Born in Hamilton, Ms Halpern attended UWO and Queen’s in Kingston. She is an art historian who has taught at Western since 1990. Sonia teaches in the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research and in the Department of Visual Arts, and has won three major teaching awards at Western, including the recent 2012 Arts & Humanities Teaching Excellence Award. She has also been voted one of Western’s most “Popular Profs” by the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities for five consecutive years (2000-2005). Sonia is very active in the London community as a published author, local theatrical actor, and musical composer. Her book, The Life and Times of Transition Girl (South Western Ontario Poetry, 2005), is her first published collection of poetry, and has been dubbed “Dorothy Parker meets ‘Sex and the City.’”
The interviewer is Stan Burfield, London Open Mic Poetry Night organizer.
Burfield: Why did you start writing poems that January morning in 2002? What caused that initial impulse? Did you have a relative who wrote poems?
anti-intellectual, but I have no idea what caused my initial impulse to start
writing poems! I can say that I was feeling rather down at that time, and felt a
need to express my feelings through written words. I’m not a diary or journal
person, so I needed another way. As an academic, I always loved writing, but I
never would have imagined poetry as my medium of choice! Unlike academic
writing, however, poetry has an immediacy that attracted me on that morning in
January 2002. I do come from a long line of writers, although not poets in
particular. My father certainly loved writing stories, and taught me the love of
Burfield: Your poems are mostly
light and breezy, humourous with a serious side. Is that a reflection of your
This notion perfectly describes my personality! I think it’s a great challenge
to express complex ideas simply and succinctly, and humour plays a big part in
this practice; it’s comical to me when heightened, urgent, and multi-faceted
emotions are reduced to a few lines that pack a punch!
Are there any poets you like? Any you would say are
Halpern: When I gave my
first poetry reading many years ago, I was told that my poems are reminiscent of
Dorothy Parker’s. I regret that I didn’t know who she was at the time, so I did
some research. Of course, after reading her work, I was very flattered by the
comparison! We both like a good play-on-words and biting, edgy content --- all
presented in a tidy little package! I also love the lyricist Jim Steinman who
has a witty turn-of-phrase in virtually all of his songs! “You took the words
right out of my mouth. It must have been while you were kissing me” is
Burfield: Many of your poems are
about the difficulties in relationships with men. A feeling of resentment recurs
in some of them. Does this come from your own life or from
Halpern: Both! I see
the poems as a collection of shared feelings. While I do understand that readers
will see resentment in some of the works, I never like it to exist on its own!
For me, any “negative” emotion in my poems always has to be accompanied by
intelligent humour. I like to think that it’s this successful amalgamation that
characterizes my work.
include little ways you’ve gotten back at domineering, insensitive males. It
would seem you could easily get a following for these. Would you like to be the
Ann Landers for subjugated women?
I thought I already was!
Can you tell us the most interesting or humourous
situation that resulted in one of your poems.
I think the fact that men and women are encouraged
to share their lives when they’re so different from one another is inherently
funny. This dynamic is essentially the premise of all of my
Burfield: Has writing poems had a
beneficial effect on your life in any way?
Yes! Writing poems has given me the opportunity to share my ideas,
feelings, and humour. As a writer, my goal is to have an impact on people’s
lives by making them think and feel. When someone tells me that my book has
helped get them through a bad break up, what could be more gratifying? They
could have opted for a tub of chocolate ice-cream
Burfield: Will you be doing a
followup to this book.
may come as no surprise, but I’m presently writing a relationship
Restaurant terrace, 572 Adelaide St. N., London. Cover is by donation. Overflow
parking available across the side street and in the large lot one block
north, in front of Trad’s Furniture.
Live Music: will open the
event at 6:30, featuring local pianist Don
Baker. Baker is an Elmira-born, 29-year-old
musician living in London and currently attending Fanshawe
College's Television Broadcasting program. Inspired from a young age by the
talents of Elton John, Billy Joel and Burton Cummings and a student of
Royal Conservatory Piano for 10 years, he is an enthusiast of numerous
musical styles. Samples of Arrowhead Band, a rock-oriented project
featuring Don and London guitarist Matthew Brown can be found at
soundcloud.com/arrowheadband. To hear Don Baker.
Open Mic: Following
the featured poet, there will be about 1.5 hours of open mic, ending at 9:00 pm.
Each poet has five minutes (which is about two good pages of poetry
- but time yourself at home). They are selected at
Anyone who donates to London Open Mic Poetry Night receives
a ticket for a raffle prize, three of which will be picked after the
intermission. The prizes consist of poetry books donated by Brick Books.