Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Poets in Profile: Cornelia Hoogland

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Open Book is celebrating National Poetry Month with daily profiles of today's "unacknowledged legislators of the world." Find out what inspires, confounds and delights the poets behind this spring's new releases by following our series.

Cornelia Hoogland's new collection, Woods Wolf Girl (Wolsak & Wynn), takes Little Red Riding Hood into the Canadian woods and turns her tale on its end with sensuous and daring lyric poetry. Jeanette Lynes calls it “Riding Hood like you've never encountered her before. Hoogland has nailed it in this chilling contemporary retelling of the age-old tale. Layered and smart as hell.”

Cornelia Hoogland launches Woods Wolf Girl in London on April 1st at the Landon Branch Library and will read at Nicholas Hoare Books in Toronto on April 14th. Visit our Events page and Wolsak & Wynn's website for details.

Open Book:

Can you describe an experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a poet?

Cornelia Hoogland:

Mom saved a one-inch by one-inch journal of mine written when I was first learning to print. “Dad bought me a comic.” Holding that tiny book reminds me of the thrill of seeing oneself represented in the world. The feeling is “here I am” yet at the same time, a sense of otherness. Then the possibility of reflecting on what that Other included in the representation. A dialogue among selves (what was I thinking?) with the roles of artist and audience flexible, interchangeable. That feeling has never left me.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


"Daffodils" by William Wordsworth. I can still see it printed on the green chalkboard at Quennell Elementary in Nanaimo BC. I could see those daffodils, the way they stretched in “never-ending line,” and “tossing their heads.” But most powerful was the way the scene snuck up on you. One minute the teacher’s voice droned on “I wandered, etc.” and the next minute “a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils ” grabbed you and pulled you along “beside the lake, beneath the trees” — you were running! Oh, it was wonderful! (Thank you Mr. Smith).


What one poem — from any time period — do you wish you had been the one to write?


Patricia Young’s "Alpaca Facts" in her book Here Come the Moonbathers (Biblioasis); a poem I talked up, especially when Patricia came to read for Poetry London. Julie Bruck’s "A School Night in February" in Maisonneuve (37) is also terrific. Oh yes! Anna Swanson’s “The nights also” in her wonderful book of the same title. High Ground Press (John Pass & Theresa Kishkan, Eds.), asked me a similar question by commissioning me for the 2009 Companion Series, Broadsheet 12. I wrote “After Meeting the Wolf, Red Arrives Home” as the companion piece to David Harsent’s (brilliant) poem “Marriage.” Do I have to stop…


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


Little Red Riding Hood. I had no idea she was lurking in the woods, waiting for me to notice her. How could I miss? — she was wearing a red cloak for goodness sake. She was there when I was a child lugging home creek water for tadpoles I kept in a gallon pickle jar on the window ledge in the back porch. She was there when I returned to school, aged 27. I see the world through her eyes, and now that I am Maya and Avery’s mémé, I see Little Red Riding Hood in them.


What do you do with a poem that just isn't working?


I talk to it. Something like this: Okay, let’s start over. You don’t like what I’m doing. What is it I’m not seeing? You’re going to have to help me here. I have a poem that talks about this in Woods Wolf Girl:

Could be the thing that happens
is at its core

a need

composting inside you. Could be

your soul makes it big —
tosses hands or eyes
or teeth — enormous teeth — onto your path.

Step over the roadkill, miss
the clues — well,

tripping is another way the world can slow you down.


What was the last book of poetry you read that really knocked your socks off?


Matt Rader’s A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno (Anansi, 2011). He situates himself in Courtenay, B.C. and writes: “I acknowledge I am on the unceded traditional land of the K’omoks nation.” Good for Matt; good for all of us.


What is the best thing about being a poet…and what is the worst?


The best thing is a rich inner life. There is no worst. There are real discouragements, and things are pretty quiet for the most part, but it’s all good. I’m very grateful.

Cornelia Hoogland has published five poetry collections, most recently, Woods Wolf Girl (Wolsak and Wynn, 2011). Her poetry has been published internationally and has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards on multiple occasions. Hoogland is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario and is the founder and the co-artistic director of Poetry London, an organization that brings prominent writers into lively discussion with local writers and readers. Hoogland divides her time between London, Ontario, and Hornby Island, BC.

For more information about Woods Wolf Girl please visit the Wolsak & Wynn website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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