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Guest Poet: Cornelia Hoogland in Conversation


My first time meeting and reading with poet Cornelia Hoogland took place on Valentine’s day weekend. She is a gift – and I’d like to share her with you! Please enjoy this interview, and get to know this poet of life and love. We can learn so very much from each other!


VS: Share some of the highlights of your writing career – from your heart! these may be highlights are internal/personal as well as awards/publications.

CH: My academic career at Western University in London ON was exciting and fulfilling, and the rewards immediate. But it was never the main thing. The main thing was always the poem, working on poems, creating a collection, shaping a book, publishing, reading. Being involved with the literary world of readings, writers, and books. I’m grateful for the motivation and encouragement to keep writing, it would have been easy to give up. The highlights that gave me encouragement were the publication of seven books, several chapbooks, being shortlisted for the National ReLit Best Poetry Book of 2011 award, and the many contest wins, including 6 short lists for the CBC competitions. Also readers telling me they read my books–awesome.

VS: Where you do write? Share a bit about your writing process.

CH: I write on my feet, that is, wherever I am, there is my writing self. I turn phrases I hear, observations I make, into first lines of a poem, almost ongoingly. This makes my life incredibly interesting to me. Then there is the time to focus, to gather, to shape and hone. That’s a very different process from the journaling, writing down the interesting images and lines I see and hear. More practically, here’s a poem that describes where I write and my writing process.

  1. Chi Chi, After Completion


Don’t throw yourself away on the world, but wait.

I meet myself every day in these hexagrams.

My impatience, my striving. I wake early and write in bed.


My sleeping partner, my dog. More and more I feel

ripples of tenderness toward me and my efforts to find balance.

Like learning to bowl. All those gutter balls.

VS: Has your writing ‘voice’ changed over the years? If so, how and why?

CH: I don’t know. I consciously experiment in my writing. My forthcoming book, Trailer Park Elegy, is a long poem. It was incredibly challenging. Here’s a short excerpt from the catalogue copy that describes the long poem form:

The book’s form, a long poem, provides thematic coherence for the multiple contingencies that disturb the narrator’s present. Like keeping balls up in the air, Hoogland expertly catches and tosses, thus sustaining her imaginative energies throughout the book. Here she is, contemplating the cliché that life flashes before the eyes of the dying, or questioning memory stored in her body like trauma or fat, when suddenly there she is, fifty years earlier, constructing the highway at the accident site: “The road builders arrived:/the heavy equipment,/the cut slope, fill slope,/the rough grade/the surface.” The reader participates in Hoogland’s excavations as she leans in, digs up an absurdity, hits a fault line. Similarly, she inquires deeply into her brother’s life, listening for what he reveals.

My sixth book, Woods Wolf Girl, was more concerned with the theater of perception, that is, dramatizing the story of Red Riding Hood. In much the same way that children experience the world, my questions about the experiences of three main personae involved asking what is this like? What is it like to meet the wolf in the woods? What is it like when your daughter comes home, changed?

VS: What poetry books are you reading currently?

CH: Adele Barclay, If I Were In A Cage I Would Reach Out To You, and Michael Smith, Bad Ideas. Both from Nightwood Editions. Also the British poet Emily Berry, and Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell: Poems for a Girlhood. I’ve spent the winter immersed in Ted Hughes.

VS:  How important is reading to your writing life? Any other creative endeavours you partake in that inspire/support your writing life?

CH: About reading…essential to my practice. Books of course, but also reading the social and natural world, people I meet, my own inner experience. Paying attention.

The visual artist Ted Goodden and I are opening our show titled Book of Changes: Notes and Gestures, part of a larger endeavor titled Image to Text to Image, at the Comox Valley Art Gallery on June 2, 2017. Ted and I spent several years sculpting and writing poetry in our response to the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. As artists, we value the I Ching as a practice of spiritual wholeness in psychically dismembering times, and as a philosophical counterweight to western hyper-individualism. Our sculptures and poems echo the elemental imagery and form, as well as the open-ended interpretability, of the I Ching. Here, the self is embedded in natural, social and political frameworks, all of which condition self-expression.

VS: How important have writing retreats/workshops been to your writing career? As in, retreats/workshops that you’ve attended.

CH: Being with fellow writers is important. The most important workshops I’ve attended have been those at the Banff Centre. I attended a number of times as a young writer, and again when I was in my early 40s. That was the most important retreat I’ve attended. I remember Fred Stenson asking why I wanted to attend (I had 5 books published at that time) and I said I wanted to up my game, become a better poet. After the two week workshop, I worked with a mentor online over a few months and learned a lot. I’ve tried to continue challenging myself, both in terms of form and technique.

VS: Is there a place you’d love to go and write that you haven’t yet been to? Where and why?

