Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Louise Bernice Halfe on the difference between poetry and prose

The winner of the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize answers eight questions submitted by eight fellow writers.
Louise Bernice Halfe is the author of Burning in this Midnight Dream, a book of poetry.

Louise Bernice Halfe is an award-winning Cree poet from Two Hills, Alta. Earlier this month, Halfe won the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize, which is given to a mid-career poet with a remarkable body of work. Her latest collection, Burning in this Midnight Dream, is inspired by the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and explores the traumatic legacy of residential schools.

Below, Halfe takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.

1. Julia McCarthy asks, "What do you think is the difference between poetry and prose?"

Poetry is full of metaphors, images and can be very condensed, as well, poetry can be emotive. Poetry looks like a wrinkled old woman hunched over in a chair tapping her cane as she contemplates the end of a journey, perhaps she glistens with tears at the journey well done. Prose has a tendency to be long winded meandering joyfully to the waterfall.

2. Marina Endicott asks, "What is the line of prose or poetry that comes to you in the dark night of your soul?"

Gee… darkness eats tonight and I am craving Cheezies to fix this restless soul.

3. Peter Robinson asks, "What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the writing process?"

Favourite part of the writing process is when the muse has a eureka moment and lets out a good belch of poetic music. Least favourite part is coaching or waiting for the muse to arrive.

4. Kara Stanley asks, "What would be your ideal place, or circumstance, for a writing retreat?"

My ideal place is fields free of ticks so I can walk and lie in the grass, watch the clouds or stars moving gracefully with the wind, where ultimately I'd feel safe from intruders.

5. Tomson Highway asks, "What keeps you going — first as a writer, and second as a human being?" 

The call of muse keeps me going, she is a spirit wrestler, an emotive judo expert with all the right vocals and an intelligent walker. As a human being. I have hope for humanity.

6. Jessica Westhead asks, "Can you clearly remember the one moment — or moments — when you knew you wanted to be a writer?"

I never planned to be a writer, the muse took my hand and demanded it. It was also prophetic early in my 20s and also one of my spiritual Elders prophesized it.

7. Claire Messud asks, "What is your favourite book from childhood, and why?"

I didn't grow up with books, but having said that somewhere in my young life I came across Pippi Longstocking. Her brassiness and strong girl power gave me courage to forge ahead, though for the life of me, I can't recall the story itself.

8. Kate Hilton asks, "Is the writing life what you expected it to be?"

No, I didn't expect to travel all over the world as a poet. I didn't expect my work to be recognized and to receive all the accolades that have occurred. I had been told A) poets don't make any money and B) poetry doesn't survive more than a print run of 500 books. So I am thrilled my books continue to live.