The three selves of Gina Mercer

By Leigh Rigozzi and Stephanie Eslake


Author and former Island editor Gina Mercer has been named the 2016 recipient of our Prince Edward Island residency program, and it’ll see her work on a collection of eco-poetry and interviews all around the theme of water.

Gina has spent three decades teaching creative writing and literature and has been published through her poetry collections, academic books, and novel Parachute Silk (2001).


You’re a writer, teacher and author. How do you juggle the various strands of your career?

Well, most times my three professional selves get along just fine. In fact, they feed each other, nurture each other. I learn things through the process of teaching, for example, which then sparks something which proves vital for my writing. I get so much joy from releasing, working with other people’s creativity.

The trickiest one of the three is my editor-self. She can be so bossy. So if she enters the room and starts getting too bolshie when I’m trying to write, I have to lock her in the bathroom for a while. Later, after the free-flowing writing is accomplished, I invite her back in to do her wonderfully necessary work of analysis and shaping.

What are the main concerns you explore in your writing?

One of my students once said rather quizzically: ‘Gina, you’ll write a poem about anything’. That was after reading one of my poems about a dental hygienist. Not sure if it was a compliment. But it’s true – I think anything can be the kernel for a poem.

Currently, I’m exploring the emerging field of eco-poetry. So I’m writing poems which celebrate (and sometimes lament) our natural environment. There’s a strong awareness of climate change and its horrifying potential beneath the surface of my writing at the moment. My latest book Weaving Nests with Smoke and Stone (2015) pays close attention to the diverse and amazing lives of birds. Can you imagine a world without their daily companionship?

What are your plans during the Prince Edward Island exchange? What do you hope to accomplish during the residency?

I’ll be working on a collection of ecopoetry around the theme of water: swimming, tears, stingrays, ice melt, seals, scuba diving, jellyfish, lakes, fishers, shoals, underwater communities, rain (and its percussion); all will burble their way into what I hope will be a brimming collection. While I’m on Prince Edward Island, I would also like to interview people who work with water or on the water and then develop some monologues in their voice. I have a passion for monologues.

Am also really looking forward to connecting with other writers on this fascinating island on the other side of the world. Conversations with writers are my favourite food.


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