Mississauga Hosts Public Poets’ Evening

Mississauga Hosts Public Poets’ Evening

Wednesday evening, Sept 14, Mississauga, one of Canada’s newest and most dynamic and diverse cities, was the site of a genuine innovation in poetic practice in Canada, a round robin reading by four poets laureate that dramatically illustrated what a poet laureate is and does, followed by a relaxed and informative question and answer session, that underlined the important function of the public poet in expressing the rich and varied experiences of everyday life, and encouraging citizens to write about these themselves, and to thereby influence their society and governments.

Sponsored by Mississauga’s Culture Division and the League of Canadian Poets, organized by Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, Anna Yin, and chaired by University of Toronto (Mississauga Campus) professor and poet, Richard Greene, the event was held in the fitting and friendly atmosphere of the excellently appointed Noel Ryan Auditorium in the Central Library of Mississauga, located in the city’s impressive civic center complex. The panel of four poets laureate consisted of John B. Lee, representing the City of Brantford and Norfolk County, Ontario, Marty Gervais, from Windsor, Ontario, Ms Yin, herself, and most notably, George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada.

The format for the reading, which Ms Yin borrowed from last year’s poets laureate reading at Windsor, was designed to stimulate somewhat competitive poetic offerings: before the event, panelists had been assigned topics (music, sports, etc.), for each of which subject, they were to read a poem from their work as a “round”, the whole set being concluded with a round based on a mystery topic to be announced by the Chairman.  This provocative arrangement, and the trenchant recitations of their feminist poems by the inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of Mississauga, Rebecca Zseder, and her sister prior to the panel’s efforts assured a very lively program that occasionally bordered on poetic pyrotechnics.

This unusual event, attended by about 50 members of the public, was enjoyable and informative, even for those with little previous knowledge, or even interest, in poetry.  For it was clear, both from the poetry presented, from the poets’ introduction of themselves and their works, and from their discussions and conversations during the program and afterwards at the book-tables, that a wide representation of Canadian life and experience was being made available, and being shared, from rural roots (by John B. Lee), through industrial and Northern realities (shown by Marty Gervais), and the cultural complexities of immigrant families (expressed by Anna Yin and Rebecca Zseder), to the long cultural history of Nova Scotia’s Black Loyalist communities, now fully articulate on the national and international stage through the work of George Elliott Clarke.

Bravo, Mississauga, on a very enjoyable evening, and a genuine Canadian cultural coup! Bravo, Canadian Poets Laureate!

For a taste of the event, please check: https://www.annapoetry.com/poetry-night-readings-with-canadian-poets-laureate/

Terry Barker

Retired Canadian Studies teacher, Humber College

Sept 15, 2016