25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: James Scoles, Winner of the CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize

Share |
James Scoles

Last week, the CBC announced that the winner of its 2013 CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize was Winnipeg poet and creative writing professor James Scoles. His poem The Trailer was selected for the grand prize by Sue Goyette, David McGimpsey and Anne Michaels. James will receive a prize of $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and a two-week residency at The Banff Centre?s Leighton Artists? Colony. His poem will be published in enRoute Magazine and can be read online here.

James Scoles will be celebrated at a special event at the International Festival of Authors entitled ?The Poet Summit? on Saturday, October 26. James will be joined by poets Warren Clements, Beatriz Hausner, Christine McNair and Peter Norman. The event will be hosted by Gill Deacon of CBC Radio One's Here and Now. At a reception following the Poet Summit, the CBC?s Shelagh Rogers and Kevin Sweet will present the awards to the winners of both the English and the French grand prizes. Visit our Events page for details.

Today, James Scoles takes part in Open Book's Poets in Profile series, revealing where the inspiration for The Trailer was found and sharing the poetry that first made a profound impact on him, including the stark poetry of the northern Manitoba landscape.

Open Book:

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

James Scoles:

Of course all experiences, good and bad, have contributed to my becoming a poet, but the experience of growing up in Northern Manitoba — which left me with a beautifully fresh but stark, off-white canvas to paint on — coupled with extensive world travel from a very young age, gave me a rich palette of colour, curiosity and language to work with.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


The first poems that affected me were those of Charles Baudelaire — especially The Flowers of Evil — because I had read a lot of the beats, and loved Corso and Ginsberg, and then I got turned onto Al Purdy and Charles Bukowski and thank God found the lyricism of Lawrence Durrell, but Baudelaire?s images, lines and stanzas were pure works of art.


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


I wish I could?ve written He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by William Butler Yeats, because it?s a remarkably simple, beautiful love poem. The speaker is such a genuine Irish country voice, and the pacing is perfectly heartbreaking. A very close second would be Al Purdy?s Where the Moment Is.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


The most unlikely source of inspiration is really the most likely, in my experience: a ratty old, moldy suitcase I dug out from under my trailer. It was full of knick-knacks and mementoes, and that helped create the final images in my CBC Prize-winning poem, The Trailer. I?m also constantly inspired by students? writing, especially when I see how easily so many of them put their voices to different poetic forms on command.


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


Poems are like some students: some might require more direction than others. But it really all depends on how badly I want the poem to work, and that could be a simple result of falling in love with a line or the theme or speaker or even just the title. I?m not afraid of bullying a belligerent poem into a more well-behaved piece, but those are the pieces that often feel forced. Sometimes poems get left alone for a very long time; I?ve have had stanzas and lines wait years to become or even get into even a half-decent poem.


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


The last poetry that really moved me was Sue Goyette?s Outskirts. Her poetry is refreshingly fun, wry and original at every turn. I also recently re-read Lawrence Durrell?s Collected Poems, who is a master of the poetic line, the lyric, musicality and the very bones of a poem. His themes of travel, love, living overseas and especially the historical period he was writing in are all are very appealing.


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


Best thing: having a place for my joy, love, losses, thoughts and troubles to go, and quickly; poetry is that comfy little place where I can open up conversations with the self and soul and the world quietly. Worst thing: having a place for all of my troubles to go just a little too quickly, and I have a hundred pounds of bad ideas and hard evidence of fairly prolific creative neuroses in my Great Auntie Mac?s trunk to prove it.

James Scoles has travelled, lived and worked in over 90 countries, and his writing — fiction, poetry and literary non-fiction — has appeared in journals, magazines, and newspapers in Japan, the USA, Australia, Ireland and Canada, and has been nominated for the Western and National Magazine Awards, The Journey Prize and the Pushcart Prize. He teaches creative writing at the University of Winnipeg, and his current projects — Spit in the Ocean, a novel set in 1840s Ireland, and Border Stories, a collection of short fiction based on his world travels — are supported by the Winnipeg and Manitoba Arts Councils, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Advanced Search