Council looks to inspire arts through poetry

Calgary will soon have its first Poet Laureate who will be an advocate for artists in the city. Arts in Calgary seem to be getting much more attention from city council and the funding seems to be following.

  We are one of the few major cities that do not currently have aPoet Laureate, which has been described as a position that can make a significant difference in the arts scene.

“Poet Laureates nourish the quality of life of a city, enhancing economic and social impacts,” said Kerry Longpre, chair of the volunteer selection committee. “They promote and encourage cultural identity and bring poetry to citizens in a way that can inspire them. I can’t wait to dive into this selection for our city.”Calgary will soon get its first Poet Laureate in January. Nomination deadline is Jan. 10, 2012

Photo by: Tatum Anderson

The Poet Laureate is a position created to be a representative of sorts for artists to the citizens of Calgary for a two- to three-year term. The laureate will create literary works that represent the local landscape and/or citizens’ civic identity.

Within the city, projects are in the works to create more spaces for artists to participate, Longpre said. She added that having an advocate representing artists follows suit with these plans.

The nomination deadline is Jan. 10, and entries can also be in the form of self-nominations. The nominees must be a professionally published or presented literary or spoken word artist, be a current resident of Calgary, demonstrate an established career through their body of work, or have made significant contributions to their community, regardless of length of career.

Duties of the position also include:

  • Composing and presenting poems for official City of Calgary occasions,
  • Making public appearances as the Calgary Poet Laureate either in Calgary or as an ambassador to other cities or countries,
  • Making public presentations of their work at least twice a year,
  • Sitting on the selection committee for the succeeding Calgary Poet Laureate.

The Poet Laureate will receive an annual honorarium of $10,000.

The Poet Laureate position will be managed by Calgary Arts Development, but it is considered a municipal position.

Longpre said there has been a lot of interest from all sides as the initial suggestion was brought up by a private citizen writing in to council. Council has also been discussing this topic on and off over the last three years, she said.

“We have had a lot of interest from the public inquiring about the position but so far we don’t have any nominations,” said JoAnn Reynolds, communications manager for Calgary Arts Development. “We are looking forward to the wide array of nominations that can come from the arts community.”

A Poet Laureate Showcase event is on March 1 at the Calgary Public Library, downtown branch in the theatre. The four to six short-listed nominees will present a reading or spoken-word performance but they will also have the opportunity to discuss the position of being the poet laureate. They will discuss the potential contributions they can make to Calgary and the arts community.

It is funded by the Poet Laureate Ambassadors, which are The Calgary Foundation, Calgary Chamber of Commerce, First Calgary Financial, First Energy Capital Corporation, TransCanada Corp. and an anonymous donor.

Many council members were in support of having a Poet Laureate as it passed 13-2 for the vote in council. Mayor Naheed Nenshi was among the supporters.

“I think that these things actually really do matter…. It helps us think of better ways to tell our story. And telling our story has value in and of itself,” Nenshi said.

tanderson@cjournal.ca