Lara Bozabalian: A Poet's Path

Share |

Although she was a voracious reader when she was young, Lara Bozabalian, a poet, writer and high school English teacher, didn?t discover poetry, the profound effect that it had on her and her ability to share it with other people, until later in life.

?I didn?t start writing until I was 24?, Bozabalian said. ?I was a very, very avid reader from a pretty young age. I think calling it obsessive would be a little strong. But I was an extreme reader, I will say, like the kind of kid that read at the dinner table and with a flashlight at home and all that sort of thing.

?So that might have been only a clue that writing was coming.?

The pathway leading to poetry was not clearly marked, however, as Bozabalian thought, in her youth, that she would be an art teacher or photographer.

?I drew and I painted and I sculpted and I was into photography?, she explained. ?And that was sort of something that I actually thought I would go into.?

She may not have pursued the visual arts, but Bozabalian pursued her love of reading when she went to Queen?s university to obtain her undergrad in English Literature.

Her discovery of poetry, however, was really outside of her academic studies. She came across Bronwen Wallace, for example, a beloved Canadian poet from Kingston, Ontario, in one of those ?serendipitous ways?, as Wallace?s good friend Joanne Page would say.

?I came across my favourite collection of hers, called Common Magic, just by happenstance, in a box that said, ?Free Books?, and I just picked it up and read it and was immediately taken by her delivery.

?She is sort of someone who I think bridges spoken word and page poetry. And not too many people, I think, are able to convey the sense of someone in the room with you, speaking, conversationally even, about these really profound things.?

Inspired by Wallace?s voice and style, Bozabalian?s own poetic path opened up in front of her.

?The poem that I believe had the biggest influence on me was called, ?Like this??, Bozabalian said. ?And it caused me to start writing what would become the first poem in the collection that was The Cartographer?s Skin. My poem is called ?Different Cities.??

Much more than words on a page, Bozabalian?s leadership in the spoken word community has given poetry a strong voice in Toronto and across Ontario. She runs a poetry festival for high school students across York Region and has been involved in reading series, such as Art Bar, Harbourfront?s Canadian Voices Slam, the Words Aloud Festival and she is a member of the Toronto Poetry Slam Team.

For Bozabalian, written poetry and spoken word poetry are ?both about storytelling, and they are both about, sort of, lyricism, like finding that really nice combination of diction and style and rhythm?.

Yet, there is also something very dynamic and powerful about spoken word that really excites Bozabalian.

?It seems to me that there is a lot more opportunity for different types of voices in spoken word?, she said. ?There can be very angry poetry and there can be very melancholy poetry and very joyful poetry. And I think that is sometimes harder to convey on the page.

?So there is a little bit more room for loud emotion.?

With her passion to write and perform poetry, Bozabalian has carved out a poetic path that is destined to keep inspiring her students and even other teachers.

?I particularly teach workshops to teachers about how to enliven poetry in the classroom. So I find teachers are relieved when they have, kind of, a recipe of how to meaningfully share poetry and explore it.?

It is the ability of teachers to really capture their students? attention that may be able to put poetry on par with areas of study that are often considered more essential - disciplines that wouldn?t be cut out of a curriculum.

?I think poetry, being a little more abstract than, say, mathematical equations or even grammar or even a novel, so to speak, is important just for that reason. I think teachers as well as students need to regularly have a moment to just reflect on ?What does this mean?? and ?What could this mean?? and also have the option to create.?

Bozabalian?s commitment to poetry as an artist and as a teacher can?t be described as anything less than inspirational.

?I feel as long as I?m a teacher I will advocate poetry to be in schools,? she said. ?And I think that people want poetry there.?

It may have taken awhile for her to clear her own path but now that she has, others can follow this road and plant the seeds of poetry along the way, keeping it alive and vibrant in our communities.


Lara Bozabalian's poetry and prose have been published in journals, magazines and newspapers, as well as in two literary anthologies. She is the author of four chapbooks, Exhale to December, The Morning Glories, New Dream and Free, and her first full length collection, The Cartographer's Skin, was published by Piquant Press in May 2010. She has featured regularly at reading series around Ontario, including Art Bar, Harbourfront, Ryerson University, the Luminato New Waves Festival, Eden Mills Writers Festival and the Words Aloud Festival.

As a member of the Toronto Poetry Slam Team, Lara represented Toronto at last years American National Poetry Slam and the 2009 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She also competed at the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam and at the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam. As Head of English at a public high school, Lara founded and runs a spoken word festival for high school students across York Region, and is a founding member of Toronto Poetry Project, a collective dedicated to fostering social change and creative writing opportunities for youth.

Advanced Search