Gustafson Trust

Celebrated Poet Karen Solie to Read at VIU
rescheduled to March 13 & 14, 2024

2024 Gustafson Poet Karen Solie, Rescheduled

Karen Solie will deliver the Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture Thursday March 14, 2024, from 7 to 8:30 pm in VIU's Windsor Plywood Discovery Centre, at Building 108, Room 105. It is free and will be followed by a catered reception, cash bar, and book signing. There will also be a reading and Q&A for students on March 13th from 10 to 11:30 am in Building 310, the Malaspina Theatre lobby. Karen Solie will also do a community reading that night (March 13th) at White Sails from 7-8:30pm.

Solie’s talk, entitled “The Path of the Hare,” will engage with And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos, in which John Berger describes encountering a hare at the border between France and Italy.  "And though it was running slowly," he writes, "it ran for its life. Sometimes that can happen." 

Solie says, “In folklore and literature, the hare is a transformational, transitional figure, powerful and vulnerable. It hides in plain sight, appears out of nowhere, vanishes into the verge. It is a border creature. The appearance and disappearance of the hare in writing from the medieval to the contemporary allows a glimpse into how poems realize their strange potential for calling forth the expanse and uncertainty around themselves, their capacity to invoke the silence dwelling in language, and how the mind attempts to follow poems into the wilderness beyond their last lines.”

The essay will interpret several related texts including Seamus Heaney's translation of "The Names of the Hare," William Cowper's "Unnoticed Properties of the Hare," and refer to poems by Czeslaw Milosz, Diane Seuss, Lisel Mueller, and Marilyn Chin to understand how something that passes so quickly can seem to stop time.  

English professor Dr. Mike Roberson will introduce Solie at the lecture: "Karen Solie’s work clinches and releases like an anxious jaw. She writes with care and particularity, sometimes cynical and darkly funny, never wasting a word or a moment worth capturing, always knowing that poems are but one, as are our own lives and our world."

Poet and English and Creative Writing professor Dr. Neil Surkan says, “Karen Solie’s poetry reminds me to pay attention, to savour the details, even in moments of uncertainty and precarity, and her poems’ precise intimations repeatedly astonish me.”

Poet and English and Creative Writing professor Dr. Sonnet L’Abbe says, "Karen Solie’s work often gets called ‘sardonic’ or ‘acerbic’ for her dry, leaping wit. Solie approaches her topics like a farmer willing to work hard and get hands dirty, but then tills the rich soils of her meditation with a voice as sharp and precise as a surgical instrument."

Solie has been writing for nearly 30 years and has published Short Haul Engine, Modern and Normal, Pigeon, The Living Option, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out, and The Caiplie Caves. These have won the Griffin, Latner Writer’s Trust, Dorothy Livesay, Pat Lowther, and Trillium poetry prizes, or been nominated or shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot, Derek Walcott, Gerald Lampert, and ReLit awards. She has judged many provincial and national competitions in the genre and teaches at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She has also been Associate Director of the Banff Writing Studio, taught at the University of Manchester, and been the writer-in-residence at U of T, and the Holloway Visiting Writer at the University of California Berkeley. Her work has been translated into eight languages. She lives in Toronto.

Copies of Solie’s books and a series of limited-edition Gustafson Distinguished Poet’s Lecture chapbooks will be available at the VIU bookstore and at the reception. The Gustafson Distinguished Poetry Chair was established in 1998 from the estate of the late, preeminent Canadian poet Ralph Gustafson and his wife Betty. For more information, please email Joy Gugeler, Chair of the Gustafson Committee (Sonnet L’Abbe, Mike Roberson, Neil Surkan) at