CH; What a great question! I’d like to go to Hedgebrook near Seattle for the opportunity of meeting women from around the world, and having my meals cooked for me.

VS: Has your definition of ‘success’ changed over the years? If so, how..and what does success mean to you currently?

CH: Success is when a book’s form and content cohere, as well as open new vistas for the reader. I have an ongoing relationship with Louise Gluck, especially her Virtuous Night. The book makes me weak in the knees, it is so utterly itself and so much itself. Reading my work is important, ie audience. And prizes have never hurt either.

VS: Are you part of a writing group? Do you think they are beneficial?

CH: Yes, I am part of the writing group and they are beneficial. Simply having a poem ready to show your peers is important. Feedback is important, and hearing yourself read and talk about your work. Groups can be encouraged to improve, to grow, we can help each other improve into tangible ways.

VS: Have you ever been mentored? By whom? How did it help your writing? Have you ever been a mentor? Why?

CH: My peers have been a constant support to me as a writer, and journals and publishers have offered a kind of mentorship by merit of publishing me, but I haven’t had a one-on-one long term relationship with another poet. My husband Ted Goodden, while not a writer, is a deeply dedicated reader of poetry, and he more than anyone has listened and responded to my poetic concerns and my poems. I am grateful to him!

VS: How has ‘life’ affected your writing – have you ever had to stop/break due to illness/loss/etc? (you don’t have to be specific about the ‘why’ – rather I’m looking for guidance on how to write through the tough/joyful times in life!)

CH: My brother died in 2012, and I started writing almost immediately about the gap his death created. The word “about” is interesting, as if there is a straightforward connection between writing and your chosen topic, as if you can write about anything you wish. But finding your way into a subject is a difficult and time-consuming effort, with many stops and starts. Every time I put pen to paper I was stopped short, there was absolutely nothing to say! Sure, people told stories about my brother, but they were not the things that concern poetry. It took me many false starts, many detours to find my way into Trailer Park Elegy. It took a long time to find out what the book was “about.” Not what I expected!


Thank you Cornelia! For all things Cornelia Hoogland – please see below!

Cornelia Hoogland          

Hoogland, C. (2015). Addressing form (connected prose poems, or the long poem), I organized and presented a panel, “Writing The Long Poem,” for the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers Union combined AGM in May, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The panelists were Kate Braid, Sharon Thesen and me. John Barton of the Malahat Review published our papers (, on the Malahat website, and sent links to relevant sites such as the League of Canadian Poets.


Kaie Kellough and Cornelia Hoogland at Emily Carr U

starting at minute 36

Writing on the Edge      

Podcasts from

Woods Wolf Girl

under Audio Readings

Reading from Crow,“Tar Baby”                   from Crow,              “In Bed”                       from Crow,              “Her Familiar”             from Crow,              “Fundamental”             from Woods Wolf Girl under Audio Reading   from Marrying the Animals at The Bookshelf, Guelf, On.


John Humphrey, Three Artists converge for Denman Art Centre’s final show of summer, Comox Record,, August, 2016
Michelle Best, Featured Playwright Q&A with Cornelia Hoogland, Playwrights Guild., June, 2016

Hoogland, C. “The Long Poem and the Shape of the Working Mind” in “The Long Poem Symposium,” The Malahat Review,

Andrew McFadyen Ketchum, Interview with Cornelia Hoogland: Woods Wolf Girl February, 2014
Andreas Gripp, Sea Level Well Above Ground, January 2014

Michael Dennis, Sea Level December 2012

Kenneth Chisholm, Red May 13, 2013

Dave Barrick, Matrix Review: Woods Wolf Girl at: Feb.28, 2013

CBC Books: The Shortlist: Q&A with Cornelia Hoogland

Chris Morgan, Scene Magazine Review: Crow at: Morgan, Scene Magazine review of Woods Wolf Girl at:

Jennifer Still, Everything gleams with possibility for Banff writer Winnipeg Free Press at: life/entertainment/books/everything-gleams-with-possibility-for-banff-writer-122765319.html May 28, 2011

Kara Smith, Seeing Red, BC Bookworld review of Woods Wolf Girl at:

Josh Kolm, Lance Review of Crow at: Or: Click on image of journal (Vol 84 Issue 2) and go to page 10.

Ball, Jonathan, Winnipeg Free Press review of Crow,

Jouvan Evans, Lance Review of Crow by at:

Kathryn Mockler, Interview The Rusty Toque (March 28, 2013) at:

Darryl Salach, Interview Toronto Quarterly (Jan 14, 2013)

Penn Kemp, Interview Gathering Voices, university of western Ontario (Feb. 24, 2012) Part 2

More under Reviews/Interviews at


Cornelia Hoogland reading at All4Love event!


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