Poetry Questionnaire: Shannon Webb-Campbell

"Poetry’s best use is to bear witness, to take roots in the body, to protest. Poems can protect, some heal, and others teach."
Shannon Webb-Campbell by Meghan Tansey Whitton
photo by Meghan Tansey Whitton

To celebrate National Poetry Month, Atlantic Books Today is conducting a Proust-esque questionnaire, in which the poem is the thing, with four Atlantic Canadian poets, throughout the month of April.

First up is Shannon Webb-Campbell, an award winning poet of mixed Aboriginal ancestry living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her collection of poems, Still No Word, won the inaugural Egale Canada Out in Print Award.

ABT: The best thing about poetry is…

its unpredictable ability to articulate the inarticulable.

The worst thing about poetry is…

its predictable inability to inarticulate the articulable.

The best thing about being a poet in Newfoundland is…

the land speaks. I can hear a translation of my ancestors. It’s a merciful place of, and for poetry.

What distinguishes me from other poets is…

I am in it for the poetry.

The qualities I most desire in poems are…

to be seen. I seek both a resting and finding. I want a poem to be an invitation, a declaration, a parade.

Poetry’s best use is…

to bear witness, to take roots in the body, to protest. Poems can protect, some heal, and others teach.

My favourite poets include…

the Susan’s of Can Lit: Musgrave, Goyette and Sinclair. Leonard Cohen, Sina Queyras, Sharon Olds and Anne Carson. Newfoundland’s Michael Crummey, Des Walsh and Al Pittman. Not surprisingly, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich. And my fellow Indigenous poets Shalan Joudry, Rita Joe and Leanne Simpson, who are like medicine.

If I stopped writing poetry I would…

become a poem.

Still No wordThe best line I have ever written is this one:

“Seek wounded healer, cry out to unseen ancestors, still no word.” Mostly, because musician Kim Harris turned those lines from “A Healer’s Lune,” into a song, and her oceanic voice transcends language.

The best line anyone else has ever written is this one:

“I don’t want a theory; I want the poem inside me. I want the poem to unfurl like a thousand monks chanting inside me,” by the formidable poet and critic Sina Queyras.

Written By

Chris Benjamin is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. He is also the author of three award-winning, critically-acclaimed books: Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School; Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada and Drive-by Saviours; as well as several short stories in anthologies and journals.

More from Chris Benjamin

What’s Dad Reading?

Fathers who write say you should read these books. Some to read...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *