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Kris Demeanor (Rob Caleffi/Rob Caleffi Photography)
Kris Demeanor (Rob Caleffi/Rob Caleffi Photography)

Poetry Q&A

Meet Kris Demeanour, Calgary poet laureate and 'art slut' Add to ...

How does one become poet laureate of Calgary?

Calgary playwright and actor David van Belle of Ghost River Theatre nominated me, compiling a greatest hits package of my work and pitching the notion that I can connect with those who least expect it. I was short-listed , and the six nominees read in front of an audience. A panel of six judges deliberated, and two weeks later the announcement was made. I read a poem in city hall and had my first media scrum.

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Your website seems devoted mostly to your work as a musician. Are you more musician or poet?

I’m a songwriter whose work has always been appreciated largely for the lyrical content. I feel more accomplished as a wordsmith than a musician, and in the poet laureate role won’t be hauling my guitar to appearances, so will sink or swim on the strength of words. It’s a murky prospect trying to self-identify, because I’ve straddled the two arenas so much that I feel equal parts confident and fraudulent in both worlds. That’s what keeps the work fresh and the ambitions unsatisfied.

How do music and poetry affect one another in your work?

The music acts as transporter, a magic carpet, a train, a horse, and elevates words through sheer adrenalin and the lift of melody, emphasizing their meaning. But poetry is frequently the muscle, and uses the structure of beat and music to play on and around, so it’s not a passive passenger. It’s a jockey.

Your work is often political. Do you think that will interfere with your poet laureate duties? Which are what, by the way?

There a few appearances and commissioned pieces I’ll create for specific civic events, but I will be largely encouraged to find my own ways of bringing creative language more into the public sphere, through partnerships with publications, public readings, events with youth, recent immigrants, any sector of society I want to engage with. I may solicit poetry submissions from citizens; change the LRT announcements at each station to rhyming couplets; unearth little known stories of Calgary’s past.

I’ve been careful in my past work to make political material specific and accurate, and more satirical than preachy. The opportunity of using poetry to express political points can be unobvious without being toothless. I would never compose something crass like: “In the name of sanity/ From the darkness of reality/ My tired plea/ Do not give Rob Anders another mandate as MP.” I would never write that.

You've described yourself as an “art slut.” Could you define that?

A shamelessly indiscriminate artist, who, in the name of having a new experience or delving into an unexplored art form, says; “Yes.” The fortunate art slut finds that most of the organizations who ask him to dally with them are totally hot.

 

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