Poet with a purpose

Tina Charlebois

“I went to an English primary school. However, I have chosen to live in French. As a result, I feel I can’t help but be a role model for students whose only contact with Franco-Ontarian culture is at school.”

— Tina Charlebois

By Marie-Claude Dugal

The literary and musical tribute À quoi ça sert d'être brillant si t'éclaires personne brings a dozen Franco-Ontarian artists to the stage in a “literary and musical jam session” featuring music, slam, comedy and literature—including the collection of poems Miroir sans teint, by writer and educator Tina Charlebois.

“Having my work chosen to be alongside the 3Ds, whose work I teach and worship, is a true honour for me. Every proud Franco-Ontarian is familiar with Patrice Desbiens, Jean-Marc Dalpé, Robert Dickson and André Paiement. And to be in the company of these literary greats….Wow!”

This isn’t the first time that Tina Charlebois’ poetry has been presented on the stage. In 2011, works by Charlebois, Dalpé and friends were put to song and performed by Tricia Foster and Mackendy Dorcilhomme inCabaret poéZique.

Not only has Charlebois made a name for herself among the big names in Franco-Ontarian literature but she has come into her own as a teacher. Since 2006, she’s been teaching at Citadelle, a French Catholic high school in Cornwall. Being so close to the pulse of the Franco-Ontarian literary and artistic worlds complements and informs her work, not only because she cherishes the work of these writers but also, and especially, because living in French was a conscious decision for her.

“More important than telling students they should be proud to be Franco-Ontarian is to show them that it’s their unique identity and that there are many different Franco-Ontarian identities….I went to an English primary school. However, I have chosen to live in French. As a result, I feel I can’t help but be a role model for students whose only contact with Franco-Ontarian culture is at school,” says Charlebois.

La couverture du livre Miroir sans teint par Tina Charlebois qui montre une femme sur le dos arborant un tatouage en forme de cœur et regardant sa réflexion dans un face-à-main.

Miroir sans teint, by Tina Charlebois.

An invigorating profession

Charlebois appreciates the openness and curiosity of her students.

“In my poetry classes, I find the images in my students’ work very refreshing and stimulating,” she says.

This writer is aware of the two-way learning process involved in the work of a teacher. Students learn from their teacher and the teacher learns from his or her students—particularly when it comes to culture and its survival.

“I learned not to blame our youth for ‘making our culture disappear’,” Charlebois says. “The important thing is to show them that Franco-Ontarian culture is an integral part of our lives and that it’s accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live.”

Charlebois is gaining a reputation as a poet elsewhere as well—in March 2015 she received the Outaouais book fair literary award for poetry.

Language is a sort of game for this edgy lover of plays on words.

“Creating double—even triple or quadruple—entendres allows me to evoke meaning and images and make people really think.”

Charlebois’ work tends to focus on themes or situations she finds troubling and allows her to translate her thoughts into verse.

“I’m not one to remain indifferent to situations that frustrate, upset or shock me. And when I’m unable to do anything about them, writing helps me deal with this and get beyond the negativity. It is the source of irony, and sometimes cynicism, in my writing.”

À quoi ça sert d'être brillant si t'éclaires personne takes to the stage of the National Arts Centre on September 25 and 26, 2015.

Photo principale :
Tina Charlebois. Photo : Marie-Andrée Ouimet.

Tina Charlebois au Salon du livre de l'Outaouais 2015 lorsqu’elle a remporté le prix littéraire Le Droit.

Tina Charlebois received a literary award from Le Droit at the 2015 Outaouais book fair.


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