In 2005, John B. Lee was inducted as Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity and in 2011 he was appointed Poet Laureate of Norfolk County. A recipient of over sixty prestigious international awards for his writing, he is the winner of the $10, 000 CBC Literary Award for Poetry and the only two-time recipient of the People’s Poetry Award. He has published over 50 books and is the editor of eleven anthologies. His work has appeared in over 500 publications and has been translated into four languages. He lives with his wife Cathy in Port Dover, Ontario where he works full-time as an author. He is currently working on two anthologies, The Widow’s Land: a superstition and farming book for Marty, Into a Land of Strangers, a poetry book inspired by his connection to China.
1. Would you say you have any writing habits? For example, do you have to write in a specific spot at a specific time, do you have to leave the urban setting and head to the country, is there a specific computer you have to use?
I try to write every day. I prefer to write in the morning, though that is not always possible. I write in my study which is a room full of books. I prefer to write longhand, and I have a lined moleskin journal in which write with pencil. I would certainly rather write at home than anywhere else. I live in a lake house overlooking Long Point Bay, Lake Erie in the small fishing town of Port Dover. I’ve always managed to have a study in whatever house I’ve lived in.
2. Congratulations on the many substantial awards you’ve won in the past. Having won so many awards though, would you say that you have a growing amount of pressure on your back with each new work?
Awards are very nice, but they cannot have anything whatsoever to do with the work.
3. So I’ve heard that you were to inherit the family business, but decided to become a poet instead. Considering at how strong your connection is to your family, and the way we’ve interpreted them from your featured book tonight, would you say that looking at yourself now, you’ve made the right decision?
I was not destined to inherit anything. I was born to a certain expectation that I would follow in my father’s path and become a farmer. That was never something I would ever have done. It was not so much a matter of it being a decision, but rather a destiny and the opportunity to pursue my first love was never hampered by any obstacle so great that I could not overcome it. My path was smoothed by the family into which I was born and the era into which I was born. No war, great depression, or human obligation interfered with my desire to become that which I was born to become.
4. What do you consider your best work thus far?