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One of my favourite locally-focused travel blogs is Girl In Florence. Georgette writes a great series on her blog titled “Locals I Love,” and it has inspired me to do the same for Newfoundland! There are so many wonderful people making Newfoundland a smarter, brighter, more creative place, and I plan to profile some of my favourites.
Starting with Maggie Burton.
Maggie is a creative powerhouse on the local arts scene. She co-founded the St. John’s New Music Collective, is a regular name in local publications such as Riddle Fence, and a regular face on the music scene both as a performer and accompanist to other local acts.
This week, she is releasing her first poetry chapbook, Hands That Knew Heat, at Broken Books on Thursday at 7. So before you read her beautiful poetry, let’s get to know her!
Musician, teacher, writer, arts administrator, leadership coach, mom
Favourite Local Haunt
Fixed Coffee, the QEII Library
Tell Me A Bit About Yourself!
I was born in 1991 in Calgary, where my dad was working as a geophysicist. My family moved back to Newfoundland when I was 1 and built a house on my mom’s family lane in Brigus. I moved to St. John’s in 2009 to do a music degree at MUN and I live near Quidi Vidi with my partner, Chris, and my two kids, Jack and Ursula.
How Did You Get Into Poetry?
I’ve been writing poetry and fiction my whole life, and I decided I wanted to start work on a novel when I was living in Blackhead, by Cape Spear. It was difficult to find big chunks of time to write, though—I had a toddler and a newborn and full-time work hours, so I started writing poetry again because it felt more manageable to work on a poem while the kids napped. I started a poetry blog, moosemother.wordpress.com, during this period and a good few of my early poems live there. (Edit: website is no longer available.)
What Inspires Your Poetry?
Nature, families, folklores, feminisms, traumatic experiences, and Newfoundland history and Culture. I was spending a lot of time hanging out on the East Coast Trail, gardening, and playing on the beach with the kids while I lived in Blackhead. I had a home birth with Ursula, my second kid, while living in Blackhead, which inspired me to take a deeper look at the stories my grandmothers told me about their birthing experiences. My great-grandmother died a month before Ursula was born. I wrote my first longer work, “Margaret, The Objects In This House” to deal with my feelings about motherhood, Newfoundland womanhood and sexuality, and the passing of the matriarchal torch through generations. That poem set the tone for much of my writing.
Does Newfoundland Play A Role In Your Writing?
Absolutely. Identity and place have always been very important to me. Highlights of my childhood include playing in the woods, helping in my grandparents’ upholstery shop, and walking around the harbour with my friends, and rural Newfoundland has no shortage of inspiration. This province gives so much to writers, from nature to culture to the unique people who call this place home. I am very excited to see what will influence and shape the future of modern Newfoundland cultural expression.
Who Are Your Favourite Poets And Authors?
I have so many! Elizabeth Bishop, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Agnes Walsh, Don McKay, Michael Crummey, Maggie Nelson. I’m currently reading Eva Crocker’s “Barrelling Forward”.
Does Your Music Influence Your Writing? Or Vice Versa?
They bounce off of each other for sure. Doing the RPM challenge each year with Door Lock, a project me and my partner work on together, really forces me to come up with new lyric content. We have 3 albums now, all based around my poetry and Chris’s compositions.
What’s Your Favourite Thing You’ve Created?
Definitely the St. John’s New Music Collective, which I founded with my partner, Chris in 2015. The collective gave me the chance to produce my first 2 concerts last year, a Joanna Newsom Tribute Show and a performance of Stockhausen’s “Tierkreis” for spoken word and chamber ensemble.
What’s Your Favourite Thing About Newfoundland?
There is such a strong sense of intimacy here. A young artist, for example, can really get to know their neighbours and community, and they can count on them to help get see them through challenges and give help, opportunities, and mentorship when needed. I am grateful to be from Newfoundland.
Make sure you catch Maggie at the release of her chapbook Hands That Knew Heat, this Thursday at Broken Books!