Poetry & politics

Appearing last Monday evening at a council chamber near us … us!

Yes, a half-dozen members of the Clayoquot Writers Group, after a flurry of preparation, gave a brief poetry reading to the District of Tofino council, in honour of National Poetry Month.

CWG reading Tofino COW 2017-04-24 -- J-Osborne

To quote Mayor Josie Osborne (who snapped the pic above):

What a treat to have the Clayoquot Writers Group read poetry in the Council Chambers last night at the beginning of our meeting.

Thank you to Janis MacDougall, Janice Lore (who you can’t see in the photo), David Floody, Joanna Streetly, Toby Thériault and Clodagh McConnell for inspiring us — and for inviting Council to consider a future marriage of poetry and civic discourse through the creation of a Poet Laureate. As we were reminded, one of a poet’s jobs is “to reveal the overarching sentiments of a community to itself,” essential to the overall health and happiness of a living, breathing place.

The reading was to let council, staff and the public know that Tofino’s poets have been quietly keeping a finger on the town’s pulse for years, effing the ineffable about our collective triumphs, tragedies, conundrums and foolishness.

It was also to let council know that we intend to come forward again with a detailed proposal for a municipally decreed, official Poet Laureate of Tofino. From Clodagh’s preamble:

April is poetry month and with that in mind a delegation from the Clayoquot Writers Group is here to make a presentation to council on the value of having a Tofino Poet Laureate.

Poet Laureates originated in Italy in 1315 and have been around ever since across the world. In Canada we have poet laureates from Nanaimo to Ottawa, acting as literary and cultural ambassadors and helping us see ourselves and those around us in ways that go much deeper than a newspaper story or a political speech.

A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, who is expected to compose poems that reflect their community. This may mean composing poems for special events, or about occasions, triumphant or tragic which happen in the community.

Here’s our very formal “proposal”:

2017-04-27 laureate invitation


Word Rider #8


April’s Word Rider poem is by writer, artist and CWG member Ursula Banke (website). Find the Word Rider by the staircase in the Common Loaf Bake Shop, downtown Tofino, across from the post office.

word rider 8 sm-- ursula banke.jpg

Word Rider is part of Tofino Arts Council’s Boardwalk project — a collection of 20 or so surfboards turned into works of art by a passel of local artists. The project merges the quintessential west coast pursuits of art, surfing and business in a creative partnership to embody our community love of the ocean. The boards will be auctioned off at the Tofino Boardwalk Gala on May 26 (tickets).

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Board art and lettering by Joanna Streetly. Photo by Joanna Streetly.

Word Rider #7

Word_Rider_poem_by_Brittany_Smith,_pic_J.Streetly A poem by ex-pat CWG member Brittany Smith (website) now graces the Tofino Arts Council’s Boardwalk project’s Word Rider board. You’ll find it by the staircase in the Common Loaf Bake Shop, downtown Tofino, across from the post office.

The poem was abridged to fit the board. Full text below.


Not for me, our back garden
amongst the marigolds, sweet peas
and staked tomato plants.
(Husband, don’t you dare.)

When all my days are spent
I want you to pay me to the surf.

Carry my ashes to Tofino.
Ferry me there in a coffee tin
with the label peeled cleanly off.
(Or leave it on, I won’t mind.)

And once you’ve had your fill
of picturesque views and delicious
designer dishes and it’s about time
to be heading back

that’s when you’ll take me
to Chesterman beach and with wet
sand sucking the bottoms
of your pale bare feet

you will pry open the lid
and release me
into the spray, the foam,
the salt and churn.

And as the last shard of bone
is wheeled underwater
and I join my beloved grey whales
and moon snails finally and forever
you will feel it, husband:
the ache of second place.

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Board art and lettering by Joanna Streetly. Britt’s poem was abridged to fit the board by Janis McDougall. Photo by Joanna Streetly.