Interview with Here Magazine

Born in Montreal. Raised in Antigua and Australia. Educated in the U.K. Before that, award-winning author Kerry Lee Powell spent a couple of years as a runaway teen and lived on the streets.

“The experiences I had then, as well as my experience of growing up with a mentally ill parent, have profoundly shaped my world-view,” she said.

Powell says she is thrilled with the attention the prizes have drawn to her work.

“An agency in Toronto read my story in The Boston Review and has just asked to represent my collection of short fiction as well as the novel I’m writing.”

As a writer, she is most interested in trauma and the lasting effects of war and violence on the human psyche. Her short story collection ‘Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush’, which was shortlisted for The Black Lawrence competition in New York, was inspired by the violent, fragmented paintings of Willem de Kooning. Some of her literary influences include J.D. Salinger, Phillip Roth, Henry James, D.H. Lawrence, and George Orwell.

“Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel ‘We’ had a huge impact on my work,” she notes. “I’m also interested in world-making, the arbitrariness of what we posit as reality.”

Powell said she read Tolkien a lot as a child and studied Medieval and Renaissance Literature, followed by a Master’s Degree in Writing and Literature at Cardiff University.

“I often feel my aim as a writer is to achieve a kind of synthesis – highly realistic work that has the dense, almost surreal qualities of fantasy.”

She has always written stories, but started to write poetry more seriously a few years ago.
“New Quarterly has been incredibly supportive of my work, publishing poems of mine that were nominated for a National Magazine Award last year.”

Her poetry icons include Laura Riding, Phillip Larkin, and Sylvia Plath, among others.

Powell’s debut collection of poetry, ‘Inheritance’, will be published by Biblioasis next year and has a deeply personal theme.

“The book concerns the death of my father, a war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and eventually committed suicide.”

Some of the poems have already been published in literary magazines in the U.K., and a small collection, ‘Ship’s Biscuit’, will be published by London-based press Grey Suit next spring.

Powell said with colleagues like novelist Lee Thompson, poets Allan Cooper, Beth Janzen and Thomas Hodd, and fiction writers Elizabeth Blanchard and Andre Touchburn, she has found herself in the “midst of an outstanding arts community.