Margaret Hornby will be reading at City Council next week.

Margaret Hornby will be reading at City Council next week.

… a poem as lovely as a tree

With input from the Cultural Development Commission, Nelson City Council has taken up the gauntlet

April is a month of crocuses and new grass, birds and bees and butterflies. At least, we hope so. So it makes sense that April should be National Poetry Month, because spring just makes you want to wax lyrical, doesn’t it?

These days, everyone and his politician seems to be waxing lyrical thanks to a challenge issued by the Mayor of Regina. In a special proclamation, Mayor Pat Fiacco challenged municipalities across the country to celebrate National Poetry Month by inviting a local poet to read at a regular council meeting.

With input from the Cultural Development Commission, Nelson City Council has taken up the gauntlet and invited two poets to read at the April 2 meeting, which is open to the public. Margaret Hornby — a writer with a long record of poetic lyricism and two published books — is joined by relative newcomer Elena Banfield, who has been wowing audiences at poetry slams. The two are great choices.

Of course, a poem a piece barely scratches the surface, and so the library will follow up with a reading and book launch on Thursday, April 5 at 7:30 pm, where Hornby launches her newest collection, Love in Exotic Places, and Banfield struts her poetic stuff. It’s going to be fun.

I love the idea of politicians embracing poetry. I truly believe there is a place for slam poetry in question period. They’re already half-way there. And in our more civilized council meetings? I hope it becomes an annual event, and not just a response to a challenge from Away.

We come by our poetry appreciation honestly in this neck of the woods. Canada’s Poet Laureate Fred Wah cut his teeth on Baker Street (ouch!) and we have a plethora of notable poets living and writing in our midst. Some names on our shelves you might recognize include Susan Andrews Grace, Arthur Joyce, and Tom Wayman (whose new book is called Dirty Snow, a title reflective of the current  view from my window) to name just a few.

We try to keep up in our poetry section, a tradition that began with former Chief Librarian Deb Thomas, who knew that poetry was more than Robert Frost, intrepid path-less-travelled poet through he was. Recent acquisitions include new books by BC poets Lorna Crozier, Susan Musgave, Patrick Friesen, and Sharon Thesen, whose book Oyama Pink Shale is shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Other nominees whose books are on order include Patrick Lane and John Pass.

There are no poets in the One Book, One Kootenay shortlist, although poet Tom Wayman’s short story collection Boundary Country is one of the three books up for the title, and Rita Moir’s The Third Crop: A personal and historical journey into the photo albums and shoeboxes of the Slocan Valley 1800s to early 1940s includes poetry by Valley poets Jordan Mounteer and Natasha Jmieff.

Jennifer Craig’s Yes Sister, No Sister may be a memoir, but it has its poetic moments there in the wee hours on that hospital ward in Leeds. All three authors will not be reading poetry at the One Book, One Kootenay launch on Friday, April 13 at 7:30 pm in the library. But we’ll forgive them for that, even though it’s National Poetry Month.

So if you think that you shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree (with a nod to poet Alfred Joyce Kilmer), think again. Poetry touches our lives in myriad ways, as most of us know — including our politicians. Let’s hope the movement grows — as large and lovely as a tree.


Anne DeGrace’s column is featured on the community page every second week