A Word With... Calgary Poet Laureate Micheline Maylor
On first poems, best poems and why poetry is the most convenient art form.
Micheline Maylor has been named Calgary's Poet Laureate for 2016-2018.
Photo by Shelley Arnusch
Last month, Mount Royal University adjunct professor Micheline Maylor was appointed Calgary Poet Laureate for 2016 to 2018. Maylor is the third poet to hold the position following Kris Demeanor and Derek Beaulieu, her former classmate at the University of Calgary. As Poet Laureate, Maylor will basically act as an artistic ambassador for the city for the two-year term. During that time, she will also release her latest collection, Little Wildheart, which has been short-listed for the Robert Kroetch award for experimental poetry (the book is slated for release in spring of 2017 with the University of Alberta Press). We caught up with her for a chat about first poems, best poems and why poetry is the most convenient art form.
When did you first start writing poetry?
“The first time I wrote a poem was the same time that everybody writes a poem. It’s about Grade 3 when your English teacher says ‘write a poem.’ I remember I did this really hideous poem about going skiing and sneezing and rhyming skis and sneeze.”
That’s not bad!
“I remember at the time also being blown away by the work of Shel Silverstein. But it wasn’t until the first year of university that I started writing poetry again.”
What poets were you inspired by at that point in your life?
“I really admired Phillip Larkin and I really admired the cadences and the songs of T.S. Eliot. His poetry sounds like a song if you think about it… Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats… It’s just this lovely cadence. I remember I was young and I was dating someone who used to read that to me at night in the candlelit dark and I thought it was very sexy.”
No wonder you fell in love with poetry.
“Got rid of the guy, kept the poetry.”
Out of the poetry you’ve written what’s something you particularly love?
“In my first book I wrote a poem about a character named Ray Knister who falls in love with a woman named Myrtle and there’s a poem I wrote about them falling in love and I still love that poem. I got a compliment on that poem from my favourite Canadian poet ever — Don Coles. I have every book that he’s ever written and I’ve read some of them to the point of their spines falling apart.”
That’s high praise!
Creativity flourishes in tough times. Do you think that the current economic climate in the city will have an effect on the work you’ll be doing as poet laureate?
“Absolutely. The wonderful thing about poetry is that it’s the most convenient art form. With photography you need a camera and a camera bag and a lens and a computer to plug it into. With painting you need an easel and paints. But with poetry all you need is a pen or your phone and you can be anywhere and a line can come. It’s the most convenient art form. So for those reasons I think it is dovetailing well with our times.”
Did outgoing laureate Derek Beaulieu have any advice for you when he passed the torch?
“He did. He told me to say yes to everything.”
Well you agreed to do this interview, so I guess I owe him a thank you for that.
"Yes, that was his advice. Derek is a really generous and kind and expansive personality, so I trust him!”