Final event for Montreal poet John Asfour at Kogawa House, with Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson



Historic Joy Kogawa House celebrates success of its first writer-in-residence


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On April 20, inaugural Kogawa House writer-in-residence John Afour welcomed Shelagh Rogers, Jean Baird, George Bowering and George Stanley to Kogawa House for a joint Purdy Party with three BC Book Prize Poetry nominees Daphne Marlatt, George Stanly and Nilofar Shidmehr – photo Todd Wong

Kogawa House writer-in-residence John Asfour leaves a trail of inspiration behind as he packs his bags to return to Montreal on Sunday, May 31.

Final reading with Gary Geddes and Ann Eriksson on Saturday, May 30th.

his residency in Vancouver Asfour has hosted a number of writers for
readings at the house, including Judy Rebick, Ann Diamond, and Daphne
Marlatt, George Stanley, and Nilofar Shidmehr—three poets nominated for
this year’s Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. On Saturday, May 30, Gary
Geddes and Ann Eriksson join him for a final reading.


has also welcomed visits from writing classes and he has coached
numerous individual writers. Following an evening class at the house,
SFU Writers’ Studio lyric poetry instructor Rachel Rose wrote: “John
has been so generous with his time, meeting many students for
individual consults.” Another writer said: “I had a very good,
productive meeting with John and learned more in meeting with him than
I had learned in a whole year studying creative writing at university.
He taught me how to edit.”


Asfour’s frequent writing consultations did not keep him completing a book of poems entitled Blindfold,
which is partly autobiographical—born in Lebanon, Asfour was blinded at
age 13 during the Civil War in 1958. His poems explore feelings of loss
and displacement and suggest that the disabled often feel like
foreigners in their own land, hampered by prejudice (sometimes
well-meaning), communications barriers and the sense of “limited
personality” that characterizes the immigrant experience.


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John Asfour was featured at the Vancouver Public Library on May 19th with Neworld Theatre's Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong read his poems in English – photo Todd Wong

in Vancouver Asfour also presented poetry readings to a variety of
audiences, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind,
Christianne’s Lyceum of Art and Literature, the BC Muslim School and in
collaboration with Neworld Theatre at the Vancouver Public Library. On
Thursday, 58 students from Killarney Secondary School will practice
their creative writing while scattered over the lawns, patio, and deck
at Kogawa house.


is the author of four books of poetry in English and two in Arabic. He
translated the poetry of Muhammad al-Maghut into English under the title Joy Is Not My Profession (Véhicule Press), and he selected, edited and introduced the landmark anthology When the Words Burn: An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry, 1945–1987 (Cormorant Books).


Further information can be found on the website of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society at or by calling (604) 263-6586.





Kogawa House Society: Ann-Marie Metten (604) 263-6586


Notes to Editors:

1. Information on Historic Joy Kogawa House


Joy Kogawa House is the former home of the Canadian author Joy Kogawa
(born 1935). It stands as a cultural and historical reminder of the
expropriation of property that all Canadians of Japanese descent
experienced after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Between 2003 and
2006, a grassroots committee fund raised in a well-publicized national
campaign, and with the help of The Land Conservancy of BC, a non-profit
land trust, managed to purchase the house in 2006.


with Joy Kogawa, the various groups decided that the wisest and best
use of the property would be to establish it as a place where writers
could live and work. Following the models of the writer-in-residence
programs in place at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat in Dawson City ,
Yukon , and Roderick Haig-Brown House in Campbell River , BC , the
Historic Joy Kogawa House writer-in-residence program brings
well-regarded professional writers in touch with a local community of
writers, readers, editors, and librarians. While in residence, the
writer works to enrich the literary community around him or her and to
foster an appreciation for Canadian writing through programs that
involve students, other writers and members of the general public.

in March 2009, as a partner with TLC, the Historic Joy Kogawa Society
will begin hosting writers to live and work in the house on a paid
basis. Funding is provided through the Michael Audain Foundation for
the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the Canada Council and through donations
from the general public.

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