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Clara Blackwood Selected as “Emerging, Innovative Voice” in All Lit Up’s Poetry Primer #7

clara blackwoodIn the 7th feature of All Lit Up’s Poetry Month Poetry Primer, poet and novelist George Fetherling selected Clara Blackwood as one of 16 innovative poetic voices in Canadian literature today.

All Lit Up’s Poetry Primer is an all month event which celebrates Poetry Month, and during which 16 established Canadian poets select an “emerging, innovative voice they feel will make a mark on Canadian poetry.” Throughout the month, All Lit Up is featuring a poem from each selected poet, along with commentary from both established and selected poets.

George Fetherling explains what intrigues him in Blackwood’s work, stressing the mystical, spiritually-focused nature of her poetry.

“Clara is herself not a cultist but like Gwendolyn MacEwen, the late Canadian poet to whom she frequently refers, her work deals with mysticism, symbology, and edge spirituality as they apply to contemporary urban feminism. Urban is one of the key words.”

He explains how the dichotomy between spiritual and urban is presented in her first full-length collection, Subway Medusa (Guernica Editions 2007), and how she carries these themes into her latest collection, Forecast (Guernica Editions 2014).

“[The title Subway Medusa is] perfect because it encapsulates the search for spiritual understanding in a world of bleary-eyed po-mo bohemians who fill the nocturnal streets, bars and all-night coffee spots, trying to find a tradition, or to make one of their own, in a monolithic money-mad city that does not acknowledge their intimacies and confusions. What the reader learns from Subway Medusa is expanded on, ripened and deepened in her collection Forecast”

He sums up his reason for selecting Clara Blackwood like this:

“There are many reasons to value both these books highly. I do so because Clara Blackwood seems to me to be a type of downtown soothsayer and haruspex—a late-night Yonge Street priestess.”

In Blackwood’s accompanying commentary, the poet explains her reasons for writing, stressing the unconscious state from which her inspiration is drawn. She turns to the Persephone archetype in order to define her view of writing and of the literary world.

“[Persephone] was a naive maiden like myself until Hades (the dark muse) chose her against her will and took her to the underworld. The underworld here being the unconscious where poetic inspiration is drawn. Another aspect of the underworld is the literary community itself, with all its exercises in shadow play. After this apparent lack of choice, the Persephone poet must continue to journey through the underworld – the source [of] her inspiration for writing – and bring back the material to the ordinary waking world.”

Blackwood explains that in her experience, it is not a matter of the poet choosing to write but of “being “chosen” to write poetry, and for the ongoing creative journey”.

She names Sylvia Plath and Gwendolyn McEwen as her poetic influences.

“[Plath’s] underworld-laden imagery has always spoken powerfully to me, and I aspire to create and evoke the same kind of richness and startling metaphor – but certainly not to follow the sad example of her life, which I take as cautionary.”

“Another poet who influenced me early on and I always go back to is Gwendolyn MacEwen. Her visionary imagination continues to enthral me, and the mythic and archetypal lives and breathes in her work in a highly intimate way.”

Clara Blackwood is a poet, visual artist and tarot reader. Her first poetry collection, Subway Medusa (2007), was the inaugural book in Guernica Editions’ First Poets Series, which features first books by poets thirty-five and under. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian and International journals. She lives in Toronto.


subway medusa



To read Poetry Primer # 7, visit the All Lit Up website:

Clara Blackwood’s collections are available on the Guernica Editions website:

Subway Medusa


Posted in Commentaries, Poetry, Reviews.

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