Edmonton's Poet Laureate

Edmonton's Fifth Poet Laureate: Mary Pinkoski

Mary Pinkoski - Poet LaureateMary Pinkoski is a dynamic spoken word performer who has traveled throughout North America to represent Edmonton’s poetry scene. She has been active in Edmonton’s poetry community for nine years as a poet and a storyteller and is the founder of YOURS: Edmonton Youth Open Mic Series.

Mary is a Member at Large on the Spoken Word Canada board and works closely with the Edmonton Poetry Festival. In 2013, Mary placed third at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam, making her the top ranked female in the competition. In 2011, she was voted Most Valuable Poet at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, where she was also Captain of the Edmonton Poetry Slam Team, who won the National Championship that year. She was the winner of the 2008 National CBC Poetry Faceoff.

Mary is also active in the community as a teacher and mentor, leading numerous workshops on spoken word poetry, including classroom presentations and writing workshops with both youth and adults. She draws inspiration from these experiences, as well as Edmonton’s past and present, in many of her works, and has collaborated with other poets and creatives on numerous projects in Edmonton and beyond. Her most current published chapbook is love is a tree you planted.

Mary Pinkoski will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate, from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.

 

Role of the Poet Laureate

Historically, a Poet Laureate served as the official chronicler of state events and occasions. In ancient times, the Laureate was the central means for recording and communicating history. "Laureate" comes from the Latin word ‘laureatus', meaning adorned with a crown of laurel, an honour also bestowed on the earliest Olympic athletes.

More currently, the role of a Poet Laureate is to reflect the life of a city through readings of poetry. As an ambassador for the literary arts, the Laureate incorporates poetry into a range of official and informal city activities.

Edmonton's Poet Laureate program is supported jointly by The City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Public Library and the Edmonton Arts Council. The creation of this position confirms the city's support for the arts in general, and for the literary arts in particular.

Edmonton's Poet Laureate Terms

Edmonton's Poet Laureate is expected to:

  • Serve as Poet Laureate for two years.
  • Assume the role of literary ambassador for the City of Edmonton both within and outside of the City.
  • Produce at least three original works each year.
  • Appear and present works of significance to the citizens of Edmonton:
    • at least once a year in front of City Council
    • at least once a year at a City-sponsored fundraising or charity event
    • at a minimum of two City of Edmonton official functions each year
  • Undertake to begin and contribute to an historical archive of events and poetry presented at same.

In addition, the Edmonton Poet Laureate will be allowed/encouraged to present or perform works of other poets, if content and/or subject is relevant to the event and the citizens of Edmonton.

      

Poet Laureate Events & Appearances

As the ambassador of literary arts for the City of Edmonton, the Poet Laureate incorporates poetry into a range of official and informal city activities. 

 

Do you have a project or event that you would like to invite the Poet Laureate to?

Edmonton's Poet Laureate creates and presents 3 official poems a year, and is engaged in a number of outreach projects.

The Poet Laureate is also available to perform at special events, schools, and other occasions, as well as lead workshops. Please note that for activities outside of the Poet Laureate's official role, an artist fee may apply.

You can contact Mary directly at mary.pinkoski@gmail.com to discuss her rates and availability.

Poet Laureate in the News

Mary Pinkoski Named Edmonton’s Fifth Poet Laureate

Canada’s top female slam poet brings unique voice to role On July 1, 2013, Mary Pinkoski will become Edmonton’s newest Poet Laureate. Pinkoski is a dynamic spoken word performer who has traveled throughout North America to represent Edmonton’s poetry scene, where she has been active as a poet for nearly a decade.

“I am extremely honoured to have been selected as Edmonton's fifth Poet Laureate and to carry on the great tradition of laureates that have served the City of Edmonton,” said Mary Pinkoski. “I am grateful for the possibilities of serving as Edmonton's Poet Laureate for the next two years and look forward to making poetry come alive across the city.”

Pinkoski has won numerous competitions and accolades as a poet. She placed third at the 2013 Canadian Individual Poetry slam, making her the current top ranked female slam poet in the country. In 2011, she was voted Most Valuable Poet at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, where she was also Captain of the Edmonton Poetry Slam Team that won the national championship that year.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mary as Edmonton's fifth Poet Laureate. As an accomplished slam poet, performer, collaborator, teacher and mentor, Mary has many skills to bring to this role, and an obvious passion for the past and present of our city,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel. “I look forward to seeing Mary in the community as our literary arts ambassador and to hearing Edmonton's story told through her unique and dynamic style of poetry.”

Locally, Pinkoski sits on the board of the Edmonton Poetry Festival. She is the founder of YOURS: Edmonton Youth Open Mic Series. Pinkoski is also active in the community as a teacher and mentor, leading numerous workshops on spoken word poetry with both youth and adults.

“We are excited to work with Edmonton’s newest Poet Laureate,” said Pilar Martinez, Deputy CEO of the Edmonton Public Library. “EPL’s goal is to Spread the Words and Mary’s commitment to storytelling and sharing the power of words throughout our community fits perfectly with that goal. We look forward to a great partnership.”

Pinkoski will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate. Anna Marie Sewell’s term as Poet Laureate ends on June 30, 2013.

The role of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate is to reflect the life of the city through readings and poetry. As an ambassador for the literary arts, the Laureate brings poetry into a range of official and informal city events.

Edmonton’s Poet Laureate program is supported by The City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Public Library.

 

 

Call for nominations: Edmonton poet laureate

April 30, 2013

The City of Edmonton, Edmonton Public Library and the Edmonton Arts Council are seeking nominations for Edmonton's fifth Poet Laureate. Edmonton's Poet Laureate reflects the life of the city through readings of poetry, and serves as an ambassador for the literary arts by incorporating poetry into a range of official and informal city activities.  The Poet Laureate will serve a two-year term from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.

Edmonton Arts Council Media Release

Call for Nominations


Interview with Anna Marie Sewell - Alberta Prime Time

Alberta's Poet Laureates
Original Air Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012

http://www.albertaprimetime.com/Stories.aspx?pd=3540

Edmonton has been doing it for seven years, and now Calgary has decided to get on the bandwagon. In this Around Alberta, how poetry is now making a major statement in our province.


Anna Marie Sewell - Interview on CBC Radio's Daybreak Alberta

She's been Edmonton's Poet Laureate since June of 2011 and the duties have taken her to some surprising parts of her city. For over 20 years, Anna Marie Sewell has been an author, songwriter and playwright and in her role as Poet Laureate she has been seeking the poetic voice of the capital. She dropped by the Daybreak studio to talk about her recent work and to also offer some advice to the City of Calgary as they get set to announce their first Poet Laureate.

Listen to the interview here!


Anna Marie Sewell named as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate

“A wonderful laureate, eager to share the power of words”

Anna Marie Sewell can add Poet Laureate to her impressive list of artistic accomplishments. The writer of poetry, theatre, stories and songs becomes the City of Edmonton’s fourth Poet Laureate on July 1, 2011.

“I am honored to be chosen as the City of Edmonton’s Poet Laureate,” said Sewell. “Edmonton is a tremendous city. It will be a joy to write and share poetry about Edmonton in this official role.” 

Sewell has been active on Edmonton’s poetry scene for 20 years. She is a founding member of the Stroll of Poets Society which promotes poetry in Edmonton through performances and festivals. She is one of Edmonton’s Raving Poets and has a recurring gig as the “Bike-nik Poet” at Edmonton’sBikeology festival.

Sewell’s 2009 book of poetry Fifth World Drum won critical acclaim. Sewell is the founder of Edmonton’s Big Sky Theatre.

“We are pleased to welcome Anna Marie as our next Poet Laureate," said Mayor Stephen Mandel. "She brings to the role a profound ability to blend wisdom and playfulness into poetry that is both beautiful and accessible. Her work is varied and rich, with strong roots in our community. I know Anna Marie will be a great ambassador from Edmonton to the world."

 “Anna Marie will be a wonderful laureate, eager to share the power of words,” said Pamela Anthony, Director of the Winter Light Festival, in nominating Sewell. “She wields unusual skill in casting the spell of language, sending the reader to explore new places. She will reflect Edmonton’s character in a beautiful and meaningful way.”

Born in Fredericton, NB, Sewell is of Mi’gmaq/Anishnabe/Polish heritage. She has lived in Edmonton since 1985, moving here from Alberta’s Peace Country.

"The Library and Anna Marie have worked closely together in the past,” said Pilar Martinez, Executive Director of Public Services, Edmonton Public Library. “We are excited by the opportunity to continue our collaborative relationship.”

Edmonton’s Poet Laureate program is supported by The City of Edmonton, the Edmonton Arts Council and the Edmonton Public Library.

Sewell will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate. Roland Pemberton’s term as Poet Laureate ends on June 30, 2011.

Learn about Mapping Mary Pinkoski's Poems: A U of A Student Project

It is evening in the city (For Constable Daniel Woodall)

Mary Pinkoski

On June 8, 2015, Constable Daniel Woodall, of the Edmonton Police Service, was killed while on duty. To recognize and mark this event, this poem was written in his honour by current Edmonton Poet Laureate Mary Pinkoski.

Edmonton Calling, Dear Iceland

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was created upon my first days of arrival in Reykjavík, Iceland and was performed in Reykjavík at City Hall on February 5, 2015 as part of the Winter Lights Festival (which has myself, as well as number of musicians from Edmonton taking part). I shared the stage in this festival with two Icelandic poets: Anton Helgi Jónsson and Elías Knörr. Our show was called The Light Seeps In.

Whatsoever Things Are True: We are doing great things

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written to help launch the University of Alberta’s Centenary Celebrations with the Green and Gold Fest and was performed on January 30, 2015.

Winter: A Possibility

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written on-the-spot after listening to two days of dialogue at the City of Edmonton’s Winter Cities ShakeUp Conference and performed at the conference, as well on Thursday, January 29, 2015.

And You A Canoe

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written to launch the 2015 Canoe Festival, a theatre festival put on by Edmonton’s Workshop West Theatre Company.

The way a curtain opens and closes and opens again

Mary Pinkoski

The poem was performed at a fundraiser for the Roxy Theatre and Theatre Network on January 21, 2015 a week after fire destroyed the Roxy Theatre.

