Shari Andrews was born in New Denmark, New Brunswick, in 1953. Andrews’s maternal grandmother, Carrie Rasmussen Albert, was of Danish decent, and her great-grandparents, Lars Anderson and Christane Hartmann Larsen, were two of the original settlers in New Denmark in 1876. After her marriage, Andrews moved to various locations in New Brunswick, but she eventually settled in New Maryland, a few kilometres south of Fredericton, where she currently resides.
Andrews began to write poetry full time in 1987 after attending the Maritime Writers’ Workshop at the University of New Brunswick. In 1990, she produced a chapbook of poems published by a local Fredericton publishing house. The chapbook was entitled Treason, and it focused primarily on Andrews’s feelings of isolation during puberty, her eventual marriage, and motherhood. In 1994, she attended an Intensive Journal workshop developed by Ira Progoff that focused on writing as a means of self-expression. Two years later, in 1996, she attended the Pairing Writing and Visual Art Workshop led by Robert Hawkes. Three years later, in 1999, she wrote her first full-length poetry collection, The Stone Cloak, an imaginative invocation of the stories, memories, and history of the New Denmark region from the 1800s to the present. Much of her inspiration for that collection came from her own ancestors’ stories and memories of the settlement, as well as archival material from the period. Bones About to Bloom was published two years later in 2001. It is a more diverse collection in which the cycle of death, life, and rebirth is presented allegorically through the seasonal rotation. Much like her first collection, Bones About to Bloom focuses on Andrews’s rebirth as an individual after her children have grown up. Andrews returned to an historical approach with her third collection, Crucible (2004), which is based on the life of St. Catherine of Siena during the 1300s. Her latest collection, Walking the Sky (2005), is a more experimental collection, and divides itself into various narratives through linked poems. In contrast to her earlier work, Walking the Sky is significantly less personal, and it focuses instead on Andrews’s perceptions of other people’s stories.
Andrews’s work has been praised for its seemingly simple metaphors and emotional impact that resists “over-sentimentality” or “resorting to clichés” (Hodd 12). Her work has also been described as “quiet,” even simplistic, though it manages to hold a “power of its own” (MacLeod 118). Reviewers have emphasized Andrews’s thematic use of pathos, loss, and remembrance (Edmonds 185; Battis 89). However, she did face criticism about her depiction of Catherine of Siena in Crucible, which did not directly address the psychological and societal problems of the saint’s religious self-mutilation and anorexia mirabilis, an exclusively female eating disorder done in the name of God (Thackeray 3-4).
Technically, Andrews writes in both lyric and prose styles, and she often links her poems as part of a larger narrative. In Walking the Sky, for example, an entire section called “The Hour” is devoted to an interweaving story told by various narrators about the death of one of their relatives, a technique that allows the reader to experience the same event through multiple perspectives. Thematically, this interplay of the historical and the personal alerts the reader to the division between individuals. In an interview, Andrews has confirmed that her invocation of division is intentional, pointing to the fact that each of us is essentially unknown and unknowable (Email interview). Andrews shows this division through the perspective of childhood—“Adults are regions going on in another room”—and of adulthood: “Waking / I am most alone” (Treason 7; Bones About to Bloom 24). This sense of loneliness has brought her close to the spirituality of place, an investigation she is pursuing in her new collection of poems.
Andrews’s work has been featured in numerous publications and journals, including The Fiddlehead, Canadian Literature, and Catholic New Times. Many of her poems have also been featured in anthologies. In addition, Andrews has been an editor for both Pottersfield Portfolio (1991–1992) and The New Brunswick Reader (1996–2000), as well as a juror for New Brunswick Arts Board grants (1993, 1997, 2011). She has served on the Board of Directors for the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick, and she was also a member of the planning committee for the Maritime Writers’ Workshop (1989–1991, 1994–2006). Since 1994, she has also been a member of the Wolf Tree Writers group, a Fredericton-based writing group for women. Andrews has won several awards, including First Prize for Poetry in a competition sponsored by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick (1996); the Alfred G. Bailey Prize for Bones About to Bloom (1997); and first prize in a short poem competition through Pottersfield Portfolio (1998). Andrews has also received many creation and writing grants through both federal and provincial bodies throughout her career.
