New Brunswick authors share thought-provoking stories

Two local writers visit Mount Allison to discuss personal hardships in their literary collections

The library theatre played host to an intimate reading on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Emerging local authors Kerry Lee Powell and Kayla Geitzler came to address a receptive crowd with readings from their recent works.

The theatre allowed for a personal feel that, along with the sparse attendance, created a welcoming experience. The event was brought together by Christl Verduyn, a Mount Allison Canadian studies and English professor.

The first writer to speak was Kerry Lee Powell, who comes from Moncton. Powell is a short story and poetry anthologist who has published two compilations. The first, Inheritance, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. Powell read from her second book, The Wreckage, which was published in 2015 and focuses on the aftermath of tragedy.

“A lot of [my] stories, while they do have violence in them, delve more into the aftermath of post-traumatic stress,” said Powell, introducing her short story. Post-traumatic stress hits close to home for the writer. When she was 18 years old, her father took his own life. Her first published compilation focused on self harm and the suffering that ensues. “I’ve always been concerned about trauma and its effects,” Powell said.

Verduyn described The Wreckage as containing “lots of unbelievable believable stuff” and went further in describing Powell’s work as “all too realistic” in what she calls the wrong side of the tracks. “I’ve just finished reading [The Wreckage] but I’m still really in the grips of it.”

After telling the audience she was stopping the story halfway through, Powell turned the chat over to the crowd for questions. An audience member in the front row put her hand up and said, “I’d like you to finish the story.” Powell obliged and read the end of her work.

Kayla Geitzler read from her collection of poetry, The Light Feeling Under Your Feet, which has yet to be released. Geitzler’s collection is expected to come out in early 2018. The muse for this collection isn’t a conventional one: Geitzler wrote the poems while under contract for three separate cruise ships. She specifically focuses her writing on the difficult environment that can be found wading offshore. “I would work between 14- and 21-hour days [and] aside from that there is a hierarchy of racism as well as classism,” Geitzler said. These difficult themes, along with speaking out against sexism in this work place, makes these poems grittily unique in their depiction of sexism.

Andrea Beverley, an English professor who attended the event, weighed in: “I felt grateful at her willingness to so strongly denounce misogyny and violence in her day-to-day workplace.… [Geitzler] was pointing it out in a context we might not have thought of before.”

Both the English and Canadian studies departments are working hard to bring students opportunities to interact with noteworthy local authors. “I was sorry about turnout to last week’s reading,” said Verduyn. “For those who did turn out, it was another opportunity to hear from a couple of New Brunswick’s writers.” Talks like these can increase our understanding of Canadian literature.

According to Beverly, interactions like these “complement and enhance the things we’re doing in classes by engaging with [similar] themes. It can really bring [the literature] off the page.” You can find Powell’s released works online, while Geitzler’s will be available February 2018.

Max Chapman