“Important, beautiful stories can come from places like small-town southern Manitoba”: 5 Questions with Poet Sarah Ens

Sarah Ens is a writer and editor from Landmark, Manitoba–the geographical centre (longitudinally) of Canada. In 2019, she won The New Quarterly‘s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest and placed 2nd in Contemporary Verse 2‘s 2-Day Poem Contest. She also won 1st place in Room Magazine‘s 2018 Short Forms Contest. Her debut collection of poetry, The World Is Mostly Sky, is forthcoming this April with Turnstone Press.

1. What was the first poem you ever wrote?

The first poem I remember writing was an acrostic poem for Hazel, my family’s cocker spaniel. The “H” had something to do with the beauty of hoarfrost. I can’t remember the other four letters. The “Z” probably tripped me up for a while.

2. Do you have a muse?

Not to be dramatic, but my cat Balto is my life’s inspiration and I may or may not have an Instagram account dedicated to photos of her accompanied by haiku captions. The sound of her snoring is the best sound that exists.

Another creative wellspring that I return to again and again: YouTube videos of figure skating and ice dancing. Check out Patrick Chan’s routine to “Hallelujah.” Life-changing.

3. What is the greatest public misconception about poets?

People sometimes seem to think that poetry is difficult to understand and that poets are intentionally obscuring meaning. The unfortunate result of this thinking is that people go into reading a poem assuming that they won’t be able to understand it, which makes them less likely to understand it. A lot of ideas about poets—that we’re strange and sad and socially awkward—are quite frequently true, so that’s no problem, but it would be nice if more people believed that poets are hoping to communicate clearly, and that there’s no reason to be scared of engaging with a poem.

4. Who are some of your influences?

This is very Mennonite of me, but Miriam Toews and di brandt have both influenced my writing—and my life—significantly. Besides teaching me about the power of image and motif, about concision and cadence and voice, they were some of the first to teach me that I wasn’t alone in thinking my Mennonite-girl thoughts, and that important, beautiful stories can come from places like small-town southern Manitoba.

5. You’re from Landmark, and yet you’re not a Plett. Please explain how this is possible.

My best guess is that they make exceptions every few years and let some non-Plett Mennos in to widen the gene pool.


Due to COVID-19, Sarah’s book launch has been moved online. You can join Sarah for the livestream launch of The World Is Mostly Sky, scheduled for the end of April. More info to come! And in the meantime, you can purchase her book at McNally Robinson (and other independent bookstores across Canada!) as well as from Chapters Indigo and Amazon.