Welcome to Episode 21 of New Recruits. If it’s your first time here, check out Episode 1 for a description of how this series works.
North de Pencier is as interesting as her name would make you think she is. She’s a med student, she climbs mountains, and she chills in the arctic wilderness. North and I met because she and my boyfriend, Ariel are co-presidents of Schulich’s Osler Society. For the past two years, I have accompanied Schulich’s Osler Society to the University of Calgary’s History of Medicine Days conference, where I heard North speak about the origins of mouth to mouth resuscitation (in 2016) and the frustrations of indigenous voices in the archives of the Sioux Lookout Zone Hospital (this year). North’s ability to passionately and effectively communicate her historical research is enviable, and part of the reason why I gave her a poem by Aisha Sasha John.
I heard Aisha Sasha John read this poem (and others from her new McClelland & Stewart title, I have to live.) at the M&S launch last month. The way she reads her own work is mesmerizing. Her reading changed the way I understood her poetry, and it changed my attitude towards readings in general. So I gave North this poem because I knew her voice could do it justice (but still, it’s no replacement for the original and if you get a chance to hear Aisha Sasha John read live, definitely take that chance).
Also, North is “crunchy” (the best adjective used to describe a person in a poem maybe ever) and who knows, maybe she’s a planet, too.
So here’s North de Pencier reading the poem, “I decided that I was a planet and I was a planet.” from I have to live.
What was your first impression of the poem?
It seems really badass. I think it must have been written by a woman.
Which line of the poem do you like best?
“I have to be fibrous / so as not to be consumed”
I have been thinking a lot recently about how many people dislike powerful women. I was taught to be pleasant and likeable growing up, but I don’t think that I will be able to have the kind of career I want if I am likeable. I am trying to be more comfortable with the idea that being a powerful woman will make some people dislike me. I have to be fibrous, so as not to be consumed.
What does this poem make you think of?
Are there any words in this poem that you don’t understand?
I don’t think that I have ever heard the word “unlamblike” before. I think it’s about being a lamb in God’s eyes? I’m an atheist so I don’t know much about these things.
Would you like to understand them?
Have you encountered a poem like this before? Is this poem different from what you expected poetry to be like? If so, How?
Sort of. I had to read a bunch of poetry in high school and university, and I really liked it! Some of it was like this, I think. It was accessible and spoke to me. For some reason, I just haven’t been reading poetry for fun once I didn’t have it assigned at school.
Do you have any questions for the poet?
I would like to know more about her!
North de Pencier is a 27 year-old medical student at Western, in London, Ontario. She loves rock climbing and watching Bollywood movies.