A&E » Arts

Poetry is not dead, just hidden

Pique explores the lives of poets living in Sea to Sky



Poetry. Once considered the highest of art forms, it is now tucked under a large stack of post-modernist literature and rock and roll record sleeves. It has been relegated to university classrooms and literary journals that the public at large has little taste for. People say they respect poetry — we would seem uncultured if we said otherwise — but who of us can name three living poets? How many reading these words have even read a poem in the last two months?

On the heels of World Poetry Day this Wednesday, Pique is exploring what it means to be a poet living in Sea to Sky in 2012. Finding multiple poets was no easy task. They either don't exist in any great numbers in Whistler, or they're simply just hiding.

"It's a quite a lonely place to be a poet, to be honest with you," says Mary MacDonald, a psychologist by trade who primarily considers herself instead as, you guessed it, a poet.

She might just be the Whistler poet, having won the past two Poet's Pause Poetry Competitions, an annual contest spearheaded by the RMOW. She says she began writing poetry as a youth, as so many do.

And, as so many do, she gave it up for a time as she focused on her professional career. Then, following a series of personal tragedies, she was offered two writing gigs, one to write a ballet and another to write the words for an opera — both poetic forms in their own way.

MacDonald says it opened up a world of possibility and opportunity in her writing.

"There's a whole possibility of poetry that can be in the world now," she says. "It's not just something you have to write and publish in your school newspaper when you're in Grade 11. There's a way to do it as an adult where it has a voice."

In the past four years, several venues for poetry readings have sprouted up throughout Whistler. There's Poet's Pause, which has offered emerging voices the opportunity to share their work in a public forum.

Now this year, the RMOW is taking part in the Mayor's Poetry Challenge, a national campaign spearheaded by Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco to recognize homegrown talent. The challenge will be rolled into this year's Poet's Pause, where writers will submit pieces for installation on sculptures, designed by Joan Baron, at Alta Lake Park.

And there's Creative 5 Eclectic, Stephen Vogler's monthly art event, originally conceived as an open mic night for writers, musicians and artists of all varieties to perform. Each month, Vogler performs new pieces written specifically for the occasion. He says C5E has helped to pull people "out of the woodwork" to share their own poetry, and a lot of them are residents that Vogler, a long-time local who's deeply engrained in the arts culture in Whistler, has never met before.