CSL Interview Blog
Vivian Hansen is an accomplished poet & freelance writer with a wide variety of publications such as A Bitter Mood of Clouds and Leylines of My Flesh. Vivian uses her voice to advocate for societal subjects like gender and racial equality. Throughout the course of her career Vivian has had an outstanding presence within the Writing community. Vivian has dedicated herself to cultivating individuals through her involvement as a Teacher. Vivian has taught Creative Writing at various institutions from The University of Calgary to the Mount Royal University. Additionally, Vivian has served as President of The Writers Guild of Alberta, member of the League of Canadian Poets, and even co-founded the Calgary Women’s Writing Project.
Q: In 2017 you received an award for Continuing and Professional Education. You have stated that your teaching philosophy is/should be a mentorship, and facilitation of experiential learning. What have been your most effective approaches to help and encourage students develop their skills?
A: My teaching philosophy remains the same as when I first carved it out for that award. In creative writing, one must facilitate the stories of others, allowing them to grow and honour their own experiences. I cannot be the ‘talking head’ as a voice of control in the classroom. There is information to impart, but the student of creative writing must learn to integrate narrative and poetic conventions into their unique voice.
Q: Has your idea of what poetry is, or should be, changed over the years? What have been some of your most distinguished influential experiences throughout that time?
A: I can only say that I have changed, along with my poetry. I am better at the craft; at knowing when to blow life into the words. I am so grateful that I have had a prolonged sense of journey in that mastery. I have much to learn as well, and I have been a practicing, published poet for almost 20 years. My life as a person of ethnicity (first generation Danish Canadian), my female take on things, and my personal experiences have all informed my writing. I would say that “place” – as in geographical settings of western Europe, Denmark, and western Canada is a high-octane energy for me in my writing.
Q: Are there specific authors, books or poems you continually go back to?
A: I always go back to Don Domanski, Don McKay, Lorna Crozier, Patrick Lane (poets) and so many others who have influenced me. Wayne Grady, of recent fame “Up From Freedom”, has been a major mentor in my life. He has contributed to my understanding of creative nonfiction pedagogy. My editor Micheline Maylor (Frontenac) is incredible. Richard Harrison’s (GG Award for Poetry, 2017) editing and writing has had a profound effect on my writing.
Q: What is the importance in addressing societies contemporary issues in your work?
A: Poets are shamen in countries like India. At least, that is what I have been told by people who have occupied a third world space. I am not entirely surprised to learn this, as I feel like a shaman sometimes when I am processing a poem. Poetry as a genre is uniquely situated to provide answers, and relief, from contemporary issues. I feel as though I am committing to that healing territory as a practicing poet.
Vivian’s contributions have proven she’s as passionate as she is talented. What I found particularly admirable about Vivian is how she uses her voice, influences and experiences to challenge, connect and inspire.