The power of metaphor

Jun 2nd, 2015

Janet Harron

The power of metaphor

Graduate student Alexandra Gilbert has had quite a year. She spent the 2014-15 academic year as the president of the Graduate Students Union (GSU), received several prizes for her writing, published seven poems (including one in The Fiddlehead, Canada’s longest living literary journal), and she has the end of her PhD thesis in sight.

“I had been involved with the GSU for some time as the English rep on the Board of Directors and had wanted to take on a greater leadership role,” explained Ms. Gilbert. “I think we made excellent progress this year towards getting a university ombudsperson and I thoroughly enjoyed working with Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Murrin (the dean pro tempore, School of Graduate Studies). The biggest challenge is that like any diverse group, the opinion of graduate students isn’t unanimous but you try to speak for as many as possible.”

Writing poetry alongside her thesis on the island metaphor in Newfoundland literature has been a positive experience.

“Poetry is largely about metaphor as is my research. I find writing poetry pushes my thinking forward in terms of my research and keeps it fresh,” said Ms. Gilbert, who is a new associate member of the League of Canadian Poets. Seven of her poems were published this year – six in The Prairie Journal and one, a sonnet entitled “On Signal Hill,” in The Fiddlehead.

"Publishing in The Fiddlehead is quite an accomplishment for a beginner," noted poet and professor Mary Dalton."It's gratifying to watch Alexandra Gilbert's development as a poet, and to see the varieties of affirmation her work has received over the past year. I first taught Alexandra in an academic grad course on poetry; later she enrolled in the advanced creative writing undergraduate course in poetry. She found working with set forms in that course highly liberating---a paradox about poetic form---and she has been working with form since then. She, along with some of her peers, has been making great strides in a short time."

Ms. Dalton notes that three students who have studied creative writing at Memorial students recently received prizes in the spring 2015 NL Arts and Letters Awards, all in poetry: Randy Drover, Katie Vautour, and Jackie Hynes. 

Ms. Gilbert also managed the SPARKS Literary Festival’s poetry contest this year and founded her own writing group called the New Poets’ Network.

“Newfoundland is a place that really values poetry and writers,” said Ms. Gilbert who characterizes support from the local writing community as “vibrant and innovative.”

On Signal Hill (published in the winter 2015 edition of The Fiddlehead)

On Signal Hill, wind will blow right through you.

Stay on the path: barren cliffs are steep, caves

are deep, icy tides creep in, the seventh

wave will pull you in, deathly cold, falling to

endless depths. On Signal Hill, narrow pathways

lead upwards: wind will take your breath,

push you up against jagged, tumbling rocks,

ruins of old barracks, soldiers’ lookouts,

ghosts of freezing sentinels watching

as grey dusk falls before the long walk

downhill, past long rows of houses about

to turn inwards, facing night, the sea vanishing.

Below the steep hill, sheltered, the city lies

dreaming under slanting darkness, distant skies.