From Whitehorse to Muenster, poet shares love of writing at St. Peter’s

She was born in the United Kingdom but now she calls Canada home.

More specifically, author and poet Joanna Lilley has spent the last 12 years in Whitehorse, Yukon after moving there for reasons that are still unknown to her.

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Lilley was in Muenster on Feb. 26 to read from her latest book of poetry, If There Were Roads. This is the third reading for the St. Peter’s College Writer Series.

While Lilley admits that she lives an ordinary life with a job and a home, writing is something she has always done to work out how to exist in this world of ours, she says.

“I’ve just found that it helps me deal with life...what’s amazing, especially with poetry, is that it all goes very deep and it’s very personal and yet you seem to reach a place of truth that is much bigger than you.”

Growing up in England, Lilley feels nostalgic for home but loves the beauty of the Yukon landscape. She writes about both celebrating the place she lives and missing the places she has left because she chose to leave them.

A lot of us get to choose where we live, says Lilley, and she is interested in examining those emotional connections that we leave behind.

Growing up on the edge of the northern moors of the UK, Lilley went in search of the tundra that fit that landscape she loved.

“For some reason, and I can’t really articulate it, I have this yearning to go north. And I think it’s quite common somehow. I’m not the type of person that goes on a beach holiday and seeks the sun and hot weather. I tend to want to go north and experience a big broad horizon.”

Even though this was a land that she searched for, she does miss the solid architect of stone and brick buildings. When she does go back to England for a visit, Lilley says she drinks it in before heading back to her log house.

“Obviously there are layers and layers of First Nations history (in Whitehorse) but that history hasn’t left behind the sort of structures that I’m used to coming from European culture.”

While Muenster is a long way from Whitehorse, Lilley shyly admitted to the St. Peter’s College crowd that she had passed through Muenster a time before when she was cycling across the country in 1991 from Nova Scotia to Whitehorse.

With a broken tire, Lilley did have to make an emergency stop in Wadena before moving on down the highway through Muenster, making a stop in Humboldt and Saskatoon.

She even wrote about her trip, but again, admits that Muenster was not in the poem.

Muenster was the first stop in a tour sponsored by the Government of Yukon’s Travelling Writers Fund. Next on her list are stops in Winnipeg and Toronto before heading home to Whitehorse.

Lilley does know about the infamous writers retreats that take place at the college so she has already stated that she wants to return to Muenster for another visit.

“I lived by the sea a lot of my life so I love it here. The big sky and flat horizons. It’s so spacious and rejuvenating...I really want to come back.”

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