Poetry is thriving despite cancellation of Calgary Spoken Word Festival

This time last year the Calgary Spoken Word Festival was in full swing. However, Sheri-D Wilson, founder of the festival, said in an email that the Calgary Spoken Word Society is focusing on education and workshops this year.

Despite the cancellation of the festival this year, poetry is alive and thriving in Calgary, according to publisher Rose Scollard, poet laureate Derek Beaulieu, and professor Kit Dobson.

Calgary has a poet laureate

In April of 2014 Derek Beaulieu was named Calgary’s poet laureate. His job is to work as an ambassador of the Calgary writing community.

“I work to introduce Calgarian poetry to wider audiences,” Beaulieu said, “[I] host events, host readings, and do interviews and be a willing a positive ambassador of our writing communities, both to Calgary and abroad.”

Beaulieu teaches at Mount Royal University as well as Alberta College of Art + Design. He has written 16 books, and ran publishing press Housepress from 1997-2004 and now runs No Press.

Poetry is accessible

The Internet has made poetry more accessible than ever. Rose Scollard of Frontenac House, a publishing company in Calgary, said that they have started publishing their books in formats for all devices. “For too long we have been taught [that] poetry is hard,” Derek Beaulieu said. “That it is something that is coded, strange [and] difficult.”

Photo courtesy of Derek Beaulieu

The Internet has also become a platform for contemporary conversations around poetry, according to Kit Dobson, an English professor at Mount Royal University.”I think there is a lot of vibrancy to those conversations that I am really keen on and I follow closely,” Dobson said.

Beaulieu said that poetry has always been accessible. He said that people have misconceptions about poetry because they are told they have to study it.

“For too long we have been taught [that] poetry is hard,” he said. “That it is something that is coded, strange [and] difficult.”

Beaulieu proposes that poetry is everywhere. He said he believes that any strange, challenging, or shocking use of language can be considered poetry.

Poetry is big in Calgary

“I work to introduce Calgarian poetry to wider audiences.”

-Derek Beaulieu, Calgary poet laureateThe post-secondary institutes in Calgary have been producing talented poets for generations, according to Beaulieu. He said this is why Calgary has such a strong reputation around the world for experimental poetry.

“Every time I travel people want to know what’s happening in terms of poetry in Calgary,” said Beaulieu.

Scollard agrees, “We’re probably a bit of a poetry centre for the country.”

She thinks it is because Calgary fosters and respects creativity, explaining that when she was in Eastern Canada she felt like there was often a, “who do you think you are,” attitude when it came to poetry.

jdoll@cjournal.ca