Canada's former parliamentary poet laureate Fred Wah read at Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson at a celebration of creative writing education in the West Kootenay.

Canada's former parliamentary poet laureate Fred Wah read at Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson at a celebration of creative writing education in the West Kootenay.

Kootenay teacher trio hosts literary celebration

Fred Wah, Leesa Dean and Sonnet L’Abbé read during a celebration of nearly 50 years of creative writing education in the West Kootenay.

Oxygen Art Centre was filled to capacity for last week’s triple reading from Canada’s former parliamentary poet laureate Fred Wah and newcomers Leesa Dean and Sonnet L’Abbé, who were celebrating nearly 50 years of creative writing education in the West Kootenay.

Dean is the latest edition to Selkirk College’s creative writing program, while L’Abbé will be teaching the UBC course Writing from the Ground Up at the newly opened campus at 266 Baker St.

The evening was hosted by Winlaw poet Tom Wayman, who along with local editor Verna Relkoff was largely responsible for facilitating UBC’s expansion into Nelson.

“We’re really proud of how far we’ve come,” said Wayman, who also taught creative writing before the closure of David Thompson University Centre.

Dean opened the reading with “Shelter from the Storm”, a Halifax-set short story from her upcoming collection Waiting for the Cyclone, which will be released in 2016 from Brindle & Glass.

That was followed by some poetry from Sonnet’s Shakespeare, an erasure project L’Abbé is working on that involves “colonizing” Shakespeare’s text with her own contributions.

L’Abbé will also be serving as a writer-in-residence, and she encouraged people in the community to come to her for creative input.

The final reading was from Wah, who taught from 1967 to 1989 in both Nelson and Castlegar at David Thompson University Centre and Selkirk College.

He shared poems from his latest poetry collection Scree, which is a sample of his early work between 1962 and 1991.

The trio then answered questions from the audience and spoke about the roles of teaching and writing in their lives.

All three spoke effusively about the burgeoning literary scene and shared thoughts on their creative processes and their teaching philosophies.

The event was co-sponsored but the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

This story will appear in the Friday issue of the West Kootenay Advertiser.