Fire

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was read on December 3 at City Hall for the Everyday Political Citizen ceremony.

Symphonic City

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written for and performed at the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Symphonic Poetry program on November 14 and 15. As part of the program, the ESO played Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest.

We Are Light

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was performed for City Council on December 17, 2014 and for the City of Edmonton Youth Council on January 7, 2015.

A Toast to the Found Festival

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written specifically to help launch Edmonton’s Found Festival on June 26 – 29, 2014. It references the events that happened during the festival.

Edmonton, You Hardy Marigold

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written for the Edmonton Destination Hotels Marketing Group and performed to a group of industry specialists on June 23, 2014.

Our Movement is a Dance

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written on the spot during three nights of the City of Edmonton’s What the Bike forum on June 17-19, 2014. A version of the poem, comprised from discussion at the forum, was read at the end of each night. This is the final version.

Dear Edmonton,

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written for the Bridgesong’s Dear Edmonton event on June 14, 2014.

Dance

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written for a public art project arranged by the City of Edmonton and will be chalked onto a street in downtown Edmonton.

Princess Patricia

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written in commemoration of 100 years of service of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. It was played at their ceremony on May 23, 2014.

Genius Loci

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written and performed in Council Chambers on April 29, for the Mayor's Poetry City Challenge. A challenge issued by the Mayor of Regina, in partnership with the League of Canadian Poets, to create an awareness of poetry across Canada during National Poetry Month.

Create

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was performed by myself at the 2014 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts.

The Places We Hold In Ourselves

Mary Pinkoski

Written for the City and Memory Symposium, hosted by the Edmonton Heritage Council. I performed the poem on November 2, 2013.

Invocation (for Edmonton)

Mary Pinkoski

Was my first official at City Hall. I wrote and performed the poem on December 11, 2013.

Change is

Alice Major and Mary Pinkoski

This poem was co-written by Edmonton's first Poet Laureate, Alice Major, and myself for a Protocol Item presented in City Council to celebrate the mayoral tenure of Mayor Stephen Mandel. I performed the poem in council on September 18, 2013.

Edmonton, you are singing

Mary Pinkoski

2013 Edmonton Poet Laureate Appointment Ceremony – June 26, 2013

One City, Many Voices

Mary Pinkoski

This poem was written for Make Something Edmonton's Brand Camp (July 6, 2013). The poem was created on-the-spot throughout the day from the discussions in the room and read at the end of the day.


 

It is evening in the city

(For Constable Daniel Woodall)

Mary Pinkoski

It is evening in the city
The heat of the sun is receding into the pavement
The magpies are stepping out of the shadows
The dusk is shuffling tiptoe into the sky

It is evening in the city
It is like every other evening in the city
Except somewhere on the west end
There is a flock of mourning doves
Rising into the wind from a police officer’s body

It is evening in the city
And, Constable Woodall, while the word "fallen"
slides off their tongues
While our flags begin to lower,
and kneel at half mast,
and tears begin to drop down Edmonton’s face

Constable Woodall, it is evening in this city
And despite all this falling
we are rising up in your memory

Thousands of Edmontonians raising their hands
Into the breeze of those mourning doves
Outstretch arms silhouetted by half mast flags
Catching waterfall tears
It is evening in this city
And, Constable Woodall, we are lifting you up

No, you will not be remembered as fallen

You will be known as resilient
Radiant in the face of adversity
A light attempting to seek out the shadows of hate
In this city and bring something of a brilliant beacon
To our community
It is evening and the night does not know
What tragic tale it holds on its tongue
It is evening and I know now that there is no story
anyone could tell that would rewrite this tragedy

There are no words,
No rhyme, no reason,
Even for this poet,
To understand what it means to give your life
In service to others
In service to this city
"Thank you", "I’m sorry", "Why"
Do not seem effective
There is no dove song adequate enough
For compensation of sacrifice

Constable Woodall, Daniel, despite our fumbling disbelief
Our horror and sadness, our something inability to speak
I hope, amidst all of this, that you can also see
This city of concerned hearts bursting with love
For you, for the Edmonton Police Service,
For all first responders

It is evening and tonight
There are thousands of hearts –
A calling of angels –
beating strong
around your family
surrounding your wife and your children

Daniel, it is evening
And despite that the light is falling
that flags are falling
that hearts and tears are falling

We are not falling,
We are lifting you up
On the wind of our river,
Under a glowing blue bridge

We are lifting you up
Like the way hope rises off a hallejuah

It is evening and you are our amazing grace
Our blessing, our journey into understanding
How beautiful you worked to make Edmonton

You are our amen into a possibility
Into the hope carried in the phrase lest we forget

It is evening and even though
We may not always be sure of the way forward
Even though we may stumble
Even though we may find ourselves calling on some inexplicable force
To guide us through this,
To give use understand

Despite all of this,
We remain thousands of hearts beating
With your movement
Your vision
Your dreams for this city

Daniel, I hope you know, that in spite of everything
We are still loving,
Maybe we are even loving a little harder,
A little longer
In your memory

In your steadfast contribution to making Edmonton a better place,
We are loving in your honour

Daniel, we standing staring into the face of compassion
It looks like you
We are standing at the brink of concern and care
And it feels like you are standing here too

But it is evening in the city,
And I know you can’t stop a flock of mourning doves
I know that wind and river run their own course

It is still evening in this city
and the moon is rising into the sky
a light drowning us despite the darkness
Go gently, Daniel

It is evening in the city,
And we are holding you up

 

Edmonton Calling, Dear Iceland

Mary Pinkoski

Dear Iceland

This is Edmonton calling
I am writing to you to ask you something
Of how the light seeps into you

You see I come from a city where the sun stretches itself
Like a lazy yawn down our river center each day
Sometimes I think we take all this brightness for granted

Since being in your city I am learning something new of the light
There is nothing slow about the way it moves,
It is no easy slumber of setting sun here
No gentle rise
Just yesterday I watched the sun set over the pond
And then bounce across your harbour
Iceland, can you teach me how to hold on to the light

Dear Iceland

My city knows nothing of your salty brine of an ocean
And yet its silted riverbanks have always been a meeting place
A harbour of a different sort
We were once called Amiskwaciwâskahikan by the Cree
A gathering place
We have welcomed visitors
We have cradled newcomers

Our stories are ones of endurance and survival
Of building homes and communities
Iceland, I think we are not so different in this way

But our stories are simple ones

They are not the sagas of the gods,
They root themselves firmly in the land
Rather than the heavens,
But still they have taken hold

Until we have became:
A meeting place turned home
An Indigenous peoples history teaching settlers persistence
A NorthWest turned Red Serge royal in the Mounted Police
An open armed invitation to immigrants
Why Iceland, my city has already met you in the tenacity of
An Icelandic community in the middle of a wheat- laden prairie field
Led by a poet named Stephan G. Stephansson

There is something beautiful about how you do things Reykjavik
How a poet can lead a whole community
How a police officer does not carry a gun
How a church is names after a poet
How the skies open in an amazing dance of color
While the earth’s techtonic plates curtsy in a Viking “I love you”
That has the core of its being, all its secrets, erupting for everyone to see

There is a vivacious beauty here

Dear Iceland,
This is Edmonton calling
I am writing to ask you something of how you hold on to the light

How you have found it in places where it is least expected
How you have wrapped yourselves around it
Let it drift into you,
How you have let the light seep out of you

Dear Iceland
This is Edmonton calling

I am holding my hand out in letter
My palm full of light
Thank you for grasping on
For shining through the darkness
Into my being

Thank you for letting the light seep in

 

Whatsoever Things Are True: We are doing great things

Mary Pinkoski

Edmonton in 1915 looked a bit different than it does today
Burden by the weight of a world war and a devastating flood
The river valley also held a rising up as the deconstructed Fort Edmonton
Watched the Hotel MacDonald stand like the city’s new place of welcome
On banks that have welcomed people for centuries

Meanwhile the women’s basketball team the Edmonton Grads
experienced a winning season,
while graduates of a different kind at the U of A
were celebrating another kind of excellence

When Tory opened the doors to the university,
he opened them onto a city
that was already fantastic in its being,
He opened them onto a river valley that embodied
our extraordinary capabilities,
And he said, “great things are about to happen”

And in that moment
Edmonton in 1915 started to look not so different
than Edmonton in 2015:

Resilient, fortuitous, inventive, and ingenious

And for the past 100 years, alumni from the University of Alberta
have been doing great things

We have been walking out of these hallways into the corridors of the world
and beautifully transforming it in small ways
and in large ways
but most of all in great ways

We are the teacher who shifts hallways into a safe, inclusive place for their students,
And the doctor who brings compassion into the hallways of a medical clinic

We are the engineer who sees roadways as the hallways of their city and those hallways as the veins and designs them to be the living breathing accessible organisms

And the playwright who gives us life and that actor who embodies it



We are the compassion of political science student turned foreign aid worker
And the forestry student that has learned to harness nature’s power for sustainability

And the sociologist who explains our world, and the textile student who blankets it
And the English student who tells the story of it
And the dentist who shines up our story telling tools

We are the recognized big names like chief justice and prime minister and nobel laureate,
but we are also the recognized small names like educator and community worker farmer and citizen and neighbour

We are mother, son, sister, brother, father, daughter, uncle, aunt, grandparent, friend and student

We come from everywhere to this place
where the roots our of learning entwine
with the roots of others

We arrive green but on our way to becoming golden

And along the way we became, we become,
We are over a quarter million pioneers, leaders,
cutting edge thinkers dreaming
in over 142 countries around the world

We are 100 years in the making
And we are still making
Standing in the strength of our togetherness

In shared history of learning in a place that encouraged us
To push boundaries,
To stand out,
To find success in the bravery of taking risks

Quaecumque vera,
whatsoever things are true,

We are the University of Alberta Alumni and
We are doing great things

 

Winter: A Possibility

Mary Pinkoski

As we sit here on Treaty 6 territory
In the most northerly large city on the continent
With the snow on the ground,
Gathering in an honouring of history
and a spirit of innovation and ingenuity
Let us begin with the start of an incredible story

