John Elizabeth Stintzi discusses writing & the natural world

Winner of the 2019 RBC Wallace Award set to begin residency at Queen’s

Stinzi’s work spans from fiction novels to poetry collections.
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The Queen’s Biological Station (QUBS) is welcoming two writers for a two-week residency this summer: John Elizabeth Stintzi and Smokii Sumac. 
 
Stintzi won the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers in 2019, which lead to a meeting with Carolyn Smart, professor emeritus at Queen’s, who invited them to QUBS. 
 
Ahead of their tenure as writer in residence at QUBS, The Journal sat down with John Elizabeth Stintzi to talk about writing, nature, and death.
 
“The main goal is to get back into that project while I’m here,” Stintzi said in reference to a poetry collection that’s been in the works for a decade. 
 
The collection will draw upon Stintzi’s experience growing up on a cattle farm, which continues to inspire their work and has been a crucial part of their attempts to grapple with their identity. 
 
“This book of poems that I’m writing is not so much about gender per se, but is about my own feeling of out-of-placeness, not feeling like I was properly built for the farm life […] It just didn’t really feel ike I fit in,” Stintzi said. 
 
Stintzi has always been both attracted to and repelled by the natural world. 
 
For them, it’s been a place of beauty and a place of death. They hope to capitalize on this complex relationship during the residency.
 
“I have this weird connection with nature, and that’s something I’m really interested in, just how death-soaked the existence of living on a cattle farm is,” they said. 
 
“Beyond whatever livestock you might slaughter for meat, there’s just so many dead things that you have to deal with and things you have to kill.”
 
Stintzi is excited about how the isolation will allow them to sink back into the past and dive into their creative work.
 
“I want to see what’s in there that I haven’t even thought about.”
 
Although Stintzi is looking forward to their time in nature at QUBS, they say it’s a cliché in literature to think the natural world is somehow more inspirational than cities.
 
“We have this weird idea that nature connects us more to what it means to be alive and be human, but you can learn that by going to Walmart.”
 
The natural world has been integral to Stintzi’s realization of their identity. Although Pride is a time of celebration for the LGTBQ+ community, Stintzi has become disillusioned by the month, which they now see as a time co-opted by corporations to increase sales.
 
“This month doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m pleased that it means stuff to other people.”
Stintzi has always had a complex relationship with Pride. Their LGBTQ+ community is fractured and online, and they’ve all become jaded.
 
“I don’t really think about it that much,” they said. “I mean, June is a nice month.”
 
For Stintzi, writing has helped them discover their identity. It provides them an outlet for personal exploration that they hope to capitalize on during their residency at QUBS.
 
“I’ve been writing for a very long time, I haven’t quite understood myself for as long as I’ve been writing,” Stintzi said. 
 
“My coming into my own clearer sense of my identity coincides with my coming into my most powerful writing.”

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