Introducing: Russell Thornton

Say hello to the authors of the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest! Each week in August - October, we'll be introducing you to three of our Festival authors with a blog post filled with interesting facts about the author and their upcoming book. Read all about them, buy their book and then come see them at the Festival in the fall. Enjoy! 

Russell Thornton is a North Vancouver poet. He won first prize in the League of Canadian Poets National Contest in 2000 for “The Beginnings of Stars.” His poems are included in a number of anthologies of Canadian poetry. In addition to A Tunisian Notebook, Thornton is the author of several books and chapbooks, among them The Accurate Earth, The Fifth Window and House Built of Rain, which was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His new collection, The Hundred Lives, was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2015.

1. Seeing the spiritual in the natural: Thornton’s poetry is influenced by the natural beauty of his home in North Vancouver and ‘dips’ into spiritual texts, often drawing in religious concepts and terminology. Of the connection, Thornton says, “For me the natural world [in North Vancouver] is like a host of forces, spirits. It’s an elemental, transformational world that invites certain categories of inner experience.” Read on.

2. On Poetry and Parenting: When Thornton became a parent, he found that the experience, “deepened and clarified for [him] what [he] felt when [he] started getting serious about poetry in [his] early or mid-20s—that authentic poetry accesses, illuminates, and enacts the elemental strata of what we call a human being.” Read on.

3. His earliest influences: As a child, Thornton was influenced by his maternal grandmother, who published hundreds of stories under pseudonyms in women’s magazines. In his early 20s, Thornton was mentored by the poet Irving Layton , who gave him the best piece of writing advice he knows, “A great poem is a noble work, and no one ever wrote one who didn't want to get out of hell.” Read on.

4. High Praise from the Griffin Poetry Prize Jury: In their citation of Thornton’s latest collection, The Hundred Lives, the Griffin Poetry Prize judges said, “The poems in The Hundred Lives burn with a rare blend of rhythmic intensity and hard-earned experience that make them at once timeless and contemporary; on page after page, in line after line, we hear the ancient, communal music of language sung through a consciousness of maturity, loss, and restless spiritual hunger.” Read on.

5. His Concerns as a Poet: Thornton has published a half dozen trade collections over the past decade. Has the focus of his writing changed during that time? Thornton says not much, but for a good reason: “My particular set of inclinations hasn’t changed dramatically since I began producing my poetic efforts. Actually, I wonder whether a writer’s concerns ever really change all that much—there is only so much an individual psyche can negotiate on the artistic level […] I suppose I’d say that what evolves […] what a writer does with his or her concerns.” Read on.

Keep checking this page to see which events Russell Thornton will be appearing in at the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest!