Poets Laureate

Poetry Map of Canada: An Evening With Canada’s Poets Laureate

In April of 2013, 14 Poets Laureate from across Canada, plus the Makar (national Poet) of Scotland, gathered in Edmonton, at a symposium hosted by Edmonton Poetry Festival Society. EPFS was founded by our inaugural Poet Laureate, Alice Major

As then-current Edmonton Poet Laureate, i was keen to both take part in the symposium, and add something – specifically, a performance evening that could share our work in two different lights.

Part One: 15 Laureates

First of all, of course, simply have the Poets Laureate read!

Part 2: Spoken Word Concerto for 3 Voices

Then, i got to flex my old Theatre muscles, and arrange poems sent to me by the Laureates (including 2 who couldn’t make the trip in person) into a suite. Listen to the remarkable portrait they weave together – incomplete, sometimes oblique, wildly variable in tone and topic, both innocent and wise, evocative of our land.

Knowing i’d want some advice, i brought in the best i could find as co-producer, the mighty Brian Webb Tho some were confused by the lack of dance in the performance, Brian’s eye for line and clarity about production values were solid, as ever.

We hired three multi-talented performers: Christine Sokaymoh Frederick Andrea House and  Ryan Cunningham to present the texts each Laureate sent to me.

And we contracted Dave Wall to create soundscapes for the pieces. Bob Chelmick recorded the event.

CBC Ideas produced a feature on the  Laureates’ Symposium, The Makar and the Laureates where we discussed verse and politics in our land. Listen and tell me – did they keep the bit where, in response to some Laureates’ assertions about the ‘lack of cultural history,’ I declared that they could only feel this because “there has been a Holocaust upon this land.” ?

I’ve never listened to the finished broadcast. I’m still reflecting on how it was, there in 2013, before the TRC unrolled. Some at that table, that day, spoke in agreement: Janet Marie Rogers and  Kris Demeanour know this territory and work with it all the time.

Others showed their support later, in other ways. (I’m looking at you, Bruce Meyer) All my colleagues, whatever their view then, however they understood Canada, brought a lot to that table, and have earned my abiding respect for their love of words and of communicating, via poetry, the views of their communities.

I believe that, as we all come to terms with our history, the TRC will come to be understood as key to our national identity.

I look forward to one day, producing another edition of A Poetry Map of Canada, informed by the understanding and acceptance of the true, deep roots of human identity and relationships to this land. 

All My Relations






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