Well-known Canadian poet Dennis Lee chronicled key moments from his 50-year career at VIU’s annual Gustafson Distinguished Poetry event on Oct. 17 and 18. Lee, this years’ Gustafson Poetry Chair, was Canada’s First Poet Laureate and winner of the Governor General’s award.
Lee is known for his children’s poetry, such as Alligator Pie and Garbage Delight, but is also the writer of adult pieces in his books Civil Elegies and Testament.
As well as being an author and poet, Lee taught English at the University of Toronto and co-founded the House of Anansi Press. He has written song lyrics for Jim Henson’s live-action children’s show Fraggle Rock and worked with Henson again, scriptwriting for his puppet epics The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.
Lee got his start in writing at a very young age, claiming that he was first published around the age of seven or eight.
The two-day Gustafson event and lecture entitled “Re-greening the Undermusic,” began with Lee giving an informal and intimate reading for students on Oct. 17. Lee read from both his old and new works and gave listeners a preview from his upcoming book entitled Melvis and Elvis, which he hopes to have published in 2013.
The second day of the event was a formal public lecture that included readings of a more serious nature, with humorous interludes to keep the crowd engaged.
Lee said he enjoys the Gustafson event because it allows him to read and speak freely about his work, and he is able to focus on the technical aspects of writing rather than just the big picture. Lee, a Toronto native, also said he enjoys spending time in Nanaimo and had not visited the city in years. He spent the evening highlighting key moments throughout the last five decades of his career; beginning with poems he called “crappy” and emphasizing thematic and stylistic changes that shape his work today.
VIU’s Gustafson Distinguished Poetry event was established in 1998 from the estate of Canadian poet, Ralph Gustafson. The event was first held in 1999, and has since hosted poets such as Don Domanski, Carol Ann Duffy, and Jan Zwicky.