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There’s something in the water

Halifax poet Sue Goyette launches her latest collection Ocean


  • Sue Goyette

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time,” Sue Goyette offers up this quote by André Gide as a good summary of the feelings behind her latest collection, aptly titled Ocean (Gaspereau Press).

Goyette readily states that she would never have written Ocean if it wasn’t for the Halifax community. After living here twenty-four years, she felt it was time to pay tribute to the Atlantic.

“I live near the ocean because it keeps me humble," says Goyette. "It’s like living near a full-length mirror that’s part wolf and part landlord. It’s kind of my true north.”

Goyette says she realized that she had to write Ocean after a dream she had while teaching in Banff, Alberta. Goyette explains that she saw a woman who started singing and realized she was singing the ocean. Being in a landlocked province, Goyette was able to understand just how large a role the ocean played in her life, and the life of all Haligonians. For her, Ocean is both a reckoning and a love song to Halifax.

“For the people of Halifax, the ocean is part of our community. I think poetry is an important part of our community as well," says Goyette. "It gets to say things that the other connecting outlets don’t. I really see this as a book for our place.”

None of the poems in Ocean are named. Rather they are numbered, so the reader can identify them individually, but Goyette doesn’t see the collection this way. She explains that Ocean is a narrative arc of a collection. One poem cannot exist without the other, and the way they were written, and intended to be read, follows a pattern. Goyette likes to think of the individual poems as waves, crashing over each other in the large piece that is her Ocean. There is no favourite poem because there is no one drop in the sea. She’s firm on each of these poems being unable to exist without the others.

Goyette says that these poems were demanding to be written. After writing fiercely for months, the collection came together—written one after the other, in the same style as the collection.

“I came to these poems with a strong sense of imagination. Presenting something in an unexpected way we see it anew.”

The collection is set to debut on Saturday April 13 with a launch party at the Khyber (1588 Barrington, 7:30pm, following the launch of Fathom, Dalhousie University's undergraduate poetry and prose journal, 5-7pm). The launch will feature music and refreshments along with a special “ocean choir” of 16 individuals reading her poems together. Goyette will read at Gaspereau Press' annual Poetry Tra-La! In celebration of National Poetry Month on April 19 (The Company House, 2202 Gottingen, 7pm with Peter Sanger, Harry Thurtson, Allan Cooper and John Terpstra) and then she's looking forward to just being in Halifax.

“I’m slowly writing my next collection, but I’m in no hurry, and the poems persisted because that’s what I do," says Goyette. "I’m going back to pulling up ideas like carrots. Just reading and writing and taking walks and enjoying being back in my city.”

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