Méira Cook – 2016 Major Arts Grant

Méira Cook

Writer Méira Cook’s first novel, The House on Sugarbush Road (Enfield & Wizenty), won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award in 2013. Her latest novel, Nightwatching (HarperCollins), has recently been nominated for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Monologue Dogs (Brick), which has been nominated for the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry and for the McNally Robinson Book of the Year. She won the CBC Poetry Prize in 2007 and the inaugural Walrus Poetry Prize in 2012. In 2011, she served as Writer in Residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, and was the 2013-14 Writer in Residence at the Winnipeg Public Library.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: In the artist’s words

My Holocaust Survivor is a short story collection planned as twelve conceptually-linked short stories. Each story will be set during a different month over the course of a single year in the life of a mid-sized Canadian prairie city.

The two elements that will link this collection are time and place. I think of My Holocaust Survivor as a slowly unfolding, month-by-month narrative of a particular city. Although never explicitly named, the city—Canadian, prairie, landlocked, river-run—is recognizable as Winnipeg. I don’t intend to refer to specific landmarks but instead will try to evoke the particular combination of irony, nostalgia, and canniness in its citizens and the endearing mixture of extremity and beauty in its weather systems that render this city mythological. I have chosen not to name the city because I want to create a place that is at once fictional, real, and symbolic, a city that mirrors my apprehension of its elusiveness.

My sense of the instability of landscape is acute: the wavering quality of place and time when intersected with displacement. I came here—to Canada, to Winnipeg—as an immigrant which is why the city has always seemed such a glamorous, unresolved place, an imaginary, impossible, willful and unruly city that I’ve learned to live in as if it was home. I am excited and grateful for the grant and hopeful that the short stories in this collection will express my uneasy relationship with landscape and vernacular, weather, memory, amnesia, longing and belonging.”