Portrait of the author Jennfer Yeates Camara, a woman with light brown hair and blue eyes that are gazing upward.  She wears a sleeveless red and black top, and has a modern hair cut contouring her face.

Jennifer is a contemporary Canadian poet.

She also narrates in a calm voice + immersive reading style.

She is presently based in Vancouver, Canada, in the Pacific North West.  

 

EARLY LIFE

The house on the 7th Line

Jennifer’s early years were uncommon. 

Her mother had 13 children, and Jennifer is the youngest. Her family lived in Ontario, Canada, yet they were distinctly poor.

Their old house was free; in fact, their father was paid money to take it away. Their parents used all they had to buy 5 acres of rural land to put it on. 

At that time, that land was in a middle-class neighbourhood, where each house's floor area had to meet a minimum size. Their father measured into every closet under the home's deep eaves, and just made it. Unlike its neighbours though, it had no running water or other plumbing and only wood heat and single pane windows to guard against the long Ontario winters.

Thankfully, their large, wild lot full of trees and the surrounding farms, creeks and nearby lakes were a creative playground.

A family affair

As the youngest, Jennifer benefited from the influence and traits of her bright and artistic family members. 

Jennifer’s sister, Regan Nuqui, is one of several writers in the family.  Regan wrote a thoughtful and humorous article about their early years in “Eau de Toilet – The Fragrance of My Youth”. She also spoke about attending school in poverty and the power of graciousness in her moving essay, “Elephants in the Classroom – and the Teacher Who Conquered Them” printed in Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper.  Regan is an accountant as well as a writer of youth fiction.  (This duality of STEM and language recurs often in the family.)  In 2022, Regan graduated from the prestigious Golden Egg Academy in the United Kingdom.

Jennifer's maternal grandfather Owen Peak was a keen amateur oil painter and photographer with a deep love of the outdoors.  He had been a cowboy and a park warden before working many years at The Globe and Mail as a graphic artist.  Remarkably, he even went on the occasional painting trip to Ontario's Temagami area with fellow Welshman Frederick H. Varley of the Group of Seven.

Jennifer's father Charlie had apprenticed as a stationary engineer and her mother Barbara was likewise good at maths.  Further, both were avid readers who enjoyed poetry and regularly recited poems from memory, like those of Robert Service.

Her mother in particular wrote vivid narrative poetry and had deep artistic interests.  Barbara once scrounged enough money to take ceramic classes at the local College, then taught by renowned Canadian potters like Robin Hopper, Roman Bartkiw and Ann Mortimer.

Barbara found she liked glazes most of all.  She was even invited to move to an artist colony in Big Sur, California, by a pottery couple who were not interested in glazes themselves and who thought they might team up. However, the U.S. then had the military draft on, and since Barbara had one son already of military age and another growing fast, she reluctantly turned them down.

Charlie eventually joined Barbara's classes, and when it came time to select two student pieces for display, a piece from each of them was chosen.

The move out West

Photo of the author Jennfer Yeates Camara as a youth about 11 years of age, with blue eyes and light blonde hair blowing in the breeze.  She is sitting on a rock at the edge of a river banked by evergreens.

When Jennifer was 9 years old, her mother moved with the youngest 4 children to the British Columbia coast.

Jennifer loved her first French lessons in grade 5 of primary school, and she was thrilled the local school system offered a late French immersion program starting from grade 6 (taught by the wonderful Ms. Chin). It was then that Jennifer began writing poetry.

Jennifer excelled at languages, literature and maths throughout secondary school, yet the family's economic situation remained dire, and she continued to express herself in poetry.


At one point in her final year, she was dating a young man, Dan, who attended another school. He became sick for two weeks and got behind in homework, including a poem required for English class. Jennifer helped out by giving him one of her own to submit. Dan's teacher was so impressed with it, he had Dan discuss it for the whole class (thankfully, Dan was good at improv), and told the other students to re-write their poems to reach the same benchmark.

INFLUENCES

Once Jennifer started working, she discovered a bookstore near her office, and was eagerly introduced by its owners to a range of poetry from various cultures - not just Canada, the U.S. and England, but also Persia, China, Japan and India.

During that period, Jennifer also explored Biblical poetry and its unique aspects, and she passed many nights listening to recordings of the Psalms.

For a sample of some of Jennifer’s reading at this time, please visit this site's Influences page.

Later, Jennifer spent 2 years volunteering with Vancouver's beautiful Vietnamese community (given the name Thu Thảo by her associates) and studying that language.

This was followed by a decade managing a contemporary West African music group that performed throughout the North West, including writing their press releases and other promotional material.  She was privileged to visit Guinea Conakry twice (being given the name Maciré by her in-laws, but more often called Geneviève), and she learned much from its people and substantial culture.

These two nationalities made profound impressions on Jennifer.  Meanwhile, she continued to press on with her writing.

DETOURS

Eventually, she found herself single-parenting an extraordinary boy while working full-time in the fast-paced, high-volume legal field.  Although her work preparing legal documents sharpened her skills with word choice and clarity,  she took time off from creative writing for those busy years, and returned to it later when her circumstances allowed. 

Soon after that brief return, however, Jennifer suffered a years-long breakdown, and took a further two years to recover from it. Gratefully, with the help of excellent medical professionals and supportive family, Jennifer came out of it feeling better than she had before. 

PRESENT DAY

Jennifer's first creative project after recovery was to assemble and publish her debut collection of poems selected from earlier years, with a view to closing that chapter and moving forward with her writing and related learning.

She continues to work as a paralegal and TEP in succession planning, and lives with her son, Mohamed (perhaps her biggest influence), who makes her laugh daily.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Like her grandfather Owen and photog brother Morgan, Jennifer also found photography to be a creative outlet.  At present, she has more interest than skill, so the few shots she has included in her poetry book and on this site's Prints page remain untouched.

PUBLICATIONS

Jennifer’s poems “Rain” and “Defined” were published in Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Anthology Three, Agua Terra, 2007. That magazine is no longer issued, but more recent anthologies of it are available from the publisher at http://www.davidpfraser.ca/the-book-store.html