Síle Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and artist from London, Ontario. She is the author of The Phobic’s Handbook (Anstruther Press, 2020) and Threadbare (Baseline Press, 2019). Her poetry placed Second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest, was shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s Poem of the Year, and has appeared in journals including The Fiddlehead, Room Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Canthius, The /tƐmz/ Review, and The Minola Review. She is on the board of the Poetry London Reading series, as well as PRISM International’s editorial board.
Síle writes lyrical, free style poetry emphasizing the musicality of language. Her work wanders between the dark, the whimsical, and the weird, exploring themes of nature and climate change, science, history, and feminism. A passion for trivia and the tiny details of the universe allows her to approach difficult subjects in unusual ways, promoting poetry as a force for connection and empathy.
I did read some poetry in high school but it was mostly the classics and the usual modern fare with a few pieces by Canadian poets like Margaret Atwood. I wish I had known there was a whole world of poetry outside the narrow window we looked through in English class.
W. H. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" is one that I particularly loved and remembered over the years. The contrast between Auden's almost conversational tone and the disturbing theme of looking away from human suffering was interesting to me. I think it was one of the first poems to show me that there are infinite ways to approach every subject. And being a visual artist as well as a poet, I was delighted with the idea that poetry could be about art, that the boundaries between artisic media could be pushed and challenged.
I think I wrote my first poem at about age nine; I experienced a loss and was trying to understand my grief. Writing became the way I felt most comfortable examining and expressing my emotions. I remember watching Anne of Green Gables over and over as a child, listening to Megan Follows as Anne reciting "The Lady of Shalott" while she walked in the woods. It made sense to me, to find comfort in the beauty of language and poetry.
Thinking of myself as a poet was a very gradual process. I didn't do it comfortably until well into my thirties, when I stopped trying to define what a "real poet" was externally, according to other people's progress. Maybe I wasn't a poet until I had poems printed in a literary journal, or until I had a whole book of my own published? Ultimately, you are a poet if you write poetry. That looks different from person to person. For me it means poetry is as much a part of me as my name or my eye colour. It means I will always be learning how to be a poet, broadening my skills and challenging myself.
I don't think a poet has a single "job." Like any art form, poetry leaves room for endless voices, variations and possibilities. It will always depend on the individual poet and what their passions are. Some poets write to teach, to illustrate or tell a story. Others write to protest and resist. Poems can be written as a challenge to language, to make it work harder and accomplish more or to break it down and experiment with it. A poet's job could be as simple as sharing something beautiful or making people laugh. I think the one thing that all of these have in common is empathy. A poet works to form a connection by making the reader feel something, to draw them into an experience or an emotion and immerse them in it.
I would choose "Sons of Orion" by Canisia Lubrin. I love the music of this poem when read aloud: the rhythm, the mix of soft and harsh sounds and the bits of alliteration. Certain phrases, like "the bulk of wound" and "the body's exotic architecture" are particularly stunning. I also appreciate that it asks questions of its readers, challenging us to see and think about something that might be outside of our experience.