Photo credit
Temmuz Arsiray

Biography

Tawhida Tanya Evanson is a poet, author, multidisciplinary artist, producer and arts educator. Her two poetry collections are Bothism (Ekstasis 2017) and Nouveau Griot (Frontenac 2018), and her first novel Book of Wings (Véhicule 2021) is a finalist for the 2022 Nouvel Apport Prize, was on the 2022 CBC Canada Reads Longlist and was one of Quill & Quire's 2021 Books of the Year. With a 25-year practice in spoken word poetry, she has performed in over a dozen countries, released four studio albums and six videopoems, and featured in the award-winning short film Almost Forgot my Bones. In 2013, she was Poet of Honour at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and received the Golden Beret Award for her contribution to the genre. She is director of the Banff Centre Spoken Word Program and vice president of The Quebec Writers' Federation. Born and based in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal of Afro-Antiguan and Québécoise descent, she is at work on an Afrofuturist concert documentary set for release in 2023 and moonlights as a whirling dervish. www.mothertonguemedia.com

Micro-interview

Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?

Yes, I read poetry in high school, and it was mainly poetry by musicians because music has always played a central role in my life. When I was fifteen, I listened to The Doors day and night and had several books of poetry by Jim Morrison. I still have my copy of "Wilderness" which contains one of my favourite pieces of his called “Signals.” When I was sixteen, I had to do a school project on a famous Canadian and my father suggested Leonard Cohen. I had no idea who he was and so it was a fantastic discovery. My project had to be presented creatively outside of the standard essay format. So, I wrote an essay about Leonard Cohen, recorded the text on cassette interspersed with samples of his songs, and handed in my first spoken word project. It was 1988 and I still have that cassette.

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?

I started writing poetry after a very heavy depression put me in the hospital when I was fourteen. A friend from class gave me a journal while I was there. I had had other journals before but this one was different--I used it. The poetry I wrote there saved me. Poetry continues to save me to this day. However, it took many years for me to consider myself a poet. In 1996 while I was studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Concordia University, I started compiling my work and self-published my first chapbook called "Blood In, Blood Out." I went on to self-publish five more. And because I have always presented my work orally as a spoken word artist, it is only after my first studio album of poetry and music in 2004 that I really began seeing myself as a poet and not just an occasional writer of poems. 

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?

I believe that the job of the poet--and all artists in fact--is to question, reflect, inspire and predict the future.

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?

I would choose Guanahani, 11 by Kamau Brathwaite.

Publications

Poem title(s)
N/A
Title
Book of Wings
Publisher
Véhicule Press
Editors
Dimitri Nasrallah
Date
2021
Publication type
Book
Poem title(s)
N/A
Title
Nouveau Griot
Publisher
Frontenac House
Editors
N/A
Date
2018
Publication type
Book
Poem title(s)
N/A
Title
Bothism
Publisher
Ekstasis Editions
Editors
N/A
Date
2017
Publication type
Book
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