Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Interview: Joanna Poblocka on National Poetry Month

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Joanna Poblocka

Throughout the month of April, Open Book will be celebrating all things poetic for National Poetry Month!

We're thrilled to kick things off with a discussion with Joanna Poblocka, Executive Director of the League of Canadian Poets.

Joanna tells us about the history of National Poetry Month, new initiatives at the League of Canadian Poets — including a brand new spoken word award — and the poem that she'll always remember.

Open Book:

Tell us a little bit about the history and conception of National Poetry Month. How did it come to be and how did the League become involved?

Joanna Poblocka:

The idea to create a month dedicated to reading, writing, speaking and promoting poetry in North America began in the US, when the Academy of American Poets created the first annual National Poetry Month (NPM) in 1996. Fueled by a desire to help inspire people of all ages to explore this passionate art form the Academy chose April; the beginning of the season of rebirth and renewal.

Two years later, in 1998, National Poetry Month came to Canada by way of the efforts of the League of Canadian Poets. Like their American counterparts, the LCP hoped to help bring poetry into the lives of everyday people, through public events, youth initiatives, media promotion, and cooperative efforts with schools and other community organizations.


What is unique about this year's theme, and how was it chosen?


The theme this year is Poetry City, and it was developed out of the collaboration between the League of Canadian Poets and the Poetry City Mayor’s Challenge, which was started by Regina Mayor Michael Fougere who challenges his fellow mayors across Canada to have a local poet read a poem at the opening of their Council meetings in March or April. The challenge is a celebration of UNESCO’s World Poetry Day (March 21) and National Poetry Month in April. The purpose is to celebrate poetry, writing, small presses and the contribution of poets and all writers to the cultural life in our communities. It also celebrates libraries, and the work of so many mayors and municipalities to promote the Arts, culture, and literacy and reading.


How does the League work to promote poetry? And how has the League evolved over the years?


The League of Canadian Poets' mission is to nurture the advancement of poetry in Canada, and the promotion of the interests of poets through events, networking, projects such as National Poetry Month and our youth poetry contest, publications, mentoring and awards. We just announced that we are going to be giving out a Spoken Word Award starting this year. We also run four readings programs (Canada Poetry Tours, Poets in the Schools, Readings in Public Places and National Poetry Month Readings).


What was one of the first poems you remember being affected by?


As a teen, I was into Arthur Rimbuad and Sylvia Plath, whose poetry really affected me. But the one poem that stands out the most for me was written by a close friend of mine, Claire Beaudette, it was titled "Corner Store Emergency".


What is up next for the League and NPM?


We are looking forward to more collaborations with organizations such as the Poetry City Mayor’s Challenge, the Literary Press Group of Canada and Open Book Toronto, and to creating more events throughout the year in partnerships. We also hope to be able to expand digitally, so that we are staying current with developments in our industry and can provide a lot of support to our poets, and to continue promoting their works and excellence in Canadian poetry.

Joanna Poblocka has been working at the League of Canadian Poets since 2002, first as the Programme Manager, and then in 2006 as the Executive Director. After completing her Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature at Carleton University in 2001, Joanna worked at a private arts institution, and then in the Not-for-Profit sector for two years at Funnel Communications.

In her position as the Executive Director at the League of Canadian Poets Joanna has diversified funding streams for the organization and created new projects and initiatives, as well as, eliminated the League’s deficit, and has led the organization through a Strategic Planning Session. Under Joanna’s guidance the League of Canadian Poets is continuing to flourish into a thriving national organization.

Joanna is also the Treasurer at the Book and Periodical Council, and a member of the Idea Exchange Committee.

For more information about The League of Canadian Poets, please visit their website.

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