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Alice Major
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Alice Major infuses her latest book, Knife on Snow, with the patterns of science, myth and human experience. Her work links the local with earth’s history and the distant heavens.
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This is a gallery of work specially created for #ThinAir2023. Spend time with writers you love, and discover some new favourites! Ceci est une galerie de travaux spécialement créée pour #ThinAir2023. Passez du temps avec des écrivains que vous aimez et découvrez de nouveaux favoris!

Alice Major's 12th collection, Knife on Snow, continues her lifelong exploration of how poetry and science intersect as different but complementary ways of observing the world’s complex patterns. Her work has been described as “expansive, coherent and provocative” and “poetry with a brain as well as a heart.” 

Her writing has earned numerous awards such as the Pat Lowther prize and a National Magazine Award Gold Medal. Recently she has been a contributor to "Reimagining Fire", a project to bring visual artists, writers and scientists together to create work related to climate change, and was invited to read at the UN’s COP15 conference on biodiversity in Montreal.

Alice grew up in Toronto but came west to work as a reporter for the Williams Lake Tribune, before arriving in Edmonton, on the territory now called Treaty 6.  Here, she found a welcoming arts community that she has benefited from and worked for ever since. In 2005, she was selected as the city’s first poet laureate and founded the Edmonton Poetry Festival. She has also been recognized with the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta.

Interview / Entrevue

I can’t remember ever hiding books from my parents—except whatever book I had open at the point when my mother would come into our room and say, “Reading again? For heaven’s sake get outside and look at something else besides print!” So I’d hide the book as I sneaked past her to read it on the back step.

Derek Walcott wrote “Every poet has a particular twilight in his soul…,” which to me is a magical line. It’s from What the Twilight Says, his book about poetry and poets, and one of the main points he makes in it is that, as poets, we inevitably come from a particular landscape, a given territory that informs our work even if we’re not writing about that place. (Another line I love from that book is “…. provinciality is the natural truth of every poetry.”)

I know that my twilight is the twilight of this particular latitude—where I live now in Edmonton, I’m at almost exactly the same degree north as my childhood home in Scotland. I felt a profound sense of recognition when I came to live here after growing up further south in Canada, even though so much else about the landscape and climate is different. And light fascinates me—the physics of the electromagnetic field that carries light through the universe, the way it interacts with our brains, the cycles from solstice to solstice.

I suppose I’m a conflicted desk person. I have one clean-ish table where I work downstairs, and tidy up when we want to use it for dinner. Then I have my office upstairs, which looks like I opened the door and flung in a manic chimpanzee.

The worries swing wildly, from “Will I ever write another book?” to “I hope this isn’t rosacea breaking out on my nose again…” But I suppose I’m most concerned about what humans are doing to the planet. In my own lifetime, the population of the planet has gone from 2.5 billion—which had taken all of homo sapiens history to reach—to 8 billion today. And the impacts of that on our environment are profound. They dwarf all my little worries. Though at 3 am, they somehow seem to be all the same size!

It would be really good to get the basement cleaned out.

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Dr Sam Illingworth is an award-wining science communicator and Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University in the UK, where his research involves using poetry to engender meaningful dialogue between scientists and society.  Sam is also poet, game designer, Chief Executive Editor of Geoscience Communication and founder of Consilience, the world's first peer-reviewed science poetry journal.

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