To understand the warmth that the Sisters of St. Martha have shared with the campus community for a quarter of a century through Wellspring Centre—celebrating its 25th anniversary this year—is as simple as stepping into Wellspring’s space on the second floor of Morrison Hall, filled with plants, soft lights, tables and seating, and members of the campus community quietly reading, making toast or a cup of tea.
For 25 years now, Wellspring has been an oasis in the middle of campus, where students, staff and faculty can stop in for a cookie, some fresh fruit and a bit of peace.
On Oct. 4, the Marthas celebrated the anniversary during StFX Homecoming weekend with an afternoon open house and cake cutting.
As well, to mark the milestone, 16 stories from students now hang in the University Chapel, sharing the importance of the gift of the Marthas in creating Wellspring. Several Marthas also provided stories, sharing the history of Wellspring.
Sr. Catherine Arsenault and Sr. Ivy Maccan are the Marthas who currently staff the centre, located in the former St. Martha’s Convent.
Wellspring opened in September 1994 as a means for the Marthas, a congregation founded in Antigonish in 1900, to maintain a StFX presence when the convent closed in August of that year. Students, staff and faculty have since enjoyed a warm spacious gathering room; kitchenette facilities including complimentary tea and coffee; a seminar room where up to 10 can gather, a comfortable quiet room for reflection, prayer and meditation, and friendly, helpful staff.
“We’re not about programming. We’re really about presence,” the Sisters have said over the years.
“Our main goal is to serve the university community.”
Wellspring, they say, really found its niche on campus as a place of welcome, with many people calling it a sacred space. “Students come here to study because of the peace it offers. There’s something really special about the place. I think it’s about hospitality, and what that can do for people, being welcomed.”
Wellspring’s mission has been to offer a welcoming Martha presence on the StFX campus, one that is conducive to the development of persons and one that enhances the life of the university community. The centre is a comfortable, peaceful place for all members of the university community to spend time in the midst of a bustling, hectic campus. The facilities provide a place for quiet reflection, for study, or to relax with friends over a cup of tea. As one student remarked “everyone benefits in their own way.”
Climate justice was the topic of conversation as nearly 300 StFX students—taking courses in development studies, women’s and gender studies and sociology—gathered together Sept. 27 to take part in the Women's and Gender Studies Educational Forum, Seeking Justice & Equity Amidst The Climate Crisis, held at the Keating Centre.
This educational forum, co-sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Development Studies Program, and the Department of Sociology, and co-organized by faculty members Sutapa Chattopadhyay (development studies), Dr. Riley Chisholm (sociology) and Dr. Nancy Forestell (history and women’s and gender studies), explored the connection between gender and climate justice.
Each of the participating students had to read an article to prepare for the event, while an introductory short panel, led by Prof. Chattopadhyay, Dr. Chisholm, and Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre executive director Wyanne Sandler, kicked off more extensive conversation throughout the afternoon. After round table discussion, the students were asked to report back with ideas and action items from their conversations.
“The broad focus we had was to connect environmental destruction/harm/crimes/violence with feminism as a political struggle, a movement and its basic tenants, to show how social inequalities and injustices are interlayered and enmeshed with climate destruction, but also ask broader questions as how climate change is an intersectional matter and how is it tied with history, politics and power,” the presenters said.
They said students were asked to construct and develop their own perspectives through discussions forwarded by the speakers and through their own everyday challenges linking climate crisis/change with feminism.
Students were also asked to discuss, debate and propose changes to halt or slow down global climate construction, and to think about the roles they’ve played or can play.
The forum, they say, is designed to offer students a broad understanding of or a way forward to the future while showing the entanglements across race, ethnicity, class, and gender with climate destruction.
StFX psychology professor Dr. Karen Blair has won an award recognizing her outstanding research. She is the recipient of the 2018 Hugo G. Beigel Award for the best paper published in the Journal of Sex Research (JSR) in 2018. The award, named for the first editor of JSR, promotes and rewards research excellence in sexual science, and is granted annually.
The award is adjudicated by the journal’s editor and six associate editors, who each read every article published throughout the year and vote on the winner.
“Many of the awards we receive in academia are awards that we apply for ourselves. What really makes this award quite an honour is that no one applies for it; it is adjudicated by a small group of dedicated associate editors at JSR who take the time to read and evaluate every single paper published in the journal each year and then they select a winner. JSR is one of the top journals in my field of research and many of the associate editors are scholars whom I have looked up to for years, which makes receiving this award quite a privilege,” Dr. Blair says.
