Joanne Epp's poetry appears in Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees (ed. Lesley Strutt) as well as in Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly, Lemon Hound, Geez, and other magazines. She won second place in the 2017 Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest, and third place in the 2018 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Contest. Her first poetry collection, Eigenheim (Turnstone Press, 2015), explores ideas of home, memory and longing; her second, Cattail Skyline (Turnstone Press, 2021) takes a close-up look at landscapes where she has lived and travelled. Her work is influenced by poets such as Anne Szumigalski, Alice Major, and Sarah Klassen, and by prairie and boreal landscapes. Born and raised in small Saskatchewan towns, she spent several years in Ontario and now makes her home in Winnipeg.
I did read poetry in high school — we didn't get much of it in school, but the poems we did read made an impression on me. A poem I particularly liked, and the one I remember best from high school, is “Leisure” by W.H.Davies. I liked it, not just because I found the lines “No time to stand beneath the boughs/ And stare as long as sheep or cows” rather funny, but because I thought the poet got it right: it is important to “stand and stare,” to take time to notice what's around us.
I wrote my first poem when I was eight, and wrote a handful of poems during my school years. It wasn't until I was twenty that I decided I wanted to do more of this—there was a definite moment when that happened, and then another moment, a couple of years later, when I decided to take poetry seriously and learn how to write better. It took a long time to get from “I write a bit” to “I’m a writer,” and I’m not sure when it happened. Having my first poems published in a journal was very encouraging, but still didn’t give me the nerve to say “I’m a poet” out loud. The turning point may have been around the time I started getting book reviews published, or when I was accepted into a mentorship program; either way, it came after I'd been writing for a long time.
Attentiveness is a big part of a poet's work. I approach poetry as a way of expressing and giving shape to what I encounter in the world, and so, while a love of language is essential, poetry also has to come out of a love for the world.