Arleen Paré

Victoria poet wins Governor General’s Award for Poetry

Arleen Paré's fond memories of childhood summers at the lake in Montreal inspired her latest book, Lake of Two Mountains.

Childhood memories of summers at the lake inspired Arleen Paré to write the latest book to win the Governor General’s Award for Poetry.

Lake of Two Mountains is a book of poems based on a lake of the same name west of Montreal.

“The summers of a child are pretty idyllic, and I remembered it with enormous fondness and wanted to write a bunch of praise poems about the lake,” said Paré, who moved to Victoria in 2003, where she completed her Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees in creative writing.

As well as writing from memory, Paré also revisited the lake in the summer of 2012 so she could experience being there while writing about it. Having spent so much time at Lake of Two Mountains, Paré said it has stayed a part of who she is for her entire life, which she wanted to capture in the book.

“We have so much vast geography in Canada that many people feel that they belong to the Prairies, or they belong to the Maritimes, or they belong to the coast or the mountains. I belong to this lake,” said Paré. “Even though . . . my experience with the lake was decades ago, it is a demonstration of how location, geography, trees, water, all these things that are part of us as Canadians get into our own cellular structure and become a part of us.”

Lake of Two Mountains is Paré’s third book. The first, Paper Trail, is a mix of poetry and prose about working in bureaucracy. Paré spent 20 years as a social worker for the health authority in Vancouver. She started writing poetry after completing her Master of Arts in adult education degree at UBC. She had such a good time writing her thesis, that she decided she needed another writing project.

This prompted her to join a writing group in Vancouver, where she had to bring material she’d written on a monthly basis. Paré said she started bringing poetry to the group because it was shorter and she didn’t have a lot of time since she was still working as a social worker.

“I was very intrigued by the practice of writing and the interesting possibilities of language, especially in poetry.”

Paper Trail, published in 2007, won the Victoria Butler Book Prize and was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay BC Book Award for Poetry.

However, the only one of Paré’s books to not win an award, Leaving Now, is her personal favourite.

“It’s a very emotional and compelling story,” she said. Leaving Now is also a mix of poetry and prose. The Lake of Two Mountains is Paré’s first full collection of poetry.

“I love using language and trying to make it sparkle off the page,” said Paré on why she likes writing poetry. “I love trying to use the right word in the right place. This is the puzzle that I work with all the time, and I enjoy that challenge very much.”

 

 

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