Poetry News

Canada's New Poet Laureate in Conversation at Globe and Mail

By Harriet Staff

Michael Pleau

Right off the bat, Michel Pleau--Canada's newly crowned poet laureate--talks to The Globe and Mail about his way of being a poet in the world.

Michel Pleau was named Canada’s new poet laureate last week, beginning a two-year mandate to “draw Canadians’ attention to the reading and writing of poetry.” Mr. Pleau, winner of the Governor-General’s Award in 2008, has spent two decades in Quebec giving workshops and teaching classes in poetry to students ranging from grade-school pupils to senior citizens. He has also published a dozen books of poetry.

Mr. Pleau spoke to The Globe and Mail from his home in Quebec City.

How did you react when you found out you would be Canada’s next poet laureate?

With immense joy. I’ve been writing poetry for 25 years. It’s my life, my passion.

You speak about poetry as being fundamental to what makes us human.

Poetry has existed since the beginning of humanity. Our ancestors gathered around the fire and tried to communicate with mysteries bigger than themselves. That’s still what we do with poetry. We write with the hope there’s someone at the other end of our poem.

But you also think poets are the object of too many clichés.

When you see poets, it’s in places like the Just for Laughs Festival. They’re caricatures and they’re always a bit ridiculous – you know, a guy with a beret on his head and a scarf around his neck who says inane things in rhyme. It makes people laugh. But poetry is deeper than that.

You want to change that image?

Yes. My goal would be to make people feel that maybe they love poetry more than they imagine.

Our relationship to poetry is often a bit academic. Sometimes it’s linked to bad memories from having to learn poems by heart and reciting them in school. People often don’t realize they’re surrounded by poetry. At the very least, it’s in the songs they listen to. I often say that lovers’ words – when they whisper them to one another in the ear – are an expression of poetry in our daily lives.

Read more at The Globe and Mail

Originally Published: January 13th, 2014