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Poet's Pause is a place to find words in the wilderness

The work of Caroline Carter and Sandra Cairns will adorn sculptures in Alta Lake Park



Two sculptures in Alta Lake Park are each year adorned with new poetry written about Whistler and shared with anyone using the park. As a place where the lyrical takes its worthwhile place as public art, it has few equals.

The Poet's Pause Competition, now in its ninth year, and the Mayor's Poetry Challenge competition, now in its third year, find poems to cover the sculptures.

The competitions are run in April to celebrate National Poetry Month, with the two winning poems displayed each summer. They stay up for passersby to read for the next year.

This year's winners are Caroline Carter for Drew Drive, written on the theme of togetherness, and Sandra Cairns for The Way of the Listeners, written on the theme of listening.

Carter's voice gives off a warm delight with the fact that she has won. She lives in Vancouver but her ties to Whistler grew out of her childhood.

"My grandmother moved to Whistler and loved it and ended up buying a cabin on Drew Drive (in Creekside). It used to be the old sleeping quarters for the Whistler firemen, I think," she recalls.

"And she bought the empty lot next door as well on the grounds that she wanted to create a huge garden, with a swing set for all the grandchildren to play with. That's why we spent all our summers and Christmases in Whistler."

She and her siblings would jump into nearby Nita Lake.

Later, as a young adult she lived at the cabin for several years, and it will be forever connected with the bittersweet memories of her grandmother's last few weeks.

"The poem is a tribute to my grandma, for sure, but broadly it's also about those spaces that we go to to reconnect with people who aren't there anymore," Carter says.

"I actually wrote the poem several years ago and I thought of it because I was lying in the garden that my grandma had built for us. When she got older she got esophageal cancer so she decided to spend her last few weeks in Whistler. We brought her there, the whole family did, and we spent her last days enjoying Whistler and this space that she created for her family."

Cairns was not available to discuss her winning poem.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden says she enjoyed this year's competition.

"I very much enjoy reading the winners and poems in council meetings, we are further celebrating arts and culture and poetry in particular at the municipal level," she adds.

"Arts and culture generally are very important components our community, particularly as we mature and diversify. The Poet's Pause and Mayor's Poetry Challenge are important components, in turn, of our arts and cultural program."

The mayor says her tastes run to "all kinds" of poetry.

"From the haiku to the epic," she says. "I am just a consumer of poetry, I have no expertise. But it seems the poems that win are really of an outstanding calibre from my layperson's perspective."

She was pleased that 56 poems were submitted by 26 poets from the Sea to Sky corridor, the Lower Mainland and even overseas, more than last year. Each winning poet gets a $200 prize.

"The fact that this had appeal to poets outside the corridor, I thought that was quite remarkable," Wilhelm-Morden says.

Drew Drive by Caroline Carter (first eight lines)

Along the faded line of yellow paint,

that lines this summer land of lakes,

New footprints and tires leave their mark,

and wildflowers sustain.


Sun-spun fluff of cottonwood,

Drifts lazily on the wind.

The air born from this garden

was the last my grandma took in.

The Way of the Listeners by Sandra Cairns (first seven lines)

 The Way of the Shore Listeners

is to lean into the lake on hollow staffs,

sounding the spangled waters

between the stones of lake bottom stories

and the torn surface of old waves' song

for the soft mudded step

of the Lakebed Listeners.