The impetus behind Spencer Sheehan-Kalina's children's book
Nootka Sound in Harmony (Rebel Mountain Press) came on a paddling trip around Nootka Sound in British Columbia when he discovered his love for Vancouver Island's rugged north. Below we chat with Spencer about his book—children's poetry that highlights the beauty of Nootka Sound and animals who live there—and how BC informs his writing.
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INTERVIEW WITH SPENCER SHEEHAN-KALINA
All Lit Up: Tell us about Nootka Sound in Harmony and how it came to be.
Spencer Sheehan-Kalina: The book grew from my love for the beautiful landscape of Nootka Sound. I think a lot of life and work goes into making a book, so there are a lot of stories I could tell, but the true spirit of Nootka Sound in Harmony came the same day I recognized that I’d fallen in love with Vancouver Island’s rugged northern landscape: one summer, as a teen, I had been taken to paddle around Nootka Sound by a family friend, as a reprieve from my job working at an ice cream shop. It was as simple as that. In that moment I knew I wanted to share the beauty of Nootka Sound with anyone who would listen; it was life changing.
ALU: It's been argued that physical geography shapes our identity, that there's a connection between our place in the world and who we are. As a writer, in what ways does your natural environment inform your writing?
SSK: My writing is an attempt to help reinstate an intimate connection between us, as people, and with our natural environment. I find myself to be as much a part of the landscape I call home, and a reflection of its history, as any other creature, tree, rock, or river. Everything I find myself writing or having written, in some capacity, relates directly to our natural environment, nature, and the history of our land. I think that is why I enjoy spending so much time in the north island forests; it helps ground oneself in the idea that we are of nature and part of the natural environment, not something separate or alien.
ALU: Who are some of your favourite BC-based writers?
SSK: I have a lot of love for west coast Canadian poetry. I have a life long fascination with the poet Pauline Johnson. I really enjoy Lee Maracle, Lorna Crozier, Susan Musgrave, Pat Lowther, and Evelyn Lau. Of course, there is always Alice Munroe. All that said, my most recently discovered favourite author is Michelle Sylliboy—her book of poetry is spectacular.
Spencer Sheehan-Kalina is a member of the Maniwaki Metis Nation and was born in Ottawa, Ontario. For almost 5 years, Spencer lived in Gold River, close to Nootka Sound. The magic of the area resonated with Sheehan-Kalina, so he wrote a number of poems for children about Nootka Sound and the wildlife that inhabits the area. Spencer has a background in Creative Writing and Fine Arts (Vancouver Island University). Currently, Spencer lives in Courtenay on Vancouver Island and is active selling his artwork and writing. He has self-published a poetry chat book, Of This. In addition, Sheehan-Kalina’s poetry is published in the anthologies, In Our Own Aboriginal Voice (2016) and In Our Own Aboriginal Voice 2 (2019) by Rebel Mountain Press. Sheehan-Kalina is very proud to be part of these anthologies and believes, “When we all stand together, we’re stronger than when we stand apart. I hope this anthology facilitates much healing, understanding and a sense of hope for greater tomorrows.”
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