Photo by Alisha Weng
‘I continue to write a rough draft poem every day as I have always done and find that the Vancouver environment, particularly its contrast of affluence against human tragedy, supports my creative process, yet environment is not key to creativity.‘
Timothy Shay is a well known figure on the literary scene in Vancouver. He is the author of five poetry chapbooks and one collection of poems. His new collection of poetry, The Dirty Knees of Prayer, has been launched by Caitlin Press earlier this year. Timothy hosts the monthly Hogan’s Alley Open Poetry Readings in Chinatown, and co-hosts the Pandora’s Collective Twisted Poets series at the Prophouse on Venables. Earlier, in Nelson, Shay had hosted a reading series for 22 years. He is also the former editor of Horsefly Literary Magazine.
His work has appeared in various Canadian literary magazines and anthologies, CBC Radio, The Rolling Stone, in the anthology Alive at the Centre, contemporary poems from the pacific northwest (Ooligan Press 2013); and, in the 2011 issue of Qwerty from the University of New Brunswick.
Titles by Timothy Shay
The Bodisattva of Rags, graphic poem illus. Jessica McVicker, Elephant Mountain Press, sold out. 2nd edition 2012
Resolutions – Chameleon Fire Editions, sold out. 2nd edition 2012
Fathers, 1983. Out of print.
The Great Ottawa Sojourn, 1975. Out of print.
Fire Fireman Fire, 1975. Out of print.
Timothy was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1952. He has traveled extensively within Canada, and has lived in White Rock BC, Keno Yukon, Salt Lake City Utah, and Nelson BC. When not writing poetry, Shay works on oil paintings, folk music, genealogical research, and artifact hunting. Here are some of Shay’s thoughts on his creative processes and physical environments:
‘I started writing poetry when I was a young adolescent in White Rock BC. I moved to Nelson BC when I was 18, and the majority of the work I have produced so far was created during my forty years in Nelson. Because Nelson had a University until 1984, including a School of Writing and an Art School, there was a residual intellectual glow that lasted about twenty years after the university closures so writers and artists benefited from some inclusion in the consciousness of the national arts scene. Nature in Nelson is fabulous, and there is much opportunity for solitude and the reflections accompanying it.
‘On the other hand, Vancouver is like living in an active theatre and hive of artists. There are many excellent writers and intellectuals in Vancouver and several good coffee shops. (Nelson still has the best coffee and coffee house in western Canada, Oso Negro). The proximity of the ocean and the unmistakable fragrance and texture of the sea air continually stimulate deep childhood memories and emotions in me as I was raised in White Rock then absent for forty years. MacLeod’s Books and the Public Library are fine institutions and the apparent level of support for the arts in Vancouver, while cliquey, tends toward health.
‘I continue to write a rough draft poem every day as I have always done, and find that the Vancouver environment, particularly its contrast of affluence against human tragedy, supports my creative process, yet environment is not key to creativity. The act of writing under all circumstances is key, and the act of writing is dependent on the act of cognition and perspective. Often the best writing is inspired by distance from the environment being defined… a quick example being, ‘Under The Volcano’, a masterpiece of prose by writer Malcolm Lowry, written in North Vancouver, focuses on environment and events in Mexico; while another of his novels, ‘October Ferry to Gabriola’, focuses on the west coast and the Gulf Islands and was composed in Mexico.’
Timothy will present a selection from his new book The Dirty Knees of Prayer at the May 27 gathering of Surrey Muse. More about the meeting: may-27-gathering-of-surrey-muse
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