Friday, January 25, 2008

POETRY FRIDAY: PEI poet laureate announced

We've had a poet laureate on Prince Edward Island the past number of years: John Smith, Frank Ledwell, and the recently announced David Helwig.

John Smith was my English 101 professor at UPEI; I took a few English courses from Frank as well. Ledwell is a delightful storyteller from my husband's village and we have his book The North Shore of Home, a collection of poetry and tales set in St Peter's Bay. And now today, David Helwig has been announced. I read his book The Stand-In a few years ago. If you glance around his website here, you might recognize The Indextrious Reader, who is quoted regarding his book Smuggling Donkeys.

I think it is kind of cool that PEI has a poet laureate. The only other laureate that I could name off the top of my head is Robert Frost, from the 1960s, in the States.

BACKGROUNDER (taken from Ragweed Press website)
The Poet Laureate Program was established in 2002 to honour individuals who have made a major contribution to the literary life of the province. Prince Edward Island's first Poet Laureate, John Smith, was appointed in December 2002. Frank Ledwell was appointed to the post in December 2004.

Objectives of the P.E.I. Poet Laureate Program:
To celebrate Prince Edward Island and its people;
To raise the profile of Prince Edward Island poets;
To promote a higher standard of literacy;
To raise public awareness of poetry and of the spoken word;
To create a spokesperson for literature in general and poetry in particular; and
To provide a focal point for the expression of Prince Edward Island culture and heritage through the literary arts.

Duties of the Poet Laureate:
The Poet Laureate shall undertake such activities to promote the objectives of the office as may be appropriate, including, but not limited to, composing poetry related to legislative or state occasions and events of significance, visiting schools, presenting or arranging poetry readings and assisting with writing workshops or other activities.

While looking up some background for this post, I found this poem that Frank Ledwell wrote about Terry Fox. I'm linking to the site, because I'm not sure about copyrights and what I am allowed to post here willy-nilly. It's a lovely tribute to a real hero, and evokes that lasting image of Terry, running on the highway, hobbling with that distinctive hop, skip, and run. I like how the poem starts at the beginning, before Fox became the whole country's memory, just a young man, so full of life. Two years ago, the Terry Fox Run on PEI was running across the Confederation Bridge, the 13 km span that connects the rest of Canada to PEI. To be running with thousands of people, living Terry's dream, was quite an emotional experience and a huge accomplishment for me. One person can make such a difference.

The last few lines of the poem would bring to mind for most Canadians the whole Marathon of Hope, from the one good foot dipping onto the Atlantic Ocean, to the heartbreak in Thunder Bay. And that reminds me, I want to order the book Douglas Coupland wrote about Terry Fox.

Mini Challenge #3: read a poem

2 comments:

John Mutford said...

Actually many parts around the country have poet laureates. Agnes Walsh is the poet laureate for St. John's, but I don't know if the province itself has one. I think the current Poet Laureate for Canada is John Steffler- but that's as many as I can name. Thanks to you I know three- yet haven't read anything by any of them.

R. W. Watkins said...

Not everybody likes the idea of a government-paid, government-representative poet, however. I make my views on such matters known in a recent online poem, 'The Poet Laureate of Canada is a Government-Ass Licker' (www.litkicks.com/poetr...oem=713098). As I see it, such authors are instantly compromised, having been given special honours and privileges in exchange for their mediocrity and willingness to keep their mouths shut regarding government policy. I believe that all government funding of the arts should be viewed with skepticism and sometimes outright contempt.