Michael Ondaatje and Friends to Stage Free Reading at the University of Guelph

GUELPH, Ontario  March 20, 2014 - University of Guelph Press Release - Some of Canada’s most eminent writers and literary celebrities will gather at the University of Guelph on March 28 for “The Connie Rooke Conversations: An Evening With Michael Ondaatje and Friends.”
Sponsored by the School of English and Theatre Studies (SETS) and the College of Arts, this free public event will honour Connie Rooke’s legacy at the University, her far-reaching impact on the study of Canadian literature and her influence in shaping generations of Canadian writers.
The event will feature readings and a conversation facilitated by novelist Catherine Bush, co-ordinator of U of G’s master of fine art in creative writing program, with acclaimed Canadian writers Michael Ondaatje, Susan Swann, Leon Rooke, Linda Spalding, Dionne Brand and Rosemary Sullivan.
Rooke was a former editor of The Malahat Review, chair of the English department at Guelph and associate vice-president (academic) before becoming president of the University of Winnipeg. Returning to Guelph in 2002, she established and co-ordinated the creative writing MFA. She died in 2008 of ovarian cancer.
Alan Filewod, SETS director, said the event honours both Rooke’s impact and the University’s history of promoting Canadian literature.
“We hope to make this an annual occurrence, and we’re delighted to host an event that honours Connie’s remarkable contributions,” said Filewod.
“This night also honours Guelph’s significance as the first institution in the world to teach Canadian literature in 1907 at Ontario Agricultural College. The academic study of CanLit is a Guelph invention.”
Rooke was president of PEN Canada for two terms. Along with her husband, Leon Rooke, she founded the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival 25 years ago.
In accepting the 2005-06 Gjemina Prize, an international prize recognizing lifetime literary contributions, Rooke said, “I have had a profoundly satisfying career in part because I believe -- with both the prose and the passion in me -- in the power of literature to connect us, to teach us empathy, to help us walk in another person’s shoes, to see with another person’s eyes. I believe – despite our ongoing, manifold, terrible failures to connect, to understand, to change our ways – that literature does great good in the world, and that without it we would be truly lost.”
The event will take place in the Science Complex Atrium, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free.