There was a time when I would collect journals and pictures, and they were just for me. I wrote journals from age nine, and my mother's stack of childhood journals inspired me. I read Anne Frank around age nine, and so my first journal was a long descriptive account of grade five to Kitty, Anne's childhood friend. I kept writing journals until I was in university, and then I switched to writing songs. I had a Roland keyboard, and I would write about a song a day. I wanted to write songs that were melodic and singable for corporate worship. A few times they sang my songs in church and for the worship at TWU.
Finally I was discovered at a party in Seattle by a producer and he offered to make me a recording, without having even heard any of my music. I employed a friend who was a Jazz singer and we went back to Seattle and made a demo in one day, staying there until midnight. This was the demo through which I secured a CD contract and had two of my songs published by Vineyard Music. Keep in mind that I was only the songwriter, not the singer. My good friend Sherilyn Keller was the worship leader who did the recording.
By the time I graduated from university I had two songs out on the CD The Cross, and one of them ended up on the radio. It was them that I was offered the option of recording more songs with both Vineyard and Integrity. Unfortunately I never followed up on their offers, and never sent them more songs. I did not really have the backing of enough good people in the industry to even make another demo. The original producer moved to Nashville, singing love ballads to me all the way out there, and wanted me to go with him but I refused.
Although I wrote songs, I refused to write any poems at all during my university years in Seattle. I wrote one at Christmastime but that was just for my friends and relatives. It wasn't until 2002 that I began writing down my old poetry from memory and began making them into a book for my niece. I had burned all my writings and my journals in 2001, and thought that was one way of ensuring they would never be read by anyone, but also, never published. I went out into the world, taking nothing with me but my guitar and a suitcase. I had nothing else at that point, but wanted to live life simply.
All the poems I have published now have been written down from memory or composed since 2002. There are over 1800 poems that I have published in books since 2011, when The Fleur-de-lis was published. Do I write songs anymore? Not very often, but I see them in a pile and hope one day they will be used a corporate worship because they have stood the test of time, and are still relevant. I evolved from songs into poems because it needed only a pen and paper to produce. Art is often a very singular activity in its creation, but now I see more opportunities for music turning up. The church I go to has built a sound studio to record music. They are asking for more songwriters; and when they ask for laments I know they are serious. That is seriously Emily.
What does the lily mean to poetry? There is a lily in my poetry, particularly the Fleur-de-lis Vol II, that is coupled with the Rose. I meant for them to refer to Duchess Sarah Ferguson and Lady Diana Spencer. There was a moment in time that I wrote for royalty, but now the poetry has become the possession of everyone. There are still the old volumes available, but that publisher has gone out of business, so now I must start over with a new publisher. This year I am releasing a volume of my collected works, with 130 new poems that I wrote in the last year especially for this volume. Dove Publishing will be releasing this project, which is dedicated to Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau.
My new book, Hallmark: Canada'a 150 Year Anniversary whose booksite is attracting visitors each day by the hundreds, and whose featured music mirrors my best poem: The Ballad of the Oboe Player (the story of the oboe player who played Gabriel's Oboe) is live to generate interest in advance. If it makes you teary, well that's the best part.
You may have to wait to read this poem, but in the meantime now you can log into: www.hallmarkcanada150.com
The Wild Lily Institute is the new name we merged into last year, and again the symbolism has more to do with Emily Carr's symbolism than mine when you look at the history of British Columbia and her fields of wild lilies. We cannot just say they no longer exist, for they are a celestial appearing in this time.
Visit the Wild Lily Institute at www.wildlilyinstitute.com