Gustafson Trust

Lorna Crozier reads at Vancouver Island University on November 8

VIU’s Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet for 2018 will be the renowned Lorna Crozier.

An Officer of the Order of Canada, Lorna Crozier has been acknowledged for her contributions to Canadian literature, her teaching, and her mentoring, with five honourary doctorates, most recently from McGill and Simon Fraser Universities. Her books have received numerous national awards, including the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry. The Globe and Mail declared The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things one of its Top 100 Books of the Year, and Amazon chose her memoir as one of the 100 books you should read in your lifetime. A Professor Emerita at the University of Victoria, she has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and has read her poetry, which has been translated into several languages, on every continent except Antarctica. Her latest book, What the Soul Doesn't Want, was nominated for the 2017 Governor General's Award for English-language Poetry. In 2018, Lorna Crozier received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award. She lives on Vancouver Island with writer Patrick Lane and two cats who love to garden.

Vancouver Island University will host Lorna Crozier on November 7 and 8 for a series of free events.

Reading and Q&A for Students

Wednesday, November 7

2:30 to 4 pm, Building 355, Room 211, Vancouver Island University 

Public Reading

Wednesday, November 7

7:30 to 8:30 pm, White Sails Brewing, 125 Comox Road, Nanaimo 

Distinguished Poet’s Lecture“Writing and Risk"

Thursday, November 8

7 pm, Building 355, Room 203, Vancouver Island University

When I asked the brilliant John Newlove why he trembled when he was giving a reading, he told me that he feared someone shouting from the back of the room, “What right do you have to be up there instead of me?” That’s one of the biggest risks writers take—assuming that we have some kind of permission to tell our stories to strangers and that those strangers will want to listen. As John feared, things can go terribly wrong. Then there are other risks: among them, the revelation of who you really are, for no matter how much the poems are riddled with fiction, the character of the speaker comes through. How much do I dare to say? How much of a story does anyone have the right to tell? Who is at risk of getting hurt by what I choose to say?

The lecture will be followed by a catered reception with cash bar.  Courtesy parking will be available in the N lots, below Building 355.


Samples of Ms. Crozier's work:



We both insist on lard. Even here with me,

in the kitchen and so long after, she wears lipstick

bright as poppies, and a kerchief on her head

as if she’s just come in from driving a roadster along the coast.

I’ve misplaced my rolling pin so we use

a bottle of pinot grigio cold from the fridge.

Is there milk for the children? Yes, yes.

My oven is electric. It’s heating up.

So much taller, she can reach the pie tins

on the highest shelf. Side by side

in the bottom shell, she lines up rooks,

five of them black with rain, dabbed with butter,

stiff feet holding up the top. You make good pastry

only if you’re in love, she says. By the time

the pie is done, she’s gone. I set it on the windowsill to cool

and alone in the kitchen, in the warm and ticking dark,

I wait till dawn for the birds to sing.



Children no longer know who this god is. For one thing,

he uses chalk as if time does everything but erase. In

abandoned country schools, he prints towers of numbers

on the blackboards. There are no pupils to add them up

and call out the answers though his pockets burn with stars

to give away. His worshippers, in danger of dying out,

recite the timetables like Hail Marys under their breath to

prove their minds are still okay. No matter what they’ve

lost—the names of flowers, the birth dates of their

children—they can do their sums. He wanted his only

commandment to be included on the tablet Moses brought

down from the mountain, but the others, bartering for

space, thought it was only about arithmetic and left it out.

It would have changed the world. It would have made us

kinder. Thou shalt carry the one, he intones to the small

desks in empty classrooms, carry the one.


For more information, email Sonnet L'Abbe, Chair of the Gustafson Committee.
Copies of chapbooks of past lectures can be purchased through the VIU Campus Store.

Photo provided by Lorna Crozier

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