Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg's picture
Photo credit: 
Tom Gannon Hamilton
1954
Biography: 

Sharon Berg writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that focuses on First Nations history and education. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine (for poetry, fiction and book reviews) and its associated Chapbook Press in January 2006 and closed it with the Summer issue in August 2019. She also taught elementary school for many years, as well as education seminars at the university level. She can adapt her observations and comments about writing to a variety of grade levels. She connect with students of all abilities and knows that students learn best when a) they are having fun, and b) they are using multiple skills. Sharon believes that poetry is not a staid old art but a relevant and exciting opportunity for self-expression. She enjoys asking students to create 3D poetry, wherein art, geometry, and poetry are combined on one geometric shape, such as an illustrated haiku on a tetrahedron (or triangle-based pyramid).

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

My half-brother began writing poetry before I did, so he was my first guide in developing my skills. He is the son of Al Purdy, a well known Canadian poet who learned by reading and writing. That is what we did. We read and we wrote, and we edited and consulted with our friends and we rewrote until we felt our poems were perfect. I read a lot of American and British authors and also Canadians. I loved Earle Birney, Gwendolyn MacEwen, e.e. cummings, Kenneth Patchen, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Diane Wokoski, Robert Frost, Leonard Cohen, Bronwen Wallace, and James Reaney. I never picked out one favourite poem as I was always falling in love with a new poem as I read more of them. Our perspective on the world, and therefore our favourite insights on the world, change as we grow older and different poets advance their treatise on the way that things are in our world.

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

I started writing poetry and story at the same time, in about grade 3. By grade 4 I had published a poem in The Telegram (a newspaper that was very popular then which no longer exists). I also wrote reviews of high school performances that were published in the town newspaper, and three friends and I founded a student newspaper at my high school. I also did a lot of drawing and watercolours and sang in a group with my brother.

My brother read me some verse by Leonard Cohen when I was in grade 4 and he was in grade 10. I always think of Brian and his basement bedroom when I read poetry I was first introduced to back then, in the 1960s. At the same time, my brother introduced me to oil painting, and the imagery of visual art became entangled with the imagery of wordscapes in my mind. It helped me to visualize myself as an “artist,” whatever the genre, at a time when we still had the youthful energy to explore our talents as painters, as poets, as storywriters, all at the same time. I visualized myself in all of these roles, and my dreams were sparked then...

However, when I had my first child I got so busy taking care of her that I could not focus on all of my talents, so I decided I needed to chose one. I chose poetry because the pieces were short and I figured that I could write poems while the baby napped. Of course, I could have chosen any one of my talents, so I decided to give myself a year to get a major publication. If not, I would move on to painting and drawing. Well, I got three poems published in Malahat Review in that first year, which decided my focus for me. But I never stopped drawing or writing stories either.

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

Poetry is expression. It uses various tools that help to leave an imprint on the reader, but its main purpose is to express an idea or a feeling. Poetry is like shorthand. It is compact. But what it is expressing can be expanded upon with reflection. Good poetry can look simple, but it is very deep and meaningful. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

It is difficult to choose just one poem from the anthology as different poems will meet different contexts better than another poem does. I have picked out three: Dennis Lee’s “400: Coming Home”; P.K. Page’s “The Blue Guitar”; and Bronwen Wallace’s “Common Magic.” 

Publications: 
Title: 
To A Young Horse
Publisher: 
Borealis Press
Editors: 
n/a
Date: 
1979
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
The Body Labyrinth
Publisher: 
Coach House Press
Editors: 
n/a
Date: 
1984
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
Naming the Shadows
Publisher: 
Porcupine's Quill
Editors: 
n/a
Date: 
2019
Publication type: 
Book