In Their Words

I recently attended the Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS) event, “In Their Words”. To give you a short explanation of the event, featured speakers present the works of their favourite authors, living or dead, in any genre.

This event is the perfect space for any emerging writer, or even the jaded creator, wishing to discover new and old sources of inspiration. There is nothing more inspiring than listening to the work and creative processes of others.

Caroline Leavitt

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Photo by: Janet Kvammen

This first presentation, by Jacqueline Carmichael was especially exciting since we had Caroline Leavitt live in a Skype call from New York. With her face projected on the wall, and a webcam pointed back at the rest of us in the audience, she was able to hear her work being read, see our reactions and answer questions at the end of the reading (excerpts from the novel, Cruel Beautiful World).

Caroline shared many useful gems, from how to attract an agent, to drawing inspiration from the people in our daily lives, or events in the news.

There was one comment in her discussion that stuck with me, and that I think will continue to motivate me on days when I am met with that frustrating blank page. She mentioned how the origins of inspiration for Cruel Beautiful World were born when she was 17, but at the time she wasn’t ready and did not understand the full scope of the story she wanted to tell. Years later, with more life experience and knowledge, she was ready to write the story. It wouldn’t have been the same had she forced it years before.

Sometimes the story we think we want to write just isn’t ready to be written, and that’s okay. Part of creation, and being an artist of any form, is growth, and I believe that’s what makes what we do the most exciting.

Gwendolyn MacEwen

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The second presentation, from Eileen Kernaghan, was of Canadian poet, Gwendolyn MacEwen. A woman of mystery in her own right, Gwendolyn’s prolific collection of work conveys her ever-constant fascination with magic and myth, and the belief that “poetry is a form of magic that can change lives”.

From:   The Shadow-Maker (1972)

This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.

Explorer, you tell yourself, this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.

But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.

Discover more about this lost poet at Canadian Poetry Online.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Photo by: Janet Kvammen

The last work shared with us, by Neall Ryon, was of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, husband of well-known gothic horror author, Mary Shelley.

Neall came with a wealth of knowledge and historical background on the statue mentioned in the poem “Ozymandias”, which he read twice, at the beginning and end of the presentation, for poignant effect.


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The poem itself is a humourous observance, highlighting the irony of a once-powerful man’s pride, now withered away by the sands of time. But, there is a deeper, more harrowing message contained: there is no such thing as permanence in life.

Is there permanence in art?

2 thoughts on “In Their Words

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