Joanne Arnott is a Métis/mixed-blood writer and arts activist, originally from Manitoba, at home on the west coast. She received the Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award (Literary Arts) for 2017. Her first book, Wiles of Girlhood, won the Gerald Lampert Award (LCP, 1992). As author she has published eight books, most recently A Night for the Lady (Ronsdale, 2013) and Halfling spring (Kegedonce, 2013). As editor or co-editor, she has assisted a further seven books to reach fruition. She is the poetry editor for EVENT Magazine. A grand multipara (mother of six), Joanne is a frequent performer, and volunteers with local reading groups. In the past, she volunteered with the Aboriginal Writers Collective West Coast, The Writers’ Union of Canada (National Council), and The Writers’ Trust of Canada (Authors Committee). Joanne is currently teaching creative writing (UBC) and is the incoming Poetry Mentor for The Writers Studio (SFU).
I started writing poetry and songs in junior high. I loved poetry in high school. One poem I memorized, by Leonard Cohen, “As the mist leaves no scar on the dark green hill, so my body leaves no scar on you, nor ever will. As wind and hawk encounter, what remains to keep?...” Cohen returned to this text and adapted it as a song, “True Love Leaves No Traces” on Death of a Ladies Man.
I started writing in junior high, and when I was invited overseas to present at a writing festival —many years later — I accepted the mantle of poet without uneasiness or embarassment. I had two books of poetry published, and a children’s illustrated book, at that time.
My job as a poet is to observe and absorb the world, and to give back to the world the songs that express that living experience. My poetry is quite intimate, and this has drawn readers in to intimate conversations with me. I remember meeting a young poet, who at the time was homeless. I gave her a copy of my first book, and she memorized it, and in some way it gave her strength as she built a new life for herself. Years later, a newly arrived and very lonesome poet reached out to me, after reading some of my books at the public library. We didn’t live in the same region, so I couldn’t meet him for coffee, but we corresponded for some years as he found his feet in his new land.
On one level, a poet’s job is simply to put words to the world, to life. On another level, a poet is in a leadership position, helping the world to make sense of itself.
My poem “world shapers” is based on an observation. I found that, when I was feeling anxious, I would turn to the internet and research creation stories. The poem is an answer to the question, “Why would I do that?”
As with much of my writing, there is a philosophy expressed through the work.
Connie Fife’s poem, “the knowing,” is exquisitely beautiful.