Cobourg Poetry Workshop
feature poet

Bridget Campion



A Brief Biography:
Bridget Campion is a member of the Cobourg Poetry Workshop, born and raised in Niagara, went to school in Toronto and stayed for 20 years - along the way was married, had four children, earned a PhD, worked in hospitals as a clinical ethicist, and taught at the University of Toronto and Toronto School of Theology.

On-Line with Bridget Campion

What brought you to Cobourg?
I was looking for more space and a more manageable way of life. That was fifteen years ago - a blink of the eye in Cobourg time. Now, I'm no longer married, have two children in university, two at home, and I continue to do bioethics and I teach ethics to nursing students at Trent University in Peterborough. You, know ... life is good.

What drew you to poetry?
I was in high school. I was also writing novels and plays, as well as learning to play the guitar - a heady time when anything seemed possible. In university I wrote columns and reviews for the college newspaper (eventually becoming editor-in-chief) as well as fiction for the college literary magazine - but very little poetry. As an adult and a wife, I gradually lost my voice, but I continued writing because something inside of me needed to. But my writing was covert, not real. It didn't count. More than anything, my return to poetry has been a way for me to regain my voice. It's the most truthful form of writing that I can think of - which is probably why it fell by the wayside for such a long time and why it is so important for me now.

Describe your poetry
I think it sheds light on the familiar - Queen Anne's lace by the roadside, a grandfather dying, the lights of Cobourg harbour. I tend to be Aristotelian rather than a Platonist (of course, we can ask how much of a Platonist was Plato?) And ground my life in experience rather than ideas. I work with things I see or come across and my hope is that, through my poetry, I can bring the reader/listener into the experience.

How do your poems evolve?
For me, poetry takes time. I don't have the skill or confidence to introduce a poem with, "Here's a little something I wrote on the way over here tonight ..." I start with an image, a phrase, an experience, and begin jotting down words. I actually get a sketch pad out so that I'll have lots of room. And then I get down to work. If I can get an hour at a time to do this, I'm happy. But a poem isn't simply about getting an experience across. I think about the words I am using, the cadence. I read it aloud as I go along, going through many, many drafts over the course of days or weeks or months. Then, when it is ready, I'll leave it, work on another poem, occasionally sneaking a look at it from time to time, just to see. And then, at some point, it will be finished.

What inspires your poetry?
Oh, nature, without a doubt, is my biggest inspiration. Walking through the woods, along the lakeshore, through the hills - just letting nature speak. It's wonderful. And the experience of family is also an important source of inspiration. So is a sense of connection between the present and the past - whether it is found in my own memories or in the experience of being somewhere where others have walked or lived before me.

Your thoughts on the Cobourg Poetry Workshop
I can't say enough about it. The energy is very creative and supportive. We're all on task - we're about poetry. It's that simple. I love the diversity of voices. I also, of course, like the poetry. Every month, when we meet at The Cat and the Fiddle, there are phrases that catch my breath, or a turn in the narration or description that takes me by surprise and is utterly delightful. At the same time, there is a sense of belonging and acceptance. The CPW made my return to poetry possible and I am deeply grateful to this community of poets for it.

Who are your favourite poets?
I'm not well versed in poetry and I'm always appreciative when people share gems of poetry. I made a presentation to the Workshop comparing the WWI poetry of Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon and their contrasting war experiences. This led me to Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves as well, their voices shedding light on an event that occurred almost a century ago. I think Christian Bok has written a tour de force with Eunoia while Dylan Thomas takes my breath away. It's hard for me to believe that a mere mortal wrote Fern Hill.

What are you reading these days?
Well, I usually have a couple of books on the go. I'm just finishing Shakespeare (The Illustrated and Updated Edition) by Bill Bryson which asks the question, How much do we really know about William Shakespeare. The answer, not much. And I'm just starting Monarchy: England and Her Rulers from the Tudors to the Windsors by David Sharky.

Whom do you admire in life?
I have to say, I find something to admire in most people I meet. Really. And I hope I convey this to them. For instance, this past fall I taught ethics to nursing students at Trent University. Two hundred students - some fresh out of high school. Some with degrees already, some who had been away from school for many years. To me, each student displayed courage, dedication. They were doing 3 days in the classroom, 2 days in the clinic, plus having families, jobs, other responsibilities; that had compassion and truly cared about their patients and wanted to help. I really admired those students very much.

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