Dr. Blair’s article, entitled “Not all orgasms were created equal: Differences in frequency and satisfaction of orgasm experiences by sexual activity in same-sex versus mixed-sex relationships,” was published in issue 6, vol 55 of the Journal of Sex Research. The article explores the popularly referred to concept of the ‘orgasm gap,’ in which researchers have long reported that men appear to experience more frequent and consistent orgasms than women. However, in Dr. Blair’s article, she and her co-authors, Dr. Jaclyn Cappell and Dr. Caroline Pukall, found that the gap ceases to exist when considering solitary sexual activities or same-sex relationships. Further, the study was one of the first to explore variations in satisfaction associated with different sexual activities. In her role as the director of the StFX Knowledge Translation Centre, Dr. Blair and StFX students produced a video abstract for the paper last year, which can be viewed here.
The award will be presented at The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality’s 2019 Annual Meeting (SSSS). The award consists of a cash grant of $500 US, one registration fee waiver for this year’s meeting, and a Certificate of Research Excellence from The Society. This year the annual meeting will be held November 7-10, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.
Picking up sticks in the Nova Scotia woods on a sunny Saturday is not what first-year students in the Social Justice Colloquium (SJC) and the Bachelor of Arts and Science in Health (BASc in Health) program thought they would be doing on their third weekend at StFX. But there they were—about 60 of them, working with their instructors and several Coady Global Change Leaders to check and clear steep trails littered with leaves and branches blown down by Hurricane Dorian.
The students were participating in a cross-course Service Learning activity designed by their instructors, Dr. Clare Fawcett (Anthropology-SJC) and Dr. Christina Holmes (BASc in Health). They were supported by Arlynne McGrath (Service Learning Program community coordinator), Paul Basilie (Keppoch general manager), Eric Smith (Positive Action for the Keppoch Society (PAK) Board of Directors member and Coady International Institute), as well as Dr. Chris Frazer (History-SJC), and Dr. Nancy Forestell and Dr. Rachel Hurst, both from the Women’s and Gender Studies program and SJC.
The site of the Service Learning experience, the Keppoch, is a multi-season, multi-sport recreational facility in Antigonish County about a 15-minute drive, or 40-minute cycle from the StFX campus. Developed, maintained and managed by PAK, it is an extensive network of mountain-bike, hiking, Nordic-ski and snow-shoe trails on the site of a former ski hill, and also includes the Keppoch Lodge.
As the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney returned to StFX, his alma mater, on September 18, 2019 to celebrate the grand opening of The Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and Mulroney Hall, speaker after speaker spoke about how transformative the $52-million state-of-the-art building and its academic programs, including a unique institution for government and leadership, is for the students of today and tomorrow.
“We are extremely grateful to Prime Minister Mulroney and his family for making this vision a reality. It’s a project that entrenches StFX as a national and international destination for leadership, receiving widespread support both at home in Canada and from around the world,” StFX Interim President Dr. Kevin Wamsley said during the opening ceremony.
“The Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and Mulroney Hall provide new opportunities for the StFX community, a platform from which we can deliver our academic mission in new and exciting ways.
“This project is an investment in people,” he said, and an investment in scholarship, research and innovation. Already, the four-storey, 93,000 square foot glass-walled building, which took two years to construct, and the academic contributions from the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government have taken StFX to the next level, Dr. Wamsley said.
Dr. Kevin Wamsley
In an emotional and inspiring speech, Mr. Mulroney told the crowd it is a special moment in his life to participate in this ceremony “marking the opening not only of splendid new buildings at StFX, a place I love, but, more importantly, the beginning of grand new opportunities for young Canadians and others from around the globe to learn, lead and help build a better world for us all.”
Mr. Mulroney personally raised $100 million to create the cornerstone of StFX’s Xaverian Commons Project, and he expressed sincere thanks and gratitude to the generosity of donors who made this day possible.
He also noted a highly impressive and generous new scholarship and bursary program, some $16 million, will help many young students acquire the education StFX founders dreamed of. Over 200 scholarships are available annually, including awards specifically designed for marginalized populations such as Aboriginal and African Nova Scotian communities.
StFX Board of Governors Chair Mike Boyd, one of a number of people to speak during the opening, remembered as a student meeting Mr. Mulroney, back on campus for his 25th Homecoming only weeks after being named Canada’s 18th prime minister.
