Intimidating but Great

“Writing poetry makes me happy,” Joanna Lilley says. “I am somewhere else when I write

poetry. I am an intuitive writer.”

The Whitehorse based poet will be part of The Edmonton Poetry Festival from April 19 to 26. “Poetry Moves” is the theme, and Lilley is very excited to be part of it.

It all started one year ago when Lilley published her first collection of poetry, The Fleece Era (Brick Books). She talked to Kitty Lewis, the manager of Brick Books about poetry readings. “She is an amazing woman. I said, ‘I would like to read at the Edmonton Poetry Festival’, and she got in touch with the people and organized it.”

Whiskey and Wise Women is one event Lilley will participate in at the festival. “I don’t drink, but I will recommend The Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson and talk about a tradition that I have never done,” she admits and laughs. She needs to think about wise words, and whether to “take that theme ironically or literally”.

Lilley will enjoy listening to other poets like Mary Pinkoski, who will read with her at another event — Poetry Ferment. “She is a real spoken word poet. I don’t do that, I am just reading from my book. It will be intimidating but great.”

Does she think poetry is moving in Canada? “I have been here eight years and it seems that the poetry culture is thriving. We have a lot of published poets for the population size of the Yukon. It is a thriving culture.” Lilley just came back from readings in Scotland and England. It was the first time she read in her hometown. “Somehow it was intimidating. Who am I to call myself a poet? With a long history of English poets, poetry is taken seriously in the UK. It was great to read there, and tell stories from the Yukon. And people are curious to hear them. Even in southern Canada, the North is another world.”

After her readings, Lilley will board The Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour going from Ottawa to Vancouver with 26 poets aboard. They will be moving poetry and poems across the country and celebrating National Poetry Month.

On top of that, there will be some readings at Stanley Park in Vancouver, which Lilley will attend. She will also be part of the Northwords Poetry Festival in Yellowknife at the end of May.

At the moment, Lilley is working on poems about extinct and endangered animals. ”And I also think and write about the human animal,” Lilley adds.

Meanwhile, she has a complete novel that she sends off to publishing houses. “Rejections can be depressing,” she says. “But as a writer you have to enjoy the process.”

Her collection of shorts stories, The Birthday Books, by Hagios Press, will come out in May and will be launched in June in Whitehorse.

The Edmonton Poetry Festival takes place from April 19-26. Visit www.edmontonpoetryfestival. com for more information.

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