Liz Howard was born and raised in northern Ontario. She received an Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction from the University of Toronto. Her poetry has appeared on Canadian literary journals such as The Capilano Review, The Puritan, and Matrix Magazine. Her chapbook Skullambient was shortlisted for the 2012 bpNichol Chapbook Award. She recently completed an MFA in Creative Writing through the University of Guelph and works as a research officer in cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto.
Howard uses her upbringing in North Ontario and weaves it into her poetry. “I always joke that people are including their dogs in the census,” she says. “Almost everyone knows each other. It’s very isolated – if you look it up on Wikipedia, it says ‘geographically isolated.’ It’s right at the start of the Arctic watershed. The nearest town is Wawa, which is an hour-and-a-half drive west. And then there’s Timmins” – where Howard was born – “which is a two-hour drive east. We’re so small, we don’t have a Tim Hortons.”
What they do have, she adds, is natural beauty; the town is “completely surrounded by literal wilderness.” It’s a wilderness she conjures in the collection – forests and marshlands, fields and rivers, “all of which has been impacted or tainted by human use,” she points out, her work filled with lumber mills, tailing ponds and logging trucks rumbling the foundations of houses as they drive by.
She studied science at the University of Toronto – “I’ve studied neuroanatomy and neuroscience and physiology and psychopathology, so those are the realms that I draw from,” she says. “This is the language and the ideas and the frameworks that I spent so much time trying to wrap my head around” – only finally taking a poetry course through the school of continuing studies after graduating.
In 2016, Howard became the youngest winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize for her book “Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.” It is as well the first debut poetry collection to win the prize.
You can watch Howard read a poem from her collection in the following video.