Carleigh Baker is a Métis/ mixed blood writer. In 2012 she won subTerrain Magazine’s Lush Triumphant award for short fiction. Her story “War Of Attrition” was published in Joyland Magazine, and has been submitted for consideration for the 2014 Journey prize. Carleigh’s poetry has appeared in the Incongruous Quarterly and Ricepaper’s Asian/Aboriginal issue.
A graduate of the University of Victoria theatre program, and recent grad of the Writer’s Studio at SFU, she’s currently working on a collection of short stories. Also in the works is a collection of poems about her hard-drinking, war veteran Métis grandmother. This spring, Carleigh will be workshopping a new one-act play, “Out Of The Plastic”, at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver. The play is based of the true story of her sister’s battle with mental illness.
(portrait by Callan Field)
Interview – 3 Key Questions
Q: You got this opportunity to join a group of artists paddling into the Arctic Circle through Northern Yukon and Northwest Territories. What type of a journey were you on when you decided this was something you were going to do?
A: In many ways it was as simple as being hungry for more material. I have personal credo that when something is offered to me or a suggestion is made to me about something I can do, that unless it seems utterly insane, I try never to say no. I had camped but never in a back-country way. I had never done anything even remotely this challenging, physically I’m in average shape I would say… It was almost that because it seemed so far outside the comfort zone? I had to say yes.
Q: As someone who has grown up in southern BC, did you imagine a landscape like this was out there in the Canadian backyard? How did it impact you?
A: Yeah, you don’t understand what is so particularly special about [the landscape] until you are there. I’ve been to a couple tropical parts of the world where I arrive and think, ‘you know what, the postcard was better…’ and I feel like I’ve been let down by certain landscapes because of the hype or the whatever… But going to the north was entirely different, where I was basically spending every moment thinking ‘I had no idea how arresting this was going to be, and how what a full body experience this was going to be, being under those moons…’ And like I said, I was tired a lot of the time, there were many nights where going to bed seemed like the best possible option and I could not, because the sky was so big, the air was so clear… It is impossible to feel anywhere but in the moment.
Q: How was the Metis, Canadian and personal identity search that you were on coming into this impacted by the journey?
A: The confidence I got as a result of going on the trip has beautifully spread itself over…[my] work because all of a sudden your not wasting time worrying about petty things like ‘do I have a right to say this? Is this ok for me to explore in this way?’ It’s just ‘I’m going to say this’, and that’s it… I guess in a way, it’s not finding yourself but it reminds yourself that who you are is totally valid, and it’s that the impact of that confidence that trickles through identity and through writing…