Karen Solie was born in Moose Jaw in the province of Saskatchewan. She initially wanted a career as a veternarian but was wise enough to drop that plan when she discovered that she had a literary gift. Her first publication, in 1995, was in a prestigious anthology, Breathing Fire: Canada’s New Poets. This was followed in 2001 by her first collection, Short Haul Engine, which was received with great acclaim. It was awarded the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and nominated for three other prizes as well. In 2005 she published her second collection, Modern and Normal, and this was followed in 2009 by Pigeon, for which she won three prizes, including the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize.
Karen Solie’s poems constantly expose the fragility of the basis of trust on which modern humanity relies. The title of her second book, Modern and Normal, should also be seen as an ironic allusion to disturbing undercurrents. ‘All that is certain is night lasts longer than the day’ is the title of one of the poems she intends to read at the Poetry International Festival 2012. In it, Solie reflects on her past and on the child she once was. She comes to the conclusion that that past is unattainable: “Still, you, / as you stand now, have never been there.” Here too life is full of uncertainties.
Nonetheless, her verses definitely don’t leave us with a sense of someone who suffers from inner conflict. Their message is generally conveyed in a calm, parlando tone with a classical effect, which gives them the character of distanced reflections. Moreover, landscape, claims an important role. But it is never described without intent, and it always refers to a state of mind. Take, for instance, the superb poem ‘Postscript’, in which the poet daydreams about a lover who has left. Nature becomes the vehicle for her grief and her longing for peace and harmony, right through to the final, superb conclusion: “as late afternoon bent / to the rangeland and laid its shining weapons down”.
Short Haul Engine, Brick Books, London, Ontario, 2001
Modern and Normal, Brick Books, London, Ontario, 2005
Pigeon, House of Anansi Press, Toronto, 2009
Eating Dirt, Smoking Lung Press, Vancouver, 1998
The Shooter’s Bible, Junction Books, Toronto, 2004