In the Writers’ Words: Conversations with Ten Canadian Poets, Volume II, by Laurence Hutchman

In the Writers’ Words: Conversations with Ten Canadian Poets, Volume II, offers precisely what the title suggests. Presented in Q&A format, the book contains the contents of interviews that author Laurence Hutchman had with each of the poets featured in the book. It’s clear from the nature of the questions that Hutchman has a deep knowledge of each poet’s work. In addition to more general queries about each poet’s influences, pertinent background, and sources of inspiration, he also prompts the poets to talk about specific works and books, drawing out salient points.

Five of the poets interviewed have connections with Atlantic Canada. Brian Bartlett was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, and taught at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax for nearly 30 years. George Elliott Clarke grew up in North End Halifax, Nova Scotia. Texas-born M. Travis Lane later moved to New Brunswick and became a founding member of that province’s Writers’ Federation. Sue Sinclair grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Colleen Thibaudeau’s father was of Acadian descent.

Rounding out the roster of interviewees are Roo Borson, John B. Lee, Daniel Lockhart, Bruce Meyer, and Al Moritz.

The poets featured in In the Writer’s Words Volume II include several past and present poet laureates, and between them, the interviewees have earned numerous awards. Some have been involved in the publishing process or in academia.

Besides touching on poetry and the creative process, the interviews range into a variety of themes and topics from philosophy to political events. George Elliott Clarke discusses issues affecting Black Lives Matter and muses on the differences between African-Americans and African Canadians in cultural influences and outlook. Daniel Lockhart, a citizen of the Lenape nation, discusses borders, the damages inflicted by capitalism, and the importance of understanding Indigenous history. Some of the poets talk about the importance of the natural world to their writing, and to humanity in general.

As someone who writes poetry, I enjoyed reading the interviewees’ insights about influences, the creative process, and the purpose of poetry. John B. Lee, for example, notes that “Writing is a discovery and a rediscovery of things that I already knew, but forgot, or that I never knew or that I didn’t really know that I knew.” (p. 153) M. Travis Lane offers the reassuring comment, “I start lots [of poems], but not all hatch.” (p. 139) Bruce Meyer muses on the nature of poetry as “a thank you letter to life,” (p. 224) and suggests that a poem is “a container for the exponential wonder of a moment.” (p. 229)

As part of the discussion, the poets also offer insights on reading poetry. Roo Borsos states, “I walk a lot, and my poetry also proceeds at a walking pace. Read too fast, and there appears to be nothing there. Slow down and there may be more to it.” (p. 75) M. Travis Lane comments, “If the reader pays attention to the details, listens for the emotional sound of the sentences, and ‘gets the mood’ he or she is understanding the poem.” (p. 141)

See also  Cassoulet Confessions by Sylvie Bigar

In the Writers’ Words Volume II offers something of value for poets as well as those interested in poetry, in the specific poets profiled, or in Canadian literature in general. As Hutchman notes in the book’s introduction, “The poets presented in In the Writers’ Words Volume II have works that convey a wide range of writing styles expressing important trends and concerns of the past half a century.” (p. 9) And if that’s not enough to pique your interest, there’s this quote from Bruce Meyer: “I am not sure poetry can save the world, but it is as good a place as any to start.” (p. 230)


Laurence Hutchman was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Toronto. He received his PhD from the Université de Montreal and has taught at a number of universities. For twenty-three years he was a professor of English literature at the Université de Moncton at the Edmundston Campus. His poetry has received many grants and awards, including the Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence and has been translated into numerous languages. In 2017 he was named poet laureate of Emery, north Toronto. He lives with his wife, the artist and poet, Eva Kolacz in Oakville, Ontario.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Guernica Editions (May 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 120 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771836164
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771836166

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Bruce Meyer
Bruce Meyer
June 9, 2022 15:18

I am delighted to see Laurence Hutchman’s book reviewed so thoroughly and with such graceful prose. I was almost as equally delighted to see my words in various places in the text of the review. Mirimachi Reader is the best reviews venue in Canada,

James M. Fisher
Reply to  Bruce Meyer
June 9, 2022 15:41

Why, thank you, Bruce!

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