WEST HANTS, N.S. — A Hants County poet shortlisted for a prestigious Canadian literary prize will find out Nov. 1 if she takes home first place.
Julia McCarthy, who calls Upper Kennetcook home, released her third book of poetry earlier this year and it's receiving rave reviews. Most recently, All the Names Between was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.
“I don't think anybody ever publishes a book and says, 'well, this is going to win or be shortlisted.' You just don't think that way,” said McCarthy in a phone interview as she described the surprise she felt after hearing the news.
“If it happens, you're lucky, and there's five of us on the shortlist — so five happy people. It's a nice place to be,” she added.
The other finalists in the poetry category include Lorna Crozier (What the Soul Doesn't Want), Nora Gould (Selah), Richard Harrison (On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood), and Benjamin Hertwig (Slow War). The winner of the poetry category will receive $25,000.
The literary awards are presented annually to authors in seven English-language categories and seven French-language categories. The awards will be announced on Nov. 1.
The book's cover artwork is by Wayne Boucher, an Annapolis Royal artist.
“His work is stunning,” she said.
McCarthy describes her style of poetry as more lyrical than narrative and derives inspiration from her rural surroundings.
“It's not a story. I'm not telling a story about my own personal life in a biographical sense, or confessional sense,” she said. “I would just say lyrical poetry rooted in nature and life.”
McCarthy, who grew up in Toronto and has lived across Canada and the United States, put down stakes in Upper Kennetcook about 20 years ago. She said she found a home in need of repair that was situated on a property with 6.5 acres of forest. For her, it was the ideal setting to begin the manuscript for her first book.
“That's been the focus of my life — to pursue writing poetry — and it doesn't make any money, which means you've got to do other things to pay the bills,” McCarthy said.
“I don't have a career, as such. I ran my own studio,” she said, adding, “I was a potter for 20 years, I guess, altogether. I ran a studio here in my home for 15 years and I wholesaled my work to galleries across Canada and the United States. I made a living. It was a simple living but it allowed me time to read and write, which was my priority.”
McCarthy said she enjoys the peace and tranquility that living in the countryside affords.
“I spend a lot of time walking the land and have quite a strong relationship with everything. That's really probably where the poems come from — that, and the night sky,” said McCarthy.
“I can step outside my bedroom door onto the deck and see all of the constellations... that's fantastic. It's very grounding, very orienting,” she said. “I don't know how people can live in the city and not see the night sky.”
McCarthy will be holding an official book launch in Halifax at the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia headquarters (1113 Marginal Rd.) on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. She's also booked to travel to Ontario and Quebec for readings.
Her latest book of poetry, and prior two books — Stormthrower and the award-winning Return from Erebus — are available online and at bookstores across the country.
For more information about McCarthy, visit www.brickbooks.ca/bookauthors/julia-mccarthy/