“Then as now, he demonstrated his focus on students,” Mr. Boyd recalled.
“For us, it certainly was inspiring to see someone from a small school, someone from our school, could achieve such success.”
In her remarks, the Hon. Caroline Mulroney, MPP, Minister of Transportation and Minister of Francophone Affairs, Government of Ontario, noted how StFX really opened the world for her father.
From light-hearted to serious, the grand opening ceremonies featured many emotional moments
LEARN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
“In many ways, StFX is where it all started for my dad,” she said, as she too offered thanks to all who helped make this day possible and subsequently for their role in helping shape the leaders of tomorrow.
“It’s here where my dad learned how to make a difference.”
The Hon. Caroline Mulroney
She said it came to no one’s surprise that StFX was to be the home for her father’s Prime Ministerial Library. But she said the family believed her dad’s legacy required something more, something that would honour the Brian Mulroneys of the future, providing young people with the skills and tools they need, providing scholarships and bursaries, insightful faculty and real world opportunity.
“When you have the tools you need, you can make a mark on the world in a way you never thought possible.
“This is our hope for the Mulroney Institute,” she said as she noted how proud and inspired her family is and how they can’t wait to see students roll up their sleeves and get to work just a like a boy from a small town on the north shore of the St. Lawrence did so many years ago.Mulroney-03-MtStFX.jpg
Mila and the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney share a moment in the replica of Mr. Mulroney's Parliament Hill office from his nine-year tenure as Canada's 18th Prime Minister
FOUNDATION TO BUILD ON
“How blessed are we that Mr. Mulroney chose Nova Scotia, StFX, and Antigonish, to be home to this magnificent building and learning institution,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said in his remarks as he noted the gift Mr. Mulroney has given to a province, and a country, a learning foundation that all can build on.
“This magnificent institution could have been placed anywhere in this country. You chose to put it here. We are deeply grateful. We will never forget,” the Hon. Frank McKenna, fellow StFX graduate, former New Brunswick premier, and an instrumental part of the fundraising campaign, reiterated in his remarks.
The Hon. Frank McKenna
Make no mistake, he said, that it is here today thanks to the massive reservoir of respect for Brian Mulroney around the world.
Both he and Mr. MacNeil spoke of Mr. Mulroney’s accomplishments and contributions to the country.
Mr. Mulroney was accompanied to the opening by his wife Mila Mulroney and their family. About 300 invited guests were in attendance.
Mulroney Hall is a focal point within StFX, connecting the lower and upper campuses; the Joyce Family Atrium, the centrepiece of the building, will be a gathering place for faculty and students; the facility’s classrooms are fitted with the latest technology and a 300-seat auditorium provides a venue for music, theatre and debate. In addition, Mulroney Hall features a replica of Mr. Mulroney’s Parliament Hill office from his nine-year tenure as Canada’s 18th Prime Minister, including his papers, speeches and letters from world leaders.
To watch a livestream of the event, please see https://livestream.com/accounts/735962/events/8814206/videos/196497986
StFX University is teaming with the broader community, including the town and county of Antigonish and Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, to create a plan for a sustainable future when it comes to climate change.
From Nov. 14-21, StFX will host Climate and Democracy Week, a week-long series of events, open to all, that will feature local and international renowned climate leaders who will host talks, workshops and facilitate activities.
A major highlight is planned for the Nov. 14th opening ceremony when StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley, Chief PJ Prosper of Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation, Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, and Antigonish County Warden Owen McCarron launch the Climate Strategy Working Group, formally establishing a strategic plan on how to become climate ready in the region.
“This is a big deal. It’s going to be momentous,” says StFX sociology professor Dr. Riley Chisholm, who with Dr. Corrine Cash, Coady Institute senior program staff and facilitator of StFX’s Bachelor of Arts and Science in Climate and Environment Program, is co-organizing the event.
PEOPLE COMING TOGETHER
Dr. Chisholm says StFX reached out to its partners to initiate the event in the belief that together the capacity for addressing this crisis increases markedly. Good work is already happening, she says, but sometimes it’s in parallel, rather than complementary.
“This is people coming together, taking down those walls. The academy is reaching out. It’s about how we can learn from each other, how can we explore and develop solutions together.”
“We can’t not work together on this issue,” says Dr. Cash.
“Hopefully this is the beginning of bringing people together on this issue in an attempt to create cooperation and collaboration and to build on that and to try to do good things.”
