A Ladysmith poet’s writing inspired by family history and a longing for deeper connections has been included in the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s anthology created for Canada 150.
“Things come to me in poetry. I experience things in poetry. When I see something that’s really beautiful it becomes poetry for me so it’s just a fact of my life,” said Bonnie Weisz.
Weisz’s Island Girl was selected to represent the Ladysmith library branch for the poetry collection 150 X 39 – a reference to the country marking 150 years since confederation and the 39 poets whose work is included in the book.
“Words paint a picture, so poetry paints the best picture,” she said. “It doesn’t fill in so many of the details that other people can’t relate to it. It leaves enough space for you to bring your own feelings and reality to it.”
Island Girl is inspired by her sister’s work over the past decade on the family’s genealogy, tracing their great grandparents’ immigration from the United Kingdom to Change Islands – an outport community off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I started to see the connection between my life out here on the Island and my roots on the East Coast so that’s was what inspired me to write it,” said Weisz, who hails from Toronto and has written several poems about her new life here the West Coast.
“I just find the older I get the more I want to be connected to things, both in terms of my own family but also in terms of geology – I feel very connected to the universe and my planet and to the rock and just basically what led to us.”
VIRL’s goal with the anthology is to celebrate Canada 150 by capturing the character and flavour of the communities they serve through poems.
Nanaimo’s poet laureate Tina Biello made it one of her community projects to collaborate with the libraries to assemble the work into a complete package.
“Seeing as this was the year of Canada 150, I wanted to do something that represented what this meant to people writing poetry,” she told the Chronicle.
“It was great to do that and (VIRL) added the component of putting out the call for submissions to all 39 of their branches in the region, and that means branches from Haida Gwaii to Port Hardy to Sooke and Saanich and everything in between.”
Since moving to Ladysmith, Weisz, who volunteers with the Ladysmith & District Historical Society as well as the Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary, has been trying to find other local poets to start a regular workshop.
She then happened to meet a museum volunteer who told her about the library’s poetry contest.
Rich with emotion, Island Girl came out “whole cloth” when she wrote it in 2015, but like many of her poems Weisz has gone back to edit it over the years.
“I thought that one would be great because it would encompass a large part of the country and the whole connection between east and west, and for Canada 150 I thought that would be the most appropriate,” she said.
A small event was recently held at the VIRL Nanaimo Harbourfront branch for the contributors where they also had a chance to meet well known Canadian poet Susan Musgrave.
Biello said there was great participation with over 100 submission which also made it hard to choose the winners.
“There was a great variety to choose from as well as age range,” she said. “We didn’t expect that but it was great to see our youngest submission at eight years old, all the way up to seniors. We chose based on content and form. There’s a lot of people out there writing poetry, it’s really great.”
Poetry has been a part of Weisz’s life since she was a teenager but this anthology marks an extraordinary achievement as the first time she’s had her work published in print.
Her advice for aspiring poets is quite simple: ‘do it for yourself.’
“Each one of my poems is like a journal entry in some way.They all help me touch a certain part of my past which is very important to me and I worry about losing as I get older,” she said. “Do it for yourself and if it makes you happy, that’s good enough.”
Check the Ladysmith library branch for a copy of the anthology in the near future.