Earlier this year, Louise Bruff published a new collection of poems through Bookleaf Publishing.
I had the pleasure of speaking with her about being a writer of poetry who generously shared her life experiences with the reader across many themes.
Congratulations on publishing Every New Day Lies Within a Battle Field. It’s our pleasure to talk with you about this poetry collection. First off, how long have you been writing and publishing?
When I was a young girl growing up in Jamaica, I often wrote stories and poems. It was something that I never really thought too much about, I just enjoyed writing. I never seemed to have any trouble coming up with ideas, they just naturally came to me.
My first experience having my writing published was in the 1990s when two of my poems were published. I have also published a few short stories.
So, you have written poetry and short stories. From this book, is poetry your preferred genre, or are you still writing prose such as fiction and non-fiction?
Almost all my writing is either poetry or short stories. I can’t say that I have a preference for one over the other. Generally, the ideas or thoughts that I want to express will decide their form for me. By that, I mean that I don’t think too long or hard about it. Some subjects come to me in the form of a poem. Others are more descriptive and have a longer story that needs to be told.
If some ideas have been more spontaneous and others more reflective, were the poems in this book collected over a long time, or did you write them mostly for this book over a relatively short time?
The verses collected in Every New Day Lies Within a Battle Field are a selection of my poems written over a period of 26 years, from 1990 to 2016.
Since these poems were written over many years, my life, the things that were important to me, and what I wanted to write about also changed. “Life” written in 1990 was a plea for understanding amongst all human beings. “The Mother of Children”
written in 2016 was my response to a tragic news event. In that way, you could say that as I got older and gained more life experience, the inspiration for my poems also moved from general themes to more specific ones.
Your poems certainly reveal a wide range of thoughts, feelings, memories, reflection, and critique from rich life experiences. How would you describe the mosaic they formed in your poetry?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer since my writing is based on my life experience which in turn, is based on my memory of an experience. I can’t really separate them. What I can say is that memory plays a large role in my writing. I have vivid memories of people I’ve met and of life experiences that have influenced me deeply in some way. These memories and reflections make their way into my mind, take on a new shape and become the seed for my poems.
Then would you also say that your poems are expressed from a woman’s experience, and if yes, what makes this feminine perspective unique from other points of view?
I don’t set out to write from a distinctly female point of view. I write about experiences and feelings that to me are more universal. They are more like words of encouragement that are meant for everyone.
But since they are your poems, are there perspectives that women can appreciate more intuitively? For instance, page 26 depicts a feminine experience of motherhood. How would you intend to share this experience with people who have never known childbearing?
I didn’t have that much to do with choosing the illustrations because the publisher did that. This particular illustration goes with my poem, “The Land I Remember.” It is about my earliest memories of Jamaica, my birth you could say, of who I am and where I come from. My intention was for this poem to be broader and more about who we are than about a woman’s experience of motherhood.
If so, could you also talk about conflicting emotions in your poetry, such as fear and courage, joy and sorrow, anger and peace, and other opposites paired together?
Well, from my point of view, the emotions of joy and sorrow, for instance, do not really conflict with each other. They are more like two halves of a whole. Joy feels joyful because we also experience sorrow. And with sorrow, you can feel some relief knowing that at some point it will pass, and that joy will return. What life has taught me is that each of us will have a life that is filled with challenges, but those challenges can be counterbalanced by courage.
If that’s the case, are there other emotional couplings in your poetry that you want to share with the reader?
There are many but to name a few, humanity and inhumanity, poverty and wealth, courage and weakness, the natural world and the spiritual world.
When you decided to publish this collection, how did you choose a publisher, the editors, illustrators, and commentators?
I was first encouraged by my sister to try publishing some of my writing, and then a friend suggested that I get in touch with Book Leaf Publishing. Once I reached out to Book Leaf, they got in touch with me quite quickly. Book Leaf Publishing is a self-publishing company that has a team of people who support and help the writer, with things like selecting a book cover design, deciding on the number of poems to include, choosing illustrations, etc. All our conversations took place online. If I remember correctly, the whole process took about three months from start to finish.
The editors, commentators, and illustrators were all assigned to my book project by the publishing company.
Last but not least, do you have plans to publish poems again, or would you also be interested in writing and publishing prose?
If I think about right now, I would say that I could definitely imagine publishing another collection of poems because for one thing, I have a lot of poems! I don’t have any plans to publish short stories at the moment, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t. Who knows what’s in store? I am very grateful for whatever opportunity comes my way.
Louise Bruff immigrated to Canada in the 70s, worked in a factory for 35 years, and raised three children in Toronto. She has been a member of University in the Community since its beginning at Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre (DPNCHC) almost 20 years ago. Throughout Louise’s life, there have been two major constants: she has always made time to write and she has never stopped believing in the power of learning.
In the recently published book of her collected poems written over a period of 26 years, Louise reminisces about her youth in Jamaica, carries on the family legacy of storytelling and reflects on the twists and turns of her life in Canada. She hopes that her writing will encourage others to remain students of life. As she writes in her poem, A Life Filled With Dreams,” there is no retirement in learning.” This book is a testament to Louise’s determination. UitC is proud of you, Louise!
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Every New Day Lies Within a Battle Field