Let us begin with the impossibility of an adventure
The story of a canoe flying across the sky,
an elephant parading down a street,
a frozen water jug of a party on the Baltic sea,
a city plan mimicking the frame of a reindeer's antlers,
an avalanche of skiing santas,
a bicycle plunging through the snow,
a family thinking they are going to live in a refrigerator
Grafting themselves onto another family tree whose lineage is stretched in linking icy veins with a sister city in China

Let's begin right here
with a snowglobe sitting in the middle of the city
If you believe in all this dreaming
mixed with a little bit of legend
And a dash the extraordinary
This adventure is not so impossible

For as the story has been told to us:
the creator does not make mistakes
And if we believe that to be true
Then all this dark, this cold, this ice
Is in fact not so impossible

It is rather an expanding possibility,
It is a 25 year old skating festival weaving silver dreams into a project to skate to work
Sliding us into a Birkebeiner that glides into dreams of skiing through our city’s downtown forests and sustainably built housing on the way to the LRT
Sparking us into noticing the way the light dances off the Ice on Whyte and the Byzantine glory cradled in a deep freeze
Until we break this vast, stillness and we with the grace of bulls crush ice
in a city-wide snowball fight
That sleds us all down into the river valley’s outdoor playground

And, boy, do we ever play here
Yes, we have also been the story of struggle of building a life on snow banks and river banks
Of Edmontonians so delighted to live in a city of opportunity they wintered in tents Until their houses were built
Of settlers in sod dugouts
Of indigenous peoples sharing survival stories
And the cleansing beauty of snow
Of blizzards and snow storms
Of icy roads and weather reports proclaiming us
“the coldest place on earth and beyond today, even colder than Mars”

You can be certain there is a brave resilience here, a thriving
But in all this, there is also a tenacious and creative spirit calling out
that there is a rising up here
Just as the temperature can only dip so low before
It once again begins to rise
We are the mercury in the thermometer and we are rising
Beyond the data, beyond the narratives, beyond the impossible
For if you let it, everything breaks
The cold snap, the thermometer

Until we become the dancing beads of mercury
Shimmering ourselves into a glittering transformation
That refuses to be captured,
Refuses to be box stepped into the old familiar of
“its too cold to go outside” and “winter is boring”
“winter is isolating and depressing”

If you have ever watched mercury move across a surface,
If you have ever tried to separate it,
You will see how it clings to its parts

Mercury knows it is lonely to dance alone
Let us not let winter become the surface which separates us

For the love of winter,
let us instead become the beginning of a new disruptive dance
A movement,
that can only happen when you illuminate the darkness
Find joy in snowfall, take a fieldtrip that lets you cast the city in a new light
To make new definitions of this place, and that place of this city,
my city and your city
And share in this celebration of discovery

For we are taking others along on the journey
Young and old
Those new to this city
and those just new to stepping outside in winter

we are a community, we have always been,
And we are telling the story of us,
A story where winter lives in our very DNA

So to embrace winter,
Is to embrace ourselves

For we are incredible
We are beyond belief
We are a city that has the tools to move itself
Into the realms of the extraordinary
Into the stuff legends are made of
Into the components of a dream
That you have and that I have
And that we all have

A dream that is scattering itself like
A snowfall across the city

So let it blanket us,
Inspire us,
Cloak what we do in its inspiration
And then: let’s make tracks for others to follow our creations

Science tells us the story that when water freezes the molecules slow down assuming a fixed position
And when they are heated back up the molecules once again begin to move,
To bump into one another, to shake
Science says all this freezing and melting happens at the same point
at zero degrees Celsius
It is a very magical thing to realize that at two very different potentials can exist
In the same place, at the same time

We are at a magical point today.
We could say we are at the freezing or the melting point.
The best point in the project,
The beginning
Where the intersection of dream and design
First make contact, bump up against each other
Start the tentative first steps of a dance of discovery.
We are at the point of possibility,
The first line of an incredible story is being written
Right here in this room.
Something adventurous is happening
Something magical is happening.
We are standing in a snowglobe,
And we are getting ready to shake things up

 

And You A Canoe

Mary Pinkoski

If in the beginning there was only darkness
And all this was a theatre
With no boundaries and no limits

And at the striking edge of potential
There was the opportunity to be ingenious

Would you find yourself the messy infinite of a rainbow
Or the dancing hallelujah of a fortuitous ending

Would you find yourself sitting in a circle in London
Listening to the story of a girl with two voices

Or maybe you would find yourself down the road,
Sitting in a different circle
Beside Titus’s Lavina
Listening to the survival stories of Shakespeare’s women

Or maybe you aren’t sitting at all,
Maybe you are running, maybe you are in Iran
Shuffling through a collection of voices
Telling of a different kind of survival

Or maybe you are just right here,
A lost child waiting
Someone to reach into your chest and pull out
A ball of light

And toss it back into the air

Into the beginning,
When there was only darkness
And all this a theatre,
No boundaries, no limits

And you, a canoe,
Ready to explore

 

The way a curtain opens and closes and opens again

(For the Roxy Theatre)
Mary Pinkoski

In 1938, 124st watched the Roxy Theatre
Stretch itself up off the sometimes sleepy sidewalk
Like a queen waking up from an afternoon nap
And adjusting her yellow crown

Called Alberta’s most modern and beautiful neighbourhood playhouse
The Roxy opened its curtains to likes of Canadian film star Deanna Durbin
In a movie called Mad About Music

Sure it was the depression era,
Sure it might seem a little mad to open a theatre in a recession,
A little decadent
But that didn’t stop a new theatre queen from lifting her golden crown into the sky

There is something magical about a theatre opening its curtains for the first time
Or for the last time
Something about the curtains pitching outwards and upwards
that reminds me of a bird about to take flight

And soar is what the Roxy did
From neighbourhood movie house to home of Theatre Network
From that first movie beginning with Canadian film star Deanna Durbin,
To Stephen Heatley’s Theatre Network,
To Nextfest,
To, lastly, Morgan Smith’s Human Loser Theatre

The Roxy was home to local talent
It was an altar to countless new artists
Emerging, enterprising artists
Blessing the stage with their voices,
Their ideas, their imaginations
It knew no bounds

It was a neighbourhood and a community
A basement maze filled with the ghosts of theatre past
A catacomb of artifacts holding the secret dramas of Edmonton’s playwrights
It was more than a theatre
It was a museum, a memory, and a story

I have heard tales of wine soaked carpets,
Of yellowing posters,
Of aging mannequins
Of repossessed toilets
Of box offices and Saturday morning cartoons
Of late night actor parties
Of rooftops and of the way the dawn broke itself
as if almost in an offering to the bright glint off the Roxy’s sign

It was more than a theatre
Even now it is more than a theatre,
As it is and still remains a neighbourhood and a community
A celebration of remembrance and an honoring of what is to come
And it still knows no bounds

For despite the ash around her feet
Despite the rubble brushing up against her knees
There is still a theatre
That is lifting itself up,
On the shoulder’s of this city
A city that is writing a love poem to a community
With its every embrace

A city that is forming around the idea
Of a community, not a structure, being a theatre
And holding them there

Until they are ready to rise once again
Much like a queen waking from an afternoon nap
Stretching herself into this city
like the decadently royal expression of talent that she is

To the Roxy Theatre
To the actors and the playwrights
To silverscreens and a neighbourhood that lost a landmark
I salute you
I thank you
I remember you
I embrace you

And I journey with you into new spaces and new homes
Let this not be a eulogy but rather the precursor to a house warming

May your curtains forever open and close
Like the wings of a bird taking flight and soaring
Into so many new places

 

Fire

Mary Pinkoski

To live you will need fire,
The light of an idea that refuses to stop shining

There are fires burning all over this city
In the imaginations of Edmontonians
Young, old and in between

It is not wonder that this is a city
Whose river vein never turns completely frozen
With torches and sparks flashing up everywhere
There is always the possibility of a new dream
Around the next corner

But don’t get me wrong
Edmonton is no shooting star city
No hanging on by a wish and a prayer city
No, it is a down-to-earth
An up from the ground dirt city
A city with ambition and hard work entwined into its roots

It’s a city that holds its own fire starters

There is some bravery here
Some daring, some tempting

We are a city of campfires
Calling each other to draw nearer
To share these wild fires
And scatter their sparks across the city

There are people who work to make these fires burn brighter
Fire-gatherers who work to add kindling to the dreams of others

People who believe in and support programs that act as shelters of hope
Who give the gifts of sanctuary
Who expand Edmonton to new heights
Who find beauty in all the creative spaces this city harbours

People who see miracles in the work they do
And celebrate that
There is a rising up here
A spark shooting into the sky

It is a wonderful blessing to be offered a light
A glowing that draws you in to its warmth
A flame whose flicker dances with an urgency to taste your passion

There are vibrant fires burning all over this city
It is amazing how many fires you all
Have ignited and let burn

It is a beautiful thing to be able to say thank you
To say I admire you
To say you are my wisdom, my inspiration, my role models

It is a beautiful thing to be able to say thank you
As an artist, as a poet, as the city’s Poet Laureate

Thank you
For allowing me, allowing all of us,
To live in a city that has been in cast in a copper fire glow
Of opportunity, compassion and dreams coming alive

 

Symphonic City

Mary Pinkoski

The composer Tchaikovsky wrote:
"Truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music"
Like he saw in himself a river of sound that rushed through his veins
but would not break him
Like life is a music that tethers us to delicate edge of reality and holds us there,
as we move into its beauty

Dear Tchaikovsky

I am writing you this poem from Edmonton
a landlocked city in the middle of a landlocked province
you have never heard of this place

It is not your 19th century St. Petersburg
It is no heavy stone architecture,
no state buildings thick with the passing time,
no gilded, golden orthodoxy of basilicas

Though it knows your winters
It is not your 1890s Russia

But it is something,
There is something magical about this place

and Tchaikovsky
I think you must know something of magic
the way your ink stained hands pulled storms of sound off of sheets of scores
the way the music would appear in the air
the way you watched it dance in front of your baton in 1891
as you conducted the inaugural concert at Carnegie Hall

Okay, Tchaikovsky I know we are no Carnegie Hall
but we have been there, haven’t we though

