An Interview with Sonia Nicholson

Sonia Nicholson’s work has appeared in various publications including Mosaic TimesTime of Singing, the Living Hyphen podcast, Van Island Poetry Collective, and Literary Heist. Her writing regularly explores themes of identity, family, and place. A first generation Canadian who grew up in a Portuguese immigrant household, she was born and raised in Osoyoos, British Columbia. Sonia holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree (with Distinction) in French and Spanish from the University of Victoria, and continues to call Victoria home. Her debut novel, Provenance Unknown, will be published in Spring 2023 by Sands Press.  

You can read her poem some things maybe in Pinhole Poetry's July 2022 issue.

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? 

The scene with the nuns scurrying in full habits along a Paris sidewalk with pigeons taking off in front of them is something I actually witnessed many years ago. That image has stayed in my mind ever since. I still regret not being able to get a photo — it would have been an amazing shot — but maybe because I didn’t, the experience has been able to stay with me in a different way. I’m glad to have finally been able to capture the moment after all this time, even if it was in words. And of course, so much of what we see today is via a screen of some kind. But life can be more vibrant if we focus on living it rather than recording it.

Do you have a collection of poetry or even a single poem that acts as a touchstone or a lodestar? 

I am very much influenced by E.E. Cummings, and have been for a long time. A copy of his complete works lives semi-permanently on my coffee table. This poem is a bit of an ode to him in terms of style.

If you didnt write poetry, how do you think you might access the same fulfillments that poetry offers in your life? 

I have always been a storyteller, whether it’s through poetry, photography, drawing, or my work as an archivist. It’s a beautiful thing that there are so many ways to express oneself creatively. 

What are you working on now? 

I’m currently writing a creative non-fiction essay on Paris, about how each visit there has represented a different season of my life. I’ve been waxing nostalgic of late because I recently signed a publication contract for my debut novel, Provenance Unknown, which partially takes place in Paris and pulls from some of my own adventures in the City of Light. Once that piece is finished, I will be getting back to writing my second novel. When I need a break from the bigger projects, though, I always turn back to poetry.

How or where or with what does a poem begin? 

A detail. A moment. What inspires me most is the everyday. 

Are there other art forms that inspire or inform your poetry? 

Yes! For example, I had a poem published a number of months ago which had been inspired by a documentary film. Similarly, my upcoming creative non-fiction essay is inspired by a book I recently read.

How do you make space for poetry in your daily routine? 

I would love for poetry to be directly part of my daily routine, but it isn’t. It is not always possible when you’re juggling a career, and family, and other commitments. But for all of my writing, it’s going out and doing things that has given me so much material to work with. So I keep living life, keep observing. And when it’s time for a poem to sprout, it comes more easily because I have been tending to it all along.

Have you ever received advice (or has there been something youve learned on your own) about writing or revising poems that has made you a better poet? What was it? 

I’m not sure exactly where this advice came from — probably multiple sources — but it’s made me a better writer: make every word count. Everything you include should have a purpose. What is a particular word adding to the writing? If the answer is “Nothing,” then out it goes.

Do you belong to a writers group? If not, where do you find poetry community and feedback? 

I belong to a small, supportive group of writers that meets monthly to chat and provide feedback on each other’s work. There are two things I love most about this group: we’re archivists/librarians by profession, and we write completely different genres. We understand each other, but at the same time, we each bring a unique perspective to the table.

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