Calgary librarian's poem tapped for Alberta's first literary 'bookmark'

A poem written by a Calgary librarian will soon become Alberta's first "bookmark" — immortalized in a plaque installed in the city's East Village as part of a nationwide literary initiative.

'Poem really speaks to the complexity of that human landscape'

Rosemary Griebel, left, wrote a poem called Walking with Walt Whitman Through Calgary’s Eastside on a Winter Day. It will be Alberta's first literary 'bookmark' and will be installed in the East Village next fall. Shaun Hunter, right, of the Calgary Bookmark Reading Circle says it’s about putting a story in the place where it’s set. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

A poem written by a Calgary librarian will soon become Alberta's first "bookmark" — immortalized in a plaque installed in the city's East Village as part of a nationwide literary initiative. 

Rosemary Griebel's Walking with Walt Whitman Through Calgary's Eastside on a Winter Day is the poem that will be installed next fall.

Shaun Hunter of the Calgary Bookmark Reading Circle says the initiative by Project Bookmark Canada prints Canadian literature on plaques and installs them in locations relevant to the story or poem.

"I had really never seen my city in a story or poem and I wondered at times if it just didn't merit that kind of attention," Hunter told The Homestretch.

"That was a completely wrong assumption. I have spent the last few years trying to find as much Calgary in the pages of literature as I can. So it's very important and it's changed my relationship with the city."

Whitman loved everyone, didn't discriminate

Griebel says the poem is about homeless people, the land and a conversation with the American poet Walt Whitman in the wintertime.

"He is really the father of democratic poetry," Griebel said of Whitman, who lived from 1819 to 1892.

"He's somebody I really admire. He wrote about everyone, loved everyone and didn't discriminate. I knew that Walt Whitman would appreciate the people who are drug users, women on the stroll, the down-and-out, the broken people."

Hunter says Griebel's poem is good fit for the community.

"Loft 112 will be the host for this. The East Village is a really important part of the city, lots of things going on. It's one of our oldest neighbourhoods and Rosemary's poem really speaks to the complexity of that human landscape. It all came together," she said.

Walking with Walt Whitman Through Calgary's Eastside on a Winter Day concludes:

"I summoned your great capacity for wonder as I headed into the white blurred fields where sparrows and homeless scatter like chaff. There I quaffed the sharp chiselled air, the slow sad light of merciless winter and said, 'Yes, this world is for my mouth forever and I am in love with it. Yes.'"

There are 21 bookmarks across the country.

This time next year when you walk through East Village, you'll come across a large plaque with a poem etched on it. It will be the first Alberta component of Project Bookmark Canada. So far there are 21 so called bookmarks across the country -- excerpts of Canadian literature. Rosemary Griebel wrote the poem. She is a librarian with the Calgary Public Library. Shaun Hunter is with the Calgary Bookmark Reading Circle. 7:09

With files from Ellis Choe and The Homestretch.