Dr. Cash says a lot of people are passionate about climate, but they don’t necessarily understand it or understand what can be done or how it can be done.
The week is offering people the opportunity to become engaged.
“What excites me is the extraordinary enthusiasm we’re getting from all sectors. There’s a real want for engagement,” Dr. Chisholm says.
She says she’s particularly excited about the diversity of participants, who range from international students to local farmers, young children to Catholic nuns to health practitioners.
“It weaves all those voices together.”
HOTTER, WETTER WILDER
Following the launch of the working group, Dr. Blair Feltmate, Chair of the Government of Canada Climate Adaptation Plan, will deliver the opening keynote address on Nov. 14, entitled, “Hotter, Wetter, Wilder: Is Canada moving fast enough to keep up with a changing climate?” The talk takes place at 7 p.m. in Mulroney Hall Auditorium.
On Friday, Nov. 15, a climate week panel, A People’s School on Climate Change takes place in Dennis Hall at the Coady from 6-8 p.m.
Panelists include Kerry Prosper, Paqtnkek Elder and Knowledge Keeper; Dr. Romeo Bertoloni, Deputy Director of Country Engagement for the National Determined Contributions Partnership Support Unit, World Resources Institute; Dr. Cash; Jolene Andrews, Gitxsan-Witsuwiten Nation Indigenous Community Developer Private Consultant and artist; and Dr. Simon Addison, Principal Researcher for Climate Change, Public Policy and Resiliency, International Institute for Environment and Development.
Local community groups will also be set up in Dennis Hall that evening giving people opportunity to discuss initiatives happening in Nova Scotia as well as the kind of actions they can take.
The next day, Saturday, Nov. 16th, a Weekend People’s School takes place from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the People’s Place Library on Main Street. A number of concurrent sessions will take place with topics running the gamut from ecology and faith to a children’s art house, from climate and public health, to soil carbon sequestration in Nova Scotia, to the experience of international students from the Bahamas on being climate refugees.
Everyone can take part, and Dr. Cash says it’s exciting to see the revival of the People’s School movement—started by her granduncle Tom Boyle, and others, including Moses Coady—and that it’s once again helping bridge the gap between the community and the university, bringing knowledge to the people, and knowledge back to the university from people who live in the community.
Other highlights from the week will include the second screening in Canada of The Biggest Little Farm on Nov. 20 from 5-7 p.m. at Cineplex Theatre. The film is receiving rave reviews, and is offered free of charge.
Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo of the Labrador Institute at Memorial University will present the closing talk on Thursday, Nov. 21, entitled “Mourning Nature.”
A compelling, and almost forgotten part of Nova Scotia history, the story of Lillian Burke, who was instrumental in the development of the Chéticamp hooked-rug cottage industry in the late 1920s and early 1930s, has been brought to life in a new book by Dr. Edward Langille, a professor of French language and literature at StFX.
The Story of Lillian Burke, published by Boularderie Island Press, and released in June 2019, has been consistently listed on the 100-bestseller list in Atlantic Canada all summer.
“It’s part of Nova Scotia history that people know very little about,” says Dr. Langille, who first became intrigued by the American artisan’s life story after a chance discovery in a New Glasgow antiques store, where he happened upon some of Ms. Burke’s original hooked rug designs and started researching her life and the events that helped establish the industry in Chéticamp in 1927.
His research led to several published academic articles as well as public lectures on Ms. Burke, of Washington, DC, a friend of the Alexander Graham Bell family, whose multi-faceted career spanned five decades.
Ms. Burke came to Cape Breton after she started tutoring Bell’s grandchildren in drawing and watercolours, Dr. Langille says. She became a family friend and started spending summer holidays at the Bell estate in Baddeck. Supported by Bell’s daughters, Marian Fairchild and Elsie Grosvenor, she revived the defunct Cape Breton Home Industries founded 50 years earlier by Bell’s wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell, to generate economic development.
She visited the Acadian village of Chéticamp looking for women interested in producing hooked rugs for commissioned orders. She found not only an established rug hooking tradition, but women eager to learn new techniques. She taught them these new techniques and insisted on using only pale and soft colours and high quality wool. She designed and marketed the distinctive Chéticamp hooked rugs in New York City.
Over the years of her career, she also became a pioneer in the field of occupational therapy, having worked overseas as a ‘reconstruction aide’ during WWI and in later years as a therapist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Dr. Langille, a well-respected editor, translator and literary historian, specializing in the works of Voltaire, and whose scholarship has been honoured by the French government, which awarded him the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre’ des Palmes académiques, says the idea for the book, his first with a commercial publisher, grew over a long period of time as he pieced her life together.
