Sarah Tolmie has loved early English since she was a teenager because of its weirdness. She did degrees in medieval studies at Toronto and Cambridge. She always wrote poetry but began to write alternate history novels — Ursula Le Guin was a mentor — in her 30s after her kids were born. Now she does both, and teaches literature at University of Waterloo. McGill-Queen’s University Press has published three of her poetry collections: Trio (a long book of sonnets that tells a love story) in 2015, The Art of Dying in 2018 (nominated for the Griffin Prize) and Check in October, 2020.
Yes. For some weird reason, I was obsessed with the long poem by Skelton called “Philip Sparowe,” which I could barely read (and which I found in an old university textbook that belonged to my mother). But I read a lot of the modernists, as well. [T. S.] Eliot especially, and later [Ezra] Pound. And John Donne. Now I am a fan of Carol Ann Duffy and Anne Carson. Also of Pam Mordecai, who now lives in Kitchener-Waterloo.
I won a contest when I was 12, another at 15, and was shortlisted in the CBC writing contest when I was 17 (and never since). I wrote all through high school and my undergraduate years, stopped dead in graduate school and early career years, and only began again in my 30s — to my surprise and great relief. I thought it had died. Sometimes during the productive periods I thought of myself as a poet, sometimes not. I am pretty sure now, but it took a long time.
To tell the truth in an artful way.
I think it would be [Elizabeth Barrett] Browning's “Grief,” as it is such a powerful, no-bullshit statement of the case.