::pandora’s collective citizenship award::

Posted by Daniela Elza on May 24 2010

When I moved to Vancouver my first contact with the poetry community was with Pandora’s Collective. I was taken in under their wings and slowly started finding my way around. It was also a point in my life when I felt stuck with my work. I was at a crisis moment, trying to figure out what to do with this poetry thing of mine. How to brave myself to send work out? Where to send to?

I met Bonnie in two contexts. One was at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and the other was my daughter’s playground overlooking False Creek. I slowly came to understand the double life Bonnie was living, the importance of Pandora’s Collective in her life, her passion, and her commitment to the writing community.

I remember Bonnie finding time out of her already impossibly busy schedule (including supporting a family with three kids) and we sat over coffee in the Blue Parrot Café. Bonnie kept flipping through her work and giving me examples of poems and where they were published. She also gave praise to my work and told me I should send it out. I remember getting a surge of energy to send work out. I remember that year sending to one journal for each of their four issues and getting rejected. Then I started branching out and researching other journals. This has grown from 4 submissions in 2004 to 40 submissions in 2009. It does get easier, trust me.

Soon after, I found myself invited to the writing group Bonnie had around her kitchen table. It was a lot of fun. Over grapes, surprise snacks of all kinds, we wrote together. I remember a silver iron on a red radiator, two things that made it into my poem called Writing Group. All of a sudden, writing was not the lonely activity I knew it to be. It shifted from something of an affliction to something to be celebrated. (I am aware this is beginning to sound like an I remember… writing exercise. Isn’t that what life is? An I remember… exercise? Yet, one which propels us forward.)

I read my first poems at a Pandora’s Collective Open Mike, my hands shaking and sweating, the tips of my fingers numb. Early 2005, I had my first two poems accepted. One in the then Room of Ones Own, and the other one in Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine.

At that point I was also working one on one with Harold Rhenisch as my mentor. What drew me to work with him is that somehow he could see what I was trying to do. He read my work back to me and I fell in love with it all over again. He helped me hear the music. I cherished the fact that he was helping me write more like me, instead of more like someone else or more like himself. Over the course of a few years Harold diligently, gently and firmly at the same time, managed to open my eyes to my work. Now he is still my mentor, but also a dear friend and colleague with whom I collaborate. Now we write together. (Ok, this may be his real website.)

I realized how important this support is for each one of us. How the support of a community can make a big difference in the life of a writer. How we help each other negotiate the challenges and how we share the joys. I do that not because it is something I have to do. It is something I thoroughly enjoy, and also something I feel I have to pass on. It has its own non-material, spiritual rewards. We need both mentors and communities in which to grow as writers. I feel blessed to have been given both.

Last week I was deeply touched and honoured to learn that I am the recipient of the Pandora’s Collective Citizenship Award. It is an award given to an individual who has excelled in their commitment to support writers within our community. (You can read what Bonnie said here.)
I see this as a testimony for what Pandora’s Collective has cultivated in me, has given me. How can I do any less? Thank you, Bonnie and Pandora’s Team.

I would like here to turn Pandora’s myth on its head and say that Pandora’s Collective opens the box of the heart, releases good things into the world and lets you keep the key. I hope they do not close that box anytime soon.

4 Responses to “::pandora’s collective citizenship award::”

  1. Dave Says:

    Congratulations! If what we saw of your enthusiasm and encouragement of other writers in qarrtsiluni’s collaboration issue was any indication, the recognition is very well deserved.

  2. Beth Says:

    Daniela, congratulations! What you say here about your journey as a writer, and the need for support and encouragement, is so true and so important. That you’ve taken it to heart and now are being recognized for supporting others says a lot about you. I’m proud to know you through qarrtsiluni, and wish you the very best with your writing and your outreach to other poets in the future.

  3. Daniela Elza Says:

    Thanks for your words Dave, and Beth.

    So good to see you here. What an honour.

    The “Mutating the Signature” issue of qarrtsiluni was the start of something beautiful indeed. For which I thank you.

  4. Daniela Elza Says:

    PS I also would like to thank all of you who emailed me personally.