No Masterpiece: Thoughts on Community Arts

Edmonton Arts Council Essay


For Frank Gonzales

Hello, good people. As you’ll see in the comments section, a reader is looking for one of the good people who wrote into the PoemCatcher book. Frank Gonzales offered a lovely poem for his mother, which you can find in the section “From Afar.” This moving poem has touched some readers, who’d like to use it in making some artwork. I confess, i’ve never met Frank Gonzales. I hope, Mr. Gonzales, you might read this post and get in touch with Giselle, who wrote it.

I’ve posted the poem in its entirety, as it was written into the Poem Catcher. It may be that this is the entire poem, or an excerpt. I’ve no way of knowing otherwise, so i assume Mr. Gonzales wrote the poem; however, i know people often quote other writers, and this may well be a poem well known in some Spanish-speaking community. If so, please let me know.

Here, for those of you who don’t read Spanish, is my kick at translating this lovely poem (with apologies for any rough-and-ready aspects apparent in my Spanish, and yes, write in with suggested improvements):

“Poema a la Madre” Poem to The Mother

Madrecita pobre y buena, Beloved Mama, humble and good

Que en silencio me formaste … who has taught me in silence

Tus inmensos sacrificios no comprendo todavia, I still don’t comprehend your immense sacrifices

Sólo sé que vas viviendo de trabajos madre mia. I only know that you live ever working, my mother.

Madrecita yo por eso quiero ser trabajador, Mama, because of that, i want to be a worker

A tu lado por tu vida madre mia at your side, for all your life, my mother, 

quiero ser, i want to be

tu Luchador … your Warrior

por tu vida y por la mia for your life and for my own

eso ha de ser mi honor … this must be my honour…

Att. Frank Gonzalez, Spanish/Mexican, Jan 23rd, 2012

Translated: AMSewell, April 15, 2015

It’s rewarding to know that people are still being touched by the words that so many of you took the time to put down, and that the PoemCatcher is still connecting people’s hearts and dreams in poetry.

All My Relations


A New Voice in the PoemCatcher

Hello, friends.

This autumn, i was privileged to be a guest at Don Perkins’ English 380 class, to talk about my tenure as Poet Laureate, the making of our anthology,  Writing the City:Poets Laureate of Edmonton 2005-13, and of course, the Poem Catcher.

One of the young writers in that class, Amanda LeBlanc, has since sent me a set of poems she wrote, one for each of these pages: Darkness, Prayers, From Afar and Poems.

I was going to post them each onto the respective pages, but when i did that, i missed the way they flow together, the way each has its focus, but they play very well as a whole meditation.

Have a read. I believe you’ll enjoy Ms LeBlanc’s fresh, earthy perspectives. She notes that, when she was writing, weather turned out to be a common thread among the pieces. Hope you enjoy her work at least as much as i have. Amanda, thanks for adding your visions to the web.

All my Relations


Darkness: Gathering Clouds 

It started slowly,

The gathering of clouds.

So gradual at first,

you don’t notice they’re there.

That is, ‘til the temperature drops.

The first snow falls and you look out the window.

It dances in the dark

like the  black thoughts in your mind.

Walking through the night

with the cold seeping through,

you look off the bridge

and wonder:

Will anyone miss me,

if I miss the ice?

One hundred and fifty feet to the water.


Prayer: Spring Thaw 

The light at the end of the tunnel,

that initial spring thaw.

We all peer warily out,

waiting for more snow to fall.


All winter we have waited

for that beautiful little lamb.

We pray it’s not the lion,

who leans on the door jamb.


The sun streams down from heaven,

that helpful, guiding hand.

Showing us we’re not alone,

we’ve help in this grand plan.


From Afar: Change

One thing that I have noticed,

so far away from home,

is that everything has changed,

not one thing stayed the same.


The sounds,            MOOOOOO!

the sights,               Yellow fields for miles.

the smells,              That good, fresh scent of barnyard.

the seasons.            Winter, spring, summer, fall.

Winter seems much colder,

wind howls down long, tall streets.

