Born in Hamilton, Ms. Halpern attended UWO and Queens in Kingston. She is an art historian who has taught at Western since 1990.
Sonia teaches in the Department of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research and in the Department of Visual Arts, and has won three major teaching awards at Western, including the recent 2012 Arts & Humanities Teaching Excellence Award. She has also been voted one of Western’s most “Popular Profs” by the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities for five consecutive years (2000-2005).
Sonia is very active in the London community as a published author, local theatrical actor, and musical composer.
Her book, The Life and Times of Transition Girl (South Western Ontario Poetry, 2005), is her first published collection of poetry, and has been dubbed “Dorothy Parker meets ‘Sex and the City.’”
Why did you start writing poems that January morning in 2002? What caused that initial impulse? Did you have a relative who wrote poems?
This sounds rather anti-intellectual, but I have no idea what caused my initial impulse to start writing poems! I can say that I was feeling rather down at that time, and felt a need to express my feelings through written words. I’m not a diary or journal person, so I needed another way. As an academic, I always loved writing, but I would never have imagined poetry as my medium of choice! Unlike academic writing, however, poetry has an immediacy that attracted me on that morning in
January 2002. I do come from a long line of writers, although not poets in particular. My father certainly loved writing stories and taught me the love of words.
Your poems are mostly light and breezy, humourous with a serious side. Is that a reflection of your personality?
Absolutely! This notion perfectly describes my personality! I think it’s a great challenge to express complex ideas simply and succinctly, and humour plays a big part in this practice; it’s comical to me when heightened, urgent, and multi-faceted emotions are reduced to a few lines that pack a punch!
Are there any poets you like? Any you would say are influences?
When I gave my first poetry reading many years ago, I was told that my poems are reminiscent of Dorothy Parker’s. I regret that I didn’t know who she was at the time, so I did some research. Of course, after reading her work, I was very flattered by the comparison! We both like a good play-on-words and biting, edgy content --- all presented in a tidy little package! I also love the lyricist Jim Steinman who has a witty turn-of-phrase in virtually all of his songs!
“You took the words right out of my mouth. It must have been while you were kissing me” is genius!
Many of your poems are about the difficulties in relationships with men. A feeling of resentment recurs in some of them. Does this come from your own life or from observation?
Both! I see the poems as a collection of shared feelings. While I do understand that readers will see resentment in some of the works, I never like it to exist on its own! For me, any “negative” emotion in my poems always has to be accompanied by intelligent humour. I like to think that it’s this successful amalgamation that characterizes my work.
Some include little ways you’ve gotten back at domineering, insensitive males. It would seem you could easily get a following for these. Would you like to be the Ann Landers for subjugated women?
I thought I already was!
Can you tell us the most interesting or humourous situation that resulted in one of your poems?
I think the fact that men and women are encouraged to share their lives when they’re so different from one another is inherently funny. This dynamic is essentially the premise of all of my poetry!
Has writing poems had a beneficial effect on your life in any way?
Yes! Writing poems has given me the opportunity to share my ideas, feelings, and humour. As a writer, my goal is to have an impact on people’s lives by making them think and feel. When someone tells me that my book has helped get them through a bad break up, what could be more gratifying? They could have opted for a tub of chocolate ice-cream instead!
Will you be doing a followup to this book.
This may come as no surprise, but I’m presently writing a relationship guide!