Sunset on Deep Bay

Water the colour of mercury
surrounds me. Only a line of trees
divides the blue above and below.
“What a Wonderful World” carries
from a pinprick of light
across the lake.

Maybe dying is like that. If
you don’t turn around
the sand behind you disappears,
the ripples from a distant radio
give the feeling you are moving

Or maybe
we spend our whole life believing
we could walk on water and death
is the moment we take
our first step.

Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today?

Most of my inspiration comes from the people I care about. I choose a relationship to focus on for a year—or it chooses me—and I write around it. When I get stuck, I incorporate found material, such as diaries and love letters, or ekphrasis (writing about a piece of art). As I scribble, I find connections: double meanings, musical combinations, phrases that reach beyond themselves. Those aha moments keep me writing. And later, when I perform the poems, the audience’s laughs or gasps inspire me to write again.

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

The writing life can be lonely, so find a community. Make use of local writers-in-residence and mentorship programs. Join a writers’ guild, attend readings, sign up for workshops—and when you meet someone you trust, get together regularly to give each other feedback and encouragement.
View submissions as lottery tickets: a thrill if you win, and no failure on your part if you don’t. When poems aren’t accepted, they’re like money in the bank for your next ticket.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

In July 2015, I was an artist-in-residence at the Deep Bay cabin in Riding Mountain National Park, working on a collection of elegies for my grandparents. My favourite writing spot was the dock at sunrise and sunset, when I had the beach to myself. One evening, I could hear a party across the bay as if it were right beside me, but all I could see was the dot of a porch light. I felt a longing—for those who feel near, whom I can no longer see. The water became my metaphor for all that separates this world and the next.

This poem “Sunset on Deep Bay” originally appeared in Lost and Found Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 236 (2018): 91.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.