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Short Story Prize: Readers

Meet the readers: Jen Currin

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 poet and writing teacher shares her insights after reading hundreds of entries. Can you guess her opinion of clichés and rhyming?

Tell us about yourself. Where do you live and what do you write?  
I live in Vancouver, B.C. I write mostly poetry although I dabble in playwriting and short fiction.

What's your day job?
I teach writing for Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio, Vancouver Community College, and Kwantlen University.

What's your literary street cred?
I’ve published three books of poems: The Sleep of Four Cities (2005); Hagiography (2008); and The Inquisition Yours, which was a finalist for the Lambda Poetry Prize, the Dorothy Livesay Prize, and the ReLit Award. The Inquisition Yours won the Audre Lorde Poetry Award. 

Why did you want to be a reader for the CBC Poetry Competition?
It’s a great contest; I’ve applied to it in the past and was a finalist a few years ago. I wanted to help choose some of the best poems being written in Canada.

What do you like most about poetry?
What’s not to like? Poetry is essential to life.

Where did you read the entries?
On my living room couch, and in two different parks by my apartment.

When you’re reading hundreds of poems and trying to choose the most exceptional ones, what are you looking for?
Unusual, musical phrasing, tight writing, stunning images, a compelling voice.

Having read all these poems, do you have tips, any dos and don’ts for aspiring poets?
Read! A lot of the poems I read suffered from cliches, and the writers would know this if they read more. I also don’t recommend writing in rhyme at this time in history, unless you are that rare thing: an exceptionally talented neoformalist.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?
The chance to read so many different types of poems.

Jen Currin has published three books of poetry: The Sleep of Four Cities (Anvil, 2005), Hagiography (Coach House, 2008) and The Inquisition Yours (Coach House, 2010), which won the 2011 Audre Lorde Poetry Award, and was a finalist for the ReLit Award, a Lambda, and the Dorothy Livesay Award. Jen lives in Vancouver, where she teaches creative writing at Kwantlen University and for Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio.

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