He says the story he found was inspiring and important, and he wanted to make it as accessible as possible.
“I want people to enjoy the story, to become wrapped up in the story of her life,” says Dr. Langille.
BOOK LAUNCHES PLANNED
Book launches for The Story of Lillian Burke will be held in Cape Breton on September 19th in Chéticamp at the Trois Pignons Museum and on September 20th in Baddeck at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. A third launch is planned for the StFX campus on September 27th in the McKenna Centre at 3 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
Martin Grosvenor Myers, MD, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics, and great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, wrote the forward for the book and will be a guest speaker at all three launches.
“It was a great project. It never seemed like one minute of work,” says Dr. Langille.
“I got interested because it was about Acadian culture more or less and I’m always interested in that.”
He also noticed some people had been very judgemental and had accused Ms. Burke of making money on the backs of the Acadian people. “This intrigued me,” he said, prompting him to investigate further. He said his research proved this wasn’t the case. She wasn’t rich, he said, and she died still working. He says it seems that some academic historians had tarnished her reputation unfairly.
Dr. Langille says through his research he discovered a wonderful person—she wasn’t perfect, he notes—but he came to the understanding from meeting several people who knew her as well as poring through a range of sources including news clippings, her WWI personnel file, education employment reports and a number of letters, that she was a generous and kind-hearted woman.
“I thought it was an incredible story and I wanted to do justice to her.”
The Story of Lillian Burke is available at the Antigonish Five to A Dollar and on amazon.ca.
St. Francis Xavier University is introducing a new two-year diploma program, the Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Artificial Intelligence (AI), that will provide students with the opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills in the highly sought-after field of AI.
The program starts in January 2020, and is intended for students from any field who already have an undergraduate degree, which is not in computer science. The program is concentrated and rigorous, with at least half of the courses at the upper-year levels. Students will take courses in a variety of topics related to artificial intelligence, learn how AI is currently used, and develop the technical skills necessary to work in this cutting-edge field.
“Artificial intelligence is rapidly growing and is being used more and more to solve a wide variety of problems in both industry and academia. We are very excited that students at StFX will have the opportunity to participate in this timely, emerging field,” say StFX computer science faculty Dr. Iker Gondra and Dr. Man Lin.
“What’s really exciting is computer science and AI in general have so much potential applications outside computer science. There’s a big disconnect between people who have those skills and people who need them. This program can really bridge that gap,” says StFX computer science professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics Dr. Jacob Levman. “We can train people for this next generation of skills needed in these wide variety of disciplines.”
This program, they say, is ideal for students with undergraduate degrees in a wide range of different fields of study, including both the sciences and the humanities, who are seeking to complement their undergraduate education for the purposes of applying artificial intelligence to solve practical problems in their own fields, for advancing their own fields, or the AI field more generally.
From Siri to self-driving cars, technological advances that rely on artificial intelligence systems include applications such as medical diagnosis, computer-assisted translation tools, speech recognition, biometrics, entertainment, and a variety of classification and predictive technologies.
Dr. Mike Melchin, then StFX Dean of Science, says one of the things that excites him about the new program is that it could draw students from a wide range of backgrounds, including international students. “This will add a lot of breadth to the classroom experience. All the students will benefit, with the intermixing of students who come into the program from other degrees,” he says.
The new Post-Baccalaureate Diploma is well suited for StFX, he says, where the Department of Computer Science already has a high level of knowledge and expertise in this field. Several faculty members are specialists, and AI is a significant focus in the department. Another benefit to students is StFX’s smaller class sizes and the opportunity to become involved in research.
“We have this enormous amount of expertise in engaging undergraduates in research here,” Dr. Melchin says.
The faculty say artificial intelligence is an area that is in high demand, and graduates of this program will be prepared for entry into the workplace or into applied graduate programs, such as StFX’s new Master of Applied Science in Computer Science.
Statistics show an inadequate supply of, and strong demand for computer science graduates. In Canada, the Information and Communications Technology Council, an independent and neutral policy advisor to business and governments across Canada, released a report indicating Canada will need to fill about 216,000 technology-related positions by 2021, up from 2015 predictions of 182,000 by 2019.