Carissa St. Amand, Winter 2011
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Andrews, Shari. “Blind Hill.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. By the Fredericton Women’s Theatre Collective. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 41-2.
---. Bones About to Bloom. Ottawa: Oberon Press, 2001.
---. Crucible. Ottawa: Oberon Press, 2004.
---. “Dawn Penetrating.” Shout and Speak Out Loud: Atlantic Canadians on Child Sexual Abuse. Ed. Margaret McLeod and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East, 1992. 141-2.
---. Email interview. 21 Nov. 2011.
---. “Exclamations.” 1995/1996 Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry. Palm Springs, CA: Monitor Book Company, 1996.
---. “Imagining the Catacombs.” Words Out There: Woman Poets in Atlantic Canada. Ed. Jeanette Lynes. Lockeport, NS: Roseway Publishing, 1999. 63.
---. “Lost to Her.” Letting Go: An Anthology of Loss and Survival. Ed. Hugh MacDonald. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 2005. 19.
---. “No Feathered Shuffling.” Letting Go: An Anthology of Loss and Survival. Ed. Hugh MacDonald. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 2005. 18.
---. “The Smallest Rafts She Can Imagine.” Words Out There: Woman Poets in Atlantic Canada. Ed. Jeanette Lynes. Lockeport, NS: Roseway Publishing, 1999. 64.
---. The Stone Cloak. Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1999.
---. “Shari Andrews, Poet of New Denmark, N.B.” Words Out There: Woman Poets in Atlantic Canada. Ed. Jeanette Lynes. Lockeport, NS: Roseway Publishing, 1999. 189-92.
---. Treason. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1990.
---. Walking the Sky. Ottawa: Oberon Press, 2005.
---. “Words to a Sister.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. By the Fredericton Women’s Theatre Collective. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 28-9.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Baigent, Beryl. Rev. of Bones About to Bloom, by Shari Andrews. Canadian Book Review Annual (2002): 203.
Battis, Jes. “Organic Re-membering.” Rev. of Bones About to Bloom, by Shari Andrews; Concrete and Wild Carrot, by Margaret Avison; Blessings, by Bernice Lever; and Snow Formations, by Carolyn Souaid. Canadian Literature 183 (Winter 2004): 89-90.
Edmonds, Edward L. Rev. of The Stone Cloak, by Shari Andrews. Canadian Book Review Annual (2000): 185.
Hodd, Thomas. Rev. of The Stone Cloak, by Shari Andrews, and Looking for Henry, by Clive Doucet. Journal of Canadian Poetry 16 (1999): 11-15.
MacLeod, Sue. “Removing the Shadows.” Rev. of The Stone Cloak, by Shari Andrews. The Fiddlehead 205 (Autumn 2000): 115-8.
Rampton, David. Rev. of Bones About to Bloom, by Shari Andrews; Winter Range, by Peter Christensen; and Talking Down the Northern Lights, by Shelley A. Leedahl. Journal of Canadian Poetry 18 (2001): 7-11.
Reibetanz, Julia. “Poetry.” Rev. of Bones About to Bloom, by Shari Andrews; Earth After Rain, by Sheri Benning; and Birdheart, by Elan Wolff. University of Toronto Quartely 72.1 (Winter 2002/2003): 207-55.
Thackerary, Marc. Rev. of Crucible, by Shari Andrews; On Abducting the ‘Cello, by Wayne Clifford; Ricochet: Word Sonnets, by Seymour Mayne; and Blue Tile, by Nicola Vulper. Journal of Canadian Poetry 21 (2004): 1-15.