Springtime just doesn’t smell as sweet,

Sparky’s treasures come to light.

Poems: The Forgotten Season

It is thought we have two seasons,

Winter and Construction.

But we have a forgotten season,

Which really is a shame.


Those 4 months of the year,

The grass is really green!

The river valley’s beautiful,

The air is fresh and clean.


That forgotten season is summer,

everybody loves it.

It’s unfortunate that by June,

We all want the snow to fly.

– Amanda LeBlanc, English 380, University of Alberta, Edmonton, November, 2014



UnRavelled – Poetry from Pierrette

Here’s a delightful poem, from a delightful colleague in poetry, Pierrette Requier. Pierrette is known in the poetry community for her elegance, an elegance of person and presentation that is enhanced by flashes of spice. She brings a particular voice, not simply because she works both in French and English, but because of the specific ways she uses those languages, rooted in our specific landscape.
One of my favourite memories of Pierrette is from 2009, when we each launched our first book of poetry with Frontenac Press (mine, Fifth World Drum, hers, Details From the Edge of the Village). Pierrette had a number of family members in the room, and they led us in providing a stomping, clapping rhythm section for one of her best poems of the night – it was a real glimpse of her boisterous, strong-willed rural clan, and of a distinctive Franco-Albertaine place and time.
This piece, though, she offered to the Poem Catcher in the very first few weeks it was at City Hall, a portrait of our city and of her more reverent, contemplative side. J’aime aussi Ravel,  et je trouve cette poeme vraiment ravissante, tout comme la vallée de la rivière en automne.


Ravel’s String Quartet in f

second movement

inches me down and across

to the North Side,

already late for a deadline.

Winter slept in this year,

just woke up to its shifty business

of snow-blowing snow,

car exhaust spewing fast and

furious as the wind gusts.

Flashing brake lights

the only flick-flick

of colour in this blustery

end of winter morning.

Grey sky hung over the river valley

with its stick trees:  bare poplars, sober spruce

prissy pines, and its bottle-necked wet road.

At the bottom of the hill

staid, stoic traffic lights

do their old fashioned work.

Green waves a slushy go,

amber flits one more car through,

red holds a gloved hand up.

And the river—

what brought settlement here

in the first place—

meanders on

its cold course.

Here on its banks

we still huddle, try to keep warm

eight months of the year.

Here where we have sprawled.

Hard to call this home

to have the heart for it

on this March morning.

© Pierrette Requier

Published in Writing the Land Alberta Through its Poets, Dymphny Dronyk and Angela Kublik, Editors, 2007, p. 58 & 59

Wresting Place

This poem was originally sent to me back in my first year of Laureatage, by a longtime colleague, Dr. Don Perkins, with whose classes i’ve shared a fair few poetic adventures over the years. I’ve come to appreciate his quick, incisive mind and wry humour.

These thoughtful verses address a very Edmonton controversy, namely, what to do to properly honour those buried in a cemetery down in Rossdale. This cemetery goes back to the days of Edmonton House, when First Nations and European immigrants first worked together in the pursuit of commerce and prosperity – strangely, the graveyard has been “lost” and “rediscovered” time and again since then.

Thanks, Don, for the original, and for this excellent revision.                                   


Wresting Place 

The fight goes on  

over our bones and souls

allowed no peace:

Interred. Outcast.

Forgotten. Buried from

public memory

by public expedience.

Dug up. Disturbed.

Disturbing. Discarded.



In life useful to the trade.

In death granted token sanctuary

under an alien monument

on Native soil.

In the way

of growth

of prosperity

of development

of traffic

Not planned for, planned around and

over, under the crossroads

beside the power station

outside the ball park

beyond consideration.


Inconveniently rediscovered

on a regular basis, proclaimed

a curiosity and surprise

no legacy or heritage–

easier forgotten again;

“remembered” is a nuisance.


And once again recalled,

returned to knowledge

officially memorialized

as the politic thing to do,

with minimum public disruption

and no easy access:


But now harder to forget, to

cover up one more time.

 Don Perkins: 17 July 2013 version

Poem Catching: Things I’ve Learned