Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Q&A with Victoria's New Poet Laureate, Linda Rogers

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Q&A with Victoria's New Poet Laureate, Linda Rogers

At the end of 2008, Open Book's November Writer in Residence, Linda Rogers, was named Poet Laureate of Victoria. Victoria is fortunate to have Linda as their Poet Laureate; she is immensely talented and her energy and enthusiasm for the arts are infectious. Plus, she's got great plans for Victoria's literary community.

OB:

As Poet Laureate of Victoria, what are your duties?

LR:

I am, for the next three years, a cultural ambassador for the city and will be invited to write poetry for specific occasions. In addition, I will organize events at City Hall and the library, starting with chocolates and erotic poetry for Valentine's Day.

Today I was interviewed by the A channel by Adam Sawatzky and we got silly. I showed him my knee high boots and said that was where my affinity with Sarah Palin ended. We also trotted out the whip I used to beat my "Masochism Tango" partner at the "Stars on Stage" dance benefit last year. I am not sure the city will find this sufficiently dignified, but we shall see.

OB:

How is the Poet Laureate for Victoria selected?

LR:

I think the process is organic as they seek the best way. So far, they have had nominations and submissions vetted by a jury consisting of librarians, publishers, poets and booksellers. The shortlisted poets are interrogated, I mean interviewed, by that committee and judged on the basis of their poetry and ahem! social skills. It is quite intimidating, and I think they are reviewing the various components.

OB:

What inspired you to apply for the position?

LR:

I was not inspired to apply for the position. Even though the potential the job offered was tempting, I did not want to go through the vetting process. I never apply for jobs and always wait in my ivory tower for lightning to strike. If somebody wants me, I give five hundred percent, but I loathe the way artists often have to grovel for work. We do require our dignity!

However, people were nominating me and pressing me to apply, so I went along with the game. I sent in an application, a few new poems, a couple of books and a letter outlining my potential initiatives. The deadline was my birthday, which was auspicious. I am a little superstitious. I also knew I would do a good job. I always do a good job. That is not bragging. I simply throw my whole passionate self into whatever I do and that usually suffices. Besides, I have a great wardrobe thanks to my husband E-Boy, the shmatte man who can sniff out a second-hand Simon Chang at five hundred feet.

OB:

Are you required to come up with your own initiatives? If so, what are they?

LR:

The city supports initiatives by the Poet Laureate, hoping each incumbent will follow his or her own direction. Carla Funk started a website with poet profiles and she initiated a reading series. I will continue both projects, but the website will feature a blog and poems by poets of all ages and degrees of professionalism rather than profiles of established poets, many of whom Carla has already done. Since I have a great interest in children, I want them to participate.

My projects include a Po(em)pal online program that links kids in Victoria schools with young writers around the world. I have asked contacts in Africa, Turkey, Wales, China, etc to help set-up this program and I hope it will help children to meet one another through poetry and talk in ways that exclude prejudice and fear.

I want to bring together poets and artists in other disciplines: dancers, musicians and visual artists. Already two dozen poets and artists have signed up for Framing the Garden, an anthology of poetry, postcard stories and visual art that captures Victoria, The Garden City.

I plan to host inner city workshops for kids at risk, ultimately providing the lyrics for a jazz chorale scored by composer Eric Dozier.

I am writing songs with singer Chris Trygg and his band Rumbleseat, with whom I have just finished an album, Ruin and Beauty, produced by the amazing Stephen Drake. Musicians on this project include drummer Andy Graffiti, my husband, mandolinist Rick Van Krugel, Bassist Del Cowsill, slide guitarist Jake Galbraith and Doug and the Slugs lead guitarist Richard Baker, the poet of the frets.

I have already worked with several dance companies and hope to further expand the possibilities of using spoken word as music for dance.

For several years I have been sending ART CARDS to people who deserve a thank you for work they have done in our community. My plan is to get more people doing that. Mine are "decorated" poems, but there are lots of possibilities.

OB:

As Poet Laureate, you're expected to compose poems for special occasions. Did you compose a poem for the ceremony in which you were named Poet Laureate?

LR:

Yes, when I appeared before City Council on December 18, I had a new poem in hand that captured my own feelings about the inclusivity of poetry and my pleasure in being chosen to work with a city council that is forward looking and determined to fulfill a social agenda that will bring every citizen of this city into the circle of entitlement. Utah Philips, a friend who died this year, recently wrote about that entitlement as the "justice of moderate need." I really hope to be able to help get the message out that we can be a "well community," each and every one of us welcome to share the dignity of being.

Coun. Pam Madoff welcomed me as Poet Laureate, speaking of my passion, humour and energy. I will devote all I have to this job, which is a privilege I take seriously.

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