Short Story Prize: Readers
Meet the readers: Billeh Nickerson
We're introducing you to the 10 talented Canadian poets who helped narrow down more than 2,300 entries for the 2011-2012 CBC Poetry Prize into the longlist.
Up next, the Vancouver-based writer, arts advocate and founding member of “Haiku Night in Canada” on how his pile of poems held up against the Egyptian Sphinx.
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live and what do you write?
I’m a writer and arts advocate, who lives in East Vancouver. I’ve written about everything from popular culture and sexuality to curling and the Titanic.
What's your day job?
I’m the Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
What's your literary street cred?
I’m the former Editor of the literary journals PRISM international and Event magazine. I’m also a founding member of the performance troupe “Haiku Night in Canada”.
Why did you want to be a reader for the CBC Poetry Competition?
It’s an honour to be able to consider my peers’ work.
What do you like most about poetry?
Let’s use 'love' here. 'Like' is so passionless. I love how poetry captures meaning. I also love how it surprises.
Where did you read the entries?
In my living room in East Vancouver; on a plane heading over the Atlantic; in Cairo, Egypt; and in London, England during the Diamond Jubilee.
When you’re reading hundreds of poems and trying to choose the most exceptional ones, what are you looking for?
I was looking for poems that made me consider the world in a way I hadn’t previously. Another handy tool was visiting the pyramids in Egypt. My shortlist had to compete with the Sphinx to be remembered.
Can you describe a couple of the entries that struck you as standouts?
On "3 Poems Crumpled into Snowballs": These poems made me sit there with my mouth wide open in shock and wonder. I’m sure I must have swallowed some flies during that time. It’s been years since I’ve encountered such an original and magical voice.
What is it about a poem that makes you put it in the YES pile?
It needs to speak to me somehow. I was drawn to strong images, and originality.
Having read all these poems, do you have tips, any dos and don’ts for aspiring poets?
Read. Read. Read. And then read some more.
What did you enjoy most about the experience?
I loved never knowing what to expect. It was a little bit like panning for gold. I’m glad I found some nuggets in there.
Billeh Nickerson is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, performer, producer and arts advocate and a silver medalist at this year’s National Gay Curling Championships. He is the author of The Asthmatic Glassblower, Let Me Kiss it Better: Elixirs for the Not So Straight and Narrow, McPoems, and his newest collection, Impact: the Titanic Poems. He is also a founding member of the performance troupe “Haiku Night in Canada” and the Chair of the Creative Writing department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.