For Black History Month, we're featuring black authors, their latest work, and their writing process. Today Cara-Lyn Morgan, who in her in latest poetry collection
What Became My Grieving Ceremony(Thistledown Press) explores her ancestral cultural roots—both Metis and Afro-Caribbean—shares with us some sage advice, book recommendations, and more.
This Black History Month, we're interviewing writers of colour every Thursday, here on the All Lit Up blog.
ALU: Who’s a writer of colour you always recommend?
CLM: I would say that one of my favourite novelists is the great James Baldwin. Just Above My Head is possibly the greatest novel I have ever read, and James Baldwin was also a favourite of my father’s so I feel a connection to him through reading Baldwin’s work.
Langston Hughes is a poet who I continue to love and return to—his work comes into my life when I need an injection of optimism and whimsy. His poetry is honest and lovely, and speaks to the humanness of story-telling and song.
For the ladies, Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf. This is a book that has changed my life again and again. I love to give it as a gift to girls to show the power that poetry has for healing, belonging, and self-discovery.
ALU: Who are your favourite fictional characters?
CLM: Number one would be Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, but the first "real" novel I read was S E Hinton’s The Outsiders, when I was about seven years old. It broke my heart and I’ve always felt very attached to Ponyboy Curtis as well. These two characters are my earliest friends.
ALU: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
CLM: I’d like to think I’d be fighting crime. Like a true defender of justice. I’d like to be fearless and strong, and always run toward danger while others flee. I’m a fan of strong and fearless women because I’m lucky to have known so many in my life.
ALU: What advice would you give to writers?
CLM: I’ll pass along some advice that was given to me when I was starting out: do not be afraid to work for your craft. Every artist needs a job that supports them in the creation of their work. Whatever the job is that takes you away from creating and sharing your good work, make it important…also, don’t let the world convince you to create work for free. Even poets need to eat.
Cara-Lynn's advice for other writers.
ALU: What are three things you can’t live without?
CLM: Good inky pens. My grandmother’s copy of Wuthering Heights. My father’s copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare with his notations in the margins. A braid of sweetgrass, and wooden matches to burn it.
Photo credit: Dariusz Radolinski
Cara-Lyn Morgan likes to tell people in the rest of Canada that she lives in Toronto, however, Torontonians are very quick to correct her. Clearly, Vaughan and Toronto are not at all the same. So, Cara-Lyn Morgan lives and works in Vaughan, which in her prairie mind, is basically Toronto. She lives in a high-rise condo (like many of her fellow Torontonians) but her heart belongs much closer to the ground in a place where the sky is much, much wider. Her first collection of poetry,
What Became My Grieving Ceremony, won the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry in 2015 and her next big project, Cartograph, will be out in the fall. When she is not painting or writing poetry, she fights crime and cares for her very coltish fiancé.
Thanks to Cara-Lyn for answering our questions, and to Stephanie at Thistledown Press for making the connection. If you missed last week's Black Voices, check it out
here, and stay tuned for more next week!
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