“I write from a position of relative oppression and I do so with complexity and grief and hope and perhaps even beauty”
Liz Howard came on the scene this year in a flurry of approval as she swept away the Griffin Prize for Poetry
with her first collection, Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent
. Howard, originally from Chapleau Ontario, had recently completed the University of Guelph’s MFA in Creative Writing.
Howard’s introduction to poetry is stunning -- her mother found a collection of literature in the town dump and Howard treasured it. She was introduced to Susan Musgrave, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton as a young teen. “Poetry was the form that took hold of me,” Howard told The Millwright
, “I adored the multiplicity of form, the possibilities within, and the musicality of poetry.” Howard credits her mentor Margaret Christakos with having the most impact on her own work.
Howard is biracial with Anishinaabe heritage and explains that writing poetry speaks back against the possibility of ‘being erased’. “I write from a position of relative oppression and I do so with complexity and grief and hope and perhaps even beauty,” she told The Millwright. Of her poetry collection, she says, “It is a book designed to ‘work’ on the reader.” She aims to indigenize the spaces she is in
, saying “I try to let the land teach me about itself. I try to dwell in a kind of indeterminacy. I try to think in Anishnaabemowin when I can and learn the traditional narratives as they relate to a given place.”
Howard is busy reading Maggie Nelson, Djuna Barnes, Margaret Christakos, Sergio González Rodríguez
, and Indians Don’t Cry Gaawin Mawisiiwag Anishinaabeg
by George Kenny, translated into Anishnaabemowin by Patricia M. To aspiring writers, Howard says, “Listen to poets read their own work … Memorize poems that delight or mystify you. Write in way that trusts your gut and then also in a way that doesn’t.”