Anne Simpson, poet, novelist, essayist (b 1956). Having taken her BA and MA degrees from Queen's University and a Fine Arts diploma from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Anne Simpson worked as a Cuso volunteer in Nigeria. She has served as writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick and the University of Prince Edward Island. She was artist-in-residence at the Dalhousie Medical Humanities Program in 2004, and writer-in-residence at Dalhousie University from January to March 2011. Simpson has also been writer-in-residence for the Saskatoon Public Library. In addition to being a faculty member at the Banff Centre, she was instrumental in establishing the writing centre at St. Francis Xavier University, where she teaches part time. She lives in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
Since her 1997 Journey Prize-winning short story "Dreaming Snow," Simpson has steadily built a body of work expressing a heightened apprehension of visionary experience. Through observation and identification, she joins her consciousness to particulars of the external world. It is, however, in her rigorous attention to and mastery of literary form that she conveys her subject, as a distinctly realized experience in itself.
The year 2000 saw the publication of Simpson's first collection of poetry, Light Falls Through You, winner of the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the Atlantic Poetry Prize. These poems celebrate victims of tragedy, raising them out of their individual ends with a spare, hard musicality that speaks of emotional closure and of homage for their lives. This aspect of her work is especially explored in her novels, Canterbury Beach (2001) and Falling (2008). In Canterbury Beach (a finalist for the Chapters/Robertson Davies First Novel Prize, and shortlisted for the 2002 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award), a family taking its annual vacation considers its long-lost "black sheep," a wayward young man who has drifted from troubled sensitivity to full alienation, while in Falling (winner of the Dartmouth Fiction Prize, and long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), an accidental death in a family triggers events that force those who remain to confront the unexpected closures and openings inherent in contingency.
In these works, Simpson examines aspects of the past in order to retrieve meaning and to show how meaning is expanded in such consideration. These themes were fully established with the 2003 publication of her second poetry collection Loop; with this collection Simpson unveiled the wide range of her writing capabilities in the exploration and experimentation with form. Loop won the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Governor-General's Literary Award for poetry in English in 2003, based on such works as "Möbius Strip," in which the ten-page poem is rendered two lines per page, to result in a piece that can be read forward and backward, reflecting the melding of inner and outer experience.
The 2007 collection Quick (2008 winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award) continues these themes and stylistic innovations with poems such as "Clocks of Rain," in which a victim's survival of a near-fatal auto accident allows a life's meaning to be retrieved, but in a revised, reconsidered, and so renewed way. Simpson's 2011 collection Is continues her themes by utilizing the idea of a cell, dividing, multiplying, and thereby engendering new worlds.
Simpson is also the author of The Marram Grass: Poetry and Otherness, a book of essays in which she examines her own responses to her living surroundings, in seeking the correspondences between inner and outer experience that fuel her work.