Poetry in motion: Bermudian poet Nancy Anne Miller will publish her collection of poems Somersault in the summer. *File photo
Poetry in motion: Bermudian poet Nancy Anne Miller will publish her collection of poems Somersault in the summer. *File photo

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 5: Bermudian poet Nancy Anne Miller is to publish a collection of almost three-dozen post-colonial poems through Guernica Editions, Canada.

Having moved from Bermuda to Connecticut when she was 17 years old the book Somersault, speaks of her experience of moving away from her homeland and seeing it from afar.

She said she is particularly interested in writing about cross-cultural experiences as it is a subject close to her heart.

“I am grateful to be published with Guernica Editions as they are a publishing house that take on international authors and love cross cultural writing — it is a publishing house that is backed by the Arts Council so you feel they understand you.

“I submit mainly to England, Canada, Caribbean, India, Africa — wherever there is this kind of history. I do submit to America but am less likely to.

“One of the reasons behind writing about Bermuda is that when I was in the States people asked me about where I live and I say Bermuda and they didn’t know anyone lived there.

“It is a desire to show the island beyond the tourist image and get to the complexity and it is a wonderfully-rich society.”

Miller has a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and her poems have appeared in numerous publications including the Edinburgh Review, Mslexia and The Dalhousie Review.

In 2008, she was a MacDowell Fellow and last year a poet in residence at Martha’s Vinyard Writers’ Residency.

She also organized Ber-Mused, a poetry event for the island’s 400th anniversary in 2009.

The book of poems is broken up into five sections including Naval String, which speaks of lineage, belonging and how the sea forms us; Penmanship in which she reminisces over childhood memories at Bermuda High School for Girls; and A History of Knives that references the story of slavery in Bermuda.

“My poem Post Colonial Pie is about the African Bermudian,” explained Miller. “When I have written about slavery I have to be as honest as I can be. I feel a reluctance to write the African Bermudian story because I feel it is theirs to unfold and speak and there are plenty of wonderful books out.

African culture

“So this is in reverence and from a distance and grateful — it is the history of the African needing to leave and their culture and also my exile. Trying to identify but not assume.”

Miller leads poetry workshops at the Bermuda National Library and is the recipient of three Bermuda Arts Council Awards. As a result she has published three small collections on the island — The Sun in Three Countries, Hurricane Season, and Maiden Voyage. Hurricane Season was published in the Hampton Sydney Poetry Review about five years ago.

However, this is the first time an established publishing house will have their stamp on a body of her work.

Miller said that, as well as her educational background, sending out work to various editors was key to her recent publishing success. “I feel so strongly as a writer that sending work out is good for the poets and the poems — it makes me absolutely examine the poem in a way that I might overlook if I was just sharing it with other writers I know.

“You have to give it everything and also you send about five poems so they know you are not a one trick pony.

“You begin to see your work in context and editors give you good comments.

“I’m sort of grateful for the process. It took me a while to find out where my work belonged — my work falls into post-colonial literature and breaking through patriarchal boundaries.”

She said that the Department of Culture and Communication was a good resource for budding writers on the island.

Miller has signed a contract with Guernica Editions and is now working with an editor to finalize the collection.

The book is due to go into production in April and will become available in Bermuda bookstores by next summer or fall when she will host a book launch and signing on the island.

It will also be available on Amazon. Miller has been writing all her life and she is overjoyed to have landed this contract.

She said: “It feels wonderful because I was feeling  like my baskets were full — the harvest was full and I needed to move it on. On one level it was like a burden taken off my back and hopefully the next and then the third.”

Miller has loved writing for as long as she can remember and had her first poem published in the Royal Gazette when she was just nine years old.

Among her influences are Caribbean poet Derek Walcott who she described as “almost Shakespearean”, Edward Kamau Braithwaite of Barbados and American poet Sharon Olds — all for their great use of metaphor.

She added: “I like metaphor because it brings movement to the poem — I like that it removes the whole idea of linear intentional poetry — there is something always spinning in the poem. As a writer part of what I am interested in is feminizing language.

“I also like metaphor because it suits the exoticism of this island because there are so many contrasts all the time things that are right next to each other all the time. It feels true to me. It is also visual and of course it is all heightened here.”