I am grateful to live and work on the unceded Coast Salish Territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations, and to share in this land's cultural and geographic diversity. While poetry and community organising are my passions, the natural world is my creed.
The Divining Pool, my debut poetry collection, was nominated for the 2018 Gerald Lampert Memorial award. More recently I was selected for the 2020 CBC and Pacific Spirit Poetry Prizes. I was honoured to be among Aesthetica’s 2021 and 2017 annual creative writing finalists, and to have won the 2015 Anstruther Poetry Award. In 2014 I was also short-listed for the Malahat Review’s Open Season award. My poetry has been published in American, UK, and Canadian journals such as Grain, Prairie Fire, Hart House Review, and Strand. In another life I was the founding editor of The Scores.
I would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts in the development of my second poetry collection.
My work is concerned with the relationship between shame, (self)belonging, and embodiment. It emerges from an imperative to heal a collective legacy of intergenerational trauma and social inequity that circumscribe our connection to self, land, and one another. Guiding this work is a curiosity about the dualistic nature of human perception—a function of language, biology, and inherited cultural beliefs—specifically as it concerns the concepts of Self and Other, mind and body, the spiritual and the material. When false dichotomies such as these are internalised over generations, they play a significant role in fomenting populist attitudes and reifying polarised discourses, which, in turn, are exploited in the suppression and exclusion of 'others.'
A significant part of my work seeks to unpack the means by which these ideologies of worth and social belonging reproduce through language. As a poet, I am drawn to the history of cultural metaphors: how their use changes over time and the ways in which they encode prejudice. This impulse to ‘other,’ however, runs much deeper than language, and has its roots in the early phases of our development as a species, and as individuals.
In the West we are conditioned to meet our primal need for belonging by commodifying our value—identifying with what we own and do—and assimilating hierarchies that normalise conditions of inequity and disembodied living. We are a society built upon divisions, one in which knowledge is siloed and wisdom relegated to the moral poverty of corporate empires. Because our systems of knowledge work in isolation, so does our grief. What is anathema to our society is what it deems shameful. Thus, we are taught that our suffering does not belong, and are cut off from an essential aspect of our humanity.
By inspiring fear of social outcast, shame not only enforces collective compliance with harmful ideologies, but also teaches us to hide the most unique and vulnerable aspects of ourselves—often the source of our innate creativity. At its root, shame means ‘to cover.’ Thus, the ‘self’ becomes a manifestation of what is accepted by society, and the ‘other’ a projection of what is hidden, rejected, and denied. If the ‘other’ within remains unseen, it becomes our legacy.
My creative work is thus guided by an imperative to uncover the roots of systemic shame, as it relates to both recent and formative experiences of trauma in my own life, and my matrilineal line. My belief is that if shame entrenches calcified world views, then acts of creation generate paradigmatic shifts. These shifts can disrupt pernicious cycles of disconnection and exclusion within and across communities, creating space to re-imagine a civic society that fosters equity and celebrates diversity, that honours our shared humanity.
While recalibrating our social frameworks may seem like a monumental endeavour, this work depends not only on the coordination of large-scale efforts, but also, significantly, on the individual. It requires a commitment to re-cognising the difference between what is valued—by our society, capitalism, the patriarchy—and what is of value to the life we share. For this is the real subject of the crisis we face—crisis at its root meaning "to decide."
If we are to re-create the legacy we inherit and endow, we must decide to look at our own otherness, to re-cognise how it teaches us what we value. This practice asks that we reach beyond the discursive realm in order to connect with places in the body where trauma resides. It has been my experience that cultivating a creative practice—a modality for expression and introspection—enables one to access these parts of self that have been shamed, rejected, and repressed. Not only that, but this act of uncovering demonstrates the power of our vulnerability, the truth beneath our resistance, and the value of that which we have hidden. For, every creative act requires a synchrony between mind and body, a dialogue that reinforces an essential quality of connection and (self)belonging, unfettered by shame or fear.
Through an embodied practice, one that involves attuning to the wisdom of our physical beings and difficult feelings, I believe we can empower ourselves to rewrite limiting, internalised discourses of worth and (self)belonging. When we are in contact with the source of our own innate creativity (the root of which means "to spring forth, to be born"), we can begin to re-cognise our responsibility to the land, ourselves, and our humanity. In this way, we may begin to mend the fractures between peoples, and heal the damage we have inflicted on our larger body, the Earth. Ultimately my life’s work is a process of this re-membering, so we might begin belonging to ourselves again.
2022 Dalhousie Review
'The Incompleteness Theorem'
2022 FreeFall Magazine
2022 Anti-Languorous Project
2022 The Threepenny Review
'A Cure for Anxiety'
2018 Island Writer 17th Annual Victoria Writers Society Poetry Award:
2017 Wundor Editions: The Diving Pool, debut poetry collection
‘Mirror/Mirror’ Issu pg 45
‘After the Death of Your Husband’
‘Milk River, AB’
‘Portrait of Persephone as a Girl’
‘The Love Myth’
‘A Cure for Anxiety’
'The Waterfall Effect’
2014 Hart House Review Online:
‘The Modern Prometheus’
‘Blood in the Garden’
'After the Death of Your Husband’
‘Preparing for Badrak’
‘A Refrain for Drowning’
2013 Descant Vol 44 No 4:
2013 Qwerty: No 30:
'Ghost Geographies' by Tamas Dobozy and 'The Running Trees' by Amber McMillan. Event Magazine. September 2022.
‘Undoing Hours’ by Selina Boan. The Malahat Review. January 2022.
“Brave and Honest: Alumna Fiona Benson’s ‘Bright Travellers’ Reviewed.” The Saint. 19 Feb 2015.
2015 First place for Anstruther Association Poetry Award
Banff Centre: Adele Wisemen Endowment (2021)
Norton Island Residency Fellowship (2018)
UVic: F. E. Chapman Achievement Award (2012)
UVic: Philip Pickering Award in Poetry (2011)
UVic: G.&l.Few Achievement Award (2011)
UVic: Pat Bevan Scholarship in Writing (2011)
UVic: Tom Perry Award for Social Responsibility (2011)
UVic: Excellence Renewable Entrance Scholarship (09-13)