Celebrated poet Karen Solie to give VIU Gustafson lecture

Graphic of a hare with the text Karen Solie 2024 Gustafson Distinguished Poet's Lecture, The Path of the Hare.

Karen Solie is doing a reading and Q&A for students on March 13. Image submitted

January 30, 2024 - 10:00am

Update: The Karen Solie Gustafson poet lecture and readings have been rescheduled to March 13 and 14. Please note the new dates and times below:

  • The student reading is on March 13 from 10 to 11:30 am in the Malaspina Theatre lobby (Building 310)
  • The community reading is on March 13 at White Sails, 125 Comox Road, from 7 to 8:30 pm, with student Sam Bollinger opening for Solie. 
  • The Gustafson Distinguished Poet lecture and reception is on March 14 from 7 to 10 pm. The lecture is from 7 to 8:30 pm and the reception is from 8:30 to 10 pm. The lecture is at the Windsor Plywood Trades Discovery Centre (Building 108) Room 105.

Renowned poet Karen Solie is Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet for 2024.

Solie’s Gustafson lecture is on February 8 from 7 to 8:30 pm at the Nanaimo campus in Building 355, Room 203. It is free to attend and will be followed by a catered reception, cash bar and book signing in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre lobby (Building 310). VIU English Professor Dr. Mike Roberson will introduce Solie at the lecture.

“Karen Solie’s work clenches and releases like an anxious jaw. She writes with care and particularity, sometimes cynical and darkly funny, never wasting a word or a moment worth capturing, always knowing that poems are but one, as are our own lives and our world,” said Roberson.

A reading and Q&A for students is on February 7 from 10 to 11:30 am in the Malaspina Theatre lobby (Building 310). Solie will also do a community reading that night at White Sails from 7 to 8:30 pm, with student Sam Bollinger opening for Solie.

Solie’s lecture, entitled The Path of the Hare, will engage with John Berger’s And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos, in which Berger describes encountering a hare at the border between France and Italy: “And though it was running slowly, it ran for its life. Sometimes that can happen.” 

“In folklore and literature, the hare is a transformational, transitional figure, powerful and vulnerable. It hides in plain sight, appears out of nowhere, vanishes into the verge. It is a border creature,” said Solie. “The appearance and disappearance of the hare in writing from the medieval to the contemporary allows a glimpse into how poems realize their strange potential for calling forth the expanse and uncertainty around themselves, their capacity to invoke the silence dwelling in language, and how the mind attempts to follow poems into the wilderness beyond their last lines.”

The essay will interpret several related texts including Seamus Heaney’s translation of “The Names of the Hare,” William Cowper’s “Unnoticed Properties of the Hare,” and refer to poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Diane Seuss, Lisel Mueller and Marilyn Chin to understand how something that passes so quickly can seem to stop time.  

“Karen Solie’s poetry reminds me to pay attention, to savour the details, even in moments of uncertainty and precarity, and her poems’ precise intimations repeatedly astonish me,” said Dr. Neil Surkan, a poet and VIU English and Creative Writing Professor.

Solie has been writing for nearly 30 years and has published Short Haul Engine, Modern and Normal, Pigeon, The Living Option, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out and The Caiplie Caves. These have won the Griffin, Latner Writer’s Trust, Dorothy Livesay, Pat Lowther and Trillium poetry prizes, or been nominated or shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot, Derek Walcott, Gerald Lampert and ReLit awards. She has judged many provincial and national competitions in the genre and teaches at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She has also been Associate Director of the Banff Writing Studio, taught at the University of Manchester, been the writer-in-residence at U of T, and the Holloway Visiting Writer at the University of California Berkeley. Her work has been translated into eight languages. She lives in Toronto.

"Karen Solie’s work often gets called ‘sardonic’ or ‘acerbic’ for her dry, leaping wit. Solie approaches her topics like a farmer willing to work hard and get hands dirty, but then tills the rich soils of her meditation with a voice as sharp and precise as a surgical instrument,” said Dr. Sonnet L’Abbe, a poet and VIU English and Creative Writing Professor.

Copies of Solie’s books and a series of limited-edition Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture chapbooks will be available at the VIU bookstore and the reception. The Gustafson Distinguished Poetry Chair was established in 1998 from the estate of the late, preeminent Canadian poet Ralph Gustafson and his wife Betty.

For more information, please email Joy Gugeler, Chair of the Gustafson Committee at Joy.Gugeler@viu.ca.


Media Contact:

Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.618.0373l E: Rachel.Stern@viu.ca | X: @VIUNews

Tags: Creative Writing and Journalism | Announcements

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