The report says this demand stems from a steadily growing Canadian digital economy, which experienced a 2.38 per cent growth rate between 2011 and 2016, compared to the 1.17 per cent growth seen in the rest of the economy. The report also finds that over half of tech professionals in the digital economy work in non-tech industries, indicating an increased prevalence of the use of advanced technology across all sectors of the economy.
The diploma is comprised of 48 credits taken usually over four semesters and has the fundamental computer science courses required of the advanced major in computer science while also focusing on AI related courses.
Those interested in more information, or to apply are asked to email email@example.com. Deadline for applications for the program starting in January 2020 are Oct. 10, 2019 for international students and Nov. 15, 2019 for domestic students.
StFX students interested in accounting and accounting organizations looking to connect with StFX students had a terrific opportunity to network on Sept. 11, 2019 when the StFX Student Career Services and Co-op Education Offices hosted its first annual Accounting Career Day in the McKenna Centre.
StFX hosted 10 accounting organizations representing major recruiting firms from across the country during the event, which was open to first to fourth year students interested in accounting recruitment, especially the CPA designation.
StFX Student Career Services and Co-op Education Offices manager Jane MacDonald said each year the offices receive requests from organizations looking to recruit summer, co-op and new graduate students in accounting/CPA related roles.
“We would have up to 10 or 12 organizations book individual information session/meet-greets for students. Recruitment for accounting students typically starts the first full week of school with offers of employment sent to students by the end of September,” she says.
“In order to streamline the accounting student recruitment, Career Services and Co-op Education decided to have one day where all of our organizations that recruit accounting students would be able to network with students. This new setup will allow students the opportunity to meet with 10-12 organizations in a shorter time frame than attending each individual organization’s information session/meet-greet. It also assists the organizations to reach more students as some students wouldn’t attend all accounting organization information session/meet-greets.”
Ms. MacDonald says their offices had strong support from the Gerald Schwartz School of Business, especially the accounting faculty, when promoting this event to students.
CPA Atlantic School of Business generously sponsored this event and Ms. MacDonald expressed much thanks to CPA Atlantic School of Business for their support.
Anne Simpson, acclaimed author and StFX adjunct English professor, has launched a new book of poetry, Strange Attractor.
The new collection focuses on the idea of self and the many selves we are within our lifetimes.
“This one is really about the question of self—what it is, how it changes. I was curious about the fluidity of this idea of the self. Who are we when we’re children? Who are we as we age? Who are we when we have an illness? For instance, I have a series of poems about dementia, with questions from the Mini-Mental State Exam, which doctors often used, and in some cases still use, when diagnosing the illness. I thought about what it would be like to be asked these questions, and I created a character who can’t answer them. And yet the richness of her imagination is obvious to the reader. This is one strand of this book, one way of looking at the notion of self,” says Ms. Simpson, the author of four previous books of poetry: Light Falls Through You, winner of the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Atlantic Poetry Prize; Loop, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize; Quick, winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award; and, most recently, Is.
She is also the author of two novels, Canterbury Beach and Falling, longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and winner of the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction. Her book of essays, The Marram Grass: Poetry & Otherness, was published in 2009.
She says one thing that inspired her with this book was the ancient story of Gilgamesh, the first recorded work of literature that has come down to us. “It’s really about the friendship between Gilgamesh, the king, and Enkidu, the wild man. The poems I wrote are a way to have a conversation with another work of literature. I wrote poems from Enkidu’s point of view, poems from Gilgamesh’s point of view. It was wonderful to dig deep with each of them,” she says.
“That’s one thing that inspired me. But I have to say that I’m equally interested in the place where I live, and the ordinary stories of people, often those I’ve never met. No one would be able to see themselves in what I write, I hope, but I’m often compelled by stories. And I’m compelled by this place—northeastern Nova Scotia. It comes up so often in my writing. Could I write poems if I didn’t live here? Maybe I could, but this place haunts my work.”
Ms. Simpson says it feels wonderful to have the book published. “To have a book published is a gift these days, but to have a book of poetry published feels a lot like winning the lottery.” Poetry, she says, is not something we pay much attention to, most of the time, and yet if someone gets married, or if someone dies, we often turn to it. It contains the things we all wish we could say at those times when it is most necessary to say it.
McClelland & Stewart, now part of PenguinRandomHouse, is the publisher. Strange Attractor is available at the StFX Campus Store, the Bookmark in Halifax and Charlottetown, and on Amazon.ca.
A book launch will take place at the Red Sky Gallery at 320 Main St., Antigonish, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19th and all welcome to attend.