Skip to content

Poet returns to ‘his Mecca’

A former Deep Creek resident returns to Salmon Arm for a reading of his work at SAGA Public Art Gallery.

Aurian Haller is coming home.

He left the Shuswap as a student and is returning a prize-winning poet, songwriter and band member.

Haller is the lead singer of the Aurian Haller Band, whose unique blend of folk, rock and jazz is supported by Haller’s haunting lyrics.

His poetry has appeared in Arc, Descant, The Antigonish Review, and in his acclaimed collection, A Dream of Sulphur.

He has won numerous national awards, including a National Magazine Award for poetry and The Malahat Review Long Poem.

Son of Deep Creek’s Brian and Eva Smith, Haller says the impetus for his award-winning Song of the Taxidermist was a dead rat he saw lying on the grounds of UBC, where he earned a master’s in creative writing.

“There was a rat that got run over by a car and it was slowly flattened for about a month  until it was nothing but a piece of leather like the sole of a shoe or discarded glove,” he says.  “I would pass it every day and when you pass something strange every day, your mind starts making things up. I got interested in wondering whether I could find any personality or life in what was left after the spirit of the rat disappeared.”

Haller says he then read an article on the Japanese tradition of skinning a person when they died, work he says that is now in display in museums.

“You can see the skins as a work of art, where the boundary between the body and art was dissolved,” he says, noting he interviewed several taxidermists and viewed famous taxidermied specimens such as the celebrated French giraffe, Zarafe, and the Alaskan sled dog Toto.

In the poem, Haller says he explores the concept of the body as having some sort of life apart from the mind, with the body a colony that might just separate from the mother and go its own way.

Haller says his gift for writing began early on, starting with music. He has recordings going back to when he was seven or eight.

He later enrolled in a creative writing course at Okanagan College where, under the tutelage of musician and writer John Lent, began researching other songwriters.

“John told me, ‘you don’t need to write poetry or fiction, just keep writing songs,” says Haller. “He knew I was a musician and he’s a musician so he was really encouraging for the music.”

But Haller says he took the course because he thought his lyrics needed some work and one of his assigned projects was to choose songwriters who had lyrics that were meaningful and important to him and say why. His choices included Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

Haller says he was hooked on writing and while he also pursued his love of music with a band in Vancouver, he had to give that up when he developed tendonitis in both of his wrists and arms.

So Haller worked with what was left – the words. He moved to Montreal to write A Dream of Sulphur, his first book of poetry. When he settled in Quebec City after a productive few years in Athens, Georgia, Aurian met Paul of the sweet and soulful guitar riffs. Nik was the sensitive drummer and old friend. Last June, the three released their first EP, Island with a hired bassist.

Last fall, Daniel joined the trio and AHB was born.

A month later they were recording unplugged in CBC studios, performing around Quebec and doing pre-production for their debut album, Normal Town. To get a taste of the band’s sound, visit

Adding to the list of Haller’s credits as a writer and band member, he holds two jobs and is married with two young children. How does he cope, no, make that thrive?

“I don’t sleep much,” he laughs.

Calling Deep Creek his Mecca, Haller is looking forward to coming home to family and friends – and to Monday evening’s event at the SAGA Public Art Gallery that will include a mix of poetry readings and music.

Sponsored in part by the Shuswap Association of Writers, Haller’s tour stops at the art gallery Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Admission is by donation.