Poet and U of C Writer-in-Residence

Photo of Nick Thran from CBC News, The Calgary Eyeopener August 28, 2015

Nick Thran, CBC News, The Calgary Eyeopener August 28, 2015

On November 3, we were delighted to have as our guest speaker Mr. Nick Thran, author of three books of poetry and this year’s University of Calgary Writer-in-Residence. A native of Prince George BC, he received his Masters of Fine Arts from New York University (NYU). Currently he is poetry editor for Brick Books. He is married to poet Sue Sinclair and they have a young daughter.

We were given an interesting glimpse into the mind of a poet, as Mr. Thran talked about motivations and behind-the-scenes efforts of writing poetry. As a child, his family moved a great deal and he experienced intense feelings as a teen which he was able to express through poetry.

He discussed the importance of finding images which resonate in one’s life so as to be able to fit these intense images into writing. For example, he carried an image of a flooded river in the south of Spain when he was 16 years old. The ripe oranges from the local orchards had spilled over into the flooded river and this image stayed with him. Years later, when he read Ezra Pound’s poem, “In the Station of the Metro,”  the memory of the oranges resonated and he was able to make a connection and write a poem.

While still a young man, Nick Thran had the opportunity to work in a book store and was allowed to take home all the books he wanted as long as he returned them the next day in pristine condition. This afforded him the freedom to read a huge variety of books. He feels that he became a better poet by reading broadly.  While taking his Masters at NYU, he was influenced greatly by a professor of journalism, Lawrence Weschler.

His wife, Sue Sinclair, is a poet. He read one line from one of her poems – “side by side with eternity, but never touch” – the comma is extremely important! He taught us that poets spend a great deal of time dealing with the microscope of the language in a tactile way.

We were fortunate to hear Nick Thran read several of his poems:

  • “Azucar” (sugar)
  • “Marginalia”
  • A poem from the book, Earworm, “Coastguard vessel pleasure boat” in which each line was taken from headlines of Globe and Mail newspaper articles
  • “The Particular Melon” is from his newest book, Mayor Snow, about two fictional people having a conversation about making a film about a melon

And he read an excerpt from an essay, “My Library.”

After time for questions from the audience, Anne Tingle thanked Nick Thran for helping us de-construct poetry.


Calgary Poet, Christopher Stephen Wiseman joined in!

Lillian Tickles has really upped the bar when it comes to presentations at CWLC. Not only did she do a presentation on this poet; She even invited him to attend to read his poetry. What a coup for everyone! Bravo, Lillian!

Christopher Wiseman

Christopher Stephen Wiseman

1933 –

A resident of Calgary and winner of several awards in the literary arts, Christopher Wiseman was a unanimous choice on our list of critically acclaimed local writers to be reviewed and discussed in our CWLC program for 2015 – 16.

Since poetry is enjoying a resurgence on my “reading for pleasure” menu of options, I happily volunteered to explore his life and work. The research has been most rewarding.

The following selective anthologies of his poems provide a basis from which to draw some insight.

  • 36 Cornelian Avenue
  • In John Updike’s Room
  • An Ocean of Whispers
  • The Upper Hand
  • Remembering Mr. Fox
  • Crossing the Salt Flats

Recognition for his poetic contributions has come from both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in the United Kingdom just prior to WW II, Wiseman spent two years in the RAF before attending Cambridge University where he achieved both a BA and an MA. Many of his poems stem from remembered experiences in British settings…bombed villages, schools, playgrounds, pubs, churches. Further educational pursuits took him to the University of Iowa, where he obtained his PhD under the influence of friend and mentor, Donald Justice. While there, he met and married Jean Laytem with whom he had two sons. Recalled places in the heartland of America are preserved and celebrated in his writing.

The major portion of Wiseman’s career unfolded at the U of C. His arrival in the English department resulted in the development of the Creative Writing program with classes for credit in writing poetry. Several from his class lists have become recognized writers. His ability to motivate and mentor did not go unnoticed. He won an excellence in teaching award which he acknowledges as a highlight of his career.

My travels through a significant itinerary of Wiseman’s work have been moving and inspiring. He has a remarkable talent for drawing the reader into each poem. It is easy to relate to the people, the places and the time depicted. Scenes come to life in three-dimensional clarity. In many instances the reader feels compelled to read a poem aloud. Because family was extremely important to him, several selections are dedicated to “mother, father, sons, grandparents and wife.” To the reader, they are valued new acquaintances.

Throughout his collections, Wiseman seems to be seeking a balance between “what I was and what I am.” The pieces in that quest have come together through the pen of an adult Canadian poet reclaiming images of people, places and events from his life’s memory landscape. Some perceptions of his past encounters have to be re-evaluated. Feelings about them shift in intensity. In some poems that shift occurs in the last stanza or the last line. The “what I am” part of the balance is still unfolding as he continues to write, to play a role on various juries that critique literary submissions, and to have his work broadcast nationally and internationally, to keep in touch with former students, and to give countless readings to groups such as us.