The Next Chapter

How Lorna Crozier's 'soul place' inspired her latest poetry collection

The celebrated poet and writer talks about The House the Spirit Builds with Shelagh Rogers.
The House the Spirit Builds is a poetry collection by Lorna Crozier. (D&M Publishers, Angie Abdou)

This interview originally aired on Jan. 18, 2020.

Lorna Crozier is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning poet who has written more than 15 books. Her latest, The House the Spirit Buildsis a collection of poetry inspired by her visit to Wintergreen Studios, an artist retreat located in the Frontenac Arch biosphere reserve in Southern Ontario.

Crozier's poems in this gift-book style collection are accompanied by photos by Peter Coffman and Diane Laundy.

She spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing The House the Spirit Builds. 

A soulful place to be

"I've been going to Wintergreen, near the Frontenac Arch biosphere reserve, for a minimum of 10 years now, mainly to teach a poetry workshop. It almost sounds corny to say 'soul places,' but I have a few in the world. One of them is this place, partly because of the vision of a woman, Rene Upitis, who started it.

"She had this dream: she was going to build a big lodge out of a straw bales at the end of a little country road in the middle of the bush.

I feel like a better person when I'm there.

"People would come there to learn about nature and learn about the arts — and just to become better people. And I think it's worked. I feel like a better person when I'm there. 

"It's off the grid, quiet and a place of contemplation. Taking a walk on the unpaved trail, hearing the wind in the leaves and the grass and looking at the beaver pond, it's just a superior magical place."

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      Word and image connection

      "There's a spiritual element to these photographs that are featured with the poems in this book. What a good photograph does is it shows you what you can see, but more importantly it shows you what you don't see. 

      There's a spiritual element to these photographs that are featured with the poems in this book.

      "And these two wonderful artists, photographers Peter Coffman and Diane Laundy, have been able to do that with each of these photos.

      "They show us what we miss even if we're looking attentively and closely. They take us to a place our eyes alone don't take us to."

      Prophetic poetry

      "When I wrote these poems my partner [the late Patrick Lane] was very ill. They were a release for me. I wasn't thinking about what was going on at home. I was looking at the photographs and trying to find something to say to them.

      When I wrote these poems, my partner [the late Patrick Lane] was very ill. They were a release for me.

      "Now when I go back and look at the book I see what was going on in my life in them.

      "Poetry is always prophetic. It tells you things you're not facing yet in your conscious mind." 

      Lorna Crozier's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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