Greater Sudbury has a champion of the arts in Roger Nash, according to city officials, politicians and poets, who were on hand to celebrate the city’s newly designated poet laureate at the Main Library on Feb. 25. Dozens of students from Marymount Academy and Sudbury Secondary School were also present.
“The poet laureate will perform poetry readings at the library, promote poetry and the literary arts in the city, and hold workshops,” Ron Henderson, Greater Sudbury manager of libraries, said.
Nash, a published poet and Laurentian University philosophy professor, was past president of the League of Canadian Poets and has won a number of literary awards for poetry, including the Canadian Jewish Book Award.
Nash said the poet laureate position is overdue.
“We have a rich culture of song and literature,” he said. “I think of my former colleague, Robert Dickson, who won the Governor General’s award for French poetry.”
Dickson, deceased, was a former professor in the Department of French Studies and Translation at Laurentian, and won the award in 1992 for his book Humains paysages en temps de paix relative (Human Landscapes in Times of Relative Peace).
Though the position of poet laureate will alternate between a candidate chosen from the anglophone and francophone communities, Nash said he will work for the whole community. His goals include establishing an electronic poetry and literary magazine, and seeking to have the month of April designated as poetry month in the city.
His vision also includes “encouraging our local poets to grow in their craft, gaining recognition and publications, and developing their own audiences,” a press release stated.
Nash’s most recent fiction piece, The Camera and the Cobra, appears in the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 collection, featuring the year’s best stories published in American and Canadian literature. His seventh and most recent book of poems is Something Blue and Flying Upwards: New and Selected Poems, was published by Your Scrivener Press, in 2006.
The poet laureate position is for a two-year period, with an honorarium of $1,000.
Nash was chosen as a result of his contributions to the cultural and literary community in the city, his speaking abilities and his published work, Henderson said. Rodriguez, who said he was a fan of poets, such as England’s Percy Shelley (1792-1822), said he was excited by the designation.
“We have been known as a mining camp,” Rodriguez said. “Now we have a new champion — a poet laureate — who will rewrite our literary tradition.”
His new poem, My City, starts with the line, “In this city, we mine more than nickel.” and outlines a number of outdoor and industrial images unique to Greater Sudbury, from the city’s lakes, to its mine shafts, the mayor noted.
Nash was selected by a committee made up of Mayor Rodriguez, Fern Cormier, library board member, Claire Zuliani, manager of the Greater Sudbury library system, Amanda Darling, of the Sudbury Arts Council, Ronda Lenti, representing the Rainbow District School Board, and Nancy Daoust, representing the Sudbury Catholic District School Board.
Five people were listed as possible poet laureates, including teacher Kim Fahner, from Marymount Academy, who was short-listed with Nash.
Susan McMaster, a visiting Ottawa poet, who gave a talk at Laurentian University Feb. 26, said Nash is a good choice for the first poet laureate of the city.
“Roger was instrumental in having poet laureate positions designated in cities across Canada while in his position as president of the League of Canadian Poets.”
Other Ontario cities with the position include Toronto, Cobalt, Owen Sound and Brantford. Seven other provinces maintain the position, and there is a parliamentary poet laureate in Ottawa.
For more information, contact Nash at [email protected] or phone 673-1155 ext. 219.
Excerpt from “My City” by Roger Nash
In this city, we mine more than nickel.
Ore-veins of stories are surveyed
and tagged in our forests. In the great smelter
of song, voices find their true
shine: the harmonies of silver, platinum,
copper and nickel, and, sometimes a nervous
hiccup. In the deep bolt-holes
and drifts of our hearts, we pick and shovel
words into poems. At the end of a shift,
legends come up the main shaft
in sweat-stained undershirts, and tell,
word for word, of labyrinths in their underground.