Micheline Maylor named Calgary’s poet laureate
For a man of words, Derek Beaulieu’s parting advice to Calgary’s new poet laureate, Micheline Maylor, was blunt and to the point.
“Say yes to everything,” says the experimental writer, publisher and teacher, who served as Calgary’s second poet laureate until passing the baton to Maylor Monday morning. “The city is actually hungry for new opportunities and hungry for finding ways of incorporating this position into all of the arts and all of the communities.”
Maylor was announced as Calgary’s third poet laureate in council chambers on Monday morning, following Beaulieu’s 2014 to 2016 stint and Kris Demeanor’s first posting from 2012 to 2014.
Beaulieu, who sat on the volunteer jury that chose Maylor, said the poet, teacher and editor was chosen from a shortlist of four applicants.
Described as a “certified poetry fanatic,” Maylor’s newest collection, Little Wildheart, has been shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsh award. She teaches poetry and creative writing at Mount Royal University and reviews poetry for Quill & Quire.
“For me, poetry is a vocation,” Maylor says. “It’s something that I take quite seriously. I study poetry, I teach poetry, I mentor in poetry, I’m an editor. It just seemed like a natural progression of part of the vocation.”
As Calgary’s poet laureate, Maylor will take on the role as an artistic ambassador for the city, attending civic events here and throughout the North America and producing literary work specific to Calgary.
During his tenure, Beaulieu represented the city at 76 events.
The position comes with a $10,000 honorarium per year, provided by the The Calgary Foundation, the Calgary Chamber and First Calgary Financial.
Along with 31 other municipalities, the City of Calgary proclaimed April National Poetry Month.
This is the second year Mayor Naheed Nenshi oversaw the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge, initiated by Regina’s Mayor Pat Flacco in 2012.
This year, 54 cities accepted the challenge to have a poem read by a local poet at the start of a council meeting in March or April while 21 declared April 21 National Poetry Day.
Calgary has long been considered a hotbed for Canadian poetry, particularly a school of experimental and avant-garde style poetry led by writers such as Beaulieu and Christian Bok.
“It is a primary centre of discussion for many different genres of poetry,” Maylor said. “There’s an experimental hotbed here, but one can’t forget that Sheri-D Wilson, who is an absolute champion of spoken-word poetry, lives here as well, and there’s also formalist poets who live here like myself.
“It’s multi-genres. So it has some of the best discussions and best opportunities for cross-collaboration across the country, but also in the English-speaking world.”
As for the day-to-day duties, Maylor said she is looking forward to both the public events and the challenge of writing made-to-order verse for various events.
During his time in the role, Beaulieu did everything from welcoming new Canadians taking the oath of citizenship, to giving the convocation address at the College of Art & Design to speaking at a film festival in Oslo, Norway.
“Poetry exists in every culture and is the deepest expression of our most profound feelings,” said Maylor. “When we become new citizens, when we become new parents, when people in our immediate sphere die, poetry is an outlet for all of those things. It’s an extraordinarily important touchstone for profound feelings, for connection and the expression of just being human in a human world.”