May 2013 – Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, Research Associate and long-time collaborator with the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, was recently honoured with a BC Book Prize for Literary Excellence. Her book of poetry, Geographies of a Lover, received the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize at a gala celebration at the Lieutenant Governor’s Home in Victoria on May 4. The 2013 BC Book Prize finalists and winners are listed here.
De Leeuw has also authored two books of essays: Unmarked: Landscapes Along Highway 16 and Front Lines: Portraits of Care Givers in Northern British Columbia. She is two-time recipient of the CBC Literary Award in Creative Non-Fiction.
In addition to her work with the NCCAH and her creative writing accomplishments, de Leeuw is a human geographer and Associate Professor in the Northern Medical Program at UNBC. She lectures to medical students within the Doctor, Patient and Society stream of the curriculum. As well, she teaches in the problem-based learning labs on reproduction, and nutrition, growth and development, where she focuses on the psychosocial components of medicine.
“Faculties of medicine are increasingly considering having practicing artists and authors on staff because we bring to the curriculum a humanities-oriented way of thinking about health and the human body,” de Leeuw says.
De Leeuw said that her award-winning book of poetry “takes significant political risks. It was a conscious effort to expand the discussion or literary representations of women’s sexuality. Those representations have been somewhat circumscribed for many years. This book was a conscious effort to depart from more established literary tropes about what it means to be sexual, from a very embodied female perspective.”
Speaking about Geographies of a Lover, de Leeuw explained, “the book is written in the long poem tradition. It is organized thematically around key geographic concepts and very embodied contemplations of specific latitudes and longitudes around the world. It is very much a text about loss. But it’s a text not just about loss of human relationship, but loss of relationship with nature and loss of nature and environment itself. In addition to it being an avowedly feminist text, it is being conceptualized in the genre of ‘eco-poetics.’ Eco-poetics is a bourgeoning genre of poetry which politically contemplates ecology and the environment, specifically human-ecology or human-environment relationships.”
Working with the NCCAH over many years, de Leeuw has found that “research institutes that look at social issues have some space to have their researchers look at social issues from a variety of perspectives, including poetic perspectives.”
The NCCAH is very proud to be supporting Sarah de Leeuw’s research on health, creative arts, and northern communities through a recent and inaugural partnership scholar award with the Michael Smith Foundation. Much of de Leeuw’s work centres on colonialism, social determinants of Indigenous peoples’ health, and the humanities. Some of her recent collaborations with the NCCAH on the topic of art and Indigenous peoples’ health include:
De Leeuw links her book of poetry to other domains of her work: “All of my work – creatively, academically, and research-wise – tries to parse apart ways of understanding inequities, ways of representing or thinking through power imbalances. This book is absolutely an extension of that.”
Photo credit: S.N. de Leeuw