Tawhida Tanya Evanson
Tawhida Tanya Evanson is an Antiguan-Québecoise poet, author and artist from Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. She has published six artist books and her two poetry collections are Bothism (Ekstasis Editions 2017) and Nouveau Griot (Frontenac House 2018). Her first novel, Book of Wings, is forthcoming from Véhicule Press in February 2021. With a 20-year practice in spoken word poetry, 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 for Banff Centre Spoken Word and sits on the Board of Directors for The Quebec Writers Federation (QWF). She moonlights as a whirling dervish. www.mothertonguemedia.com
Yes, I read poetry in high school. It was mainly poetry by musicians because I was and still am a heavy music-lover. 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.” Later on when I was sixteen, I had to do a high 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.
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 still in the hospital. I had had other journals before but this one was different. I used it and 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. I started compiling my work and self-publishing artist books (chapbooks) in 1996 while I was studying English Literature and Creative Writing in university. However, because I was presenting my poetry on the stage as a spoken word artist, it is only after my first studio album in 2004 that I began seeing myself as a poet and not just an occasional writer of poems.
I believe that the job of the poet is to ask questions, reflect the times and predict the future through linguistic and sonic epiphany.
I would choose Guanahani, 11 by Kamau Brathwaite.