Writers in residence to give creative writing voice

By Adela Talbot
February 14, 2013

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The Western literary community added two new members this week, both expected to bring a world of insight across campus.


The Department of English and Writing Studies, together with the University Students’ Council (USC), named fourth-year English student Alexandra Carillo-Hayley as Western’s first Student Writer in Residence, starting this term.

“This is a pilot project, an experiment. As far as I know, this is a unique program – no one else has a Student Writer in Residence,” said Manina Jones, the department vice chair.

Initially proposed by Adam Fearnall, USC president, the Student Writer in Residence will provide experiential learning opportunities to a fourth-year student engaged in creative writing in any faculty, Jones explained. In the future, the position will run concurrently with the Writer in Residence program, with both individuals fostering a creative community inside and outside the university gates.

The Department of English and Writing Studies and the USC will jointly fund the position.

Carillo-Hayley, Coterie (undergraduate English society) vice-president, works for the Canadian Poetry Project and has published creative works in a variety of venues. Her undergraduate thesis is a novella about a lonely man who lacks memories of his own, borrowing remnants of other people’s lives to recreate his own story. Jones noted it was the quality of her portfolio and writing samples that made Carillo-Hayley stand out among the other applicants.

She will hold office hours and coordinate cultural events on campus during the winter term, making herself available to students as a creative writing resource and working to generate interest in creative writing across campus, Jones said. At the end of her term, Carillo-Hayley will write a report of her experiences, which will serve as a resource for her successor.

“Alex had a really engaging portfolio that seemed like it would be interesting and accessible to people. She sees the position as a cross-campus position – her job will be to work with all faculties. One of the things she proposed was having a weekly writing hour that would bring writers together,” Jones said.


Meanwhile, the Department of English and Writing Studies announced poet Marlene NourbeSe Philip as the 2013-2014 Writer In Residence.

A poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and cultural critic, she has a law degree from Western (1973) and is excited to return to campus and reach out to professional schools, Jones said.

Philip’s most recent work is a long poem, Zong, based on a legal text. She is well known for her highly acclaimed poem, She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks, and children’s novel, Harriet’s Daughter, has been on curriculums in Ontario, British and Caribbean high schools.

“She will have lots of opportunities to come to classes and engage with a variety of her work (on campus),” Jones said, adding Philip obviously works across a variety of genres and hopes to do poetry readings in Law and Nursing, for instance.

“Her ideas for community engagement are really exciting. There’s this thing called the Purple Project that involves taking poetry to seniors’ homes and she said the generation of people who are in senior residences now are people who would remember being required to memorize poetry in school. She wants to go out and bring those memories back to life for them and maybe offer them a context in which they could think about writing poetry themselves.”

Philip, who practiced law in Toronto until the early 1980s, is also a noteworthy cultural critic, having published works on controversies surrounding public representation of race and culture. She has already been a writer in residence at the University of Windsor and taught creative writing at York University.

Philip is likewise celebrated, having been a Guggenheim Fellow, earning a Casa de las Americas Prize. She was a National Magazine Award finalist and a YWCA Woman of Distinction.

“She’s working in so many different dimensions. She will be able to talk to a wide variety of students and is really aware of the fact that there are all kinds of different constituencies she can bring her work to. That has lots of potential. It’s very exciting and I think she will be terrific,” Jones said.


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