Monika Lee wrote gravity loves the body (South Western Ontario Poetry Press, 2008) and the poetry chapbook slender threads (EBIP and Canadian Poetry Association, 2004). She also had published a book of literary criticism, Rousseau’s Impact on Shelley: Figuring the Written Self (1999). Her poems have also appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including Dalhousie Review, The Nashwaak Review, Harpweaver, Room of One’s Own,Event, Atlantis, The Fiddlehead, Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Ariel, Quills, andQwerty. She is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Brescia University College at the University of Western Ontario in London Ontario. She teaches nineteenth-century British literature, creative writing, and a variety of other courses in English literature.
Monika completed a B.A. in French and English at the University of Toronto, and M.A. and Ph.D. in English at the University of Western Ontario. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University. She graduated from the Humber College School of Writing with distinction in 2007.
She has travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, and now lives just outside the village of Lobo with her husband Brian Diemert and their two daughters, Anna and Natasha.
Questions & Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
There were in fact many moments which inspired me to pursue poetry. When I was a child, my mother and father read and recited poetry to me occasionally. I especially remember liking Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as A Cloud” and Yeats’ “The Tale of Wandering Angus”. A turning point occurred when I won a Dundas Public Library poetry contest at the age of 9. My parents were so proud that they printed the poem inside their Christmas card. I also remember looking out my bedroom window one day and feeling a poem come upon me as suddenly and as inexorably as a sneeze.
How/where do you find inspiration today?
I find inspiration in many aspects of life and the world around me. One major source of inspiration is powerful emotion. Another is in nature. Sometimes issues of social justice or ecology motivate me. Mostly, however, inspiration comes from the writers I read and admire.
What is your writing process?
It varies. Generally, I begin by finding some quiet time in a quiet place, whether indoors or outdoors, and I begin by reading other poetry. Then I put my pen to the page and begin to write, no matter how bad it is. I silence my inner critic and keep writing until I feel I’m getting somewhere.
What is your revision/editing process?
I begin editing the very moment I finish composing. I go back over the lines again and again. I re-organize portions of the poem. I look for better words. I try things out and cross them out and try other things. When I’m satisfied with the poem, I know I’m done for now. But I revise the poem again over the weeks and months to come. Now that I belong to a poets’ group, I can get superb editorial advice from other poets. Like housework, revising is never finished.
Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?
Yes. I began writing poetry in childhood. As an adolescent, I was fortunate to have some very artistic friends and some very good English teachers. One of my close friends wrote beautiful poetry, much better than mine. Another painted. Together we talked about art and the world. I wrote poems to release pent-up emotions about family and boyfriends and that sort of thing. But mainly I wrote it because I believed in the power of poetry to move and inspire.
Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?
I recommend joining a poetry group such as the Canadian Poetry Association or a local group. Poetry Markets for Canadians and Poet’s Market are excellent resources for publishing.
When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
I wish a published poet had told me to light a fire under my writing. Many young people want to be writers “some day”, while not agreeing to be writers in the present. I know that was true of me in my twenties. It’s a long apprenticeship; so it’s best to begin early and to work hard at it. Also, it would have been great to hear poets talk about their feelings about writing and publishing in a largely poetry-averse world. The best advice I can give young poets is to read poetry!