Tchaikovsky
I am writing to you from a landlock city in the middle of a landlocked province
to ask you something of the supernatural symphonic storm,
something of a tempest
to ask you something of magic
to ask you something of dreaming



There is so much room for dreaming in this world
Shakespeare’s Prospero filled the Tempest with his reassurance that:
“we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is round with sleep”

So Tchaikovsky
let us dream together before we sleep
loan to me your swaying hands
lend me your fingers so that I might pull forth
a symphony crescendoing from the streets of my city

Tchaikovsky,
Can you see it now?
How that riverbank out there is turning timpani
the river turning beat maker
can you see how it sets the rhythm of this city

this rustling river valley giant with the drumming heart
has clarinets in its limbs, how they bend and straighten
whispering their history to the flutes in the reeds
echoing a story of they have witnessed
Of a meeting place for the Cree
Of pioneering dreams being made on our shores
These stories are not lost
They are still the melodies off which everything in this city is hung


So Tchaikovsky, dream with me,

there are oboes in the throats of our magpies
pianos sit like pedestrians on our sidewalks,
it is amazing the kind of music that comes from concrete and steel

Just this year a whole row of glowing piccolos bridged themselves across the river
at night they shine from such a High Level
Their bright notes dancing off the water
waltzing with the river’s tympani
what a beautifully odd pair they make
in this city where anything is possible

Tchaikovsky,
Cymbals of saris are brushing around mother’s bodies in Millwoods
The unlikely trombone of the Anthony Henday keeps sticking its neck out into traffic
There are French horns celebrating soccer games in little Italy
There is a cacophony of the bassoons of business just outside this door
disowning their sonic similarity to the sometimes buffoons in arenas here
But their spirit is so loud
They cheer so vibrantly

There are tubas in the plants poking their heads out of summer soil
at family-run farm on the edge of the score of this city
Snare drums of the north side match their rhythm to the marching soldiers’ feet
Lest we forget
There violins in the wires
Violas in the way we stretch our bodies around bilingual neighbourhoods
Cellos in the construction reminding us to move with intention
to not bow ourselves into breaking

There is a harp in our handshake
a many stringed grasp of hope and compassion
There is music in how we understand each other
how we help each other

Tchaikovsky
Can you see how my city is not so different from your symphony
I have felt the notes bounce off my palm into another’s
heard them sit on the air in the sharing of our stories

Did I tell you
that just this month I watched a flock of geese head south for the winter
there were trumpets in their throats
singing their see you soons
and their we’ll be backs

Tchaikovsky
My city is a place that people come back to
a bass drum that calls our bodies back home
despite the storms,
despite the calm

Tchaikovsky
can you see it now
my city is a settling symphony
a constellation of cascading sparks
sliding off the score of its streets
we are a rushing river sound running through our veins
ad no it does not break us either

because Tchaikovsky,
there is music everywhere here
even when we are not dreaming

 

We are light

Mary Pinkoski

Physicist Paul Hewitt wrote, "The only thing we can see is light"

I live in a city that writes a love letter to the light every day
There is something special about the way my city pens the light
It is not Paris’s Eiffel tower sonnet
Or Las Vegas’s blinking neon rhyme
Not the once a year all-nighter missive that some Northern cities try to pull

No my city’s love letter to the light is a daily diary entry
It is steady and reliable
The sun moving across the river of its body,
Writing paragraphs of affection
As it watches the reflection of its skyscraper heart dance across its face

I live in a city that holds a moving mirror up to its core
that looks for its face and then sees it dazzling there
its morning mouth sometimes shouting mist
its night time smile stretching into the dusk

It is amazing how they are like new lovers, the light and my river
Greeting each other for the first time
My city begins each new day with “amen”
There is praise in that

And sometimes it is all I can do to hope that this city loves me
just a fraction of how much it loves the light

Why just this year a string of lights stretching itself across the river
They are hard to miss, hung off the darkness of a bridge
That holds the burden of a sometimes hard history
The unrelenting lessons of gravity

In the shadows, there is light here
Bridging one side to the other
Like a hand shake

There are lights here

Not just the obvious glinting off the golden Chinatown gate
Not just the obvious swaying of the Light Rail Transit
There are electrons dancing in our feet,
sparks shooting off of our shoes

We are the light
We are light

We are the bridge of a rainbow lights stretching across a river in solidarity with every high school student desperately needing an alliance

We are the passionate hope of a youth council that searched the streets and
found the light in eyes of the most vulnerable and stood up for youth homelessness
not hopelessness

We are a breaking a full noonday sun in a city-wide snowball fight in the middle of Kinsmen Park
The spectrums of a piano on the street, a poem at the symphony
A museum on the sidewalk

We are a lantern parade of festivals leaping into sunset
The blinking call for bike routes, and bouncing light pot holes
The steady beam of a family run farm on the edge of the city

We are the flash of art and ambition

We are the brilliance of builders, a city of make something-ers
We are a rooted glowing from the ground up
Beaming ourselves like magpies lifting themselves off the gravel of the alleys
There is nothing flashy pretentious about us,

We are a mayor who is not afraid to flashlight tweet out a heart emoticon
to his poet laureate
A council who inspires everyday political citizens to shine in all their work

We are light

And on the days when the winter is too much for me
When the snow falls with the unstoppable insistence of gravity
and the summer seems so far away

On the days when the heavy history of this city lays itself down on top of my hope
When bridges seem far away from the handshakes of history
When the balance of business plays a chest game with our hearts

I remember
There is still a space for the shifting of shadow into the radiance of glow

That inspite of all of this,
I live in a city that writes a love letter to the sun every day
The water moving across the river of its paper,
Writing paragraphs of affection
As it watches the reflection of its skyscraper heart dance across its face

It is impossible to miss the light here
After all, it is the only thing we see
It is the only thing we are


 

A Toast to Edmonton's Found Festival

Mary Pinkoski

This poem is a toast

A toast to the ones who turn stomping ground
into common ground

the ones who scatter seeds of art,
music, words, theatre, dance
to watch them take root and come to life

in the cracks of pavement
and splinters of light in shadows

in the unlikely and the unpretentious
in the spaces where we live and breath

this is a toast to the ones who bring art alive

to the back alley schemers
and the community hall dreamers
and the summer camp screamers

the swimming pool shakers
and the citizen's wallpapers
and the high school takers

to taking and take overs

to making and remaking

this poem is a toast

to the ones with paint balanced on the edge of their fingers
and words swishing in their blood

 

Edmonton, You Hardy Marigold

Mary Pinkoski

On April 29, 1964 the marigold became the official flower of Edmonton
unassuming but golden bright in its presence, diverse in its species
the city council was no stranger to the flower
which found itself poking up all over the city
lounging on public grasses and lined up in private gardens,
in the memories of those whose grandparents had carried the its seeds
in boats across oceans and in trains across the prairies,
it represented a home both here and far

When choosing the marigold the city council at the time felt it was the perfect flower,
felt it represented the city's unspoken partnership with sun,
it shines here all the time: summer, winter, it doesn't matter
it makes the waters of the North Saskatchewan River glisten
like a thousand specks of gold rushing down it

But if we go back to the beginning,
before marigolds and gold rushes

Edmonton,
you found yourself a settling place in the bend of the river
Beaver Hills House to the Cree
you were the nook that took strangers in
let them plant their roots along your river banks
you accepted anyone and everyone

you still do

it is what makes you authentic and original,
a grounded unpretentiousness lies in your roots
there is no hierarchy here
in the largest northernmost metropolis

business sits at the same table as arts
your dream is just as valid as mine

we are city of urban barn-builders
a big city that has not lost its pioneer sense of small town
a community connected to our roots
but reaching sky scraper tall into progress

we grow beautiful things here,
so it is no wonder we have
parkland that stretches like a yawning giant
through a riverside valley
it runs ribbon green through our city
offering itself like a present to us,
breathing life into the heart of this city

Edmonton,
you have become the place where anyone
with a hope, a wish or a prayer
can put up a tent
and begin to build something
a home,
a celebration,
a festival

You are a festival city
a city that has not forgotten how to dance
how to sing
how to perform
how to bring its vibrant joy to everyone
and it is your vibrant joy,
it is no one else's,
there is no other place that knows how
to move with your rhythm Edmonton,
it is yours and it is distinct

you are a year-round farmers market
kettle corn crunching in your mouth
stalls stacked with vegetables your baba remembers
tortierre your Nana has not tasted since her childhood in Montreal

You are the glory days of Stanley Cups and Grey Cups
the yee-haw of the Canadian Finals Rodeo

Edmonton you are bustling and you are bursting

Your heart is a square in the centre of your downtown
and you let yourself colour outside of its lines
every day

find yourself dipping your toes in a city hall fountain
watching fanfare of colours in a Pride parade
sitting for the splash of silly in a street performer
meandering through the tastes of your home in rows of food vendors
you let your heart grow wild

but you also save some room for your old favorites
leave a space for old traditions like symphonies and citadels
and art galleries and libraries,
laugh as Rapid Fire Theatre improvs its way into your heart


Edmonton,
you are familiar but also unexpected
unique in your ordinary

an adventure
in a city that has never outgrown its own sense of who it is
a city that is still making something of itself


The thing about the marigold is that,
while it is a common species,
not known for being flashy or pretentious,
it is known for its hardiness,
its ability to adapt,
to be able to set itself down and grow roots in almost any type of soil
under almost any condition
and bloom

Edmonton, you hardy marigold,
you golden gateway growing roots
from grassroots
you are authentic,
you are original,
and you are rugged

You are something to experience

 

Our Movement is a Dance

Mary Pinkoski

Since the beginning,
we have been moving through this city

Originally we used rivers for roadways,
found ourselves a major artery
in the rush of the North Saskatchewan River

and we moved

on water and on foot
through forest,
which turned to dirt path
which turned to gravel
to pavement

it was a time when the first cars shared roads with wagons
and bicycles found themselves at the core of community

While the Edmonton Journal was busy sponsoring bike races in Edwardian Edmonton,
locals were celebrating the two-wheeled miracle with their own races
at picnics and on holidays

and the High Level Bridge was being built
above the rush of our original river road

an engineering marvel the bridge was designed
specifically for two wagons with full loads to pass
without hitting each other

