Gillian Wigmore: strong, authentic and uniquely northern

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Gillian Wigmore: strong, authentic and uniquely northern

👤Rob Budde 🕔Nov 25, 2013

In previous columns I have written my opinions about how important it is for a community to read and celebrate its own authors. Too often I see small communities turn away from the local in favour of a perception that writing only happens in cities and the South.

I have previously profiled writers such as Ken Belford and Eden Robinson. In this column, I would like to introduce to you poet-novelist Gillian Wigmore, a bright and energetic part of the Prince George literary landscape for almost a decade now.

Jill, as she is known to friends, is witty, strong and committed to her writing. She grew up a vet’s daughter in Vanderhoof, BC and graduated from the University of Victoria in 1999. She first began publishing in magazines Geist, CV2, filling station and the Inner Harbour Review, but perhaps more influential in her development was the publication of her chapbook home when it moves you by Creekstone Press in 2005. A beautiful little book, home when it moves you established Wigmore as a professional writer and was my first introduction to her as she moved to Prince George.

Wigmore won the 2008 ReLit Award for her work Soft Geography and was also shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay BC Book Prize. Wigmore is now firmly established as a nationally known poet and has come to represent this place when she travels abroad. This makes me happy.

Wigmore’s poems are about this place, northern BC, her family, and the quiet tensions of everyday life and love. They have been described as “authentic” but I am suspicious of that word; instead I would suggest that Wigmore’s place-based poetry is one of many valuable voices in northern BC. I appreciate her views as they come from the perspective of a mother and a seasoned traveller of BC’s trails and waterways. As Robert Hilles remarks, “They reveal the tender truths behind the rough edges of small-town life.”

In a recent interview with me, Jill described northern BC writing as “a brand new country waiting to be explored. There are so many exciting new voices up here, so many people trying new things, experimenting, going forth fearlessly. It’s a great place to write from—people are supportive, the landscape is inspiring, there is no one to tell me ‘no.’ I feel like it’s all potential in the North—that arts, culture and travel are the real natural resources yet to be tapped.” 

I like that Wigmore doesn’t put up with my highfalutin academic pedestal (I definitely need reality checks once in a while!). She forges her own way and creates a literary community of her own as she goes.

In April 2014, Grayling, a novella, will be published with MotherTongue Publishing. A book of poems is forthcoming from Brick Books in fall 2014. Lots to look forward to from this regional ambassador.