I Can’t Even Imagine Not Being Here by Carolyn Marie Souaid

I can’t even imagine not being here.

So ends my third poetry collection, Snow Formations, which, on one level, is about honouring and appreciating the present moment, and about using the senses, fully. About cultivating an awareness for the hushed presence of each and every living thing.

I can’t even imagine not being here.

I struggled to get that ending down on paper. The manuscript was nearly done, but it was missing something. I was on the last poem, in search of the right ending. One line. Something weighty.

I was at a friend’s house and we were talking about death and the statistical probability of heaven, all that deep stuff you talk about over tea on a cold winter’s day. I was thinking about all those viewings I had been to in my lifetime, how the faces of people in their coffins never quite look like they are just asleep. I couldn’t for the life of me fathom what it would be like to not exist. To be that inert thing someone else is looking at – and not to­­ know it. To never again drink a good strong espresso or write another poem. I couldn’t get my head around the concept of not being. Out of the blue, I blurted it out.

I can’t even imagine not being here.

Now might be a bad time to be bringing this up, at the start of a new year, when what’s on a writer’s mind is the new book she is about to write, what readings he’s going to line up for himself, what writers’ retreats and arts grants are worth applying for. This is a time for new beginnings. The January light is upon us. The days are getting longer again.

And yet, perhaps this is the perfect time. There is a certain clarity in the air.

For many years now, the QWF has been an important part of my life. It has provided me with a supportive community of like-minded people, many with whom I’ve developed lasting friendships. It has offered me teaching and mentoring opportunities. It has honoured and celebrated my writing. I know there are other Quebec writers who feel the same way.

What started out as the big idea of a handful of Montreal writers attending a backyard barbecue – creating a professional organization that would represent the diverse interests of Quebec’s English-language writers – has grown steadily into what now boasts over 600 members. Over the years, it has spearheaded a wide range of literary activities, publications and programs, including writing workshops, an online searchable database of English Quebec authors, mentorships, an annual awards gala and an interview series showcasing Quebec authors. More importantly, it has created an awareness of the existence and importance of English-language writing in Quebec.

For most of us, the QWF is here to stay. But to guarantee that it does, we must contribute to it. We must imagine all that it can be. A healthy organization has to keep growing and renewing itself.

Now that I have more years behind me than ahead of me – it’s already been over a decade since I wrote Snow Formations and its final line – I have begun, reluctantly, to imagine the unimaginable: not being here. And I’ve decided that the best gesture, in lieu of sending flowers, would be for people to make a donation to the QWF, an organization that I have appreciated and benefitted from in my lifetime.

I would urge other QWF members to consider doing the same. (Those of you who are fortunate enough to be able to live off your creative labours might even think about bequeathing a sum of money.)

I can’t even imagine the QWF not being here.


Carolyn Marie Souaid’s new poetry collection This World We Invented is forthcoming from Brick Books in 2015. Currently, she is teaching a master class in poetry at Bishop’s University and working on a novel she began during a 7-week writer’s residency at The Banff Centre last spring.

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2 thoughts on “I Can’t Even Imagine Not Being Here by Carolyn Marie Souaid

  1. Pingback: Achal Rathore

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