It wasn’t long after it was announced that poet Gregory Scofield was moving to Vancouver Island for a teaching position at UVic last spring that a faculty committee from VIU reached out to him to visit the university’s Nanaimo campus as this year’s Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet.
“Of course I was very excited and very honoured to receive the invitation,” Scofield said.
Every year since 1999, VIU has welcomed a poet to speak and present readings of their work as VIU Ralph Gustafson Chair of Poetry, a program funded by the Ralph and Betty Gustafson Poetry Trust, established at VIU in 1998.
Scofield has published eight books of poetry since his award-winning 1993 debut, The Gathering: Stones for the Medicine Wheel. He has since taught creative writing, First Nations and Métis literature and served as writer-in-residence at universities from coast to coast. In 2012 he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and in 2016 he won the Writers’ Trust of Canada Latner Poetry Prize for “mastery in the art of poetry.”
“We are honoured and excited to have Gregory Scofield present the Gustafson lecture and reading at VIU this year,” said VIU indigenous/xwulmuxw studies professor Laurie Meijer Drees, in a press release. “As a noteworthy Métis poet, he brings voice to the lives of Canada’s First Peoples and is remarkable for his work on the poetry of Louis Riel. Reading and listening to his work is like delving into an old family photo album while listening to a vinyl country music record: it’s heartwarming and a little sad all at once.”
On Feb. 12 Scofield is presenting a reading at White Sails Brewing and the following night he will deliver his Distinguished Poet’s Lecture, Why Indigenous Literatures Matter, at VIU.
“The lecture is basically an exploration of oral storytelling and how oral storytelling is really important in our sense of ourselves,” Scofield said. “It’s important in not only sharing information and knowledge, but I think that it’s very important as tools as far as building community. Building relationships.”
Scofield said it’s a timely topic.
“There’s been a real resurgence in indigenous literature within the last couple of years so I’m very much looking forward to talking about traditional ways of storytelling and different types of stories,” he said.
At White Sail Brewing he will also discuss his work, process, motivation and how oral storytelling informs a lot of that work. Back at VIU, Scofield will speak before a student audience, where he hopes to discuss indigenous literature and writers and the value of stories and storytelling, as well as the students’ work.
“As always, when I’m working with writing students the biggest thing that I hope that they take away is inspiration,” Scofield said. “That they find something inspirational in my presentation or they find something inspirational in my poetry that is able to continue inspiring them and helping them in writing their own work.”
WHAT’S ON … Gregory Scofield reading takes place at White Sails Brewing, 125 Comox Rd., on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. His Distinguished Poet’s Lecture: Why Indigenous Literatures Matter happens in VIU Bldg. 355, Rm. 203 on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. Both events free and open to the public.