Angeline Schellenberg is the author of the Manitoba Book Award winner Tell Them It Was Mozart (Brick Books, 2016) and the KOBZAR Book Award finalist Fields of Light and Stone (University of Alberta Press, 2020). Her microfiction has appeared recently in Grey Sparrow Journal, SoFloPoJo, and Exposition Review. Angeline hosts Speaking Crow, Winnipeg’s longest-running poetry open mic. She is training as an Ignatian spiritual director.
You can read her poem The writing instructor tells me to focus on my endings in the October 2022 issue of Pinhole Poetry.
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about your poem? For instance, how or why you wrote it, or perhaps provide some extra context?
I wrote this poem in a Zoom writing workshop led by Manitoba poet and novelist Lauren Carter. I was processing the death of my 40-year-old brother to liver cancer (Nov. 25, 2020). I would have given Tim part of my liver, but his diagnosis came too late for any intervention. The pandemic prevented me from even spending time with him in his final months. When I wrote this, I was watching a lot of cheesy Christmas romances: my insomnia drug of choice. Lauren’s suggestion to revise our endings gave me the idea to imagine a new ending to the story of Angeline and Tim.
Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone or a lodestar?
Don McKay’s Camber. The musicality of McKay’s language is magical; his blend of playfulness and gravity, disarming.
If you didn’t write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life?
Standup comedy, maybe? (I say “maybe” because I like to be in bed by 9:00.) Making others laugh—or feel anything, really—is one reason I love publishing and performing poetry. That brain-sizzle I get from writing poetry, I also find in other acts of listening: listening to the wind in the cattails or someone’s spiritual journey.
What are you working on now?
Since my brother’s death, I’ve found it easier to express my grief through flash fiction and fantastical prose poetry, rather than my usual confessional lyric.
How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine?
I’m still dealing with lingering achiness/fatigue from an early-August Covid infection, so I admit I’ve been struggling with this. Signing up for online group writing workshops, like the one that generated “The writing instructor tells me to focus on my endings,” helps. It’s like scheduling a weekly walk with a friend to make sure I get off the sofa: other writers help me do what I can’t do alone.
What are you reading or watching or listening to lately that intrigues or inspires you?
I’m currently practicing the 19th annotation of the Ignatian exercises, an eight-month daily discipline of engaging Scripture with the imagination, designed by a 16th-century Spanish pilgrim.
Have you ever received advice (or has there been something you’ve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it?
Don McKay told me that narrative is a dog sniffing the ground and lyric is a nightingale soaring and the poem needs both.
Why is the poetic form the best fit for your writing?
I’m slow and meticulous: terrible at writing quantity, but I can do quality. Prose with all its rules taps into my perfectionism, but poetry allows me to break loose and play.
Do you belong to a writer’s group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback?
My friend Joanne Epp and I get together every month to drink tea and give each other feedback on new poems. We’ve been doing this for 11 years. I don’t know what I’d do without her.