Local author talks poetry, solitude, and the beauty of ‘crumbs’

When you’re a writer, it doesn’t hurt to network.

The Red Rock Public Library has been hosting a series of Local Author Visits for folks in the region, with Thunder Bay-based author and artist, Katherine Poulin, scheduled to appear this month.

Poulin will be at the Red Rock Public Library on Thursday, April 25 from 3:00-4:00pm.

The Red Rock Public Library sponsors these events.

Speaking to Dougall Media, Poulin said the main focus of her talk will be her novel, The Fairy Baby – a story which has lived in her head for a very long time.

“I’m not the main character. This isn’t autobiographical – but we share a lot of the same history and a lot of the same landscape and quirks,” she said.

The novel begins in 1969 and chronicles a journey of self-discovery for main character Kit, who is just entering high school.

“She narrates her own story with an honesty and innocence. I wrote it from her point-of-view as the unreliable narrator, at first. She thinks her story is true but there’s a gradual coming-to-light of what really happened to her at this stage of her life.

"To her, at that age – 14 – it’s incomprehensible what happened, so what it was gradually dawns on her. It’s set against a backdrop of family secrets and misunderstandings,” Poulin said.

Kit is guided through her experiences by secondary protagonist Raggedy Books, a mentally-ailing homeless man whom Kit befriends.

Poulin described Raggedy Books as the “beating heart” of the novel.

“He’s my favourite character. He’s a mix of all the good teachers I ever had. A quote from Kit is that ‘he was a pure soul, a man of goodness, a sweet and broken poet’,” she said.

And although The Fairy Baby shares similarities with Poulin’s life, her nearest and dearest work is actually a chapbook of poetry she published entitled The Wasp Paper Poems.

Even still, she observed that choosing a favourite work of her own is like “choosing your favourite child.”

Poulin described herself as “kind of new” to the writing scene, despite the fact she has been writing her entire life.

She said imposed isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic afforded her a lot more time to focus on her writing – particularly since she was unable to spend quality time in-person with her four grandsons.

“What I’ve always done with them is just put a pile of paper and pencils and things like that on the table – and we just sit and talk and draw. I’d staple a few pages together and we’d write silly books and draw pictures on them. They loved it. And then during COVID, I didn’t have that contact with them,” she said.

Determined to keep their creative tradition somewhat alive, Poulin decided to write a story for her grandsons and send it to them in instalments.

At one point, Poulin’s daughter told her that she should publish the story – which resulted in Poulin’s first novel, The Wolf of River Terrace.

Now, with two novels, a chapbook, and poems/meditations under her belt, Poulin looks forward to connecting with other creatives and readers in the region.

“I’m kind of a solitary person but I find when I have talked to other local writers that it’s a very supportive community out there. They’re always interested – ‘Oh, you wrote a book? What’s it about?’ – they want to talk about it, they want to know who published it or if I self-published.

"They’re very interested and we tend to go to each other’s book launches and it’s generally encouraging and supportive,” she said.

She also specifically mentioned Entershine Bookshop as an independent, local business who are “very good to local authors” for promotional needs and support.

Her new children’s book, The Wish Farm, is currently in the hands of an illustrator and with her next novel about halfway complete, Poulin isn’t stopping anytime soon.

“There’s a quote in Fairy Baby when Raggedy Books is talking to Kit and telling her to be present – ‘Remember your craft, poetry is just gathering crumbs along the way’ – and it’s true, you just hear something and you have to use it. You store it away somewhere, all these crumbs, and then you put things together someday. They’re not a crumb at that point, they’re a thing with a life of its own,” she said.

All of Poulin’s books can be found at Entershine Bookshop for purchase.

Copies of her work will also be available for purchase (cash or cheques accepted) at the author talk in Red Rock.

You can find out more about Poulin and her work at katherinepoulin.ca.

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SNnewswatch.com