The Royal City Literary Arts Society has organized a terrific free summer poetry reading series at Queen’s Park in New Westminster through the dedicated efforts of RCLAS President, Janet Kvammen! Each week, there are two featured poets plus an open mic. There’s an excellent range of established and emerging published poets of diverse backgrounds.
July 20th was a perfect warm summer day for our reading. Over a dozen readers signed up for the open mic! Alan Hill, former poet laureate of New Westminster, was an excellent emcee, and read two of his own poems. My favourite poem by featured author, Jude Neale riffed off of the line, “You’re just like your mother!” I also loved her two poems inspired by music–one based on the “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” theme from Mozart, and also one based on a well-known lullaby.
During my set of nine poems, the audience responded very warmly to “Ode to a Crow,” a poem about and dedicated to Canuck the Crow, who was voted Metro Vancouver’s unofficial ambassador in a 2018 CBC poll, but who went missing before the pandemic. The poem was originally commissioned for Migration Songs, a collaborative chapbook that paired scientists and poets for the 27th International Ornithological Congress held in Vancouver in 2018. I still remember how I looked up to see a couple of crows appear just when I started introducing the poem at the public reading/launch at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
I also read two other audience favourites, which are also from my book, Odes & Laments, “Ode to Chopsticks” and “Lost Stream” (both recorded by Janet Kvammen). During the break, I met Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation, and discovered we’re distantly related by marriage through her Chinese Canadian father, Art Lee (of Lee’s Taxis) who was the brother of my mother’s sister-in-law.
I encourage poetry-lovers and poetry-writers to come out to at least one of the weekly readings this summer. Bring a picnic supper, sit at one of the benches, and listen to some local poetry–maybe even read a poem of your own at the open mic!