okay, so I took the ferry over on Sat. a.m. and caught the Poets Laureates (what’s the plural of that anyway?), George Bowering (whom a CBC producer friend of mine has always called George Boring), our first PL of the Canadian Parliament, Carla Funk, Victoria’s 1st PL, George McWhirter, Vancouver’s 1st PL, and Agnes Walsh of St. John’s Nfld.
as the unofficial poet laureate of my community (I read here and there, different occasions e.g. I’ll be reading at the Remembrance Day ceremony…) I thought it was an intriguing idea to gather four together, too bad the poets didn’t live up to its promise… maybe it’s me, but I had the distinct impression that they were all slightly embarrassed at being PLs – especially Bowering who seemed to want it made clear that he hadn’t sold out and bragged that he had been given a beautiful office overlooking Parliament, with access to a secretary etc. but he couldn’t find a use for it and subsequently only used it once. He did say that he enjoyed the travel and was pleased about an anthology he created.
The PLs were all asked by the moderator about the perks and pitfalls. Carla Funk spoke of free parking while on official PL business, and of the request to write a poem for a children’s water feature and have the poem literally carved in stone the concept of which to most poets is terrifying – I know writers who change their words in their books. She also spoke of receiving unsolicited manuscripts from poets wanting her help and how unpleasant that was. Agnes Walsh spoke of her 5K per year and was quite envious of the free parking. George McWhirter spoke of getting a new suit and of the poetry map of Vancouver he’s working on.
The PLs read a few times. GB did his piece slamming slam poetry. CF read Bundling and the Blue Spruce Cafe. AW read from her St John’s Bachelors, and GM read… I didn’t catch the names of the pieces.
Maybe it’s because I lived in Edinburgh, where the Makar is really honoured, and it is considered a great honour to be named Makar, but I felt the PLs hadn’t really embraced and honoured what their respective cities had bestowed upon them. But then again, Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, loves words and writers.
I could be wrong in my impressions, after all, what can these PLs possibly say in 1 1/2 hours especially with GB droning on… still, it was a disappointment.
Later that night I went to the poetry bash, heard a handful of poets and left at half time. With the exception of Nils Hav, a Danish poet, all the poets were either Canadian or American, and I was hoping for a more international take on poetry. Nils was absolutely hilarious and made it worthwhile coming down to the event.
The next day I caught Tim Bowling’s, The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture, an interview with Mark Forsyth of CBC about Tim’s memoir of growing up fishing on the west coast. I know Tim from Banff Writers Studio – he, Don MacKay and Anne Simpson were our editors that year. It was wonderful hearing Tim’s prose – beautiful, poetic, an undertow of sadness/melancholy/rage running throughout. Tim says he tries to give some hope, but overall, I anticipate the book might be more of an elegy for the Fraser River than anything else. I look forward to reading it.
One other note. Tim said he’s loving touring with this book. After 5 (or is it 7 ?) collections of poems, 3 novels, he says a non-fiction book is an absolute delight to read/promote and one guesses, to write. One gets the feeling it’s a great relief for him…. hmmmmm