• Brianna Ballard

St. Lazare poet wins prestigious award


PHOTO BY BRIANNA BALLARD

Local poet Catherine Chandler is the winner of the biennial Richard Wilbur Book Award, and expects the full-length collection to be published this fall.

Catherine Chandler never used to have time to submit her poetry to journals and contests, but now, she says she’s achieved one of her biggest dreams.

The long-time St. Lazare resident has been chosen as one of the winners for the 2015-2016 Richard Wilbur Book Award, a renowned American accolade for poetry.

“I’ve been working on this, this has been my dream, for the last 12 years,” said Chandler, adding this award is one of very few offered for formal poetry.

Chandler is the winner of the 2016 prize for her manuscript titled The Frangible Hour, which will be published in the coming fall. She has already published two books, as well as three chapbooks, and has won numerous awards for her poetry, including the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award in 2009. However, she said that this work is her best yet.

“A lot of the poems in it are about things that are fragile,” she said, adding that the title was inspired by a line in a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The manuscript explores three traumatic experiences that had a lasting impact on Chandler’s life. In the summer of 2011, her mother passed away, and less than a year later, her daughter had a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, and was put into a medically-induced coma for several weeks. A week after her daughter got out of the hospital, Chandler’s father passed away.

“Poetry is a good way of expressing your inner feelings, and getting it out, and maybe somebody who reads it might feel the same,” she said. Chandler said that writing, for her, is very therapeutic. It’s what got her through the summer of being in the hospital with her daughter and grandchildren, and she says that without it, the experience would have been much more difficult.

These reflections shaped the 50-page manuscript and Chandler decided to submit it to the Richard Wilbur Book Award contest last September. The award, named after former US poet laureate Richard Wilbur, involves publishing the winner’s manuscript through the University of Evansville Press, Indiana, and a cash prize of $1000. The final shortlist is judged by a well-known poet; Chandler’s submission was judged by British poet and translator Dick Davis.

Thanks to the encouragement of several mentors, including Richard Wilbur himself, who she met in 2011, Chandler says that more and more of her poetry is being accepted into various journals and publications.

“You have to be so prepared not to take it personally when you get rejected,” she said, “but after a while the rejection pile was going down and the acceptance pile was going up.”

Chandler said her writing career really took off when she moved to St. Lazare 12 years ago. She draws inspiration from her surroundings and natural scenery when writing which, she says, you can’t find anywhere else.

The Frangible Hour will be released in the early fall of 2016. Chandler’s other publications are available for purchase on Amazon, and can be found on her website: www.cathychandler.blogspot.ca/

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