It is obvious that from the beginning,
that even in its efforts to avoid jostling wagons,
Edmonton became a place that held community
at the forefront of its transportation plans

and we grew as a city

And we continue to grow

Today the river finds itself a lazy transportation corridor
sleepily stretching itself out beside our yawning  giant of a river valley

While the High Level Bridge carries vehicles
and pedestrians and over 2000 bicycles per day
in and out of the downtown core

Today we move faster
with a direct kinetic energy
to work, to play
to celebrate

Today our roads have become our main arteries
moving us in and out of the hearts of our communities
we have recognized their importance in naming them:
Wayne Gretzky, Anthony Henday, Emily Murphy

they carry the lifeblood of the city, its people,
to their destinations

But roads are not the only routes
not the only places where people choose to move
there are arteries of pavement for cyclists and pedestrians
paths that are just as necessary
that also deserve to be named after our heroes

These concrete arteries and veins are a reflection
of the vibrancy of the growth of this city

It is no secret that our pavement has become an ever-shifting dance floor
holding the foxtrot of pedestrians
next to the circling waltz of a cyclist
in parallel with the quick spin of a vehicle,
bouncing around the leap frog  stutter step of a bus,
passing the line dance of the LRT

there is a lot of shimmy and shake happening here
but there is something beautiful about this dance
an aesthetic that lives in energy

we are the electron in the moment before the spark

Today our roadways are a negotiation
a slow recognition of how we have chosen to move
with each other
we are, finally, at the moment where the
vehicle asks the bicycle asks the pedestrian
to dance

We are almost there
almost ready to give each other the right of way
to learn from each other in respect

You can tell a very different story of this city
from learning its streets through your feet
through the pump of your bicycle
through the window of your vehicle

It is not a question of how we have come to dance
we have a movement to this city, we have learned
to rush with its river,

It is obvious that we are moving through this city
with our hearts
laying them out on the pavement
marking where we have been

Whether we are on bicycles,
on foot or in vehicles
We are passionately moving
through this city

Rather it is a question of how we take the lessons of the river's flow
It's ability to bend around obstacles
to cradle its passengers in its movement
glide them over its bumps

and bring that to our communities

Our movement is a dance card request
an invitation
a letter to this city

asking for safety for all modes of transportation
the personal cost of insurance to move with awareness
and responsibility through this city

asking for a space for sustainable movement

a place where bike routes are accessible to all demographics
where they slope and stretch but do not steep too often

where our bodies do not freefall into a pothole
or skid across stray gravel

where bicycles are not portaged like canoes
due to snow or ice or cracking pavement

where there is room for everyone
where cars can park
and trees can grow
and bicycles can move with the trueness of an arrow

where the curb becomes another way for a vehicle
to tell a cyclist or a pedestrian I love you
but I respect that you need space

where gridlock learns to expand its lungs and
breathe into a pollution-free zone

where we can get from one place to another clearly and directly
where a bike path begins to hold hands
with a bus route in an unbreakable agreement

our movement is a letter to this city,
we are writing a living transportation ecosystem
into being

If we imagine the city to be a bicycle wheel
the inner tube of the Anthony Henday surrounding us
the veins of this city as the spokes of the wheel
As we travel ourselves down through the spokes
into the core of our city

it is obvious that we are connected

and that we are connecting
we are sharing space and a dream of a dance
where veins run parallel with major arteries
so there is room for everyone to move

It is obvious that we are moving forward
creating new possibilities of movement

We are writing an invitation to a dance,
sending it out to everyone in this city
saying, “welcome”
“you're finally here,
stay awhile,
come dance with us
show us your best moves
we've been saving this space for you
let's grow it together”

 

Dear Edmonton,

Mary Pinkoski

I have been writing you love poems for the past year
sinking my fingers into your riverbanks and
trying to pull from them the stories of the ones who were here before me

I have tried to catch your shimmer and sway
in the late afternoon hours dancing off the river of your veins

I have searched for meaning in the cracks of your concrete
let myself fall into the oasis of your blacktop on scorching summer afternoon
and stumble off kilter, let your icy winter splinter my world into new perspective

I have let myself stretch into the pavement of horseshoe boundary
watched as you continue to squeeze yourself into this Henday hug

I have gained poems in the passions of people
and simultaneous lost whole poems to holes of your roads

I have marvelling at your blankets of fields and your stretch of lights
from 30,000 feet in the air
I have played with the gravity of your pull
flown out of and back into you,

let you be my gateway
my welcoming

recognized that you are welcoming for thousands of new people each year
a place where people can come and flourish

Edmonton,
you are a city of vibrant people
calling you home

I think this is what makes you special

From the beginning, people have come to you in droves
built houses and businesses,
set up tents when there were no houses available
and learned to make something of nothing

Edmonton
you have become a city of so many beautiful somethings
a series of surprises
an odd dance of wonder and celebration
the extraordinary in the ordinary

you are
the piano on the street corner and
the largest concert organ in North America

the first community league in Canada and
the world renown medical research centre

you are
the boutique shops of High Street and Whyte Ave
and the West Edmonton Mall

the coyote on the golf course and
the magpie in your back alley

you are dirt city and refineries
graffiti on the bricks
poems on a sidewalk
and national renown musicians
authors, actors, and artists

you are the tangle of frozen maple syrup on a stick
and the bannock of a bison burger
a farmer's market that refuses to shut down
with the growing season

you are a concrete bed sheet spreading itself out
and the fight for an urban farm to keep growing

you are bike path verses a road
a city that is an example of waste management

you are toes in the city hall fountain
and the purple city at the legislature

you are bridge that is being lit up one bulb at a time

you are shining
you are diversity
you are integrity
you are history
you are progress

Edmonton,
I know this sounds like another love poem
another chance for me to tell you where you sit in my heart

But is also the opportunity for me to tell you

Dear Edmonton,
I know you are busy with the business of progress
of making something of yourself

I hope you remember in building bridges
you must also build bridges with the past

honour the handshakes that formed you
and the history that held you

Know that in arenas and airports
we can grow but we must do it sustainably

revitalize with a sense of respect
create with a sense of community

Dear Edmonton,
you are journey
an experience
a city to be lived

you are a love poem
that keeps turning itself into a light
that lands in all of us

 

Dance

Mary Pinkoski

this is for the sleepy commuters
the rush of  business people
and the dedicated students
the gym-goers who kept their new years resolution

the almost late-for-work barista
and the early to rise baker
the steady strolling pedestrian
and pavement parker

anyone pausing long enough to look around
to feel the earth pass under the soles of their shoes
to let their feet memorize the map of this city
you are standing on ancient ground

there is rhythm here

so dance
shimmy yourself like spray paint
splashing out of a graffiti bottle
and shake

become the freedom of a paint splatter
make your mark
believe that you are the vibrancy we need

dance,
let yourself be moved by the heartbeat of this city
you are standing in its core
you are its core
so move
with your own internal beat
conduct this city into something beautiful

and never doubt that your dance
is what keeps Edmonton moving

 

For the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

   A poem in commemoration of 100 years of service
Mary Pinkoski

There are very few things that tie together the trenches of Passchendaele, 1917
to the mud of North-West Europe, 1945 to the rice paddies of Korea, 1951
very few things that tie together the hills of Cypress, to the concrete of the Balkans,
to the sands of Afghanistan

And yet, if you were to look close enough at the earth in each of those places
find on its surface the tough treads of the soles of a combat boot
you would see in those treads a history of dedication and commitment
a history that bravely bridges together continents in the name of peace
you would find the battle march of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

Established 100 years ago at the outbreak of World War I by a captain with a dream and some money,
Brigadier Andrew Hamilton Gault raised the Patricias out of love of his country and the Commonwealth
sent them over rough waters, only to have them set foot on the shore and
adopt the motto of "first in the field"
the Patricias have been there ever since

Named after the daughter of a Governor General,
who was known as high spirited, warm and fan of sports,
perhaps it was an obvious choice to name a battalion after someone so vivacious

But I think there is more to the story, for all her energy,
Princess Victoria Patricia had another side
she was also a woman who loved watercolor painting
and when she sat down to design the regiment's badge and colours
I like to image that she knew what an extraordinary regiment her namesake would be
I picture her, the first Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Patricias,
drawing the crimson badge with the passion that the deep red colour affords,
choosing a cool blue for the collected wits of those entering into battle,
adding the gold as a declaration of excellence

I imagine there was something regal about that day she sat down
and sketched the insignia into being
it is no coincidence how this has translated throughout time
embedded itself into actions of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry,
into the history of the regiment
display itself for all to see in the sway of the raised Ric-A-Dam-Doo

History tells us that after World War I,
their Colonel-in-Chief, who had followed her regiment throughout the war, with great dedication
cutting out and scrapbooking articles with the precision of a military strategist
presented them with a laurel wreath in 1919

History also tells us that since ancient times,
the laurel wreath is a symbol given to victors
in celebration of their honour after a battle
it is a symbol that transcends time
each honor woven together in the branches of history
entwined into each other, connected

The Princess Patricias have a motto that reads:
 "once a Patricia, always a Patricia"
like a family that has not forgotten its ancestry
a military tree whose roots have grown out of decorated names like:
Lieutenant Hugh Mckenzie, Victoria Cross
Sergeant Robert Spall, Victoria Cross
Sergeant George Harry Mullin, Victoria Cross
the Patricias have stood side-by-side with soldiers both past and present

In the last 100 years the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
has fought for the victory of peace in the midst of battle
and yes, there have been times when their crimson has bled itself off the flag
found itself fallen, half-mast,
lying in a foreign field,
seeping into the banks beside an unknown river,
stained on the concrete of a street most Canadians have never walked down

these are the times when the branches of the laurel wreath pull tighter
when they weave into themselves,
hold each other with the strength of compassion
It is no mistake that the laurel wreath surrounds the crimson on the Regimental Colour
there is a silent honor in placing the arms of victory around the heart of bravery

Lest we forget,
On August 3, 1914 before Flander's Fields had yet had the chance to grow into our collective memory
the Princess Patricias came into being as the last privately funded military battalion
In 1951 they received the unique United States Presidential Citation for their efforts in Korea
In 2003, they had the same flag that flew in Kandahar flown into space as an honor to those who had become stardust in a street of Afghanistan sand
today, under Colonel-in-Chief Adrienne Clarkson, they are the first regiment to invite a person to that position who is not a member of the Canadian Royal Family

