Calgary has a new poet laureate — Mount Royal University professor Micheline Maylor, who specializes in creative writing and has published several books. 

"Poetry for me is a vocation," Maylor said. 

"It's not just a little something I do on the side. I've studied it, I've been an editor of it, I've been a judge of it, I've been engaged in the community for a really long time."

Maylor becomes the third person to hold the position since it was created five years ago.

The poet laureate serves a two-year term and receives a $10,000 annual honorarium.

She was welcomed at Monday's city council meeting and invited to share a poem as her first act in the new role.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said poetry is a "a mainstay of oral tradition" and plays an important role in society "by revealing to us our common humanity."

Maylor told the Homestretch she's looking forward to being an ambassador for the city's arts and culture scene. 

"The poetry scene in Calgary is one of the most vibrant poetry communities in Canada and in the English speaking world," she said. 

Advice from outgoing poet

Outgoing poet laureate Derek Beaulieu said the the biggest piece of advice he has for his successor is to be open to everything and anything that comes with the position.

"Just say, 'Yes,'" he said. "There are a ton of opportunities and a ton of chances to be involved across the city."

Beaulieu said he was particularly proud of a program he helped create called Artists in the Workplace that connects vacant commercial space with local artists.

Through partnerships with member companies of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, artists can access studio space or artistic production space "at reduced rent or no rent."

"We've seen the business community reach out and help support the arts community," Beaulieu said.

"It's been fascinating to see how many ways we can connect community over the last couple years."

Derek Beaulieu

Derek Beaulieu, Calgary's outgoing poet laureate, came up with an idea called Artists in the Workplace, which encourages corporations to rent out vacant office space to local artists. (Derek Beaulieu)

One thing Beaulieu wasn't able to accomplish during his term but still plans to pursue is having parts of the city named after deceased Calgary writers.

"As far as I can tell, we do not have a single a city-owned product – so, it could be a park bench or a street or a park or whatever – named after an artist," he said.

"Not one."

He hopes renaming city spaces such as back alleys or pathways would help Calgarians "recognize and see how many award-winning writers have come from our city and how those people's work have actually changed how we understand what this city is."

Poet laureate history

Calgary created the poet laureate position in 2011 by an act of council and with funding from six sources: The Calgary Foundation, the Calgary Chamber, First Calgary Financial, FirstEnergy Capital, Transcanada and one anonymous donor.

The appointed person is intended to be "an artistic ambassador for Calgary, presenting at civic events and producing literary work that reflects our city and its citizens," according to Calgary Arts Development, which administers the poet-laureate program.


With files from The Calgary Eyeopener and The Homestretch