What’s happening about getting a Poet Laureate?

Last October, Council initiated setting up an Ad Hoc Committee to decide on who should be appointed to be the Poet Laureate for the next 4 years.  This is needed since Ted Amsden’s 8 year term has expired. Candidates for the citizen position were solicited with four applications received but then nothing happened.  This week, Poet Wally Keeler emailed Mayor John Henderson and other councillors asking “Is there a Poet Laureate Ad Hoc Committee?” and adds a comment: “A bit of openness and transparency is called for here, or some action taken.”  Others copied on the email were supportive.  John Henderson responded and pointed out that the upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting on April 23 has this issue on the agenda.

Cobourg Poetry Workshop
Cobourg Poetry Workshop

The position of Poet Laureate was first filled by Eric Winter starting in July, 1997.  The most recent appointment was Ted Amsden who has held the position for the last 8 years which means that his term has now expired.  Cobourg has an active poetry group and at the recent Civic awards, the Cobourg Poetry Workshop group was awarded a Distinguished Civic Award for the Arts.  In the photo at top/right, all but Ted are looking the wrong way – presumably at another photographer. Eric Winter (born in 1923) is standing next to Ted, fourth from left.

The plan is to revise the terms of reference and to increase the number of citizens on the Ad Hoc Committee from one to two. Although the first four applicants will still be considered, advertising will be done again.  The committee membership will also be revised and will consist of five members:

  • Coordinator of Arts, Culture and Tourism Services (instead of the Mayor)
  • CEO of the Cobourg Public Library
  • Executive Director/Curator of the Art Gallery of Northumberland
  • two (2) members-at-large comprised of any of the following: writers, publishers, book sellers, teachers, librarians, journalists, and/or any member of the public with suitable knowledge of poetry.

The new committee will have 6 weeks to present their recommended appointment to Council and an announcement should be no later than May 31. [That gives them less than 6 weeks!]

The term will be for the 4 years of the term of Council with an option to renew for another 4 years.  The maximum is 8 years.  Pay is in the form of an annual honorarium of $500.  For full details see the Terms of Reference in the link below.

It seems that there is more housekeeping required for Council Committees.  At the same time that the Poet Laureate Ad Hoc Committee is being set up, the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee will be dissolved now that they have submitted a final report (on Feb 19, 2019).  That is, their work is complete. (Cobourg News Blog reported on this here).  Staff recommend that Council consider the creation of a new Advisory Committee that would address the current void created by the dissolution of both the Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee. The new Advisory Committee would have a “centralized focus on the downtown and overall economic development of the Town.”


Update – 24 April 2019

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 23, Council changed the required announcement date from May 31 to March 31.  Since that date has now passed in 2019, it will only affect the next time it happens – 2023?

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Wally Keeler
21 April 2019 12:29 pm

There has never been a Cobourg-born poet laureate.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 April 2019 1:00 pm

We’ve only ever had 3 poet laureates in the very short span of (the last) 22 years of our 221 year history. We’ve made it this far, I’m confident we can survive another few years without a home grown laureate if we have to.
Did you have anyone in particular in mind?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
21 April 2019 3:23 pm

It’s just an assertion of a fact; nothing to get your kickers in a knot about, Frenchy. I prefer poem-grown Poets Laureate.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
21 April 2019 9:18 pm

I would vote for you Wally, if I could.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
22 April 2019 6:49 am

Pseudonyms are not allowed to vote. Besides, I don’t believe pseudonyms who don’t have the courage to stand by their cheap throwaway remarks.

Walter Luedtke
21 April 2019 12:14 pm

comment image

Cobourg had a female Poet Laureate – the stunning Jill Battson.
Battson soon decamped to the Toronto arts scene, where her libretto for the striking oratorio, Dark Star Requiem, was nominated for two Juno Awards in 2017.
Originally produced by Tapestry Opera, the work received its world premiere at the Luminato Festival in 2010. The oratorio covers the history of AIDS, including a personification of the virus as a seductive invader of the body.
While Dark Star Requiem was widely acclaimed, and the recorded version well received, its theme ensures that it’s not the kind of piece that is likely to find itself on the list of regular programming for most orchestras.

21 April 2019 10:00 am

Poetry smoetry, how ’bout those Leafs!

Reply to  Frenchy
21 April 2019 12:23 pm

That should be poetry schmoetry and the leafs are losers.

Pamela Jackson
18 April 2019 6:38 pm

As the “unofficial” Poet Laureate of the Sidney Concert Band I know how important this post is. Perhaps after all these years a
female PL should be appointed, providing, of course, she has the
“write stuff”

manfred s
Reply to  Pamela Jackson
18 April 2019 9:49 pm

what could gender possibly have to do with choosing a poet? Wouldn’t it make sense to choose a poet for their ability and their body of work rather than something as ridiculous as hair style or fashion sense, or gender for that matter?

Reply to  manfred s
21 April 2019 12:28 am

What could representation possibly have to do with a representative of the town? If you think, in our society, you can pretend that ‘gender’ gets treated the same as hair style or fashion sense, I’m honestly not sure what to tell you.

Reply to  Dan
21 April 2019 10:58 am

Well Dan, I’m honestly not sure what you just said there.

Reply to  Frenchy
22 April 2019 2:13 pm

That’s pretty telling.

Jim Thomas
18 April 2019 12:40 pm

April is Poetry Month, therefore thought for the day:

“Come, fill the Cup, in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter–and the Bird is on the Wing”

― The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam

18 April 2019 8:25 am

A poet laureate (plural: poets laureate) is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.
I googled that,
Ted read a poem about deer at the Civic Awards.
Ted ‘read’? that sounds pretty lame. Aren’t poets supposed to recite? I can still do some Robert Frost I had to learn for memory work in high school.
A family of deer in his yard in Cobourg? No way!
Did the deer volunteer for anything?
Maybe Ted should stick to his $500 job description.

manfred s
Reply to  Albert
18 April 2019 10:20 am

Cobourg has been my home for 66 years and I too have had deer in my back yard which is very much within the limits of the town. You might also be interested to know that a black bear was captured in a residential area a few years back. Your inference is definitely out of line, Albert.

Reply to  manfred s
18 April 2019 1:44 pm

So there are deer and bears in Cobourg.
My point is this. Should an official PL’s poem have something to do with Citizens Awards or any other public event where he/she reads?
Maybe we should have a look at the poem, if John could be so kind to print it.

Wally Keeler
17 April 2019 9:17 pm

April is National Poetry month; for the first time in 19 years, Cobourg does not have a Poet Laureate.

17 April 2019 4:08 pm

I guess the four applicants in the first round were not acceptable to those who vetted them but a new broom sweeps clean and now another round is needed to attract more candidates. So what is the back story on this – sounds like Wally didn’t have enough friends on the first committee. Wish him luck in the next round.