Francine Cunningham is an award-winning writer, artist and educator who spends her summer days writing on the prairie’s and her winter months teaching in the north. Francine is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta but grew up in Calgary, Edmonton, and 100 Mile House, BC. Francine is also Metis, and has settler family roots stretching from as far away as Ireland and Belgium. She currently resides in Alberta but previously spent over a decade calling Vancouver her home.
Her debut book of poems On/Me (Caitlin Press) was nominated for The BC and Yukon Book Prize, The Indigenous Voices Award, and The Vancouver Book Award. Her debut book of short stories God Isn’t Here Today (Invisible Publishing) is out now and is a book of speculative fiction and horror and was longlisted for The inaugural Carol Shield’s Prize for Fiction and is a finalist for the 2023 Indigenous Voices Award, and won the 2023 ReLit award for short fiction. Her first children’s book What if bedtime didn’t exist (Annick Press) will be out in 2024. Francine also writes for television with credits including the teen reality show THAT’S AWSM! among others and was a recipient of a Telus StoryHive grant. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have also appeared in The Best Canadian Short Stories, The Best Canadian Non-Fiction, in Grain Magazine as the 2018 Short Prose Award winner, on The Malahat Review’s Far Horizon’s Prose shortlist, and on the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize longlist among others.
You can find out more about her at www.francinecunningham.ca
I sadly did not read poetry in school. I was a terrible student in terms of showing up. I had a lot going on in my young life that prevented me from being the student I could have been. I spent lots of days reading fiction, preferring to get lost in fantastical worlds than live in the present. But all that turmoil only fuelled my writing poetry.
If I did read poetry in high school though it probably would have been Micheal Ondaatje's Time Around Scars, a favourite of mine. Or Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's This Accident of Being Lost which is an inspiration to me in all ways.
I remember sitting in my bedroom as a teenager pouring over notebooks filled my teenage angst spread over the pages as I wrote with a hunger to try and understand myself. I didn't yet consider myself a poet but I was writing everything. It wasn't until I graduated from my MFA from UBC that I gave myself the space to fully try poetry for real. I had spent some time during my degree writing poetry but I never believed that my poems were "good". It wasn't until I started to see poetry showing up more and more in my fiction that I turned back to poetry in a real way and finally felt like I was doing something to be proud of.
Tob reflect back both our inner worlds and the world at large. We are here as documentors of the struggles, hopes, and beauty of the world that surrounds us. We are here to help society understand itself as we understand ourselves. A poets job is of upmost importance and is one of the things that's propels society forward. We speak for, up, and against forces in this world. Our words are of vital importance to the understanding of where we are and where we are going.