Lest we forget,
named after a high-spirited Princess with a deep love for Canada,
from their inception to today, the Patricias have led the way
into battle and beyond

They stand on guard for strength and freedom
they are valour's deep red urgency and peace's golden sunset
they have traversed seas to bring security and safety
to people they have never met

they are 100 years of building this glorious bridge that connects
the trenches of Passchendaele with the mud of North-West Europe and the rice paddies of Korea
that connects the hills of Cypress to the concrete of the Balkans and the sands of Afghanistan

a bridge that sways crimson red and blue
to the golden freedom of the wind
moving through the proud Ric-a-Dam-Doo

 

Genius Loci

Mary Pinkoski

There is a theory named genius loci
it is used by urban planners and architects
to describe the distinctive atmosphere of a place,
the spirit of a place

There is a story my mom loves to tell
of a spring afternoon in Edmonton
when she was caught skipping high school
My mom doesn't tell this story often
probably because it is anomaly -
she wasn't that kind of student -
but when she does tell the story,
she tells every detail

How it was the very early 70s
how the idea of skipping class in favor of reading a book came to quick her
how she rode the J6 downtown
how the CKUA call letters stretched big in the after lunch sun
how she found herself stepping through the door of Hurtig Books,
she always pauses at this part to remind me that Mel Hurtig's bookstore was the first one
to offer both books and tea

then how she found herself caught like snapshot in a picture frame
through the glass windows of the bookstore by her father and mother
also out for a skipped afternoon

she tells me how it was hard for my U of A English professor granddad
and Art Gallery volunteer Nana to find fault her in actions
she was after all reading books and drinking tea

Edmonton found my mom through its offering of words
through its potential to dream it exotic,
dream it off the dusty, familiar of a shelf
imagine it a prairie Montreal

when in reality Edmonton was still a sometimes skipping school teenager
a bit daring, a bit sleepy, a lot beautiful potential
it had not yet stretched its yawning arms much past the Jewish Community Centre
at the end of my mom's 156st

it was no major metropolis
but my mom convinces me it already knew its voice
in barefoot concerts in the parks
and independent bookstores
in art galleries and plays at the citadel
in Elvis Presley movies at the Paramount
in the collective prayers offered up for the Eskimos and Oilers
Edmonton was finding itself

By the time Edmonton came to me
the city had long stretched its arms out in the concrete prairie
and the prayers for the Eskimos and the Oilers were on the way to finally being answered

I found Edmonton in a circling downtown parkade,
where I'd imagine our car was a marble spinning down and down
into an underground that was filled with whiz of trains that did not need the air to move
I imagined the LRT trains to be the fishes of the transportation world
as we spun further into an earth that was said to be whispering the secrets of abandon coal mines

For a kid from Fort Saskatchewan,
Edmonton came to me mysterious, glistening and magical
It was where you went for art lessons in a real true art gallery
where professional actors stood on stages for plays you got treated to once a year
where Saturdays started with visits to Woodwards
and ended with tea and sandwiches in the Holt Renfrew
where you went on the weekend so you could go back to school on Monday and brag to everyone that you had been to Edmonton

You could see and experience anything in Edmonton
It was as big as New York
and as fancy as Paris
It had the world and the world's largest mall in its palm

Visiting Edmonton was an awesome adventure
It was skating at Hawrelak Park
swimming lessons at the Kinsmen
basketball games at the University
candy cane lane and dinners at Bullwinkles and Chi Chis
and late night drives home on Fort Road whose darkness whispered to me:
there was something here before you
something existed here before all of you

I know I am lucky to have experienced this
to be able to tell this particular story of Edmonton
that relies on vibrant paintings and woven words
I am fortunate culture is the foundation of my early Edmonton
I know this valuable thing that not everyone can relate to

They say the art of a place can reveal its genius loci
By the time Edmonton came to me it had found its voice
had embodied the unstoppable meandering of its river heart

In ancient times, Roman religion said that genius loci
was less like the spirit of a place, and more like a protective spirit
a guardian spirit within a place

I imagine this is something like a river that runs as a vein does
down the middle of your body
holding your life in its movement

Edmonton,
I know there are parts of you that I have not yet found
corners I don't know exist,
places that I have not yet rubbed the soles of my shoes on
shadows I haven't sat in

But what I do know is that if you move through the streets of this city slow enough
you can find cement walls and bricks, roof tops and building bottoms
holding a stenciled drawing of a bird with the word "listen" beside it

There are stories seeping out of the pores of this river city's body
art rising off the river, rising out the river,
being held in the heart of the river

The river never forgets its mouth,
does not sit above its rushing,
no matter the barriers it is given to moving,
the river will move.

If any object or idea or hand stands in the way of the river's rush,
the river will find a new path,
it will bend or break itself to be able to move
to speak the rush of its roar to the universe.

Dams burst. Tributaries are unearthed.
The voice of the river does not stop.

I believe that the strength of the river is why we choose to build bridges
with such delicate dedication.

The strength of the river,
the voice of the river
cannot be stopped.

There is an urgency in creation
but there is also a fragile vulnerability.

It can be said that art reveals the genius loci of a place
It can be said that the river is the genius loci of a place

It can be said that we are creating shrines of art
all over this city
making us something to continually celebrate

 

Create

Mary Pinkoski

The poet Hafiz wrote:
"The words we speak become the house we live in."
If we believe this to be true,
that we are all careful storytellers,
constructing dwelling places out of the energy of our words
then it stands to reason that

this is not a poem

it is an invitation that begins with a story

that begins with a pendulumed-limbed girl
caring only about winning her next swim race
and her dad, briefcase-man by day,  idea-man by night
slyly deciding that swimming afforded him perfect the opportunity
to teach pendulum-limbed daughter the physics of momentum

it begins with idea-man dad armed with a desk-top sized Newton's Cradle
explaining that if you woke up one of the 5 steel ball pendulums
swinging the sleepy other side into action
and you did not bother it, left it alone, it would swing forever

and the girl with the pendulum limbs
attached to her sturdy shoulder frame
is fascinated

she dreams of energy traveling unbridled through the world
fueled by her dreams, her imagination asked questions like:
"if the wall was not in the swimming pool, would I swim forever, until I died?
would my waves go all the way to China?"

the dad does not laugh for he too was fascinated with the peculiarities of the universe
and how the words of one man catapulted the explanation of energy into the world

and from the seriousness of briefcase-man dad's face
the girl realizes that she must be exceptionally careful with her own words
and the energy they held
so she learns to release them, one by one, like pendulums
 from then until now
stretching them out in a poem before you
using them to build a bridge from her to you

For it also begins in knowing that in addition to writing the laws of energy
Newton also wrote, "we build too many walls and not enough bridges"

and so it begins today, right now
with a call to momentum

with a call to the building of a bridge
a bridge strong enough to hold a collection of voices,
for we have all come here saturated with our histories, our ideas

let the bridge be a conversation
let it carry us forward
as a parade of particles marching into a parable
the sparks we generate will be our story

in the spirit of construction,
if I could offer one piece of advice
it would be:

trust in the notion of chaos, the idea that
somewhere a butterfly is flapping its wings
and somewhere else a windstorm is beginning

I like to think if Newton were still alive
he would not have called this the Chaos Theory
but rather the "the reason for building bridges" theory
based on the idea that what I do today
might have some effect on you tomorrow
and the hope that it does
because I am doing this with grace and good intention

And so it began, with
the story of pendulum-limbed girl focused on winning a swim race
learning instead to build bridges with the energy of her words

and so it begins with
my story, my poems
your stories, your poems

The poet Hafiz wrote:
"The words we speak become the house we live in."
If we believe this to be true,
that we are all careful storytellers,
constructing dwelling places out of the energy of our words
then it stands to reason that

that Edmonton you have always been a home
called "Beaver Hills House" by the Cree
you have always been a place of settling
we have been growing around your river city heart

building bridges across this city,

it begins with the bridges we have built and
the bridges we are building

It begins with a call to momentum
and call to energy

It begins with the confidence that we will
never stop creating

 

Invocation (for Edmonton)

Mary Pinkoski

I think there is something wonderful about a city that is tied to itself with bridges

Some nights, when Edmonton is mostly sleeping
except for the excitement of its streetlights,
I drive them and picture these bridges as belts
holding us together
their buckles fastened tight over our river heart

It reminds me that two halves do make a whole -
there is security in the math of that

Maybe I am naive, but I like to rest reassured in
the  knowledge that river banks of Walterdale hold
the same fossils as the banks of Glenora
that Erminskin will never forget Castledowns
that the Yellowhead does not clash with the Whitemud

Edmonton,
You are as busy as the black coffee business of Jasper Ave
your briefcase is a bustle promise of new enterprise

Some dawns, I want to rise with sun across your sky,
scrape the towers and shake up your potential

Some afternoons, I long to drift through the used book comfort of Whyte Ave
reading each building like a chapter

Muddle myself into vibrant painting of Alberta Ave

Hum my reflection into the window of streetcar perched in the sky

Edmonton,
 I have sunk my fingers into your river bank dirt,
marveled at the way place can grow roots into your veins,
I have let go and pulled out Babiak stories and Cadence Weapon melodies,
poems with thick with symphonies and citadels,
My body a rapid fire theatre,
a cathedral of history and promises

There is so much to hold when moving forward,
when making something of ourselves
and yet, I have seen how the future can stretch you across a landscape,
spread you out across the concrete prairie

yes, sometimes pavement cracks,
gets worn in places we didn't intend it to
like an old couch we moved from living room
to rec room to spare room

Sometimes we sit in places that are all too familiar
and feel the springs poking us in the back

It is nothing, just a sign to moving
to continue to grow
to keep the couch in the home
but plant a seedling in the crack of the pavement

To know that despite the cracks,
we are still a home
populated by love and magpies

We were always a home,
called by the Cree Beaver Hills House
Edmonton, you have always been a place of settling
of sitting down, of resting

