The West Kootenay will take on a prairie flavor on St. Patrick’s Day when former Nelson, B.C. writing student Gerry Hill, who was Saskatchewan’s 2016 poet laureate, will read from his work together with Nelson author and fibre artist Susan Andrew Grace, a long-time resident of Saskatchewan, at Nelson’s Oxygen Art Centre on Friday, March 17.
The duo’s reading begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free ($5 donation appreciated) and the event is open to the public. The reading is the third in a series of author readings during 2016-2017 that mark 10 years of arts programming at Oxygen. The Centre is located at 320 Vernon St. (alley entrance).
Hill, a native of Saskatchewan, received a diploma in creative writing from Nelson’s former David Thompson University Centre following a teaching stint in Papua New Guinea. After further education in Edmonton, he taught English and writing at the University of Regina until 2015. He has published six poetry collections, including Hillsdale Book from NeWest Press in 2015, about the Regina suburb in which he was partially raised.
His honors include two Saskatchewan Book Awards, being a prize-winner in the 2011 CBC Literary Awards, and serving as his home province’s poet laureate in 2016.
One of Andrews Grace’s five poetry titles, Ferrywoman’s History of the World (from Coteau Books) was named Saskatchewan Book of the Year in 1998. Andrews Grace, who has lived in Nelson since 2001, most recently published Philosopher at the Skin Edge of Being from Signature Editions in 2013. Former Canadian poet laureate Fred Wah said that this book “posits anew the old meditation on ‘the one and the many’ through Grace’s masterful poetic skill at sustaining the music in language while allowing some reflective distance from the disillusionments of the present.”
Andrews Grace also maintains a visual art practice, in which her work, in her words, “echoes and honors textile traditions.” Solo exhibits of her work most recently were held at the Langham Art Gallery in Kaslo in the fall of 2015, and at Touchstones Nelson in the fall of 2013.
Support for Oxygen’s celebratory reading series has come from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers’ Union of Canada, as well as from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance. The readings are co-sponsored by Nelson’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.
Oxygen, Nelson’s only artist-run centre, was founded in 2002 by artists formerly employed by the city’s Kootenay School of the Arts.
The fourth and final reading in the current series will take place May 5, and will present Kelowna novelist Ashok Mathur, who heads UBC Okanagan’s Creative Studies Department, and Nelson’s Emily Nilsen, Columbia Basin Trust environmental program co-ordinator, who was shortlisted for the 2015 CBC Poetry Prize.