Tawhida Tanya Evanson

Tawhida Tanya Evanson's picture
Photo credit: 
Temmuz Arsiray
Biography: 

Tawhida Tanya Evanson is an Antiguan-Québécoise poet, author, artist and arts educator. Her two poetry collections are Bothism (Ekstasis 2017) and Nouveau Griot (Frontenac 2018), and her first novel Book of Wings (2021) is fresh from Véhicule Press. She also has recent work in The Fiddlehead, UPPERCASE and Changing the Face of Canadian Literature(Guernica).



With a 25-year practice in spoken word, she has performed at literary and arts festivals in over a dozen countries, released four studio albums and six videopoems including the award-winning Almost Forgot my Bones. In 2013, she was Poet of Honour at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and received the Golden Beret Award for her contribution to the genre. She is program director of The Banff Centre Spoken Word Residency and vice president of The Quebec Writers' Federation. Born and based in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, she moonlights as a whirling dervish. www.mothertonguemedia.com

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?: 

Yes, I read poetry in high school, and it was mainly poetry by musicians because music has always played a central role in my life. When I was fifteen, I listened to The Doors day and night and had several books of poetry by Jim Morrison. I still have my copy of "Wilderness" which contains one of my favourite pieces of his called “Signals.” When I was sixteen, I had to do a school project on a famous Canadian and my father suggested Leonard Cohen. I had no idea who he was and so it was a fantastic discovery. My project had to be presented creatively outside of the standard essay format. So, I wrote an essay about Leonard Cohen, recorded the text on cassette interspersed with samples of his songs, and handed in my first spoken word project. It was 1988 and I still have that cassette.

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

I started writing poetry after a very heavy depression put me in the hospital when I was fourteen. A friend from class gave me a journal while I was there. I had had other journals before but this one was different--I used it. The poetry I wrote there saved me. Poetry continues to save me to this day. However, it took many years for me to consider myself a poet. In 1996 while I was studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Concordia University, I started compiling my work and self-published my first chapbook called "Blood In, Blood Out." I went on to self-publish five more. And because I have always presented my work orally as a spoken word artist, it is only after my first studio album of poetry and music in 2004 that I really began seeing myself as a poet and not just an occasional writer of poems. 

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

I believe that the job of the poet--and all artists in fact--is to question, reflect, inspire and predict the future.

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

I would choose Guanahani, 11 by Kamau Brathwaite.

Publications: 
Poem title(s): 
N/A
Title: 
Book of Wings
Publisher: 
Véhicule Press
Editors: 
Dimitri Nasrallah
Date: 
2021
Publication type: 
Book
Poem title(s): 
N/A
Title: 
Nouveau Griot
Publisher: 
Frontenac House
Editors: 
N/A
Date: 
2018
Publication type: 
Book
Poem title(s): 
N/A
Title: 
Bothism
Publisher: 
Ekstasis Editions
Editors: 
N/A
Date: 
2017
Publication type: 
Book