A working man's poet

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Feb 26, 2014 - 4:22 PM |
 Sudbury's newest poet laureate, Tom Leduc, is seen here in 2012, after he won the Living with Lakes poetry contest, for his poem “My Northern Lake.” File photo.

Sudbury's newest poet laureate, Tom Leduc, is seen here in 2012, after he won the Living with Lakes poetry contest, for his poem “My Northern Lake.” File photo.

Tom Leduc Sudbury's newest poet laureate

When Tom Leduc was interviewed for the position as Greater Sudbury's poet laureate, he was wearing his uniform from Wajax Industrial Components, where he works in the shipping and receiving department.

He covered up his name tag with the word “poet.”

As this scenario illustrates, Leduc, who was recently named the city's third poet laureate, considers himself a “working man's poet,” something he thinks will resonate with Sudburians.

“Lots of times, poetry can be intimidating, or people feel they just don't understand it,” he said. “I wanted to present them something they maybe could relate to a little more.”

Leduc is the third person to fill the poet laureate position, following in the footsteps of Roger Nash and Daniel Aubin. He'll serve a two-year term, earning an honourarium of $1,000.

The third-generation Sudburian and father of two said most of his poems focus on nature and the industrial working world — both big influences on northern culture — although at times he's written about world events.

He said he's kept journals all his life, but has only written poetry seriously for the past seven years.

There's a bit of a story behind that — Leduc's grandparents had kept a poem he'd written as a young child, and after his grandfather passed away, his grandmother gave it back him.

“This is where I started to look back in some of the journals I've been keeping and writing I've been doing, and I realized maybe I should be looking into poetry,” Leduc said.

He admits he's only had a few of his poems have printed in local literary journals so far, and is working towards having more of his work published.

However, in 2012, his poem “My Northern Lake” won the 2012 Vale Living with Lakes poetry contest. He's also a member of the Sudbury Writers' Guild and performed a collection of his poems at the city's first Wordstock Festival.

He also regularly contributes to the Greater Sudbury Public Library's monthly poetry nights.

Leduc said it was the encouragement of the city's literary community that gave him the confidence to apply for the poet laureate position.

Given his lack of published work, he said he was “pretty shocked” when he found out he'd been selected. “I didn't think I had too much of a chance,” Leduc said.

He said when he was growing up, there was no outlet for literary-minded kids.

“I think it's important that everybody has an outlet and a stage they can speak on and have their moment, and not be afraid to do it,” he said.

“Even just saying I liked poetry when I was a teenager, you couldn't do that. It would be too awkward. Even my closest friends were like 'Yeah, don't talk about that. It's nice you do that. Keep it to yourself.'”

That's why, as poet laureate, he plans to start a group for children and youth interested in writing poetry. Leduc's seven-year-old daughter, Stephanie, may just be one of these next-generation poets.

“She's written a couple of poems,” he said. “I work with her a little bit. She went to the public library, and she's read there. It's pretty cute.”

My Northern Lake

Come with me, I’ll show you beauty, I’ll show you life,
I’ll show you where the loon swallows the sun
and the moon sits in the eye of a snow-owl.
To where painted trees shimmer across the landscape,
setting the lakes on fire.
To where every stroke of our paddle
slices the water’s skin
and pushes away our daily wounds.
Come with me, to where we slowly undo
the knots of our everyday lives.
To where we set our stresses free
to float in fresh water and bundle up
at the mouth of some river,
like a well-woven nest,
cradling our anxieties in it’s broken-fingered hand.
Come with me, and we’ll trickle through the dam
like blinking eyelashes in the sun.
We’ll meet the day together,
we’ll leave our past behind
and get baptized by the boreal.
I’ll stir your soul and you can stir mine,
until our muscles hurt, until the sun sets,
until our breath turns to frost and the water to ice.
Come with me to my northern lake,
where time drifts away on a youthful dream
and simply sets us free, for a while.

-Tom Leduc
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer


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