Biography

Sharon H. Nelson

Sharon H. Nelson was born in 1948 in Montreal. She started work in 1965 as an apprentice at a weekly newspaper and combined writing and editorial jobs with travel and study. She earned a B.A. in Religion and English from Sir George Williams University in 1970 and an M.A. in English from Concordia in 1980. She won her first literary prize in 1959 at age 11. Her first script was produced in 1966, and her poems have appeared in magazines since 1968. Her writing has been translated into several languages and has been widely anthologized, especially in Jewish and feminist collections. Her poems appear on high school and university curricula in Canada and the United States and have been reprinted for use in women's studies courses and those concerned with positive images of women.

Nelson was influenced by early exposure to Montreal's polyglot and multi-ethnic culture, institutions, and social stratifications, and to the use of language as a means of including as well as of excluding people from community. In poems and essays, Nelson explores the interplay of the constructions of language, gender, sexuality, and culture. She works extensively with feminist, Jewish, and social justice themes, often with wit and humour.

She has written cultural policies analyses, has lectured across Canada about sexism in the arts, has taught poetry and non-fiction writing, and has co-authored and edited computer science texts, including Problem Solving and Computer Programming with Peter Grogono. Problem Solving And Computer Programming is part of the ongoing work produced by the Grogono/Nelson writer/editor collaboration. In 1981, the collaboration resulted in the founding of Metonymy Productions, a company that specializes in the production of technical literature but provides general editorial services at every level worldwide. Though Nelson normally remains editorially off the cover, her contribution was such that Metonymy decided she should appear as an author.

She served as a founding coordinator of the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets and as a founder, first executive member, and first Advisory Board Chair of the Federation of English-language Writers of Quebec. Nelson manages Metonymy Productions. She cooks and gardens in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Montreal.

Nelson is the author of eight books and three chapbooks of poetry and of numerous essays (e.g., "Lieder Singen/Tantzen Unter: Poetry, Sexuality, and Politics"; "Making Cabbage Rolls, Making Culture") and reviews (e.g., "Incandescent Poems"). Her first chapbook, Delta Quarterback Six (1970) and her first book, A Broken Vessel (1972) were published by Delta Canada. The Menard Press (UK) published Sayings of My Fathers in 1972, while Fiddlehead published Seawreck in 1973 and Blood Poems in 1978. Sunken Forum Press Press brought out Mad Women & Crazy Ladies (1983) and The Muses' Company published The Work Of Our Hands (1992), Grasping Men's Metaphors (1993), and Family Scandals (1994). The Work Of Our Hands was short-listed for the A.M. Klein Poetry Prize. Book Ends, a chapbook published by above/ground in 1995 to celebrate a Tree reading, examines love, AIDS, religion, and politics. Her most recent chapbook is Packaging, published by Metonymy Productions for Purim 2000.

"Nelson is the real item. She can convince you that poetry is not dead --- that it is still a voice in culture and social change," Gaetan Charlebois reported in The Montreal Mirror.

Nelson's poems "come to grips with cultural conditioning and its effect on gender roles." [Books in Canada]

"There seems no subject she cannot tackle. . . . In poem after poem she rights the wrongs of a shabby world, lighting it with language." [Deborah Jurdjevic, Canadian Woman Studies]

"Nelson develops a rich, untrammelled language capable of embodying her search for a poetics rooted in physical experience," Stephen Henighan said in The Montreal Gazette, and, he continued, "Regardless of subject . . . Nelson's voice, alternately genial and caustic, remains engaging and instructive."

Most important, as Wendy Putman said in Room of One's Own, Nelson's poems "go straight to the heart."

Sharon H. Nelson. 15 March 1999.