Asher Cookson awarded writing residency & explores his fears

Asher Cookson awarded writing residency & explores his fears

As a poet who works, who goes to school, has homework and assignments, and let’s face it, has laundry and dishes to do, the trick is finding time to write—and longer than a stolen hour here and there.

Ashton is wearing a dotted sweater and has pink highlighted hair. He sits in the sun looking to camera.But for Asher Cookson, 28, that dream has come within reach. In the final year of his Creative Writing and English degree, Cookson has been awarded the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Residency at Jampolis Cottage in Avonport, N.S. He’ll spend four weeks this fall in residency at the historic house, which is perched on the edge of the Minas Basin with a view of Blomidon. The residency comes with a $2,000 stipend, which allows Cookson to write without the worry of having to cover the rent or afford groceries, and all the peace and quiet anyone could ever want.

He was elated at the news. “I felt like I was in a movie,” he says with a laugh, hands gesturing excitedly. Even with exams looming, he was happy to take a few moments to talk about the residency. “I’ve literally told everyone. I want to tell random people on the bus.”

As he finishes his BA and ponders master’s programs, Cookson was hoping to find a way to keep writing—away from the motivating deadlines and class assignments provided by university. That’s when he came upon the new residencies offered through the Writers’ Federation, noticing that a classmate, Dea Toivonen, received one in 2023. So he submitted an application, along with writing samples, a work plan and a letter of recommendation from creative writing instructor and Halifax Poet Laureate Sue Goyette.

Cookson plans to work on a poetry collection sparked by a class assignment, describing it as “an eco-gothic book about climate change and environmental disaster.”

He explains further. “I’ll be exploring what I’m afraid of,” and here he mentions the experience of living in a basement apartment where mould and actual mushrooms grew on the walls, “and moving to what everyone’s afraid of.”

From Sackville, N.S., Cookson started in King’s Foundation Year Program in 2013, but after less than stellar grades decided to try his luck in the work world. After a few years making deliveries and cleaning houses (which he still does), he felt ready to go back to school. With fresh appreciation for King’s, Cookson started honing his writing chops through journalism and creative writing classes.

“At 18, after an hour-long bus ride, and then sitting in a lecture hall … well, that wasn’t conducive to great mental health,” he says. “This time around has been so much better. King’s is small and the profs are wonderful. They care about what they’re doing so much and it brushes off on the students.”

Banner photo: Glacier on top of Jøkelfjell by Charles Rabot, 1881, Source Digital Museum


Part two:




By Asher Cookson



The forest burns.

Soot sits heavy on your tongue, thick and bitter,
dry lips dyed grey, teeth coated
in charcoal and grit.

The scorched earth is beautiful and desolate,
trees reduced to lonely monuments for the things we couldn’t stop.

Swallowed ash turns to concrete in your throat,


Nothing grows here.



Your fridge is empty.

You blink away the black spots, the bulb burns brighter
in the pristine white, the shine of glass shelves
mock you.

Cold hands reaching out toward the nothingness, clenched fingers
shake, wrapped around the things you cannot hold.

Take in the cold air, an artificial breeze, nearly calming
until the electrical beep tells you your time here is up.

Keep waiting.



The fields are flooding.

The rain reaches toward your knees, making pools
where the soil should be, dense mud squelching
beneath your sopping feet.

Nothing grows here.



The aisles are filled with plastic

shelves lined with synthetic fruits and
microwavable some things, your feet squeak
against the epoxy floors, grey with wear and cracking.

The cameras shift. Mechanical eyes count each step
unblinking in the fluorescence. Beneath its gaze you
begin to worry that you might be made of plastic too,
something else to be consumed and used and




Your body is empty.

Bones threatening your fragile skin, deep blue
blooms beneath your hollow eyes. You see stars
when you close them, lightheaded and untethered

You ache in new ways, stomach twisting with
hurt and need and want, the nothingness overtaking,
dry and sour in the back of your throat,

vacant and hungry.



You search for something living

All you find is soft and sickly green, and still,
you take what you are given. Your brittle teeth
break skin. mouth filled, rancid and earthy where
it should be sweet.

Your stomach aches, you want to relieve yourself,
spit the sludge to the floor, but still,
you swallow, and feel the thickness of rot spilling

inside you




patience buried beneath the muck, hope
reduced to ash from fluorescent burns,
sink beneath the sorrow you can’t reach,
emptiness overtakes and leaves you heavy,
burdened by the weight of all your wanting.

Nothing grows here.

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