All Her Roads Lead to Poetry

Yukon based writer Joanna Lilley has just published her second collection of poetry If there Were Roads by Turnstone Press; she says that there are no roads to the past.

“You can never go back.”

Inspired by a childhood memory, she wrote “The Devonian Period,” her first poem in her newest book. Lilley says that while growing up in England, her family moved quite a lot, but that one place is outstanding to her. “It was on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, a landscape that felt like home to me,” she says. “I used to look at this little church on top of a hill in the distance from my bedroom window and had no idea how I could ever get there. It was that idea of whether I could find a road to take me there.

“In my child’s mind, I wasn’t sure if a road there even existed. I feel it’s a sort of metaphor for how I feel about the places in my past.”

While working on the collection she was thinking about the meaning of place.

“Like a lot of people, I’ve lived in quite a few places and also made a decision to emigrate from the UK, where I’m from, to Canada, and not just anywhere in Canada but Yukon specifically. I haven’t done a very good job of becoming properly Canadian. I still feel very English and very connected to the places I used to live,” she says.

In the poem “Bluebird” Lilley describes her first journey through Canada with humour and a conclusion after living in Canada for 15 years: “As if I could live anywhere than Canada.”

In the book readers can follow Lilley from England to Canada all the way to the Yukon like a map of her personal landscape. Compared to her other collection of poetry, called The Fleece Era, this book reads more personal.

If There Were Roads contains poems about her mother and thoughts on her husband in You Will Not Die. Indeed, the poet says that all poems she writes come from somewhere personal and from an experience or a feeling that manifests itself in another way, another story.

“I find that poems take on a life on their own in the process of writing them and the ‘I’ or the ‘she’ in the poem isn’t necessarily me anymore, if it ever was to begin with. This separation seems to be a necessary part of the poem actually becoming a poem, for me at least. It frees you from the poem, or frees the poem from you,” she concludes. “That said, I have a couple of poems I haven’t ever submitted because they feel too personal, so I suppose that means they’re not quite standing on their own two legs yet.”

Indeed, her newest book does. The book launch will take place at Baked Café and Bakery on Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. B.C. singer-songwriter Sue Pyper will host the event and perform.

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