Sarah de Leeuw is a geographer and an award-winning poet. These two aspects come together beautifully in de Leeuw’s sophomore collection, Skeena, published this past fall by BC publisher Caitlin Press. Her first collection, Geographies of a Lover, published by NeWest Press, won the 2013 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. While Geographies of a Lover brought together the physical landscape of Canada and the physical landscape of a lover, Skeena delves into the history of the second-longest river in BC from both a human perspective and the river’s perspective.
The long poem, spanning eighty-pages, weaves together a variety of voices, using scientific reports and local lore, geological surveys and topographic maps. Experimental and imaginative, the reader cannot help but feel the urge to understand the history, beauty, and power of a river.
“These poems are both songs of joy for the beauty of a river, and prayers for its well being and the well being of all those who dwell within its drainage. The Skeena, the ‘river of mists,’ has its muse in Sarah de Leeuw. This collection is her gift to all of us who know and love a river known to the Tsimshian people as ‘Xsan, the ‘waters that flow from the clouds.'”—Wade Davis
Read on for an excerpt from Skeena and a short interview with Sarah de Leeuw.
ALU: Which particular poets or poetry collections have most inspired your writing (in general or for this particular collection)
SDL: The most specific book of poetry that influences THIS particular collection (Skeena) is Dart by Alice Oswald - also a long poly-vocal poem. With that said, early on my writing of long poems with essay-like-qualities was deeply impacted by Anne Carson's Plainwater, a collection of essayist-poetry and poetic-essays that have always felt like a fabulous bricolage of words and mediums.
ALU: Are you inspired by a particular place, thing, or someone other than another poet?
SDL: No one, and no place, is more inspirational to me than the physical and human geographies of Northern British Columbia. The people I am in love with, and who love me back, are constant inspirations.
ALU: Do you have any particular writing rituals?
SDL: I write every day, without fail - be that taking short pencil sketch notes in small books, writing purposefully on a creative writing project, jotting myriad emails, or working on writing up academic research and papers. I believe writing involves muscles just as surely as running or walking and swimming or other physical activities requires muscles - you need to exercise your muscles or you'll get out of shape!
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