This has been a very exciting couple of years of change for Calgary. In addition to being declared one of the cultural capitals for Canada and having our landscape irrevocably changed during massive overland flooding, Calgary was honoured to have installed their first poet laureate, Kris Demeanor.
Calgary’s pick for the first laureate was surrounded by much criticism from the arts community, as some saw him as more of a musician than a poet. Demeanor didn’t pay any mind to his detractors. “I didn’t anoint myself,” he explains. “I could understand the chagrin of page poetry aficionados who felt insulted. It is often an unacknowledged craft that they probably felt should have been celebrated through this position instead of a more overtly performative form of poetry. Having said that, I am a musician AND a poet. To suggest someone can’t be both is absurd. One can be a baker and a poet, or a lawyer and a poet. This is not a newsflash. It’s an ancient literary tradition: song lyric is poetry. Yes, a lot of it sucks, but then so does a lot of page poetry. Music, like the page or the voice, is just a delivery system.”
It can’t be easy to be the first of your kind in a city like Calgary that doesn’t traditionally make a habit out of celebrating its artists. When asked about challenges during his reign, Demeanor lists, “The biggest challenges were in my own head: self consciousness, feeling like a fraud.” But Demeanor is also quick to reference his proudest moments, including his work with youth and producing the poetry anthology, The Calgary Project: A City Map in Verse and Visual, co-edited by Dymphny Dronyk and published by Frontenac House.
So with that, we bid adieu to Kris Demeanor as the city’s poetry potentate and look forward to seeing what the next laureate, Derek Beaulieu, will bring to us.
By Max Maxwell