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News from a Previous Laureate

We asked Jan Wood to update us on her activities since her appointment as Utmost Christian Poet Laureate in April 2008.

Read Jan's series titled "15 Minute Adjustments!"

Jan Wood Poet LaureateLanguage was her life
and when she died
her doctors found nests
of grammar growing in her

          Clelie Rich “The Weight of Breathing”

In early spring 2008, I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in the Write Saskatoon Workshops (a branch of Write! Canada) as a facilitator in their reading section. I was thrilled to meet new writers and spend time with Utmost friends like Marcia Laycock and Susan Plett.

In late spring I prepared a week of wilderness workshops to be held in the boreal forest near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I worked in conjunction with the coordinators from Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival to arrange for campsites and a caterer.

During the summer I edited and read though some manuscripts and several poems sent to me.

In the fall I edited and responded to more manuscript submissions, this time having to meet deadlines. This was an exciting and tiring experience. I was pleased to be working with fresh insights and beautiful poetry. It also was very humbling to be trusted with raw work from poets that I greatly admire. I wish them success in their submissions and hope they continue to pursue their writing talents whether they are chosen for publication or not.

In November I took up a challenge presented by 14 teenage boys that wanted to write short stories and self publish them. This became an editing nightmare that still is not resolved but a great deal closer to completion than I thought it might be. The experience has been most rewarding in many ways but has also been one of those commitments that take an incredible amount of time.

Through Violet Nesdoly I was given an interview which was published in FellowScript, published by Inscribe.

This experience left me putting words to questions I had not considered previously.

I wanted to promote reading skills and literacy so I accepted an appointment to the district library board a number of years ago and this year I accepted the position of chair. It is our goal to encourage the community to read and use our facility. We have a monthly promotional and write a column in the local paper promoting new authors and books and other literary points of interest.

I continued to send out samples of my work was accepted in several publications such as Toward the Light, Time of Singing, Penwood Review and Prairie Messenger.

I was blessed in being chosen as one of the delegates to attend a winter Colony run by the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster. I spent ten days in retreat (silence from 9-5 except for dinner hour) with thirty other writers from across Canada. One highlight for me was meeting and visiting with Lorna Crosier and Maureen Scott Harris. Another highlight was the peace I derived from spending silent days in the old monastery. Attuned to the bells and a simple way of life without distraction, it was much easier to write and stay focused. It was awesome having a library and several Benedictine monks available for research and discussions on the faith walk.

This Spring will see me joining forces with Susan Plett and Joyce Harback in coordinating InScribe's Spring Wordshop in Calgary. The theme is "Polish ‘til It Shines" and is of course focused on editing.

In the winter I began putting a manuscript together. Enough said. Among other things, this proved my filing system left a great deal to be desired.

As always, I have purchased far more than my fair share of reading materials. From my new acquisitions I recommend; Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver.

I know a lot of  fancy words,
I tear them apart from my heart and tongue,
then I pray.

          from "Six Recognitions of the Lord."
          (Listen to Mary Oliver read "Six Recognitions.")

I also recommend Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.

Poems arrive. They hide in feelings and images, in weeds and delivery vans daring us to notice and give them form with words.
          from Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Susan's book consists of 60 unique exercises that she has given to her students and many come with examples of writing.

A favourite site that I recently discovered on the internet is in the Poetry Workshps area at the Guardian. I find their monthly exercises challenging and the poet's critiques informative.

…and we, too, are made of water
Are verbs in our flowing, living,
Liquid in our bleeding, crying
Until death nouns us

           from Water is Verbs by Jean Mallinson