Kim Fahner (she/her) was the fourth poet laureate for the City of Greater Sudbury from 2016-18. She was the first woman appointed to the role. Kim is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, is the Ontario Representative for The Writers’ Union of Canada (2020-24), and is a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She has published five books of poems, including her new collection, Emptying the Ocean (Frontenac House, Fall 2022). Kim is currently working on a manuscript of bee poems, as well as completing her latest novel, The Painted Birds. She may be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com
Yes, I read mostly what was assigned in my classes, things that came from the class textbook. My favourite poem, when I was in high school, was Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.” A number of my teachers weren’t fond of poetry as a genre, so I don’t recall reading any contemporary poets at that time in my life. I didn’t read poetry outside of English class. We covered the ‘dead poets’ who were in the textbook. Sadly, they were mostly British, white, and male.
I began writing poetry when I was in my teens, but only began to think of myself as a poet when I came into my 20s. Some of my work was published in small literary journals, and I was asked to take part in poetry readings at Laurentian University, where I was doing my undergraduate degree in English Literature. I read more poetry as I took a second year class in Modern Poetry. I was amazed by the variety of voices and styles.
The more I read poetry, the more I wanted to read, and the more I ended up writing. At that point, in my early-mid 20s, I started to read more poetry written by women, and also to explore poetry from around the world. I was always interested in reading First Nations literature, as well as writing by poets in places like Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. I felt I could almost virtually travel the world by reading works that came from places I had not yet visited.
As a poet, I think my job is to write poems, but also to show people that poetry does not have to exclude anyone. It does not have to be ‘hard to understand’ or elitist. It should be diverse, and it should speak its truths with different voices and experiences. It should come out of the ivory towers of academia and make its way out into our downtown streets and corner coffee shops. It should be vibrant and alive.
I want people to see that poems can speak to the rhythms of common, everyday life. I believe that poets are able to see the ‘extraordinary’ in the ‘ordinary’ routines of daily life. I love walking and it’s a part of how I make meaning in the world, and in how I create my poetry. I’m aware that poetry can be both personal and political, and I’m especially interested in the ways in which poetry can work to raise awareness of, and support, the conservation and protection of our natural world. I’m also interested in the intersections that exist between poetry and art.
In secondary school workshops, I often focus on how students and teachers can use visual art as a way to create poetry. I’m a great fan of ekphrastic poetry, so that’s something I bring into my work, and into my classroom.
I'm especially fond of the Billy Collins poem, “Introduction to Poetry,” because it speaks to the negative ways in which poetry has traditionally been taught in our school system, the way in which poetry is too often just scientifically dissected in the classroom. I love the way in which Collins says we should explore the poem, as adventurers almost, from the inside out. To do anything else is to risk ruining the poem's spirit.
As a teacher, I love to have conversations with poetry, and with my students. I want my students to feel welcome, comfortable, and curious in terms of how they arrive at a poem's doorstep. If they aren’t nervous, and if they feel prepared and unafraid, then the door will open.