"When I write, anything can come out. I rarely
know where the words are taking me".
Karin Cope, First Prize winner of The Antigonish Review's annual
poetry contest for her entry "The Aroma of Bees" is
speaking animatedly about her life, her work and how she and two
friends arrived in the Bay of Islands.
I have interrupted her work a second time at her home in Quoddy
and I'm a bit embarrassed. I had neglected to take notes during
an earlier interview but she takes no notice, graciously answering
my questions again.
Behind her, an immense window looks out on the Bay of Islands,
to forever on the distant horizon. The sun skips across the white
caps and transforms the grey-green of the North Atlantic into a
deep cobalt, brushed with a zillion pinpoints of golden light.
"The Bay of Islands captures your heart", says Karin.
Karin Cope holds a
BA from Yale and a Doctorate from Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University.
In 1993, Karin accepted an English professorship at McGill University,
a position she retained for 6 years before discovering the property
she and two friends co-purchased in 1999.
That year, viewing the Bay of Islands region for the first time
from the deck of a sailboat, the trio became infatuated.
For Karin, who originates from Ohio (where 'nobody dreams of returning'),
living in their spectacular oceanfront home with its deck washed
white from salt spray is the culmination of a lifelong dream - to
paint, to write and to be inspired by the sea.
Karin has been fulfilling that dream for the last three years,
writing and perfecting her art with the ocean at her doorstep.
An old shed on the property, once filled with machinery and fishing
gear has been renovated into Karin's studio space. Locals often
stop by for a chat while she works. She welcomes their visits.
"The people on the Eastern Shore are very resourceful. There
are so many great storytellers here and I owe a lot to them. The
ways their stories unfold contribute a great deal to my own stories.
I am utterly charmed by the people who live here."
Since winning the 'Great Blue Heron' poetry prize from the highly
regarded Antigonish Review,
Karin has contributed critical
works to the quarterly literary publication and now has a mentorship
Anne Simpson, Coordinator of the Writing
Centre at St. Francis Xavier University.
Karin is also working on a novel and a collection of 'very, very
short horror stories'. Although she considers herself more of a
writer than a painter, Karin continues to create art using acrylics
and treasured pieces of driftwood tossed up by the sea.
When I ask (because successful authors are always asked) what
advice she would pass on to beginning writers, Karin replies that
the most important learning tool is to write as much as you can.
"It doesn't matter what the topic is or how it sounds. I've
kept a journal for over 20 years and it taught me to write. Often,
I didn't know where the words would take me or what I would write
until it was finished". Karin speaks with a tone that underscores
her fascination with the strange ability of words to possess the
conscious thoughts of the writer.
"Just do it", she says. Then she laughs at the obviousness
of her own answer. "I mean, it's true, isn't it? Just doing
it means you don't worry about spelling or grammar or who's going
to get the movie rights. Thinking about a garden doesn't make the
flowers grow either".
Her gaze shifts to a slightly opened window where the sound of
the sea is omnipresent and the last of summer blooms dust the pane
with pollen. A breeze gentles past us where we sit talking in the
waning afternoon. It carries the scent of salt and spruce and something
else quite extraordinary, something that could only be described
by Karin Cope as 'the aroma of bees'.
- Gail Martin
Cope Writers' Workshops (Critical Balance)