Hornby Island poet Cornelia Hoogland will at Nanaimo’s Buzz Coffee House on March 7 to read from her latest book, a long poem called Trailer Park Elegy.
Hoogland started writing the book shortly after her brother William died when the vehicle he was driving slipped on black ice coming home from work on a construction site in northern B.C.
Hoogland said writing the long poem, a kind of book-length poem, was an effort to bring together her “fragmentary, disassociative experience of grief.”
“The thing about the long poem is that it tracks a person’s mind,” she explained. “We don’t think in straightforward, mathematical equations, we think in loops and recurrences and in daydreams… Poetry’s really interested in tracking that, in saying, ‘Where does my mind go when it hits this word or when it has this experience?’”
While Trailer Park Elegy was written in response to William’s death and reflects on Hoogland’s relationship with her brother, its scope widens as it follows her thoughts. She said, “Death leads a person to think about the extremes of our experience.”
“I went as far as the outer limits, the event horizon in outer space and just tried to think about death in relation to the deepest mysteries both of outer space and the ocean,” Hoogland said.
When Hoogland got started she discussed the project with her family and William’s widow and sought their approval to proceed with the manuscript. But at first she had difficulty thinking of what to write.
“Whenever you try to think about someone really close to you, it’s really hard to land on anything but real stereotypical family stories,” she said. “If you try to think of your sibling you’d have some things to say but nothing very poetic, I bet. And it was the same for me, so it took me a long time to just start to allow a different sensibility in.”
In writing the book, Hoogland said she grew to have a greater admiration for William and a greater understanding of his struggles. She also misses him more and said the book was a way of keeping him alive.
“This book was really the only relationship I could have with him. He was gone and so the only thing I could do was recreate him and recreate my memories and recreate part of our relationship. So that was the book. That was the conversation I could have,” Hoogland said. “I do say in the book, ‘Lookit, brother, this is a two-way street. I’m here, now you find me.’ I don’t know if he has.”
WHAT’S ON … Cornelia Hoogland reading at The Buzz Coffee House, 1861 Dufferin Cres., on March 7 at 7:30 p.m.