Meet our newest Youth Poet Laureate

 

When the City of Victoria recently announced the news that recent Writing / English double-major Eli Mushumanski had been chosen as the 2022 Youth Poet Laureate, we here at Fine Arts were justifiably proud. Mushumanski is the third YPL to come out of UVic’s Writing program in the past 10 years (see our stories on previous youth poets Aysia Law & Ann-Bernice Thomas), so we were eager to sit down for an interview with this thoughtful, introspective non-binary poet.

How did you get your start in poetry? What difficulties have you encountered with writing poetry?

I started writing actually as a three-year-old, and I know this because we have this little cardboard book that has two pages pasted out that my mom typed up for me. It’s complete nonsensical gibberish. But I remember wanting to be a writer, and then I wrote all the way through elementary school, all the way through high school, and then I got to UVic and I ended up getting into poetry.

I used to write a lot of fiction and kind of stayed away from poetry, so I’ve really only been writing poetry for four years. I was a very self-conscious teenager . . . . I don’t like seeing my feelings in written form. It really took my being in workshop and having to write poems [before I thought], “Oh! This is really hard: I like this.” I think poetry is more abstract [than fiction]. In a sense, it’s bigger than my own personal problems.

How do you see your role as YPL? What do you want to accomplish? I understand that you want to tackle the issue of climate change with your poetry. Could you tell me a little bit more about how you want to do that?

I’ve talked in some of my other interviews about making climate change just a little bit more manageable. Obviously, it’s never going to be manageable—it’s this massive, massive problem [with] so many different components—but it’s so big that it feels unreal. Poetry is a way to sort of connect people more to the natural world and make them really love it and care about it. The only way things are going to get better is if we feel more connected to the natural world.

I don’t think poetry on its own is going to change the world or change the environment. It’s about helping fit people feel that they could turn outward, and that it would be safe to do so . . . enabling that process is potentially something poetry could do. It’s important to feel those things: avoiding [them] is obviously not helping. I think the only way out—to use a cliché, which as a poet maybe I shouldn’t—is to feel our way through it in order to make change.

I see the current poet laureate, John Barton, is also a Writing grad: how much will you be working together? What might you learn from interacting with a more experienced poet like him—especially one who foregrounds the queer experience in his poetry?


allow the slow sprawl.
the insects will help your glide,
tendrils of you that will root.
trees are all feeling.
you will not have sound or smell
to distract you.
                         —Eli Mushumanski 

He is going to provide mentorship—I can ask opinions and get a little feedback, which is really nice—and I actually worked with John last April for the City’s Resilient Muse series for National Poetry Month. But being able to read other queer poets like John is a really exciting thing that, 100 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do, and just having the voice of someone older in the queer community is really powerful.

I think we lost a lot of those voices between the AIDS crisis and with hate crimes happening, so I think having those other voices is really powerful to show there is a way to get older in the queer community. I know a lot of young queer people, but I don’t really know a lot of older queer people. It’s great to have the opportunity—he’s organizing some Pride readings, and he’s invited me to be part of some of those—so even just having the opportunity to stand in solidarity has been really exciting.

Where do you see yourself going after you complete your term as YPL? What are your hopes for the future?

For me, I don’t want to be a full-time writer—that may be sacrilegious to say as a poet laureate—but there are so many other parts of myself I want to bring out. I really want to go into psychology long-term: with everything that’s going on right now, people need more support in their lives.

But I am really excited to keep writing and working on longer projects . . . even just starting the position has given me the opportunity to feel this is something I can do. Ideally, I’d like to do something in psychology and then write a lot alongside that. Both of those things are very important to me.

I used to be very passionate about the idea that I was just a writer, that it was my whole identity, [but] during the pandemic, I had to let go of that. I have so many different parts of myself that I can explore, and it’s okay to explore those things; I don’t have to be tied to any one thing. I feel very lucky that I’ve had this opportunity so early on and it’s proof that, yes, [poetry] is something I can do alongside everything else.

—Story & photos by Tori Jones

Young Alumni Lunch & Learn Series

Wondering how to connect your studies to the wider world of the arts? Interested in exploring creative career opportunities? Curious about professional life after graduation? Bring your questions when recent Fine Arts alumni offer the inside scoop in these moderated, informal, free lunch & learn sessions on a variety of topics.

