Series focuses on Island poets

Author Maleea Acker opens the eighth annual Poets on Campus series at Vancouver Island University Oct. 1 with readings from her first non-fiction book and her second book of poetry. - Photo contributed
Author Maleea Acker opens the eighth annual Poets on Campus series at Vancouver Island University Oct. 1 with readings from her first non-fiction book and her second book of poetry.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Talented poets and writers with deep roots on Vancouver Island will share their inspiring stories during the eighth annual Poets on Campus series at Vancouver Island University.

Author Maleea Acker opens the series Oct. 1 with readings from her first non-fiction book, Gardens Aflame: Garry Oak Meadows of B.C.’s South Coast, and a manuscript of poems, The Almonds in the Earth, which will be published in 2013.

“In designing this year’s Poets on Campus series we thought it was time to hear from some of our poets with deep roots in our Island, who are establishing reputations as non-fiction writers, novelists, teachers, editors, journalists and travel writers,” said Marilyn Bowering, instructor in VIU’s creative writing and journalism department.

“We have assembled a group of vibrant, exciting and intelligent writers. Each has found his or her way to balance a vocation as writer with the need to make a living and in some cases raise a family. It takes not only talent and courage to do this, but a certain kind of integrity. Maleea Acker, for example, is a model for – literally – what you can do in your own backyard for the environment.”

Gardens Aflame describes how Acker fell under the spell of the strange beauty woven by Garry oak trees, and the ecosystems they tower over until she decided to transform her backyard in Saanich into a small Garry oak meadow. She planted 21 trees, which caused consternation among some of her neighbours and city hall, bringing to a head “similar issues raised 150 years ago when Europeans first saw the open meadows of Southern Vancouver Island.”

“Since I was researching the topic of restoration, I thought I should give it a try on my own property,” Acker said. “I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would get from the neighbours, and the level of support from the municipality, and what obstacles I’d run into.”

Gardens Aflame is a mixture of science, esthetics and philosophy. It goes into the historical and cultural significance of Garry oak meadows, what people are doing to restore them and challenges they face.

“It was a great book to research,” said Acker.  “I spoke to scientists on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and along the Washington coast.”

Acker said writing her first non-fiction book “provided a welcome break from the emotional intensity of writing poetry.”

Although she hopes to write more non-fiction, Acker is a poet at heart.

“I am similar perhaps to many poets,” she said. “Poetry chose me, I did not choose it. I am dragged kicking and screaming to the page, but once there, I feel more alive than anywhere else on Earth.”

Acker, a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, has worked in a variety of cultural, political and environmental areas, writing and designing for social and arts organizations and teaching poetry at Camosun College.

Her first book of poetry, The Reflecting Pool, was published by Pedlar Press in 2009.  Her non-fiction and poetry has appeared in various journals and magazines in Canada and Mexico.

Acker’s reading takes place in Building 365 (the log cabin) at 5 p.m. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

The Poets on Campus series continues with readings by celebrated authors Mathew Hooton on Oct. 29; John Barton and Yvonne Blomer on Nov. 26; Steven Price on Jan. 28; and writer Rhea Tregebov on March 11.

“The purpose of the Poets on Campus series is to offer students, faculty and staff and the community an opportunity to be inspired by living literary writers of our day,” said Bowering. Hearing poems and other writing read out loud “infuses them with a whole different kind of energy,” Bowering added.

“A good poem or story read out loud will sizzle in the ear and trail goose bumps down the arm. Hearing a poem or story read by the author gives a sense of what’s really important in the piece.”

For more information, please visit www.viu.ca/poetson


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