Friday, August 22, 2014

Under Western Skies

The World Works Like a Poem
A Conversation about Art, Science, and the Aesthetics of Understanding 

When: Tuesday, September 9, 1:30 pm-3:00 pm
Where: Mount Royal University (Calgary, AB)
What: Under Western Skies conference, September 9-12

This panel brings together five poets—Alec Whitford, Ariel Gordon, Micheline Maylor, Richard Harrison, and Weyman Chan—to discuss the relationship between what we know about works of art —humanity's most organic creations—and our understanding of nature as an aesthetic, spiritual, and intellectual experience. We will compare notes on the question posed by the connection between the perception of the nature that poets write about and how they know they've written of it well. If it is true that as long as art is about beauty and science about the world, we will never fully understand either, how does the appreciation of beauty, that we find in both natural things and artifacts, lead to knowledge, and perhaps wisdom, about our relationship with both?

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Alec Whitford is a Calgary poet recently returned to the city after finishing his Master's degree at the University or British Columbia where he wrote his thesis on the Alan Moore's Swamp Thing as narrative of a frustrated ecological utopia. A new voice on the Calgary scene, Alec's powerful poems about the mining town of Elkford appear in FreeFall magazine.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways, was launched in Spring 2014. Recently, she won the Kalamalka Press's inaugural John Lent Poetry-Prose Award. When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and talking macro photographs of mushrooms. As Governor-General's Award-winning poet Julie Bruck writes, "The world in Ariel Gordon's poems is one in which everything and everyone, from sleep-starved human mother to mescegenational beluga, is simultaneously endangered and dangerous."

Micheline Maylor, poet (Full Measure, Whirr and Click), journal editor (FreeFall), publishing house acquisitions and editor in chief (Frontenac House), creative writing teacher (Mount Royal University), is a major influence on both the Calgary and national writing communities. Her most recent book, Whirr and Click, among other things, a meditation on the meaning of human death against a seemingly impersonal natural world, was recently nominated for the League of Canadian Poets' Pat Lowther Prize.

Richard Harrison is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Worthy of His Fall, a meditation on faith and violence. He holds degrees in Biology, Philosophy, and English, and currently teaches creative writing at MRU. He has spoken and read his work at both previous Under Western Skies conferences, and has been nominated for the Governor-General's Award for poetry, the Stephan G Stephansson Prize for Poetry and winner of the City of Calgary Book Prize.

Weyman Chan, author of four books of poetry, most recently Hypoderm and Chinese Blue. He is also a nominee for the Governor-General's Award, the Acorn-Plantos People's Poet Award, and a winner of the Stephansson Prize. His poetry speaks from and of what it is to a child of two cultures, two languages, two worlds that neither separate nor collapse into one. His work, drawing on the linguistic poetry traditions of Fred Wah and Roy Kiyooka, are hailed for both their innovation and their heart. Weyman also brings a unique eye to this work: trained and practicing as a medical analyst of electron microscopic diagnoses of cells and their ailments, he has both a scientist's expertise and a poet's appreciation of the interplay between art and nature.

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Doesn't this look splendid? (I'm elated/terrified, as per usual...)

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