Monday October 16, 2017

Why award-winning poet Steven Heighton keeps returning to Mavis Gallant

Steven Heighton is the author of The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep.

Steven Heighton is the author of The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep. (Mary Huggard/Penguin Random House)

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Steven Heighton is an award-winning poet and author. His collection, The Waking Comes Late, won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 2016. Heighton made his return to fiction earlier this year with The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep — a novel about buried secrets, the repercussions of war and finding love among the ruins. When he isn't writing, he is busy reading stories by Mavis Gallant.

"The book I go back to every few years, and sometimes every few months, is Mavis Gallant's The Collected Stories. I reread certain stories, but sometimes I read one that I know I must have read in the past, but I'm reading it almost as if it's the first time. I keep going back to her because of her stylist exactitude. It isn't clinically cold. The exactitude and the austerity somehow increase the emotional charge of the writing. I think she is the best writer Canada has produced — Mavis and Alice Munro. But I think Mavis Gallant is my favourite." 

Steven Heighton's comments have been edited and condensed.