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 #3

The Word Rider poetry surfboard — part of the Tofino Arts Council’s Tofino Boardwalk project — did a recent, brief walkabout from its usual station in the Common Loaf Bake Shop, for a mass beachfront display at Queen of the Peak.

Now it has returned to the bake shop, and sports a new poem by Clayoquot writer and Lennard Island lighthouse keeper Caroline Woodward.


Search & Rescue

Two days ago, she vanished
Somebody mentions surfing…

Search, take binoculars, look
Into each cave and channel

Helicopters, boats, planes, all
Follow currents, tides, rumours…

Black wetsuit on black water
Just pray she is tough, floating

* * *

Board art & lettering by Joanna Streetly. Photo by Jan McDougall. 

Word Rider: the creation

Last April, Maureen Fraser, of the Tofino Arts Council (TAC), got in touch with the writers group to ask if we were interested in participating in the Tofino Boardwalk — a novel new TAC project that pairs artists together with surfboards, to see what beautiful objects could be created. Artists have jumped on the idea, as have businesses eager to sponsor the project and display a board.

The other boards are all visual art, but Maureen’s twist was to propose a surfboard “blackboard” on which poetry could be displayed, on a rotating basis. She offered to give it a home in the Common Loaf Bake Shop (Facebook page), where it would get great exposure.

We said a collective yes and the email list heated up to canvas our members for poems they’d like to submit. There were some pretty stringent line number and length criteria, given the surfboard shape, and we called for topics of local relevance.

boardwalk Joanna--small

photo: Jan McDougall

Then we commissioned CWG member and writer/artist extraordinaire Joanna Streetly (above) to do the blackboard-ization and artwork on a board that Maureen had supplied. That was reportedly not a quick or easy prospect, but Word Rider (the name we chose) is now almost done and ready to be installed in the Common Loaf. We’ll let you know when it’s up and you can see it for yourself!

Here’s the link to TAC’s Tofino Boardwalk project page.