STU alumna’s poetry collection discusses ‘Coming Home’

Stills of the book "Coming Home" by Fiona Steele, as seen on bookstore shelves for sale. (Martina Barclay/AQ)

Living most of her early life on Prince Edward Island, Fiona Steele, a St. Thomas University alumna, said it made her feel stuck. Her collection of poems, Coming Home, is about how that changed once she moved away.

Steele had one roommate during her time at STU with whom she would share her poems, but this is the first time that she has shared her work in such a public way.

Steele always wanted to publish a book, but she never expected to write the one that she did. She sent the collection of poems to Acorn Press, after seeing that they were accepting manuscripts on their website.

One year later she heard a response.

“It’s always been in my mind that I would love to be published someday, but I didn’t think it would actually happen. At least not at this phase in my life,” said Steele.

The inspiration hit during the COVID-19 lockdowns in New Brunswick, when she couldn’t go back home to Sherbrooke, P.E.I. Many of the poems were written throughout her time in isolation and follow themes of self-growth and the different meanings of home.

“I think home can be a lot of things,” said Steele. “[The poems are] a genre of coming home, settling into myself and just the journey over the last couple of years.”

The original title was going to reference the island. But she realized that more of the poems were written from the perspective of living in New Brunswick, so she changed it to ‘Coming Home.’

Only two of the poems were specifically written for her manuscript.

“I just write whenever inspiration strikes,” said Steele. “Poetry, to me, is an emotional release.”

Steele’s favourite excerpt is the final poem of the collection, which discusses her coming to terms with her sexuality.

“It’s everything to me,” she said. “I think it ends the book perfectly.”

She wrote it two weeks after the editing of the book was complete, but asked for it to be included in the final manuscript.

“I think it captures this feeling of not only growing into yourself, but also moving on,” said Steele. “As I grew into my sexuality, inevitably, I had to let some people go that weren’t accepting of that.”

Steel explained that some of her poems are about people in her life, but she writes about them in a way where they could not be identified, so as to respect their privacy. ,

“I’ve captured my side of an experience while knowing that it’s only my side of an experience,” said Steele.

She speaks of great support from family and friends, though she jokes that her parents don’t even like poetry. In fact, the dedication in her book says “to my mom who doesn’t like poetry, my dad who told me to just get a job.”

Her parents may not be major fans of poetry but it’s their house and horse farm on rural P.E.I. that comes to mind when Steele pictures home. The red earth, her horses and seeing the ocean out the bathroom window are just some of the images that inspired her collection of poems.

“As much as I love travelling and love going to new places, that’s one spot I always return to.”