Kwantlen Polytechnic University named Selina Boan, a white and Cree poet and high school teacher, as the institution’s new Indigenous writer-in-residence last month.
Boan is the author of Undoing Hours, her first poetry collection from 2021 that won two national prizes — a Pat Lowther Memorial Award and an Indigenous Voices Award. She is also a poetry editor at the Canadian magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, and a beadwork artist.
She applied to become KPU’s next Indigenous writer-in-residence after hearing positive words about the position from Brandi Bird, who held the role last year.
“It is such a privilege to have a role that allows you to not only connect with [the] community, but also gives you the spaciousness of time to do creative work, both with others and individually,” Boan says.
She also says KPU is embodying what it means to support Indigenous artists by offering fair pay for the role.
Boan will spend about half her time building community, creating events, visiting classrooms, and doing consultations, she says.
As students face lots of demands at school, Boan hopes to provide safe spaces both inside and outside of the classroom for students to be creative, explore different ideas, and connect with each other.
“[Safe spaces in schools] was always huge for me because I definitely had experiences in classrooms where I didn’t feel like people understood the work that I was trying to do,” she says.
“I know people were good and well intentioned, [but] it really changes dynamics when you have people in the room who can speak to your work directly or can understand the perspective you’re coming from. And so [what] I’m most excited about is to do classroom visits.”
Boan says she is passionate about land-based learning and “looking at the self and our relationships with the land,” whether someone is Indigenous, a settler, or a visitor.
Among her many ideas, Boan is planning workshops for students on land-based learning, which will be focused on creative arts and writing, and potentially a couple of beading sessions as well, she says.
During the other half of her time in this position, she will be working on her writing project, a fantasy novel.
“If anyone is also working on a novel, you’re welcome to come chat with me. We can agonize over it and all that good stuff,” Boan says. “I previously published a poetry book, so I may be tinkering around with some poems as well.”
She says she wants to meet as many students, faculty, and staff as possible during her time as the Indigenous writer-in-residence.
Boan will be on campus on Wednesdays and will usually be in the Gathering Place, where she encourages students to drop-in and visit her. She will also be on campus other days of the week on a flexible schedule.
Because being a high school teacher can be busy and requires her to be very intentional when carving out time for her creative practice, she hopes to bring the “importance of balance” to students through this role.
“That’s something I always emphasize whenever I’m teaching anywhere. It’s so important to remember that we are so much more than just the classes we’re in [and] that we have these rich, beautiful lives outside of that. It’s important to honour those things as well.”
To schedule an appointment with Boan or to book her as a guest in the classroom, email email@example.com.