Stony Plain's Poet Laureate releases first poem in the role

Read or listen to Lisa Mulrooney's "Our Stories" here.

Stony Plain’s Poet Laureate addressed council on Monday as her first act in the new role.

Lisa Mulrooney steps in as the town’s first-ever Poet Laureate, which will see her advocating for poetry and language arts in the community.

“It [the role] is about trying to make poetry accessible to all people of all ages, all walks of life and let them know that poetry is a really good way to express yourself, feel heard, and to get a sense of belonging,” she said.

On Monday, she addressed council with an original poem and a speech outlining her goals in the position. Her poem recognized the unique history and identity of Stony Plain. She also declared that she will write a Haiku everyday as part of her term.

“The town is twinned with Shikaoi, Japan and I thought it would be nice to honour them… But, it’s also a form that’s accessible to everybody. I think anybody who puts pen to paper could have a go at it,” she said.

A Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry made up of three phrases characterized by three qualities.

She hopes she is able to engage the community in the art, especially by visiting local classrooms and exposing more students to poetry. 

Mulrooney becomes the sixth Poet Laureate in Alberta, joining Edmonton (who has a youth and adult Laureate), Calgary, Banff, and St. Albert.

Listen to Mulrooney read Our Stories here. 

 

Our Stories

 

by Lisa Mulrooney

First Poet Laureate, Town of Stony Plain

March 4th, 2019

 

Towns are like people:

Some are blossoming teenagers,

who like to stay up late

telling tall tales to impress the girls;

others are aging grandparents,

who take themselves to bed early

after telling the same story a different way,

forgetting most of the details

but remembering a few more names.

 

Here, on the hopeful meadows of the prairie,

our grandparents worked hard to tuck us in at night.

They turned on the lampposts to remind us

to be ourselves, a new generation

whose imagination and sweet dreams

could splash the colours of springtime

against every wall.

 

We know in whose cradle we found our peace,

we acknowledge in whose care the land was nurtured

long before our tracks wiped away their gentle prints,

and we respect them.

 

In remembering, there is belonging,

a welcome we extend to the past and to the future,

to every new child who shows up at our schools,

terrified, because the climate is different here

and some words are too difficult to translate.

 

On sunny days at the old brick schoolhouse,

the wind dies down and the flags barely stir.

The bell is silent now, but the noisy blue jays

announce the children who have come to play.

 

They come looking for reasons to colour outside the lines;

and they find them—in artifacts and spooky ghost stories.

 

 

I’m not afraid of the ghosts at the Oppertshauser House,

even if they do trigger electromotive force fluctuations,

even if they do whisper warnings into digitally enhanced audio,

but I think about them sometimes—

staring out of windows, creaking across floorboards.

The children beg to know more about them,

to fuel the torchlit fires and friendship

of sleepovers and summer camp.

 

They retell the stories in ghostly voices

around campfires at nearby lakes:

 

     come on in  //  stay out

     come on in  //  stay out

 

The contradictory cautions chug along with a cadence

that reminds me of the town’s twin tracks

bringing rail cars     into town  //  and out again

                                   into town  //  and out again

into town

                    and I am late again.

 

I always seem to be chained to those tracks,

and always when I am late for work or school.

As if old Sheriff Umbach is keeping me there

for not paying my taxes.

 

But then I realize . . . paying my dues is poetry,

and the pause is a gift, a rare moment for reflection.

 

These moments, our thoughts, are our stories

given breathing space at the crossings,

and while the trains pass, we have time to ponder

the things that get lost in the haze of living.

 

This town is a precocious child,

who we tuck in at night when the lampposts come on,

who chatters in the school yard like a noisy blue jay,

who asks to hear our stories.

But most endearing, this town pauses to listen

even if all we do is complain about the trains.

 

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