Find out the steps these recent grads took to get where they are—and how they applied skills they already had—in this new Fine Arts Young Alumni Lunch & Learn webinar series.

“Inside the Gallery” with Jenelle Pasiechnik & McKaila Ferguson

What’s it like to work at a regional gallery? How do you make meaningful connections in the art world? How do you connect your studies to the wider art world?

Join two recent Art History & Visual Studies grads who are currently engaged with the arts & community galleries: Jenelle is the curator of contemporary art with the Campbell River Art Gallery and McKaila is the operations & development officer at the Penticton & District Community Arts Council.

12-1pm Friday, March 4: register here

Jenelle Pasiechnik

McKaila Ferguson

Are You Media Ready?” with Cormac O’Brien

Regardless of your artistic discipline, you need to be able to tell your story through words and pictures—but while many people have social media accounts, not everyone knows how to put it to use to leverage their creative careers. Is your content appropriate and relevant? Do you have current and accurate contact information online? If you’re putting yourself out there, what’s the media going to find?

Currently social media manager with Toronto’s Six Shooter Records, Cormac O’Brien is a multifaceted Department of Writing grad who has held all sorts of jobs across multiple arts industries—including musician, journalist, editor, podcast host/creator, content creator, artist manager and graphic designer!

12-1pm Friday, March 25: register here

 

“Finding Meaningful Work in the Arts” with Caroline Riedel

Everyone wants to find a relevant job after graduation, but what are the actual steps you’ll need to take to get there? How do you make connections and learn to network? How important can volunteering be to career development? What career assistance is available to you, both before and after graduation?

An experienced arts professional, Caroline Riedel is passionate about creating job opportunities help students mobilize classroom learning into rewarding professional experiences. with UVic’s she coaches students & alumni on career development, employment prep and work search transitions.

12-1pm Friday, April 8: register here

Note: these sessions are open to all students and recent alumni.

Orion Series presents visiting playwright Carmen Aguirre

The Orion
Lecture Series in Fine Arts

Through the generous support of the Orion Fund in Fine Arts, the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, is pleased to present:

Carmen Aguirre

Visiting Author & Playwright

12:30 pm (PST) Thurs, Feb 17, 2022

Phoenix Theatre

 

Free & open to the public in-person or via Zoom

Presented by UVic’s Department of Theatre

For more information on this lecture please email: theatre@uvic.ca

About Memoir & Satire

(Advisory: Some content includes a description of sexual assault. )

Author, playwright and actor Carmen Aguirre will read from her bestselling memoir, Mexican Hooker #1: Art, Love, and Forgiveness After Trauma and from her new play The Consent Club. Her reading will be followed by a question and answer period.

Carmen Aguirre is an Electric Company Theatre Core Artist and Artistic Associate of New Play Development at The Stratford Festival. She has written and co-written over 25  plays and books,  including the international bestseller Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter (CBC Canada Reads winner) and its bestselling sequel, Mexican Hooker #1 and My Other Roles Since the Revolution. She is adapting Euripides’ Medea and Moliere’s The Learned Ladies for Toronto’s Factory Theatre; Linebaugh and Rediker’s The Many-Headed Hydra for The Stratford Festival; and is writing Fire Never Dies for the Electric Company. Carmen is a 2020 Siminovitch Prize finalist, and a Studio 58 graduate. 

 

About the Orion Fund

Established through the generous gift of an anonymous donor, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts is designed to bring distinguished visitors from other parts of Canada—and the world—to the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and to make their talents and achievements available to faculty, students, staff and the wider Greater Victoria community who might otherwise not be able to experience their work.

The Orion Fund also exists to encourage institutions outside Canada to invite regular faculty members from our Faculty of Fine Arts to be visiting  artists/scholars at their institutions; and to make it possible for Fine Arts faculty members to travel outside Canada to participate in the academic life of foreign institutions and establish connections and relationships with them in order to encourage and foster future exchanges.

Free and open to the public  |  Seating is limited (500 Zoom connections) |  Visit our online events calendar at www.uvic.ca/events

BC Arts Council Funding 101

 

Curious about funding your creative projects? Wondering how to apply for grants?

Get to know the BC Arts Council—the provincial funding agency for arts & culture—in this Q&A info session aimed at upper-level undergrads in any Fine Arts department.

