Calgary

Poet laureate program pushed with pop-up event

The air along Stephen Avenue was filled with the clickety-clack sound of old-school typewriters this week as four Calgary wordsmiths produced on-the-spot works for anyone interested.

Participants provided a word or idea, poets produced on-the-spot works

Derek Beaulieu, centre, Cassy Welburn and Micheline Maylor produced on-the-spot poems for people on Stephen Avenue this week. (Susan Holzman/CBC)

The air along Stephen Avenue was filled with the clickety-clack sound of old-school typewriters this week as four Calgary wordsmiths produced on-the-spot works for anyone interested.

All participants had to do was provide them with a word or an idea and poets Micheline Maylor, Derek Beaulieu, Richard Harrison and Cassy Welburn took it from there, producing short pieces of poetry.

"We're bringing poetry to the people, we're bringing the word of the street to the street," Maylor, who is the city's current poet laureate and an instructor at Mount Royal University, told The Homestretch.

The aim of the day-long event was to promote the poet laureate program.

"It's a cultural ambassador role where we promote arts and culture, why arts and culture is important in our lives and our community," said Maylor.

The process was a simple one, four poets sitting behind old-fashioned typewriters were given words and tasked with turning them into prose.

"So it's high-pressure, instantaneous, spontaneous creativity," said Maylor.

"Improv poetry is a great way of describing it."

Poetry in minutes

"They can walk away with an artifact right away," said Maylor.

"They can give us a word and five minutes later they've got a poem from one of these fantastic and well-known writers and they can keep that as a keepsake."

The catalyst words were as varied as the people providing them.

New parents.

Dogs.

Ocean.

Ecstasy.

Love.

Joy.

Former poet laureate Derek Beaulieu, also an instructor at Mount Royal University and Alberta College of Art and Design, said the exercise was as fun for him as those receiving the works.

"It's amazing how open the public is to poetry, a form we keep thinking is closed, it's something that we don't enjoy, and yet we have a lineup down the block," he said.

"We have people bringing all sorts of great ideas, who are getting touched and excited by the poems we're coming up with and who are willing to talk and willing to engage with this art form. It's absolutely a blast."

Most people put thought into their word, said Beaulieu.

"They're not just coming up with some word at random, they're coming up with words that actually say something about themselves and they've come to a writer to say, 'Help me figure out how I see the world,'" he said.

"It's a real pleasure and a gift to be able to give these things back."


With files from The Homestretch