When Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Fred Wah, was asked to write a poem for the Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, he thought back to his time growing up in Nelson and where he was when he heard the new Queen had been crowned.
“I remembered reading in the Nelson Daily News that the king had died, and long live the queen,” the 73-year-old said by phone from his summer home on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake. “The snow was falling that morning and I remember looking out at Elephant mountain. That’s what I wrote about.”
His poem The Snowflake Age was the first parliamentary poem he wrote after being named poet laureate last December. Wah admits he’s not much of a Royalist. But he wanted to try to write something for the occasion.
“It’s been the habit of poet laureates to refuse to write poems on demand,” he said. “Often the relationship between a poet laureate and government isn’t very amicable.”
He said the very practice of writing a poem for a certain occasion, though common, generally doesn’t lend itself to great poetry.
“People write poems for weddings and funerals, but they’re usually not regarded as a serious poem,” he said.
But Wah said there is room creativity in occasional poetry. This weekend he’s teaching a workshop on the topic at the Riondel Community Library, on Sunday, June 24, 1:30 to 4 p.m. followed by a public reading at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s a way for me to talk about my position of Poet Laureate as well as talk about composition in poetry,” Wah said of the workshop.
Space is limited to 12 people and participants are asked to bring 12 copies of their own occasional poem to share with the workshop. To register call 250-225-3241.
Wah will also be participating in the Elephant Mountain Literary festival in Nelson July 12 to 15.
With Parliament on summer break, he has some time away from his duties in Ottawa, he said, “I don’t have much other to do this summer than be on the lake and get some writing done.”