Featuring BC Arts Council program officer & Theatre alum Erin Macklem, this 1-hour session covers grants for individual artists—including eligibility requirements, current strategic priorities, registering an online application & invaluable tips for writing successful grants!

About the presenter

After 25 years working in professional theatre as a costume designer, playwright and administrator, Erin Macklem joined the team of Program Officers at the BC Arts Council in 2018 where she facilitates youth-focused multidisciplinary programs. She has a passion for outreach and engagement, especially as they relate to supporting the BC Arts Council’s strategic priorities. A graduate of UVic’s Theatre department, Erin is a member of the Metis Nation of BC and the Metis Nation of Greater Victoria. She strives to bring this cultural lens to her work, while being conscious of the white-skin privilege afforded her by her father’s Irish and English ancestors.

 

 

BC Arts Council Funding 101

 

Curious about funding your creative projects? Wondering how to apply for grants?

Get to know the BC Arts Council—the provincial funding agency for arts & culture—in this Q&A info session aimed at upper-level undergrads in any Fine Arts department.

Featuring BC Arts Council program officer & Theatre alum Erin Macklem, this 1-hour session covers grants for individual artists—including eligibility requirements, current strategic priorities, registering an online application & invaluable tips for writing successful grants.

About the presenter

After 25 years working in professional theatre as a costume designer, playwright and administrator, Erin Macklem joined the team of Program Officers at the BC Arts Council in 2018 where she facilitates youth-focused multidisciplinary programs. She has a passion for outreach and engagement, especially as they relate to supporting the BC Arts Council’s strategic priorities. A graduate of UVic’s Theatre department, Erin is a member of the Metis Nation of BC and the Metis Nation of Greater Victoria. She strives to bring this cultural lens to her work, while being conscious of the white-skin privilege afforded her by her father’s Irish and English ancestors.

Fine Arts well represented at the 2022 Victoria Film Festival

Running February 4-13, both online and in theatres, the Victoria Film Festival will descend on Victoria with a new raft of films to delight movie goers of all stripes.

No stranger to the VFF, you’ll once again find Fine Arts well-represented in these films and events:

Writing alum Sean Horlor (co-director, Someone Like Me, Feb 5) : this award-winning documentary follows the story of Drake, a gay asylum seeker from Uganda. When a queer group unites to support Drake seeking asylum in Canada, unexpected challenges lead them down an emotional road together in search of personal freedom.

Writing’s David Leach (moderator, Welcome to the Metaverse, Feb 9) : Join Brett Gaylor (documentary filmmaker) and Mike Wozniewski (President & CTO, Hololabs) for a hands-on demonstration and discover the power and perils of facial-recognition data-harvesting technologies — and how to make your “metaverse” a “better-verse”. Moderated by UVic’s David Leach and SFU’s Kate Hennessy.

Theatre’s Leslie D. Bland (co-director, Tzouhalem, Feb 13) : This documentary examines the near-mythic figure of Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem, the account of his life from both historians and First Nations Elders, the folkloric tales concerning him, his impact on the modern relationship between the Crown and First Nations, and how his legend remains alive to this day, examining critically how his story has been told and passed down to us.

Writing’s Dan Hogg (producer, Esluna: The Crown of Babylon, Feb 6) : In this action-packed animated feature set in the retro-futuristic world of Esluna, a relic hunter and her crew must track down an ancient artifact known as the Crown of Babylon.

MFA alum Katherin Knight (director, Still Max, Feb 10) : See how artist Max Dean learned to cope with his cancer diagnosis the same way he has dealt with everything in his life: through art. Sometimes whimsical, ultimately touching, this journey is a life enhancing story as only an artist can tell it.

Theatre alum Trevor Hinton (actor, Fragile Seeds, Feb 10) : The dramatic thriller Fragile Seeds follows Ryann Temple, a therapist working with sex offenders who uncovers haunting secrets in her family’s past through the disturbed men she counsels every day.

Visual Arts alum Laura Gildner and former Visual Arts student Enda Burke (Posterful art exhibit, Feb 4-13) : We’ve asked 10 local artists to reinterpret their favourite indie film poster at the Atrium Building.

Visit the Victoria Film Festival’s website for how to attend these and other entertaining and thought provoking shows.