Shane Book, U of C’s Writer-in-Residence, was our guest speaker

Introducing our guest speaker, Margaret Sparkes noted the appropriateness of having poet Shane Book on March 21, World Poetry Day!

Shane gave our group an illuminating and fascinating presentation on his life’s journey and how he ended up becoming a renowned writer and filmmaker. As the child of a Canadian father and a Trinidadian mother, he was born in Peru and spent several years as a child in Ghana, as his father worked for the Canadian International Developmental Agency as an economist and diplomat. They later returned to Canada where he lived in Vancouver and Ottawa.

While at the University of Victoria and New York University, he began to study poetry in earnest. He also began to seriously want to make movies.

His philosophy is that everything comes from poetry.  Many novelists say they are failed poets. Poetry forces the writer to pay attention to each word. Poetry also trains the ear.

Shane Book has written two books:

His first book, Ceiling of Sticks, is poetry based on photographs, which he called a documentary poetry book. For example, Shane saw one photo that triggered the memory of seeing starving children in Mali. One of the poems is based on these memories.

Congotronic, his second book, was a runner-up for the very prestigious Griffin poetry prize in 2015. This book focuses on cultural products from Africa and how they have influenced the world.

Mr. Book read several poems from his books:

from Ceiling of Sticks – 

  • The One –  about starving children in Mali 1985
  • Homecoming – Ghana checkpoint
  • Stark Room – type of poetry – Pantoum

from Congotronic –

  • World Town – based on parts of the Brazilian island where he was living.
  • Free Town – 
  • Janelas – Portuguese for “windows”
  • They are not bits of clockwork –  short philosophical poem

 Many questions arose from his engaging talk and we further learned:

  • As writer-in-residence, he revealed that his main goal is to avoid impeding a student’s learning (!). He can consult with anyone who wants assistance on a manuscript (he’s not limited to U of C students).
  • He’s hugely interested in American jazz, which he believes is strongly linked to Mali. He played saxophone from Grade 4. His uncles played steel pan drums in Trinidad. He now plays a number of instruments and in bands.
  • Since has was 18, he has lived in 10 cities, so he is trying not to move as much. After the U of C appointment as writer-in-residence, he will become a Professor of cinematography and poetry at the University of Victoria. He just finished a short film, which will be in festivals this year. He finished writing the first season of a TV show and is hoping to shoot it in Victoria in a year. He is currently writing another book of poetry and a book of prose.
  • Shane speaks French, English, an African dialect, Portuguese, and he is picking up Spanish.
  • Eventually, he will have a few short films online. He has two unfinished documentaries. He is now creating comedies about poets and writers.
  • Shane Book does not have a website: “I should have one,” he said.

Summarized by Flora Spackman

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