The First 6 Months as Edmonton’s 6th Poet Laureate

Bilingual poet, performer, producer, mentor and emerging playwright, Pierrette Requier is serving a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate, from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017. She is Edmonton’s sixth Poet Laureate. In the following blog post she writes of her first six months as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate:

After the thrill of having been selected as Edmonton’s 6th Poet Laureate and the energy generated by the flurry of interviews requested from both the French and English communities, I was ready to say a full yes to invitations.  

To my surprise, I realized how every literary occasion has been of value in that each event was lived as a collaboration in the emergence of the cultural life of our expanding city, more specifically by opening space for poetry and the way it moves the listeners.

It has, to date, been a privilege to be Edmonton’s literary ambassador, to happily plan for each event and to meet and work with people from various walks of life, across Alberta, Canada and occasionally from other countries.

Working with Edmonton’s Youth Poet Laureate Charlotte Cranston has been a highlight. In December 2015 we hosted a workshop exploring different ways of doing poetry for teachers’ Ben Johnston and Teta Engram’s creative writing class at Victoria School of the Arts. We were impressed by the 42 students’ quality of listening, their willingness to write and to share their pieces. After the class it was mentioned that the students had been afraid of the poetry aspect of this after school program. It was felt that our multi-faceted way of presenting helped remove that barrier, opened space for yet another way of expression.

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Meeting young Marion Trigodet, recently arrived from France (French Language Assistant, University of Lethbridge), who had no idea that francophones existed all over Canada, has sparked an inter-generational and international relationship. When asked by Professeure Melanie Colado if she would collaborate in a dramatic reading for a presentation with Edmonton’s bilingual poet laureate she, having done theatre, readily agreed. As a result of our literary and spoken word experience at the University of Lethbridge, Ms. Trigodet is considering doing her master’s research on writers who write in two languages. Later introduced to Edmonton, she was delighted by the hospitality and has since been singing the praises of our city.

I had the privilege of attending the 2015 presentation of the Governor General’s Literary Awards in Ottawa in December. On my flight, I read Robyn Sarah’s poetry collection My Shoes Are Killing Me. In her acceptance speech she acknowledged that what sustained and continued to bolster her belief in the value of poetry during hard times were the many individual reflecting on her work about how they had been moved by her poems. I spoke with Sarah at the reception and have since, as promised, read her work to yet more appreciative groups in Edmonton. Having read and hosted many Alberta poets’ work, it is my hope that the Governor General’s Award will, in the future, be granted to our finest writers!

Another highlight of the Ottawa trip was catching up with Québecois friend Michel Pleau, (2013-2015 Poet Laureate of the Parliament of Canada)  whom we had the privilege of hosting as the first francophone headliner at Edmonton’s Poetry Festival in April 2014.  Michel was charmed by the Edmonton hospitality and by the West’s vast beauty.  As well, he was happy to have a chance to try out his English both during the French Twist event and at the gala evening.

As well, I shared that our April 2014 exchanges had helped me further hone the theme of how one lives a bilingual identity as a writer as explored in my hybrid play Les Blues des oubliées produced at Edmonton’s L’UniThéâtre in October 2015.  Our exchanges deepened my exploration of the place of dialects in a writer’s life, of language as continually being in emergence, thus lending itself to the creation of new forms of expression, of performance as playing with la langue vivante.

In Ottawa, M. Pleau introduced me to the people at Les Éditions David.  Consequently I have set a retreat time aside to revisit the script of Les Blues des oubliées with the view to publication as well as to complete the translation of my collection details from the edge of the village / Petites nouvelles du Last Best Ouest.  

I look forward to the next 6 months and thank all of the people who invited me to participate in events and to all those who attended.