A grade six student once told me that
Edmonton smells like a food court,
sounds like parade,
 looks like a warm blanket,
tastes like stranger's smile
and feels like home

Edmonton,
It is winter right now and I am dreaming of skating down your frozen streets
layering myself against the elements,
making snow angels on the grounds Hawrelak Park,
imagining each cloud passing by as summer dream,
I tell myself it will be hot again and there will be Fringes and Heritage Days
and popsicle sticky sidewalks that don't let you glide down them

but for now, it is winter and I am inside,
watching through the window as you hold people like a warm blanket
finding the hope in your mission, centres that bring people together like a crop
grown from a single mustard seed

Edmonton, I am settling myself into the smiles of your strangers
finding my voice in their conversation
letting it taste like home

There is community everywhere in this city

I know, if you search “Edmonton” in Wikipedia
the article tells you that there are 375 neighbourhoods in this city
I don't know the accuracy of this number,
but I like to imagine it true

to believe there are 10 more neighbourhoods in this city than days of the year
we could spend all year, and then some, celebrating them
so let's do this, Edmonton, you festival city

you 375 voices singing out in a choir

let's call all the magpies to the telephone wires,
sound the clock bell at City Hall
tighten the belts around your river city heart
let's come together

We are here,
We are home and
we are alive

 

The Places We Hold In Ourselves

Mary Pinkoski

My mom tells me this story
of a time when city limits stretched
into fields

and buses were coded with letters and numbers

she would the ride the J6 downtown
to watch Elvis Presley movies
and to visit the first bookstore she knew
to have both books and tea - Mel Hurting's bookstore

It is the CKUA building on Jasper Avenue that reminds her
She tells me the story most often after she sees the painted radio call letters
on the building

I grew up in a time when streets pushed fields
further away - the city was growing

We lived in Fort Saskatchewan and every year
I would watch as the city stretched its arms out
longer and longer

I lived for our trips to Edmonton
traveling down Fort road
winding our way through the loops of the downtown parkades
to meet my nana for tea
in the basement of the Woodwards

There was magic in landing myself in heart of the city
that I used to imagine was as big as New York,
as fancy as London,
I used to think Whyte Ave must be something like Paris

Edmonton was a mystical creature
A city with a fantastical heartbeat
It was gentle giant that brought me
candy cane lane and skating in Hawrelak Park
swimming lessons at the Kinsmen
art class at the gallery
plays at the Citadel
dinners at Bullwinkles and Chi Chis
and the ever glistening Butterdome

It is impossible not to imbue memories
into a location
every place becomes rich with stories
that create collective memories of our city

the landscape is awash with reminders of our past
and directions to our future

we find ourselves in remembering,
we grow community in the sharing

“what did you feel the first time you saw the folk fest hill lit up with candles?”
“where did you eat when you were young?”
“do you remember the first time you saw the pyramids?”
“where were you when we won our first Stanley Cup?”
“where were you when Wayne Gretzky was traded?”
“do you remember your first visit to West Edmonton Mall?”
“have you ever, on a cold winter's night, found that street in Highlands where they string the lights across the street it runs down the whole street, did the beauty of it take your breath away?”

We are continually locating ourselves within the events of the city,
placing ourselves within the city's body,
and living within it, finding its heartbeat, listening to it, telling its story

I like to believe that there are drums in the earth,
I like to think we can all find a patch of soil,
press your ear to the ground and hear
the pounding of hooves surrounding an early Fort Edmonton
the arrhythmic humming of the railway's first arrival,
the sway of the street car, the buzz of an airplane,
the jump out of your chest crashing of logs jamming down the North Saskatchewan River
the bustle of business and cars down Jasper Ave
the too long between heartbeats of flood, of a tornado

stand at the edge of the city and run your hands through the wind
and know what it is like to touch the tips of the wheat field that once stood there
make your body an awkward barn dance for all those kids who came from the country to the city
a graceless entering into a cosmopolitan world

sing this city's song with every moment of joy we have had
our Stanley Cups, our Grey Cups
be held in every moment of perseverance we have endured

and speak the stories of our city
fill the places you inhabit with your memories,
make new memories, honor the ones already in existence
This city is poem,
Its memory made fortunate and tough by our geography
made gentle by the symphony of our people
made open and wide-eyed by its stories

This city is a memory
this city is a future

This poem was co-written by Edmonton's first Poet Laureate, Alice Major, and myself for a Protocol Item presented in City Council to celebrate the mayoral tenure of Mayor Stephen Mandel. I performed the poem in council on September 18, 2013.

 

Change is

Alice Major and Mary Pinkoski

Scientifically, change is marked as moving
from one state to another -
a metamorphosis

wherein each phase is reliant upon the other,
they cannot exist alone.
There can be no end without a beginning
no wing beat of the butterfly without the crawl of the caterpillar.

There is a passion and dedication in transformation,
a dogged determination to make a difference,
to watch a city move from being "good enough"
to "always better";
to witness communities awakening in rebirth;
arts spreading like wildfire and local businesses flourishing;
citizens- young and old - coming together in history and wisdom,
in joy and energy, in learning;
Edmontonians welcoming and embracing each other.

It is the drastic difference between a whisper and cheer,
it is the inhalation of passion from all who connect with the city.

To witness a city converge into a new kind of vibrant, a new living
takes a leader who understands the beauty of change.
A man who operates in compassion and concern.
A man who is undaunted by transforming ideas and visions.
A man who has set this city in home of his heart
and then opened the doors.

Scientifically, change is marked a shifting from one state to another.
Scientifically, change is a metamorphosis.

Realistically, change is dream pulled from the ether.
Realistically, change is a possibility made present.
Realistically, change is potential actualized.

Realistically,


Change is
new words. A poet in the council chamber.
A dream-word-catcher in City Hall.
It's debate, declaration, decisions recorded
in the minute book.

Change is
about the past, looking into the eyes of history,
about acknowledgement and accords
and signing a document of promise: We didn't get it right.
We'll try again.

Change is slow.
It's those damn potholes and being stuck
with climate and asphalt. You fix them (one step forward)
then new ones open up (two steps back).
Sometimes change is not
as good as a vacation.

Change can be
big, billions, an infrastructure budget
that gobbles up your spreadsheets.

Change is
acknowledgement of the underdog,
a celebration of greatness.

Change is
a basketball hoop on the square,
the orange ball bubbling through the net again and again,
street kids scoring good stuff this time.

Change is
small as a newborn grandchild -
to hold like hope, to count fingers and toes.
It's the click of a door closing on the crib,
the click of a door closing on an office,
another future opening ahead.

2013 Edmonton Poet Laureate Appointment Ceremony - June 26, 2013

 

Edmonton, you are singing

Mary Pinkoski

Edmonton,
your gates to the north open wide
like arms stretching into your gaping river chest
Where you can see the current of our hearts
running right through the body of this city

Our hearts beat they ferociously
They beat with the voices of history
and the call of the future

They carry the memory
of great ones that have moved through us
carving a space so big we've got roadways for veins
Wayne Gretzky  Anthony Henday  Emily Murphy  Alex Taylor

Our hearts,
they carry the memory that from the beginning
we were the Cree's Beaver Hills House

Edmonton,
you have always been a home

setting yourself down beside
the quickly running North Saskatchewan River
you have  been a journey and a destination

And yet, if you have ever paused on top of Walterdale Hill
to watch the setting sun fold itself into
this city's rushing river chest

watch light bounce off a riverbed that houses
the orchestral clicking of dinosaur bones and
the settling spines of bison

A waterway that harbors
the rhythmic histories of river boats and railway alongside
the often dissonant cries Gold rushes and lumber barons

A river that cradles the sunset reflections
of buildings and temples
of steeples and synagogues
a river holding the passions of prayers
and the hopes of progress
melding the past with the present

Edmonton, lay yourself down with the sun
set yourself out along the river,
like an early birchbark canoe,
put your ear to the bank,
dip your hand into the water
let move through you

and tell me,

can you hear the jazz blues folk in lumber
dancing down the river like an old time waltz escaping into the night air,

in the 5pm yellow glint off the water can you see
the historic hope of immigrants written in the golden top of the Chinatown gate

in the dispersing purple sunset do you see
the dedicated threads of a mother's sari swishing around her family in Millwoods,

do the eddies of this river twist you into a skater twirling in Hawrelak Park,

have you let the wind blowing drift into your ears
like an early settler's bagpipe aria
have you heard it enclosing its bilingual melody
around Bonnie Doon singing the songs
of Marie-Anne Gaboury
chanting the prayers of St. Jean

does the river's bubbling take you to a soccer game in little Italy,
it's bustling effort bring you to a farmers market
that holds the same vegetables a Ukrainian baba planted
in her first garden in the new world

are you mesmerized in its swaying sides,
north to south,
river bank to river bank
like the repetitions of hands beating ancient rhythm into drums


Edmonton,
I know we are place that is busy with the hopes of growth
We are still young
and sit with nervous anticipation
of what more we can become,

like a child marking his height with ticks on a wall
asking r ”am I taller yet”
am i taller yet? am   i    taller   yet?

We will get there,
I know it.

Edmonton,
in this moment
we are making something of ourselves
and we have already made so much

So for now, Edmonton,
let your stretched out river bed arms
to be the welcome they have always been

let your river bank hands continue cradle
the dreams that have built lives on your shores

let your rushing river heart beat the stories
of this land and its people through you

let them rise out of you
like the mist rises off your river's mouth

and watch them now,

as they fill your sky with constellations that dip and sway
every time a hillside choir under a canopy of candles
brings the heavens down with four strong winds

You will know then that
This city is a symphony under the stars

Listen Edmonton,
can you hear your stories
our stories
can you hear your voices
our voices
drifting off your river

Listen,
This city
My city
Our city

Edmonton,
you are singing

And it is so beautiful

This poem was written for Make Something Edmonton's Brand Camp (July 6, 2013). The poem was created on-the-spot throughout the day from the discussions in the room and read at the end of the day.

 

One City, Many Voices

Mary Pinkoski (2013)

There is a picture at Fort Edmonton Park.
It hangs on the wall of the Alberta Government Telephones building.
In the picture is an early telephone operator,
she is holding - between her fingers - power lines stretching out
from telephone poles as if they were threads
and her work was the loom.
At the bottom of the picture sits a caption
which reads, “weavers of speech.”

