Mount Royal professor named Calgary's Poet Laureate

Micheline Maylor works to spread the word

HP img - Poets Group

Poetry connects, it rallies, it grieves, it loves, it seduces, it explores, it captivates. it takes your hand in rapture, exaltation, depression, when you've lost hope, when you have faith. Poetry is the stuff of life. It will wring you out, then save you."

Micheline Maylor

(L-R) Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke, Calgary Poet Laureate Professor Micheline Maylor, Professor Richard Harrison and Professor Beth Everest shared their work at MRU on May 27. ~Photo by Michelle Bodnar

Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke visits Mount Royal

On Friday, May 27, Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke visited Mount Royal for a special lunchtime poetry reading with Professors Micheline Maylor, Richard Harrison and Beth Everest.

  • Maylor read the poem "Starfish" from her book Whirr and Click (Frontenac House, 2013).
  • Harrison read four new poems from his upcoming book On Not Losing My Father's Ashes in the Flood (Wolsak and Wynn, October, 2016)
  • Everest read from her upcoming book Silent Sister: The Mastectomy Poems, (Frontenac House, 2016) which is set to launch September 21 at the Memorial Park Library.
  • Clarke read from Blue (Gaspereau Press, 2001), Black (Gaspereau Press, 2006), Red (Gaspereau Press, 2011) and Gold (Gaspereau Press, 2016).

Clarke bases a number of his works on the "Africadian" culture, his term for black Nova Scotians. Obviously fully enjoying the spoken word, Clarke's reading style sounds like a preacher rapping, with rhythm and rhyme as a driving force. Chuckling often before reading with gusto, his own words are a source of amusement and amazement, his poetry is vociferous, musical and imagistic.

With regards to being Parliamentary Poet Laureate, he said, "The role of the poet laureate is to speak truth to power and to speak with power to the truth. And to be a representative of the people, the citizenry, the voters, in a non-partisan way.

"To speak what we consider to be the fundamental collective dreams and wishes and beliefs of the people, for whom the government are fashioned, and by whom the governments are fashioned. |

"So I like to think of us as being vox populi, the voice of the people, but also kind of ombudspersons as well. Ombudspersons who represent the deeper meaning of issues."

HP img - George Elliott Clarke
Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke read from four of his publications. ~Photo by Michelle Bodnar

Mount Royal University English Professor Micheline Maylor was recently named the 2016-2018 Calgary Poet Laureate and is set to begin spreading the word - both literally and figuratively - about the importance of this longstanding art form in today's society.

Winner of a Teaching Excellence Award in 2015, Maylor teaches creative writing, poetry, fiction, non-fiction and composition at Mount Royal. As Poet Laureate, she is tasked with creating work that echoes what Calgary and its people are, and will be reading at many civic events, including City Council meetings. She represents the artistic backbone of Calgary, and serves as a creative conduit, a human link between the published author, aspiring writer and the book lover.

Maylor says there is a lot of mentorship and awareness-building involved in the role, and she looks forward to bringing poetry to the public.

"Poetry is something that's really ubiquitous," she said. "It's been around for a really long time and it's in every culture and language that exists because it meets a basic human need.

"What it is, is the need to express our deepest emotions through language. Sometimes our emotions can be very imagistic, and there's an aesthetic beauty that exists in the image, but there's also that longing, or grief, or love, or lust, even gratitude or thanks, that can come out of poetry."

Mount Royal has a particular determination to bring arts into the broader community, says Jeff Keshen,Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

"Micheline Maylor's honour is an outstanding achievement in which the Faculty of Arts takes tremendous pride," he says.

Also named the Calgary Public Library's 2016 Author in Residence, a position that meets with emerging and established writers to offer advice and feedback on manuscripts, Maylor says, Calgary's poetry scene is particularly vibrant.

"We have an enormous spoken word community, with Sheri D. Wilson, Kirk Miles, Wakefield Brewster, Cobra Collins, Erin Dingle. In addition to that spoken word community we have a strong experimental community, with Christian Bök, Derek Beaulieu and Braydon Beaulieu ― no relation.

"And then we have an extremely strong lyrical, narrative, kind of traditional poetry community, such as Richard Harrison, Chris Wiseman, Bob Stallworthy, Rosemary Griebel, myself.

"There are these enormously powerful discussions going on within each of these aesthetics that live under the poetry umbrella. And all of these communities manage to have space and time to talk to one another here. And I think that that has fostered a huge amount of creativity and a positive thrust forward for students, writers, thinkers, the arts community, all of it."

With poetry already found in the pages of 85 different journals, Maylor's newest collection, Little Wildheart, was short-listed for the Robert Kroetsch award for experimental poetry and will be published in 2017 by the University of Alberta. Her second collection, Whirr and Click, was published by Frontenac House in 2013 and landed her on the Pat Lowther Memorial Award shortlist. Her works can be found in Partisan and The Literary Review of Canada, and she is often reviewing poetry at Quill and Quire.

For those who want to try their hand at becoming a poet, Maylor says, "Poetry is the most convenient art form because you don't need an easel, you don't need a camera with a six-foot lens, you don't need a sewing kit or a machine, or knitting needles. You can write it with a tiny moleskin and a pen, you can write it on your phone, lines come to you as you're walking, lines come to you as you're driving, lines come to you as you're sitting on the bus. It's the most convenient art form, the most accessible art form, the most easy art form to get involved in.

"Just start. Just begin."

Learn more about Maylor on her personal website.

Read the CBC article.

May 20, 2016 - Michelle Bodnar