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Memorial's writers are an inspired bunch

By Janet Harron | April 25, 2011

Inspiration can take many forms. It can manifest during a trip to the store or while bathing a baby. It can be generated by the smell of the sea, the texture of a well-loved sweater or the sound of a snowplow. Nobody knows this better than a writer. 

Memorial’s writers take many forms as well. Some are mature students just finding their unique voice. Some are alumni who are winning awards and national acclaim. Some are students who painstakingly edit and design literary magazines in addition to working on their own writing. And some just love the process of creating.

It’s been quite a month for a diverse group of Memorial's writers. Anna Swanson, a former creative writing student of Professor Mary Dalton, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Gerald Lampert Poetry Award for the best first book of poetry published in Canada.

Last year’s winner, James Langer, was also a graduate of Memorial’s creative writing program and was a participant at the 2011 SPARKS Literary Festival.

Originally from Vancouver, Ms. Swanson completed her undergraduate degree at Memorial after beginning her BA at the University of Victoria. At Memorial, she took classes in folklore, environmental studies, botany and creative writing, which is where she was inspired to write about her experiences with chronic illness from poet and professor Mary Dalton.

“I’ve always been happy to have studied writing. I’ve worked with books and stories and literature in many different settings – in bookstores, in publishing, in community arts organization, in writing centres and most recently as a children’s  librarian. And of course I write. Occasionally poetry even pays for the groceries!” she laughed.

Student poets were feted on April 4 at the annual Gregory Power Poetry Awards ceremony. Co-jurors Dr. Jennifer Lokash, retired professor and poet Tom Dawe and current writer-in-residence Jessica Grant congratulated all of the winners. Dana Evely, a fourth year English student, won the $300 award for her poem “Surfacing” and Stephanie Hawco, a journalist with the, won the Jeroboam Prize for “The Emptying Place.” Music student Nicole Hand  received honourable mention for “We Didn’t Know It Was Winter” and says she likes poetry because “there is no  one making any poetic demands of me; I always have a choice as to how far I want to take it.” Other award winners included Lynette Adams and Evan Hazenberg.

On April 5, the ceremony was followed by the launch of Paragon IV at The Ship Pub in downtown St. John's. Kicked off by a musical performance from local band Cold River Choir, the launch showcased the work of eight of the 29 Paragon contributors, including Dan Murphy of Corner Brook.

Mr. Murphy is a retired teacher and a Memorial alumnus who worked with the Western School District for almost 30 years. He now teaches in the fast track program at the Grenfell Campus. The author of three volumes of unpublished poetry, Mr. Murphy responded to Paragon’s call for submissions advertised on the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador’s website. His poem “On Churchill Square” was inspired by an elderly man he spied one day exiting his car on the Elizabeth Street plaza’s parking lot.

“I ground all of my poems in real life experience,” said Mr. Malone, who carries a notepad and recorder everywhere. “I’d love to find that old man and talk to him.”

Not to judge a book by its cover, but the inspiration for the eye-catching illustration on the cover of Paragon IV came from a knitted jacket owned by writer-in-residence Jessica Grant.

“Jessica and I were having a conversation, that first week that she was in her writer-in-residence office, and I was distracted by her most excellent jacket and thought it might be a good cover image,” laughed Ms. Adams, who can be found most Tuesday nights, along with fellow Paragoner Dana Evely, knitting at the Ship Inn.

Paragon IV is $15 and can be purchased by contacting