I think that is what we have been doing here today -
weaving stories -
but I also like to think that this what Edmonton is about:
a diverse collection of stories stretching out
telephone wire taut across our landscape,
humming with energy.
We are carrying so many threads within the body of our city -
within our own bodies -
threads of history, of hope, of love,
of trials, of community, of giving.
Everything we touch becomes our creation,
 and Edmonton our loom.

We are here to weave our stories into
the vibrant tapestry that blankets the city,
a shifting patchwork of energy that moves
in kaleidoscope fashion with each new event.

Like an old quilt that gets passed down
from generation to generation,
worked on from generation to generation,
it tells the story of who are and where we have been.
It started before us, but it carries on with us.
Every square its own entity, but also a necessity
to the fabric of the whole.
And yes, it has its pristine patches, but it also
has its pothole tears - we need those.
This quilt wants to lay itself down
over Edmonton like a bedcover,
let us know we are home.
Still, I know it is tricky to call an ever-changing patchwork whole,
to define its shifting components into a singular entity.
We are always building here,

growing with every new thing that we are making.
If anything, we know that we are only as distinct
as what we choose to create,

and so we choose to create
in all sorts of ways and
for all sorts of reasons.

We find the blueprints of ourselves in those creations.
It is a beautiful privilege to be able to live and work
in a place that lets us - lets anyone, lets everyone -put
their own fingerprints on this city.
It is a fantastical reassurance to know that we see
our own reflection in the landscape of Edmonton;
in the people we touch, in the structures we build,
in the community we have created,
in the stories we are telling,
in the stories we want to hear.

Our ideas are everywhere.

They sit perched on our city streets like
tidings of magpies ready to take flight,
ready to join the momentum of this city,
the current of ideas runs right through us
taking its lessons from the river.

I think it is amazing that this city is populated by so many magpies.
And while I would not argue for Edmonton be considered
the Magpie of Canada, I think the bird is such a fortunate metaphor.

The internet tells me that the magpie is one of the only birds to pass
an intelligence test called the mirror test,
where it recognizes its own reflection.

I know we are more than just the blue-collared scavengers of the bird world,
attracted to shiny things like Grey Cups and Stanley Cups and World's Biggest Malls.
I know that we sometimes struggle with the fact that we are no peacock,
no Golden Gate Bridge, no CN Tower, no ocean, no rainforest.
But still,

there is something about us that commands attention;
a big city that has never misplaced its community.
That is something special.

If you have ever seen water fall off the High Level Bridge
into a river that has stretched through us for ages,
that is something special,
something almost magical.

There is a rush, a current to this city
that settled itself down into the river's bend
like a magpie housing itself into the V of a tree.

We placed ourselves down here in the Cree's Beaver Hills House
and began to grow, allowing the rush of the river to chart our path,
erode us into new ways of being, and in that being - the living -
we are building.

We are cradling the past and envisioning the future.
We are a community that knows in its bones
how to bring tools together to build
our own urban barn,
because we are building

and we are making something of ourselves.
We need to continue making beyond this circle
into new areas, new communities,
in the places where we need it the most and
we do need it.

Magpie's are often grounded homebodies.
It is a rare thing for a magpie to fly up to a telephone wire,
but it happens, they move around barriers,
spread their wings, and take flight.

I like to think that Edmonton is a city of ideas taking flight;
a place where the magpies have lifted off,
carrying with them the voices of the landscape,
swooping over this quilt we have sewn together for generations.

And if you look up, you can see a magpie perched
on a telephone line,  feet humming with the stories
of this city, just waiting

to weave in the next thread
of this story -
our story.

Edmonton's Past Poet Laureates

 

Anna Marie Sewell 2011-2013

 Anna Marie Sewell’s first book of poetry, Fifth World Drum, (2009, Frontenac House) was nominated for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award, City of Edmonton Book Prize,  the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award and the ReLit award. Fifth World Drum won critical acclaim across Canada, from Malahat Review to the Globe and Mail. She adapted and performed select pieces, with live soundscapes, as Suite: Fifth World Drum at the Talking Stick Festival February 21- 28th, part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

Anna Marie is a cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural artist; past work of note includes co-coordinating Honour Songs, a tribute to Aboriginal women, for Edmonton’s 2007 Cultural Capital project; and her award winning Heart of the Flower project. Heart of the Flower was based on writing about the year she spent working in a small city north of Kyoto, Japan.

Anna Marie earned a BA Special in Drama, with a minor in Spanish, from University of Alberta – via the scenic route, indulging curiosities about history, poetry, geography and more along the way.

The scenic route has been her career route thus far, which is great for a writer. She has earned her crust as a teacher, community animator, race horse groom, therapist, pasta maker, candy pusher, theatre worker and more. From 1998 – 2001, she even started and ran a company, Big Sky Theatre, producing original Aboriginal theatre. She served on the board of the Edmonton Arts Council from 2003 – 06, which led to such memorable opportunities as visiting Wonju, Korea in pursuit of cultural connections. All along the way, poetry has been a common thread and constant companion.

Anna Marie considers herself to be “quite Canadian” – she is a Status Indian, a Mi’gmaq from Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec. And though born in Mi’qmaq territory, in Fredericton, NB, her father’s family are mostly Anishnabe, and this is the part of her Aboriginal heritage with which she was most familiar growing up. On the other hand, Anishnabek are traditionally matrilineal, and Anna’s mother is the daughter of Polish immigrants. So, she is also part of the Slavic wave on the prairies, and first generation metis. She’s also a transplanted farm girl, who still loves to play in the dirt. (Go ahead, give her a pony.)

Anna grew up in the Peace country of northwestern Alberta, and only came to Edmonton when university seemed inevitable. Somehow, despite leaving our city three times – a year in Mexico, a year in Japan, two years in BC – she kept coming back. It took a couple of decades to come to grips with the grip this city has. 

Part of that has to do with the bold and challenging climate – the sky, the river, the dynamic weather. A lot more has to do with the cultural life here. In her first year at university, Anna watched Marilyn Dumont read poetry at a Metis women’s gathering and thought – Hey! Can we Do that?! She cobbled together a hand-written portfolio (this was the olden days of the 80s) and applied to Creative Writing class. While the class (thanks Dr. Bert Almon) was interesting, it was even more exciting to get to know other young writers and begin doing things – little readings in obscure venues, gigs on campus radio, and one memorable attempt to do performance poetry at the old Ambassador in the height of its barb-wire/flying bottles heyday.

Anna Marie was a founding member of the Stroll of Poets Society, which has been a remarkable home for poets for 20 years now. She has also taken part in the Edmonton Poetry Festival’s annual month-long shindig, where you might have seen her host the Blinks (80+ poets, 30 seconds each, no hesitation) a time or three.

In early 2009, Anna took a bus out to Abbottsfield Mall, answering a request to facilitate a monthly circle for 3 adult literacy students at the Learning Centre. She did not suspect that, two years later, the group would number 10, meet twice a week, have coordinated a successful city-wide inter-agency conference, and be set to launch a cross-disciplinary project this fall. She is regularly in awe of them, and the Learning Centre staff.

Anna Marie’s most recent project, produced by Edmonton Public Library as part of Aboriginal Month celebrations, is ‘Braidings’  - in which she arranged and directed a readers’ theatre/soundscaped performance, for three voices, of the works of 6 Aboriginal poets representing past, present and future, on the braided themes of Land, Love and Language.

In July, Anna will lead a poetry workshop for Youthwrite, a camp for youth 12- 19, and will also be found pawing the dirt in her backyard and at her daughter’s school garden. As Poet Laureate, Anna Marie  looks forward to collaborating with a broad range of people, and to serving our city with such tools as a poet may offer, to help build and develop our heart, our sense of ourselves as a community of creative possibilities.

 

Roland Pemberton 2009-2011

Roland Pemberton is an accomplished artist with an established international reputation as an innovative force in hip-hop. His debut album Breaking Kayfabe (2005) earned him nominations for the Canadian Indie Awards and "Best Rap Album of 2006" at the Plug Independent Music Awards, and won CBC Radio 3's Bucky Award. Both Breaking Kayfabe and his sophomore album Afterparty Babies (2008) have earned nominations for the coveted Polaris Music Prize.

Edmonton, and its characters, play a prominent role in Pemberton's work, and his roots to the city run deep. Roland's father, Teddy Pemberton, hosted The Black Experience in Sound on CJSR for 20 years and is often credited with bringing hip-hop to Edmonton. His grandfather, the great Rollie Miles, played for the Edmonton Eskimos from 1951 - 1961 and played in five CFL championship games. His uncle, Edmontonian Brett Miles, is a visual artist, accomplished saxophone player and songwriter who has performed with James Brown and recorded with Mick Jagger.

 

E.D. (Ted) Blodgett 2008-2009

E. D. (Ted) Blodgett, FRSC, is University Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta. He is currently teaching at MacEwan College and the Campus Saint-Jean where he is professeur auxiliaire in Études canadiennes. His research has varied from mediaeval European romance to Canadian Comparative Literature. His publications include Five-Part Invention: A History of Literary History in Canada (Toronto University Press, 2003) and Elegy (University of Alberta Press, 2005). He has published 17 books of poetry, of which 2 were awarded the Governor General's Award. He is preparing two others. A bilingual edition of his French poems, Le poème invisible, was published in 2008.

 

Alice Major 2005-2007

Alice has published eight collections of poetry and a novel for young adults, and served as the first poet laureate for the city of Edmonton from 2005- 2007. She came to Edmonton the long way round. She grew up in Dumbarton, Scotland –a small town on the banks of the Clyde, not far from Glasgow. Her family came to Canada when she was eight, and she grew up in Toronto before coming west to work as a reporter on The Williams Lake Tribune in British Columbia. She has been an active supporter of the arts and writing community:

  • Past president of the League of Canadian Poets
  • Past president of the Writers Guild of Alberta
  • Past chair of the Edmonton Arts Council
  • Founder, Edmonton Poetry Festival

      

Find more information about Mary Pinkoski’s current and upcoming events at the following link to her website: http://marypinkoski.com/new-events/


 

edmonton arts council