Poet and novelist Anne Michaels is a deeply private woman who resists her books being “read through the screen of my life.” Anne is a firm believer that “we read differently when we know even the most banal facts of an author’s life” and thus attempts to keep herself “as far out of it as I can.”
This does not, however, mean that Anne’s work doesn’t deal deeply with the personal and private. Fugitive Pieces, her first novel and winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, explores the tension between private and public – between the personal story and the public history – within the context of the Holocaust.
Her latest work, Correspondences, beautifully folds out from between the covers, accordion-style. It offers a book-length poem on one side and portraits of great twentieth-century thinkers by artist Bernice Eisenstein on the other. The poem and portraits dialogue with one another and can be read in multiple directions. Anne has not just returned to poetry; she has created something unique and moving in an age-old form.
As Quill & Quire noted in a review, “A profound interest in language – she excavates words for sounds and meaning – and powerful images are evident in her prose and poetry alike.”
Her creative output doesn’t stop at the edge of the page. Her mother claims Anne could read music before she could read words and she has composed musical scores for theatre.
Of her creative life, she says, “when you put a tremendous amount of love into your work, as in any relationship, you can’t know – you can only hope – that what you’re offering will in some way be received. You shape your love to artistic demands, to the rigors of your genre. But still, it’s a labor of love, and it’s the nature of love that you must give it freely.”
Anne’s works of poetry include The Weight of Oranges, which won the Commonwealth Prize for the Americas; Miner’s Pond, which received the Canadian Authors Association Award and was shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Award; Skin-Divers; and Poems. As well as Fugitive Pieces, which won the Orange Prize, the Trillium Book Award, The Guardian Fiction Prize, and the Books in Canada First Novel Award, she has published the novel, The Winter Vault. Her work has appeared in translation around the world.
Anne lives in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Marzena Pogorzaly