FUNK, Carla

Author Tags: Poetry

Carla Funk served as the City of Victoria’s inaugural poet laureate from 2006-2008. She teaches in the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria and received the 2012 Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize [see below].

Carla Funk grew up in Vanderhoof, the geographical centre of B.C., originally a Mennonite settlement. "Having grown up in a world of logging trucks, storytellers, ladies' sewing circles and rural realism," according to her entry in Force Field, "she turned to poetry as a place to down the images of her upbringing."

She completed her BFA in writing and her MA in English Literature at the University of Victoria. Her poems have been featured in anthologies such as Breathing Fire: Canada's New Poets (Harbour, 1995), Hammer & Tongs: A Smoking Lung Anthology (2000), Introductions (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2001), Force Field: 77 Women Poets of BC (Mother Tongue 2013) and as part of Translink's Poetry in Transit project.


Blessing the Bones into Light (Coteau 1999)
Head Full of Sun (Nighwood 2002)
The Sewing Room (Turnstone, 2007)
Apologetic (Turnstone 2010)

[BCBW 2012] "Poetry"

Blessing the Bones into Light (Coteau $9.95)

You know the Interior.

Miles of clearcut, miles of trees, bales of hay in fields, cows in the distance. Little towns with a strip-mall, a rec centre, and pickup trucks everywhere. “Grad ’99" spray-painted on the cinder block of the high school. All the men wear baseball caps, and the women curl. If there are any poets at all, they are tough and swaggering; they ride language like a snowmobile. Nobody is expected to write a love poem to soap:

You who smell of
satsumas unpeeling,
gardenias foaming at
the petals,
water lilies washing
themselves in a bath of
their own perfume.

The Interior does not produce a poet who reflects on Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites or captures the exact point of balance in adolescence with the word almost.

He is fifteen and spends late evenings
in the barn on the telephone telling a girl
almost everything.

But Carla Funk is such a poet. She grew up in the quintessential small town of Vanderhoof at the geographical centre of British Columbia. Vanderhoof, as you might imagine, is an agricultural and logging town of conservative values and plenty of pickup trucks. It also has a substantial Mennonite community, in which Carla was raised.

It is tempting to say that Blessing offers a breadth of subject matter and imagery, a clarity of vision and a subtlety of sensibility, that belies Funk’s origins and are extraordinary for someone 25 years old. Her first book, Blessing the Bones into Light (Coteau $9.95) rings with both a deep seriousness and an expansive lightheartedness.

But poetry is neither determined by place, nor free of it. Funk’s first immersion in language was in the Bible, the sound of it read aloud throughout her childhood. She has been influenced by the terror of Revelations, the imaginative landscapes of the Book of Job—and it was an initiation into the power of language that has led her to map the terrain of the soul and also to transform it.

“I longed for something beyond the ordinary, beyond Vanderhoof, beyond the happy, everyday childhood I had,” she says. “There’s something about boundaries that I wanted to go beyond.”

Blessed with encouragement in high-school, she recalls one creative writing graduate had covered the walls of her classroom with poetry. “I can still remember reading a line on the far, left wall — it was by e.e. cummings. ‘no one not even the rain has such small hands’. I fell in love with that line, with words, with the writing on the wall.”

At the University of Victoria, Patrick Lane wrote in the margin of her first workshop poem, “Why Law? Why not poetry instead?” A voice from the burning bush to an ear already attuned. Funk’s work first appeared in a Harbour anthology of new Canadian writers, Breathing Fire, edited by Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier; it now appears courtesy of Coteau’s Open-eye Poetry Series.

The copper throat and long swallow of evening
washes in you a wide room of light
the outlines of night birds
a slope of sky bending into earth

Blessing the Bones into Light not only illuminates Funk’s potential; it points to the potential of scattered communities and our disparate lives scattered among the clearcuts. It opens up, in Funk’s own words, “the space of the page as a clean landscape where we can draw our own borders.” 1-55050-156-9

[George Sipos / BCBW 2000]

Constance Rooke Creative Non-Fiction Prize
Press Release (2012)

The Malahat Review congratulates Carla Funk of Victoria, BC on winning our 2012 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize! Her story, “Returning,” was chosen from 125 entries by our final judge, Madeline Sonik. Funk's story will appear in our Winter, 2012 issue (#181). She was also awarded a $1000 CAD prize.

Description: Carla FunkOf Funk's story, Madeline Sonik said: "I was initially hooked by the relentless, poetic list of images that opens this piece and leads the reader to the leitmotif of the 'snow geese.' Just as the narrator is distant from the dying, self-destructive father (both physically and emotionally) the reader, too, enters this story with a long-distance view of the narrator’s world. Skilfully, the writer uses small and subtle details to draw us closer, revealing the tragedy of estrangement and the grace of consciousness and reconciliation. The narrator tells us, 'the decades locked like winter in me seemed to shift' as the father, a diabetic with vascular dementia who is expected not to 'last long,' returns from a near death experience. Interestingly, it’s not the narrator’s desire to make peace with the past that facilitates this thawing, but the father’s new-found vulnerability, which is never stated, but rendered with authenticity and precision. Dialogue, though spare, captures the essence of characters and the constructions of family. For example, as the father begins to rally, asking for watermelon, his own 90-year-old mother, sitting in her wheelchair, announces: 'This happens to the dying…They need a little something to make it to the end.'"