A poet puts “the voice over there” in a new collection



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Noelle Schmidt is a local poet whose work was recently published by Latitude 46.

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The collection, titled Claimings and Other Wild Things, “discusses mental health, suicide, homosexuality and identity,” the publisher said in a statement. “Who am I? How did I get here? And how do I continue? These are the central questions explored and dissected…These poems are dark and brooding, but scented with determination and accentuated with sparks of hope.

A book launch is scheduled for Saturday, April 23 from 2-4 p.m. at the Sudbury Indie Cinema on MacKenzie Street. It will also be broadcast live. Copies of Claimings and Other Wild Things will be available for purchase at launch for $20 or can be ordered from a favorite bookseller.

The star recently reached out to Schmidt to ask how she approaches her craft and how it has shaped her.

Q: Tell us about how you chose the title of the collection?

A: The title of the collection of course comes in part from one of the long poems, Claimings. The claims are very close to my heart as a story of coming to terms with my queer identity, the first time I really put those words to paper and brought them into the world. And I think the idea of ​​claiming is so important to me, as someone who grew up feeling like they couldn’t claim space in the world. This collection is me making my voice heard, occupying space, claiming something bigger than me. As for the rest of the title, I feel like every poem I write is something wild, something I discover as I write it, and something indomitable. The poems also focus on the wild things in life – sanity, grief, suicide and always, always, a little hope.

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Q: Your poetry is vulnerable and honest. How is it to share your inner space with others now?

A: It’s both amazing and terrifying. There is something incredibly powerful for me in knowing that other people will read my words and see my heart, each poem carrying a part of me. At the same time, I feel very vulnerable, because some poems are extremely personal. Sharing these poems is a huge act of trust, and I can only hope my readers recognize what it means to hold someone else’s words in their hands.

Q: What do you hope others will take away from reading this book?

A: I guess I don’t have a clear idea of ​​what I want people to take away from this book. I just hope they get something. I know that for me, reading can be a very personal experience, and everyone experiences writing differently. So while certain poems may mean one thing to me, they may mean something completely different to a reader. And I’m okay with that – I’m not really worried about people getting what I want out of it. I really hope people feel something, that I’m able to impact someone.

Q: How has poetry helped shape who you are?

A: I started writing poetry when I was young (terrible, terrible poetry), then I lost the habit for a long time. It was after my grandfather died, the summer before I started high school, that I took it over. My grandfather was also a poet, you see, although I didn’t really discover him until his death. Some of his poetry was collected by my aunt into a memorial photo album about him, and it was there that I discovered this tenuous bond that I could cling to despite his departure. So I started writing more terrible poems, trying to go through the past to keep a part of my grandfather with me. And over time, my poetry has become a little less terrible. I continued to write. And it became more than something that I could pretend connected us on the surface. It became my outlet, the place where I put all the tangled things I felt and didn’t know how else to express. Poetry is my way of making sense of the world and myself. It takes the fragments of memory, meaning and feeling and glues them together into something beautiful, something that makes an experience more than it was. Poetry makes me more than what I am.

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Q: Are there any poems in the collection that you hold in particular consideration?

A: Each poem in this collection is special for a different reason. But like any parent who claims otherwise, I have favorites. One that is particularly special to me is a request that knows nothing. Partly because this one won me an award, partly because it’s so intensely personal and emotional. It’s a dark poem, but at the same time, it contains so much hope. Not the hope of spring and fresh buds, but a stronger and harder hope. One that, well, kind of makes a request, of the world, of myself. This poem is a mantra, a declaration and a promise.

Q: Who are your favorite Canadian poets? Why?

A: That’s one of the reasons I’m a bad poet – I don’t read a lot of poetry. I always find something to like in poetry when I read it, but I confess that I rarely achieve it. I tend to favor novels, especially fantasy novels, because I want reading to take me away from the world. Poetry is quite the opposite experience. Poetry makes me look at the world more closely, more attentively. Novels let me escape, poetry grounds me. And that can be an amazing thing, to be grounded, to feel the world you live in more deeply, to see it more clearly. But it’s also a difficult thing, and when life is already so difficult, sometimes I need a different kind of adventure.

I will say that Lependu by Don McKay was a revelation in narrative poetry, and that Shane Koyczan can still make me cry. I had the joy of seeing Koyczan play at the OneLove concert last week when I started at Western, and I couldn’t believe it. His poem, To This Day, is what got me into spoken word poetry.

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Q: What are you writing now?

A: A secret! No just kidding. I am currently working on writing a book of poetry about the life of my paternal grandfather, whom I called Opa. (He’s the focus of a few poems in Claimings.) He was largely a mystery to me growing up, but my aunt interviewed him on his life on tape in 1997, and we still have that record. He talks about his childhood in Hungary, the Second World War, his emigration to Canada and his life here. It’s really amazing to listen to his story, and I’m transcribing the interview. From there, I will create its life on the page. I guess it’s a bit of a love letter to a man I barely knew in life; it’s my way of honoring the man who raised my father.


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