Work in Progress: poet Trish Belsham


For the sixth year in a row, Whistler has been quietly embedding poetry into its public spaces at the Poet’s Pause sculpture on Alta Lake. An annual call for submissions invites poets to embed their word art in Whistler’s wild places. This year, new Pemberton resident, Trish Belsham, was the poet selected as winner of the Mayor’s Poetry Challenge. She is our feature artist this month at Work-in-Progress.

This was Trish’s first poetry submission. An emerging poet, Belsham has been writing memoir and short stories for 12 years.
1. Who are you?
I am an independent dance professional/choreographer and free lance interdisciplinary performing artist/director.
I wear many hats in terms of making a living: teaching, directing, performing. This is the first time I’ve received monies for a writing contest. I’m thrilled. As you can imagine, it feels good to be recognized for the quality of something I’ve created and value. I’ve received awards of merit for my work as a choreographer – but always that involved working with others – which I love; I’m a very social animal and curious about people and their potential for expression. Writing poetry though is a solitary appointment with the chair. And that’s ok too because I require a lot of reflection time to stay grounded and nourish myself.
2. What inspired this work? 
Joan Baron’s Chairs sculpture actually. I liked the scale of the 2 chairs and how in a comic kind of way, they reminded me of the story of The Three Bears. I imagined sitting in them and being dwarfed like a child because of their size. I thought about the theme: ‘Togetherness’, and of the mountains and the lake close by, the birdsong. Then this idea showed up about being old and walking with my husband around the lake and discovering these chairs and curling up in them and falling asleep. There was a lovely sense of peace and then these beautiful images occurred around spaciousness and gifts of nature and the presence of time.
3. Where is this piece headed? Where was it shared?
I’m considering placing some of my poems within the context of my memoir. ‘Let Birds Fly’ can also be found on the Whistler website under Arts and Recreation.
Along with Joan Baron’s winning poem ‘Your Turn’ on the theme of Listening, both were read first at Council at Millennium Place concert hall. I received the invitation from Kevin McFarland, parks planner, as part of the Canada wide Mayor’s Poetry Challenge. The Mayor introduced the reading and Kevin gave a short context about this year’s competition and then we gave our reading just before council meeting began.  I loved the plan of mixing poetry performance with politics. Council likes this event, they were very warm and welcoming. The second time was on Canada Day at the Poet’s Pause sculpture site in Alta Lake Park for the fifth Poet’s Pause Poetry Competition.
4. How do you hold space for, or make time for, your creative self? What’s your practice or creative routine?
I started out as a ballet dancer. Anyone who has ever done that seriously knows the training takes about 10 to 15 years. The only way you can stay committed is through the dharma of practice and that requires a devotion to routine and a desire for discipline. I’m kind of a schedule junkie. I like knowing when and  where I go to work everyday. It settles me and leaves more room for play and encountering the unexpected – which brings me to improv, another passion. A decade later, I finished a degree in Modern dance and my whole life changed. I was introduced to structured improvisation as a tool for creating original movement. I found the balance I was looking for – being exposed to be the classical and contemporary approaches to understanding the art of dance making. They serve me well as a fledgling writer.
I approach the routine of writing much like the (floor) barre. Relax, surrender and focus. I also take time to meditate, do contemplation and inquiry as a daily practice and write and work-out almost everyday.
5. How big an influence is this region, our backyard, the landscape and energy here, on your work?
A huge influence. When I first traveled through here about 2 years ago, looking at new places to relocate and make a home, the hair on my arms stood up. I was struck by how powerful and vital the energy is here; the women so incredibly beautiful in a natural way. I told my husband: this is it for me, no sense looking any further.
I am fed every day by the landscape, the pure air, the upbeat, laid-back attitude of folk. It charges you and calls to be interacted with.
I’ve never felt this level of gratitude for place before. It sort of shapes who you can be; what you are capable of creating fiercely. It’s a Challenge in the best way possible. Big spirit food.
6. What do you do to recharge your creative energy?
I take my dogs, Rudy and Makie for a long walk. I’ve been studying voice with Anita Burleson; she’s very good and provides lots of chances to perform. Singing is a joy. I also started theatre improv with her company LB Productions. That definitely gets the cobwebs cleared and the flow going. If I’m in a bad mood before I came; it’s gone when I leave. I volunteer for both the Pemberton Women’s Shelter and Cultural Roundtable as acts of service, keeping it real, offering and receiving perspective. I’m in my third year of integration with the Feminine Power Mastery program out of which I started the group program I run called ‘Wild Heart Women Dance, facilitating the exploration of authentic movement and embodied writing as a vehicle for personal expression and social change.
7. Where can people follow you, or discover more of your works? 
I’ll be performing with LB Productions, at the Whistler’s ArtWalk as a roving art performer in the village July 4 from 6:30 to 9pm and at The Children’s Festival, July 13 and 14, singing with the Divas, doing Theatre Improv and introducing a new clown character- Patsy Show-Off; all on the main stage.
Website is under construction but you can friend me on Facebook, and look on events page for up and coming shows.
I’m still getting acquainted with this community, getting to know the issues and particular felt sense of this region. I think art should reflect the character of the community, so I’m in a early stage of research and checking out and getting to know what other artists are up to in the field, and enjoy discussions on their work; feeling out possible collaborators to evolve, before I start on showcasing a new work. I listen deep for what Life is calling me to do. I ask for the next step. I am an excellent beginner.
Any final thoughts?
Thank you Lisa for your invitation and opportunity to share in the Wellness Almanac, my thoughts on the way I integrate art making and wellness. I’d be happy to hear feedback from your readers.

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