YYC POP: Poetic Portraits of Poetry, a Sheri-D Wilson Laureate Project


– Joanna Iles

A quiet kid in Bowness. Using his hidden reading flashlight under the covers, trying to capture a few more moments of adventure before mom caught him and made him go to sleep.

Walking to school, coming home to the dogs, hugging his grandfather, the father figure who didn’t always say the words “I love you” but said it when he taught him to shave, taught him to be accepting, taught him about music, specifically the Clash.

Taking care of his brother, who had leukemia. Having to grow up fast to take care of his mom but celebrating together when the doctor said “be gone” to the cancer, who never returned.

Teenage years, tough times. Punk rock, late nights, video games, no curfew.
Girls. Boys? Confusion.

Artistic, wanting to be seen. Taking to the stage, slaying vampires and cutting his long hair for a role. Feeling grounded, growing into his own.

Graduation, 12 grades accomplished. Apprenticeship at a Theatre Company, no money, no time, but full of pre-show jitters every day. Accepted by each cast, blowing out 18 candles surrounded by the Cat in the Hat.

Theatre school, girlfriends, papers versus parties. The “odd duck” waddling in from the professional world into a class full of people who were all told they were the “best of the best”. He didn’t want to be the best, he wants to be his personal best, to learn, and grow.

Graduation, his mother cried. His brother, cancer-free celebrated him, his grandfather hugged him tightly.

Time to catch up with an old friend, always friends… maybe more?

Wedding bells in his head as he watches his old friend become his wife, walking down the aisle in Gunns Dairy Barn at Heritage Park. A park with history, a girl with history, a new story he can’t wait to be a part of.

Two years, maybe three, trials, pain, loss, but staying together, “till death do you part”. Admitting to his wife and to himself that he, a married man, can be bisexual. He didn’t choose a side, he chooses a person. She fell in love with him, and this is part of him as much as any other. She accepts that and loves that he can live his truth. Learning about himself, about family, about acceptance and growth through the process. Taking off the layer of negativity, toxic masculinity and shining bright for now he can live his life without a mask.

A cat. A dog. A rented house. Leaving Bowness, leaving behind a place that was comforting to him in all seasons. Winter, skating on the frozen water in Bowness Park. Spring, watching the green pop up in the high school football field, Summer, sitting by the bow river, Fall, feeling the leaves crunch under his feet as he walked to the bus. Memories of a small town absorbed into the city, and into his heart.

He will be back, one day. For Bowness to him is more than a community, it’s home.

Joanna Iles

Joanna Iles is an arts enthusiast. She went to school for Theatre Performance at Mount Royal University and currently works as the Program Coordinator for Quest Theatre. She is passionate about the arts and loves to surround herself with art at any opportunity.