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REF NO.: 115

SUBJECT: Poetry is “language off the leash” says Pratt lecturer

DATE: Feb. 28

Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, John Steffler, will deliver Memorial University’s 2008 Pratt Lecture on Saturday, March 15.
Mr. Steffler, who recently retired from teaching English and Creative Writing at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, will explore the special value of poetry in contemporary society during this public lecture, titled The Uses of Poetry.
Ironically, it is the commercial uselessness of poetry, Mr. Steffler argues, that is the foundation of its value to human kind. Since poets are in no danger of making money for themselves or others, they can be as honest and natural as they please.
 “Poetry really is able to express the state of our culture’s soul, our fears, desires, vanities, neuroses, nobilities, shames, obsessions, and wisdoms: the whole insides,” says Mr. Steffler. He goes on to say, “Poetry brings out people’s private experience, puts people in touch with their inner selves, and refreshes their awareness of the outside world.”
Poetry, John Steffler maintains, is the underpinning of all literature as it makes the most exact and intense use of language. It also acts as an energy source that can rejuvenate individuals and keep them in touch with the life of the imagination.
Originally from Ontario, John Steffler has lived in Corner Brook since 1974, when he began teaching at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. Since then he has been a vital contributor to the literary community of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is the author of several books of poetry and the novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright, which won the Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Thomas Raddall Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book.
Professor Andrew Loman, a member of the Pratt Committee along with Dr. Don Nichol, says that the Department of English Language and Literature is eagerly looking forward to Mr. Steffler’s visit.
“Mr. Steffler combines national stature with strong connections to Newfoundland, and he also has longstanding ties to our department,” says Dr. Loman. “We’ve been lucky enough to host some eminent lecturers in the 40 years since the Pratt Lecture was inaugurated; Mr. Steffler will be an excellent addition to this company.”
The Pratt Lecture is sponsored by the Dean of Arts and the Department of English Language and Literature and is named for Newfoundland poet E. J. Pratt. Past Pratt lecturers include Northrop Frye, Ursula LeGuin and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney.
Mr. Steffler will deliver the Pratt Lecture on Saturday, March 15 at 8 p.m. in the Inco Innovation Centre, room IIC-2001. The lecture will be followed by a reception in the Beatrice Watts Boardroom, room IIC-2014 also in the Inco Innovation Centre. In addition, Mr. Steffler will read from his poetry on Friday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Petro-Canada Hall. The reading is open to the public and parking is available in Area 15.

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For further information please contact Janet Harron, communications co-ordinator, Faculty of Arts, Memorial University of Newfoundland at 737-8292, or


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