(Here i’d thought to upload poems from kids, but i think i’d rather not, for reasons of privacy and FOIPP concerns. It is too difficult to track all those kids, since they’ve all moved up into another grade, new teachers, sometimes new schools.Instead, here’s the post.)

One reason the PoemCatcher project was so enjoyable was that City Hall School got involved, thanks to their remarkable Principal, Mrs. Linda Hut.

City Hall School is a weeklong field trip for students in grades 1-9.

It was an immense pleasure to visit various classes and talk with them about my role as a public poet, and about poetry in a civic context. More about that below.

Even more delightful, i twice enjoyed the opportunity to involve City Hall School classes in my presentations to Council. (See page “That’s Cool – so, what do you do?”) In 2012, the grade 3 class from Belgravia School were taking in a Council session on the morning i was presenting ‘Wicihitowin’ as a duet with the Mayor. The intrepid Mrs. Hut enthusiastically agreed to have the kids join the chorus from their place in the audience chambers. It was such fun that, when 2013 rolled around, i made sure to invite her to join in again.

The result, Sister Song: For the Cranes, is my favourite commission as Poet Laureate. In a tenure that was full of excitement, distinguished guests, and excellent projects, nothing touched me more than this poem, which i got to present with the Grade Three class of Norwood School. Here’s a link to the video we sent to Regina mayor Pat Fougere.

Norwood is my family’s school. I live round the corner from it. I’ve known a lot of those kids since they started school, and some of them, i’ve known and loved all their lives. One of them is my daughter. To sing with her, and with kids i’ve watched growing up, in whose future i feel invested, was an honour of a very deep sort.

Norwood is an “inner city” school. That means a lot of challenges for students, staff and families. One of those challenges was the threat of closure; i will always be proud of the way our community came together to keep our school alive. So, it seemed especially fitting to have them sing with me about the remarkable survival of the Whooping Crane.

Grade Three and i also performed this piece for the school assembly at Norwood. If you were there, that was for you.

You are family … always …

Why the Whooping Crane?

Regina and Edmonton are sister cities, joined by bioregion, history and culture – human culture, to be sure, but also animal culture. Before the highways that link us, there were the bison trails. And there have always been the migratory flyways.

When i was a child, i often heard about the impending extinction of the whooping crane, one more victim of human greed and carelessness. I also heard about a few dedicated people trying to save it, which seemed a hopeless task.

Imagine then, how amazed i was in 2011, when, visiting my sister outside Regina, i heard a sound i’d never heard. ‘Look up,’ she said, ‘it’s cranes.’ And there they were, winging northward, once again taking a place among the chevrons written seasonally across our skies. Their cry, once heard, never forgotten. It was one of the moments in my life that has given a sustaining hope to me. We can make good choices, we can heal the past, we can put things right. Yes, these were most likely Sandhill Cranes. The Whoopers have not yet come home to northern skies; but surely, one day, their voices, too, will join the song again.


The kids in our neighbhourhood will face many challenges in their lives. I hope that the story of the cranes will sustain them, too, will help them to hold on to the conviction that, however slight the hold on life, there is hope for recovery, if we sincerely put our hands, minds, hearts and will to the task.

This end of the summer, walking about pondering the shape of this PoemCatcher project, i heard them overhead.

Once heard, never forgotten; never had i seen them over my city, heard them over my street. It was like a blessing on a covenant. Maybe it is foolish to put much stock in such things, but i am a poet, my vocation is to embrace foolish things and make of them songs.

all my relations,



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