Terry Burns is a writer, visual artist and arts administrator who grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, lived in the Toronto area for about twenty years, and now lives in the country near Owen Sound, Ontario. She has just completed a two-year term as Owen Sound Poet Laureate, and just prior to that was the co-ordinator of the Words Aloud Spoken Word and Storytelling Festival for three years. During her tenure as Poet Laureate she gave readings and workshops, hosted several poetry ‘salons,’ wrote a number of special occasion poems and edited Mix Well: A Poetry Anthology (Ginger Press, 2015), which featured the work of 38 writers from Grey and Bruce counties. Her first full-length book of poetry, the quality of light, has just been published by the Ginger Press. Her poems have appeared in MOSAIC, The Tin Roof Press, and The New Quarterly, and she sits on the editorial board of the southwestern Ontario online publication, Morel Magazine. Terry is also a member of the arts collective Walters Falls Group of Artists, and has been the manager of the SweetWater Music Festival for the past two years.
1. Is this your first time in Windsor? If so, how’re you liking the Windsor scene, and has that opinion changed after witnessing this gathering of poets?
Yes, first time in Windsor. There’s a great energy here for literary initiatives and it was wonderful to read to a packed house. The presence of so many young people at that event was particularly gratifying, for which I suppose the presence of a university in town is partially responsible. The investment of the city in the Poet Laureate program is particularly commendable, and, of course, Windsor is blessed in its Poet Laureate, Marty Gervais. What a literary force to be reckoned with!
2. What were you trying to achieve with this book?
As I mentioned when we chatted at the event, I didn’t really have a plan with this book. Producing a book of poetry kind of grew out of my role as Owen Sound Poet Laureate, and at first I didn’t know how I was going to approach it. But once I started going over the work, I began to detect some overarching themes, one of which was the theme and imagery of light. It began to make sense to structure the book around this element.
3. How do you get in the mental place where you find this deeper interior and write?
I don’t have any trouble dropping into the contemplative and exploratory frame of mind I need to write, and ideas come from everywhere for me. The problem lies in making the time to properly wallow in this frame of mind, amidst obligations to make a living and maintain relationships with family, friends and my community. I think a lot of writers exist within this tension between one’s interior and exterior lives, especially if one is by nature an introvert. One tries to find the balance between the two.
4. So you’ve just completed your term as Poet Laureate of Owen Sound. What do you have planned next?
I have two volumes of poetry planned, the first of which is a collaboration between my mother and me. She is contributing reminiscences and photographs, and I will respond poetically to her contribution. After that there is some kind of a river project, but I’m not sure what form that will take yet. I suspect it will include images, as I’m also a visual artist and photographer.