On April 28th 2014 I was named Calgary’s Poet Laureate (following in the footsteps of Kris Demeanor).
On Monday April 25th 2016 I will hand that position over to the 2016-2018 Poet Laureate.
With the amazing support of Emiko Muraki, Christine Armstrong, Joni Carroll, Helen Moore-Parkhouse, Kaley Beisiegel, Pattti Pon and all the amazing folks at CADA I have used the last two years to perform, discuss and advocate for Calgary’s poetic community, promote literacy in the city and initiate new programs to support Calgarian arts.
Here’s a quick review of what i’ve been up as Poet Laureate:
I have conducted 77 readings (alongside almost 100 meetings & over 40 media appearances) in 5 countries — including talks at The University of Calgary, University of Alberta, York University, William Aberhart High School, Queen Elizabeth High School, Mount Royal University, Brock University, Lakehead University and Roehampton University and at public events in Lethbridge, Manchester, London, Oslo, Stockholm and Calgary. I was honoured to give keynote lectures at the Oslopoesifilmfestival (Oslo, Norway) and New Voices, Emerging Paths in Contemporary Canadian Writings (Canadian Literature Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB) and the convocation address at Alberta College of Art + Design.
My students and colleagues recognized and awarded my teaching with the Alberta College of Art + Design Student Association Appreciation Award, two Alberta College of Art + Design Student Association Gracious Gratitude Awards and the inaugural Robert Kroetsch Teaching Innovation Award from the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (CCWWP). I was thrilled to share with students at Mount Royal, ACAD and at Wordsworth Teen Summer Camp. At ACAD I co-ordinated and hosted The WHERE NEXT: CREATIVE WRITING, NARRATIVE, FILM AND CONTEMPORARY ART symposium.
i’ve been lucky to have work published dozens of magazines, journals and books in Canada, the US, the UK, Germany, Turkey, Norway, Sweden and France and work included in gallery exhibitions in Canada, Austria, Georgia, Germany, the Netherlands, England and the US. I co-curated, with Phillip Davenport, Total Recall, at the Bury Art Museum (Bury, UK). I also donated artwork to fundraising auctions for both HIV Calgary and The Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre (KOAC).
I have created hundreds of new works and am particularly proud of the poem i wrote as a commission for the Vimy Foundation in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge in 2017.
I was the first artist-in-residence in the Lightbox Studio in Calgary’s Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts (now Arts Commons) — thank you Natasha Jensen for all the organizational acumen. I was the first artist-in-residence in Calgary’s Lougheed House’s 124-year history. The residency culminated with a gala reading featuring Calgary literati.
My work was projected on the side of the Calgary Tower and posted on billboards on Calgary’s busiest freeways thanks to the initiatives of Calgary’s Wordfest.
Los Angeles-based press Les Figues published my latest volume of visual poetry, KERN, and the Manchester-based press If P then Q published my latest volume of criticism, The Unbearable Contact with poets, and for that i am incredibly grateful. The Calgary Renaissance, an anthology of risk-taking Calgarian poetry — co-edited with Ottawa’s rob mclennan — is forthcoming in 2016 (as are several other projects which i can’t announce quite yet).
Through No press I published 64 different editions of poetry and prose from international, national and local emerging and established writers. Each book was meant to help spread the word of risk-taking international writing. Thank you for trusting me with your work.
In December, 2014 I traveled to London with my family in order to defend my Phd dissertation in Creative Writing at Roehampton University under the supervision of Dr. Peter Jaeger and Mr. Jeff Hilson — both of whom have been exceptional teachers and mentors.
On May 11th of this year I will be named as the recipient of the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts 1st Celebrated Alumni Award.
As Calgary’s Poet Laureate, I co-founded, with Calgary Arts Development and the Calgary Chamber, the Artists in the Workplace initiative through which we pair businesses who are willing to donate studio and production space to Calgary’s artistic community.
In support of Helmets for Heroes, I designed Canadian National Luge Team athlete Arianne Jones’ helmet – which she wore in gold-medal performances at the World Cup. The helmet will be auctioned for charity in mid-2016.
In conjunction with Calgary Reads, i provided the artwork for their new Little Free Library Passport supporting Calgarian literacy.
My work at Roehampton University — directly on the walls of the English department was the first UK public commission ever received by a Canadian poet.
I initiated the Twitter project The Calgary Alphabet in which i invited the citizens of Calgary to help create an alphabet of letters which reflect the city’s signage. I also created the #writtenrighthere initiative on twitter and, with Barrie, Ontario’s Poet Laureate Damian Lopes, created a National Poetry month challenge across Canada.
I worked with a fabulous team at Project Bookmark to try and make head-way in to Calgary’s community;
Not all of the projects i’ve undertaken worked out however. 2015 did bring some disappointing news. For my entire tenure as Poet Laureate I have been working with the Calgary Arts Development team and with representatives from the City of Calgary to create an initiative through which we would name Calgary alleys after prominent deceased Calgarian writers. With support from arts groups across Alberta, the Varsity Community Association and the Beltline Community Association (and many others) we proposed to name streets and pathways in the city after Nellie McClung and Robert Kroetsch (with expansion plans for further alleys named after W.O. Mitchell and Sheila Watson). Sadly –- despite wide-spread support from the community (and private funds to cover all potential expenses) and the City of Calgary Naming Committee –- the City of Calgary Priorities and Finance Committee did not share our enthusiasm. This was a project we’ve been deeply dedicated to for a number of years and it was crushing to see it not receive support. We may regroup …
None of this would have been possible without my incredible partner, Kristen, and my amazing daughter Maddie. My parents and in-laws have also been a steady voice of support and love; thank you.
In so many ways I only excel because of the strength and support of my community of friends and colleagues especially Christian Bök, Sina Queyras, Darren Wershler, Kenneth Goldsmith, Ken Hunt, Tony Trehy, Jordan Scott, Greg Betts, Lori Emerson, Kit Dobson, Helen Hajnoczky, Richard Harrison and so many others. Thank you.
I’m by no means done and the opportunity to be Poet Laureate has already lead to a number of new projects and potential collaborations — I’m excited to see how these ideas will challenge both me and the arts community.
It has been an honour, thank you — I look forward to seeing what Calgary’s next Poet Laureate does with the position.