example, is a poignant kinetic image of grief and mourning: “we dropped our tears, rocks, / a cigarette into the grave, / held one another close.”
Shannon breathes in the space where the private and the public collide. In this poem, the family shares collective love, loss, and memory that the poet juxtaposes with the grandfather’s private loss. She hears him remember a lifetime:
my grandfather murmured –
tears I cannot hide oh,
so I smile and say when
a lovely flame dies
smoke gets in your eyes
When asked why she included Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Shannon responded, “It’s what my Poppy sang the night my Nan died. Their song.” Shannon is committed to seeing. She is a nomadic observer who honours experience and those with whom she shares experience.
What Surprised You About Yourself As You Created These Poems?
When I was writing these particular poems they felt like multiple selves, devilish brats I had to watch over, and guide. I felt a deep protection during the writing process, which later shifted after publication. I’m still surprised by the ongoing life of the book. It has many places in the world, and has taken me everywhere from teaching at Memorial University to doing a workshop with St. John’s Native Friendship Centre for Indigenous women in prison, as well as readings across Canada, and collaborations with musical powerhouse Kim Harris.
What Do You Enjoy About Public Readings?
Poems are designed to read aloud. There were times in my life when I had trouble talking, my tongue too heavy with shame to speak, yet there’s something to being invited somewhere to read that conjures another self, a stronger voice.
What’s Next For You?
I’m a wanderer, so I intend to take some time to travel. I’m working on a collection of short stories tentatively named, We Are What Claims Us, as my MA creative thesis, under Lisa Moore’s supervision, as well as on a book of poems, Who Took My Sister?, exploring trauma, witness, and Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. There’s also a new play and trying my hand at writing a libretto. Plus, I’m the poetry editor at Plenitude Magazine.
Shannon Webb-Campbell will read at The SPARKS Literary Festival at Memorial University’s Suncor Energy Hall, School of Music on Sunday, January 22, 2017.
ARTICLE BY TRACY O’BRIEN