25th Trillium Award

Poets in Profile: Sadiqa de Meijer, Winner of the 2012 CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize

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Congratulations to Sadiqa de Meijer, grand prize winner of the 2012 CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize for her poem "Great Aunt Unmarried." Sadiqa 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. Her poem has been published in enRoute Magazine and can be read here.

Sadiqa de Meijer will be celebrated at the IFOA on Saturday, October 20th. She will participate in a reading and round table discussion, moderated by the CBC's Garvia Bailey, about how great poems shape and affect how we see the world, along with Roo Borson, Phil Hall and Don McKay. Visit the Open Book: Toronto Events page for details.

Today, Open Book is delighted to feature Sadiqa de Meijer in our Poets in Profile series.

Open Book:

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

Sadiqa de Meijer:

My mother?s family often marked birthdays and anniversaries — and other, less traditional events such as ice storms or haircuts — with verses written for the occasion. So my earliest sense of poetry as a medium was that it was for everyone, and involved pleasure and skill — which is an uncommon introduction, I think, and probably made a difference.


What is the first poem you remember being affected by?


As a teenager I copied out favourite poems and taped them to my wall. They were Dutch poems at first — I don?t remember each one, but there was Ida Gerhardt?s De Gestorvene (The Deceased), in which the speaker says s/he would travel seven times around the earth, and then over the seas, to bring ?that one? back from death. In addition to the grand emotion, I was drawn to her inclusion of the practical detail — lines that translate something like: ?clothes in tatters / what would it matter / ??

It?s a bit of a tangent, but there?s a visual bibliography of her work on-line here — worth scrolling through to admire the covers.


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


I?m sure I could compile an anthology of wishes. Two that I?d include for sure would be ?Filling Station? by Elizabeth Bishop and ?The Chicago Defender Sends a Man To Little Rock? by Gwendolyn Brooks. Both are so precise and singular in their descriptions, but invoke something vast. I feel like I?m often aspiring towards those poems. Also, a poem by Anne-Marie Turza called ?On Sleep?, in which a stranger at a train station addresses the speaker in a foreign language. It reads almost as if you?re remembering your own dream, unnerving and convincing.


What has been your most unlikely source of inspiration?


I wasn?t sure if I had an answer to this question, and then I remembered that I wrote a poem once on the subject of the lethal gas that can form when chlorine and ammonia-based cleaning products are combined.


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


I can think of a few poems that are in that state right now. I wring my hands over them, put them away for a while, ask my writer friends to diagnose their ailment. Sometimes it still doesn?t work; it?s hard but important to give up. Years later, I might read them again, salvage a phrase and start over.


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


One that comes to mind is Don?t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf Press) by Claudia Rankine, which I read recently though it came out in 2004. I read it in what felt like one long breath. She considers public and private events with a startling degree of intimacy. The voice seems somehow as sprawling and limited as a self. It?s a very sad book.


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


The best thing is easy: you?re doing what you love, and that?s a good and fortunate way to spend your life. The worst thing is probably what Wendy Cope expressed (inversely) in Engineer?s Corner: ?You?ll have to plan your projects in the evenings / Instead of going out.?

Sadiqa de Meijer's writing has appeared in a number of literary journals, as well as in the Best of Canadian Poetry in English series and in the anthology Villanelles. A selection from her first poetry manuscript won the 2012 CBC Poetry Prize. Born in Amsterdam and raised in various places, she lives with her family in Kingston.

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