There has been a flurry of activities over the past few months! I facilitated an online workshop for Family Physicians in early February. As I have a lot of respect and admiration for our medical professionals and frontline health care workers, I wanted to create a safe, supportive and nurturing space for them to engage in imaginative word play. Some of the participants had never written poetry before, but everyone plunged in and wrote wonderful, very creative short pieces. It was heartening to see the smiles of delight and satisfaction at the end of the session. (I also co-teach a course at SFU Continuing Studies at SFU Harbour Centre with my esteemed colleague, Evelyn Lau, in the spring and fall.)
For Valentine’s Day, I joined local spoken word poets Brandon Wint, Angelic Goldsky, and Hari Alluri at Waterfront Station during the afternoon rush hour, 4:30-7 pm to perform our work for Moving Lines—an I Love Transit Week Poetry and Music Event. A violinist and a cellist from the VSO provided lively musical accompaniment to the poems. Many passers-by going to and from the SkyTrain and Sea Bus paused to listen and record footage on their phones. We set up a poetry table where people could create their own poems by responding to prompts, or cutting and pasting lines on coasters. They could request a poem be composed for them on a manual typewriter manned by yours truly.
The following week, the Sixth Annual Places That Matter Community Celebration was held at Heritage Hall with a variety of community tables and speakers. I was honoured to be invited to read a few poems at the event. I enjoyed the other speakers too, and was especially moved by the stories of the Japanese Canadian group that is working to set up a museum at Hastings Park. They spoke about the way 8,000 Japanese Canadians who lived in town throughout BC were brought to Vancouver and incarcerated in Hastings Park before being deported to internment and work camps. Over 21,000 Japanese Canadians were interned in 1942, with their businesses and property confiscated.
I also visited Kitsilano Neighbourhood House to do a reading for preschool students from my kids’ book about a boy grieving the cognitive decline and death of his grandmother, The Rainbow Rocket, for an intergenerational storytelling event. The following week, I was interviewed for a podcast by Dr. Joshua Black for his Grief Dreams Podcast about the same book.
There were school visits too: a grade two class at University Hill Elementary, grade 11-12 students at Churchill Secondary, grade 11 students at the University Transition Program, as well as the visit to Tecumseh earlier in the year (mentioned in the previous blog). Also, I was one of three judges for the national Poetry in Voice’s Vancouver Team Regional Finals for recitation held at Prince of Wales Secondary this year. Several school teams competed. It’s always impressive to hear the students recite memorized poems, expressing complex passages with confidence and feeling.
City Poems Contest
What kept me especially busy from January to April was my Legacy Project, the City Poems Contest. The first stage was held last January-June and focused on generating poems about local historical, cultural and ecological sites. (I did a trial run of the video collaborations this past fall at SFU (Surrey Campus) with instructor Jay Tseng’s IAT 344 class to iron out some of the wrinkles in setting up this brand new project.) For the second stage of the City Poems Contest this year, I focused on collaborations between students from four local public post-secondary classes to make poetry videos based on some of the shortlisted poems from last year’s contest along with a few additional site-based poems. The classes included SFU IAT 344 (Surrey), UBC FNIS 454, Emily Carr Foundation 160 and 2D Animation 211.
The contest kicked off with an official launch in January 2023 for the instructors and students at the Central Branch of the VPL with panel presentations and discussions of sample poetry videos by me, Contest Judge Heather Haley and noted videopoetry curator and filmmaker, Tom Konyves. During the course of the term, I visited the four post-secondary classrooms to introduce the project. I reviewed rough cuts and watched the final cuts of poetry videos, sometimes in person, sometimes online.
New Poetry Video Screens in Lisbon
Somehow in January, I also managed to complete “Un/Write,” a collaborative poetry video project using erasure and reversed erasures with two talented animation students at Portland’s Northwest College of Art, Lara Renaud and Quinn Kelly. It recently screened at the JA Poetry Film Festival in Lisbon, Portugal. Lara will be screening the poetry video at her college’s term-end event!
(I collaborated with Lara and Quinn this past summer on “Merry” which is a concise, but darkly humorous animated poem about consumption, consumerism, and plastic pollution inspired by the excesses of the Christmas season, based in another of my concrete poems about plastic waste. It has been selected for five festivals. One of my earlier animated collaborations, “Plasticnic” was selected for screening at the Colorado Environmental Festival last month.)