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P.E.I. author explores Islander identity through poetry

“For the artists and writers and musicians of Newfoundland and Tasmania and Prince Edward Island.”
 
P.E.I. author Laurie Brinklow explored the concepts of “islandness” and Islander identity through poetry in her P.E.I. Book Award winner poem collection “My island’s the house I sleep in at night”.
P.E.I. author Laurie Brinklow explored the concepts of “islandness” and Islander identity through poetry in her P.E.I. Book Award winner poem collection “My island’s the house I sleep in at night”. Photo by Ezra Santana.
 

My island's the house I sleep in at night by Laurie Brinklow

 

Laurie Brinklow and her partner left their house in London, Ontario, in June 1983.

They headed out to Highway 401, not knowing where they were headed.

They turned east to Québec, into New Brunswick.

“You should camp at Stanhope, on the North Shore. You’ll have a great time,” someone told them.

After visiting relatives in New Brunswick for two weeks, they packed and caught the ferry to P.E.I.

When they docked in P.E.I., Brinklow got off the boat.

“This is home,” she said.

She got involved with the Institute of Island Studies as a book publisher and began having conversations about islands.

She has always been fascinated by islands – even going as far as to label herself an “islomaniac” – and what sets Islanders apart from those who live in the mainland.  

It started with growing up in the west coast of Canada and taking the ferry to Vancouver Island stuck with her.

“When we were there, it was just a very different place. So, I think what happened when I arrived here [is] that imprinting that happened at a very young age really resonated through my whole being.”

Brinklow then completed her master’s in Island Studies in P.E.I. and a doctorate in Geography and Environmental Studies in Tasmania to find out how artists, musicians and writers expressed their “islandness”.

“You know, you can see it all around you, right? How do people engage with the fact that they live on an island and how do they express it?”

While conducting interviews for her dissertation, she would often encounter or hear things that ‘sounded like a poem’.

That’s how “My island’s the house I sleep in at night” was created.

It is a collection of poems dedicated to the artists, writers and musicians of Tasmania, Newfoundland and P.E.I. published in 2021. It was the winner of the 2022 P.E.I. Book Award for poetry.

In her poems, Brinklow explores the concept of “islandness” and how being an Islander can shape one’s identity and perception of the world around them.

“My island’s the house I sleep in at night” is a collection of poems exploring “islandness”, the Islander identity and the concepts of place and home.
“My island’s the house I sleep in at night” is a collection of poems exploring “islandness”, the Islander identity and the concepts of place and home. Photo by Ezra Santana.

She has written poems since she was a teenager.

“I just found a voice that I didn’t realize was there and I find that the medium of poetry is very precise.”

She loves the playfulness and rhythm of poetic language.

“Poetry touches people really deeply.”

Brinklow is now the co-ordinator of the master’s in Island Studies program at UPEI and chair of the Institute of Island Studies Executive Committee.

Brinklow has one previous collection of poems titled “Here for the Music” and is currently getting ready to co-publish “The Bridge Effect: Critical Reflections in the Age of Technological Solutionism” with Andrew Jennings.

It will include a collection of papers from places around the world that are surrounded by water and have been connected to the mainland, physically and otherwise.

“[Laurie's own chapter] talks about the crossing and all of the steps that you go through when you get up in the morning and you know you have to go to the mainland by a ferry, and so then all of the steps that you take to do that, making sure that you get there on time.”

The book launch event will be held at UPEI's Main Building Faculty Lounge on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and will be open to the public.

This year’s P.E.I. Book Awards ceremony will happen in May and entries will be accepted until Jan. 31. Nominated books must have been published since the last awards in 2022.

 
“For some, living on an island is a symbol of their search for simplicity, to get back to what it means to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. It gives meaning in a meaningless world, place when you are mired in placelessness, distinctiveness in a world of bland.”
 

My island's the house I sleep in at night | Laurie Brinklow | 78 pp. | Island Studies Press | $18.95

 

“'Being an islander means that you aren’t like everyone else.' Bounded by water, you can live your life with certainty knowing where your edges are. Drawn from interviews with artists from Newfoundland and Tasmania, these poems capture what it means to be an islander. To know every rock and tickle, 'the sea your road/the hole in the sky/your light to travel by.' In My island’s the house I sleep in at night, Brinklow weaves stories and images with her own poetic imaginings. These are poems steeped in community memory, about belonging to a place like nowhere else, a kitchen party full of islanders telling stories about the patch of rock they call home."

 

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Hey, thanks for stopping by!

My name is Ezra (they/them) and I’m an aspiring storyteller who is half-way through a Journalism and Communications program at Holland College, P.E.I. 

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