Joanna Lilley

Hearing Voices: Poems of Extinction


Every extinct species has its watershed, the moment at which it's no longer flourishing but on the decline. No species will exist in the same form forever; the ebb and flow of evolution is always creating change. As a tribute to creatures who once thrived in water habitats, Joanna Lilley will read three poems about species who are no longer with us: the ivory-billed woodpecker of the bayou who some humans still refuse to believe has gone, the hippopotamus-like Desmostylus hesperus and the Chinese river dolphin, who was destroyed by the industrialization of the Yangtze River.

Each poem is from Joanna Lilley's new poetry collection, Endlings, which is all about extinct species. Endlings was published by Turnstone Press in March 2020.


Joanna Lilley is the author of three poetry collections: Endlings (Turnstone Press), If There Were Roads (Turnstone Press) and The Fleece Era (Brick Books) which was nominated for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her novel, Worry Stones (Ronsdale Press), was longlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award and she's also the author of a short story collection, The Birthday Books (Hagios Press). Joanna has given readings and workshops as far afield as Alaska and Iceland. From Britain, Joanna now lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, with gratitude on the Traditional Territories of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council.

Laurie Graham

What Is Here: How Poetry Might Address Ecological Grief


This presentation posits a craft-focused understanding of how poetry might approach the large, difficult subject of environmental collapse without succumbing to despair, resorting to polemic, or retreating into silence. Coming at this topic from a settler standpoint, “What Is Here” addresses how ecological grief exists alongside a lack of deep history in or knowledge of place, and it examines what sort of “moral ecology” settlers need to cultivate in order to properly approach what we’re losing, what we’re destroying, and what we don’t yet know well. This presentation posits that poetry might be in a good position to meet this formidable and urgent obligation.


Laurie D. Graham grew up in Treaty 6 territory (Sherwood Park, Alberta), and she currently lives in Nogojiwanong, in the treaty and traditional territory of the Mississauga Anishinaabeg (Peterborough, Ontario), where she is a writer, an editor, and the publisher of Brick magazine. Her books are Rove and Settler Education. A third full-length book, a long poem, will be out with M&S in 2022.

Laurie’s maternal family comes from around Derwent, Alberta, by way of Ukraine and Poland, and her paternal family comes from around Semans, Saskatchewan, by way of Ireland and Scotland. She has about a century of history in Canada. Laurie acknowledges that she is an invader on this continent, that theft of land is what has allowed her and her family’s presence here, and that settlers don’t have permission to be here in this way. It’s time for us to think about returning what we’ve taken.

Kai McKenzie

Watershed Moment


"I felt as though my daughter was swimming upstream toward me while the force of the current was pulling and pushing her away from me, buffeting and bruising her whole body and being. Her little mouth was open and contorted. She twisted in fear and confusion. I did what any parent would do in that moment. I dove in after her." This is a passage from my creative non-fiction piece dealing with the moment that I fully recognized my daughter and the consequences of that recognition. This is also a response to Rita Wong's poem "North Shore Sewage Story," in which she likens transgender children to sewage and casts them as the "chemical consequences" of "phthalates & flame retardants / birth control pills & antidepressants." In contrast to Wong's idea that transgender children are distortions of nature, I celebrate my transgender daughter as the essence of nature's power and creativity, the unique human who created my own life's watershed moment and set me on the path to healing.


Kai earned a Ph.D in Folklore with a thesis on “Mountaineering and the Nature of Myth” in 2004, and completed a project for the Royal BC Museum in 2005 called “Against the Current: Interconnected Lives of Salmon and People on the Skeena River.” After working with transgender children for the past fourteen years, Kai has developed an interest in naming the important contributions that transgender people make to our understanding of human nature and humankind’s biological foundations. Kai is currently researching connections between genre and the aesthetics of two spirit and transgender experience at the University of Saskatchewan and helping to teach freshman English.