Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Local poet didn't know it

Katherena Vermette nominated for Governor General's award

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Winnipeg poet Katherena Vermette's book North End Love Songs has earned a nomination for the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

The 36-year-old Métis writer, who describes herself as a "tuff grrl with two ffs," in a publisher's bio, learned the news on social media while eating breakfast Wednesday morning. She never thought she would be nominated for such a prestigious honour.

"It's a complete fantasy, a crazy fantasy. I had no expectation of this," Vermette said.

"I'm still in the floored section of shocked."

North End Love Songs, published by J. Gordon Shillingford, is a collection of poems that focus on Vermette's experiences growing up in the North End as a teen, and dealing with those memories when she moved back to the neighbourhood as a mother of two daughters.

She says writing has proven to be a coping mechanism for her and a survival skill after some difficult teenage years.

"It's not a stretch to say that it saved my life," Vermette says. "Getting it out is what I needed to do."

Vermette says she'll finish a master's of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of British Columbia by April 2014 "come hell or high water" and is a member of the Aboriginal Writers Collective of Manitoba. She was the blogger-in-residence for the Writers' Collective website (thewriterscollective.org) in 2010-11.

Her work has appeared in several magazines and compilations, including the 2012 book Manitoapow -- Aboriginal Literary History of Manitoba and 2010's The Exile Book of Native Fiction and Drama.

She also has completed a children's book, The Seven Teaching Stories, which Portage and Main Press will publish next year. She focuses much of her writing on children's literature -- her job as a family literacy specialist keeps her busy working with preschool and early grade-school children.

Also nominated for the poetry award are Austin Clark of Toronto for Where the Sun Shines Best, Adam Dickinson of St. Catharines, Ont., for The Polymers, Halifax's Don Domanski for Bite Down Little Whisper and Russell Thornton of Vancouver for Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain.

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 C13

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