Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

One of my classmates was mentioned in the Globe and Mail today.

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Did I say "classmates"?

Yes I did.

A lot of people have asked me about my decision to go back to school to undergo MFA studies in creative writing with the University of Guelph. Some of them say, "But why are you doing an MFA? You already teach, or you're already an editor, or you've already been published."

I tell them, "Yes, but those things are not the point. Writing is the point."

I think a writer ought always to be learning, and oftentimes the learning that a writer undergoes is private; it comes from reading and self-study. Occasionally, though, there might be opportunities for other kinds of learning, in more formal and structured learning environments. When this kind of opportunity presented itself to me, in the form of the Guelph MFA, I jumped at the chance.

I have not been disappointed. I feel that my studies are helping me broaden my horizons as a writer, that I am learning new skills and entertaining new ideas about craft and the role of the writer in the world. All of this has been creatively invigorating, to be sure, but perhaps the most energizing element of my studies thus far has been my classmates themselves.

My fellow students bring a wide range of creative backgrounds and levels of experience to the classroom. There are playwrights whose works have been produced internationally, and there are poets who have yet to publish their first poem in a chapbook, magazine or journal. All of them bring unique perspectives with them to the classes and workshops that we share.

Take Matt Lennox, for example. He published his first collection of short fiction, the excellent Men of Salt, Men of Earth, just last fall. I mention it in case you haven't heard of it. It's a new book from a small press, and it's possible that might have escaped your notice.

Or perhaps you read about Matt in the Globe and Mail today. It says Matt served a year in southern Afghanistan where he wrote most of the stories in his book to alleviate the tension and tedium of his surroundings. It says Matt juggles his studies while he continues to work for the Canadian Forces at CFB Downsview. It says Matt is already a writer who is worldly and talented beyond his years. Well, actually, it doesn't say that last thing, but I do. And all these things are true.

Perhaps I would have met Matt Lennox somewhere if we had not both enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Guelph, but I prefer things the way they have unfolded. We are classmates, and his experiences and perspectives and ideas about writing, along with those of the rest of my classmates, are already enriching my own practice as a writer.

I am proud to be enrolled in a program with so many talented and interesting writers. One of them was mentioned in the Globe and Mail today, and I just wanted to tell you.


The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Paul Vermeersch

Paul Vermeersch is the author of The Reinvention of the Human Hand (McClelland & Stewart, 2010) and three other collections of poetry. He is also the editor of The I.V. Lounge Reader and The Al Purdy A-frame Anthology.

Go to Paul Vermeersch’s Author Page