Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

What Does a Poet Laureate do?

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What Does a Poet Laureate do?

We do not lasso cattle. That is a lariat. That reminds me of the song about the cowgirl Harriet. Harriet's handy with a lariat/But she aint gonna marry yet/ She's having too much fun.

This week we are having a chocolate and poetry event at City Hall and the leaders of our city have been inundating me with erotic poetry. Where would that happen, except in the poetry capitol of Canada?

Look out Ottograd. We're marching east in our chocolate shoes.

On the corner of Government and Broughton near the Rogers chocolate shop (that brings me so much grief because everyone thinks I am related and stingy because I'm not sharing, an urban myth that will not be dispelled this week as Rogers are donating the chocolate for the party), we now have our first poet-tree, a metal sculpture with its branches bannered by a poem that unites the street people with the stars.

This is guns into ploughshares. Think of it, Canadian metal transformed into art.

Recently I posted a poem I wrote to commemorate the stamp put out in honour of Rosemary Brown, our first black woman elected to public office. Eva Campbell sent me her painting "The Circle of Friends" in response. My poem about her painting follows.

Boy can we ever dialogue. I hope my tenure as Poet Laureate turns ALL the politicians into poets and brings artists together so that our voices, a choir, cannot be ignored!

BIRDS OF PARADISE

Sometimes the carpets come down the
family, from our mothers and grandmothers.
Sometimes a man comes out of a dark
doorway in Turkey or Afghanistan saying,
“Lady, please come in for tea!” and we buy
our way out of captivity. We know better,
but women who travel are curious as cats.

Curiosity is how we came to be here, in
Heaven on Earth at the end of the New World,
where we inherit beautiful gardens and carpets
from exotic lands colonized by adventurers.
We were taught to be more careful, not to
take tea from strangers, not to step on native
flowers, or to damage the heirloom rugs.

One of our grandmothers went mad and
watered the flowers on her carpets. She’d
crossed boundaries, they said. Her children
were beautiful, neither English nor Chinese,
possibly “a touch of the tarbrush,” the
bridge club ladies reported. Were they aware
that their favourite game was a form of whist
played by their soldier husbands in brothels
on the far side of the Galata Bridge?

The new women gather in circles, admire
gardens and carpets improved by time,
worn down by footsteps, like the marble
stairs to the Parthenon. Seagulls fly land-
ward to break clamshells on the rocks that
guard our beaches. They cry out to one
another, the call to prayer as the Birds of
Paradise gather to gossip, “God’s sip” we
learned in Sunday School, the sharing of
Proverb, and admire one another’s shoes.

We drink tea and celebrate the soft leather
and delicate ankle straps, the silk flowers in
carpets transplanted with our ancestors, their
threads no longer scarlet, gold, indigo, but
blended with a patina like the incandescent
heads of infants glowing in windows that
look over the water that brought us here.

Circle of Friends by Eva Campbell
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Linda Rogers

Linda Rogers is the author of the novels Say My Name (Ekstasis Editions, 2000), Friday Water (Cormorant Books, 2003) and The Empress Letters (Cormorant Books, 2007). She has also published several collections of poetry, including Love in the Rainforest (Exile Editions, 1996), Heaven Cake (Sono Nis Press, 1997), The Saning (Sono Nis Press, 1999) and The Bursting Test (Guernica Editions, 2002).

Go to Linda Rogers’s Author Page