Edmonton's new poet laureate, Mary Pinkoski, writes movingly about Edmonton.
Only a couple of days into her mandate, we asked her to join us for 'Brand Camp.' She might have recited a poem she had already written, to inspire us. Instead she courageously agreed to wander about, listening. She wrote a poem over the course of the day and, at the end, she performed it.
This is her poem:
One City, Many Voices
Mary Pinkoski (2013)
There is a picture at Fort Edmonton Park.
It hangs on the wall of the Alberta Government Telephones building.
In the picture is an early telephone operator,
she is holding – between her fingers – power lines stretching out
from telephone poles as if they were threads
and her work was the loom.
At the bottom of the picture sits a caption
which reads, “weavers of speech.”
I think that is what we have been doing here today –
weaving stories –
but I also like to think that this is what Edmonton is about:
a diverse collection of stories stretching out
telephone wire taut across our landscape,
humming with energy.
We are carrying so many threads within the body of our city -
within our own bodies –
threads of history, of hope, of love,
of trials, of community, of giving.
Everything we touch becomes our creation,
and Edmonton our loom.
We are here to weave our stories into
the vibrant tapestry that blankets the city,
a shifting patchwork of energy that moves
in kaleidoscope fashion with each new event.
Like an old quilt that gets passed down
from generation to generation,
worked on from generation to generation,
it tells the story of who we are and where we have been.
It started before us, but it carries on with us.
Every square its own entity, but also a necessity
to the fabric of the whole.
And yes, it has its pristine patches, but it also
has its pothole tears – we need those.
This quilt wants to lay itself down
over Edmonton like a bedcover,
let us know we are home.
Still, I know it is tricky to call an ever-changing patchwork whole,
to define its shifting components into a singular entity.
We are always building here,
growing with every new thing that we are making.
If anything, we know that we are only as distinct
as what we choose to create,
and so we choose to create
in all sorts of ways and
for all sorts of reasons.
We find the blueprints of ourselves in those creations.
It is a beautiful privilege to be able to live and work
in a place that lets us – lets anyone, lets everyone – put
their own fingerprints on this city.
It is a fantastical reassurance to know that we see
our own reflection in the landscape of Edmonton;
in the people we touch, in the structures we build,
in the community we have created,
in the stories we are telling,
in the stories we want to hear.
Our ideas are everywhere.
They sit perched on our city streets like
tidings of magpies ready to take flight,
ready to join the momentum of this city,
the current of ideas runs right through us
taking its lessons from the river.
I think it is amazing that this city is populated by so many magpies.
And while I would not argue for Edmonton be considered
the Magpie of Canada, I think the bird is such a fortunate metaphor.
The internet tells me that the magpie is one of the only birds to pass
an intelligence test called the mirror test,
where it recognizes its own reflection.
I know we are more than just the blue-collared scavengers of the bird world,
attracted to shiny things like Grey Cups and Stanley Cups and World’s Biggest Malls.
I know that we sometimes struggle with the fact that we are no peacock,
no Golden Gate Bridge, no CN Tower, no ocean, no rainforest.
there is something about us that commands attention;
a big city that has never misplaced its community.
That is something special.
If you have ever seen water fall off the High Level Bridge
into a river that has stretched through us for ages,
that is something special,
something almost magical.
There is a rush, a current to this city
that settled itself down into the river’s bend
like a magpie housing itself into the V of a tree.
We placed ourselves down here in the Cree’s Beaver Hills House
and began to grow, allowing the rush of the river to chart our path,
erode us into new ways of being, and in that being – the living –
we are building.
We are cradling the past and envisioning the future.
We are a community that knows in its bones
how to bring tools together to build
our own urban barn,
because we are building
and we are making something of ourselves.
We need to continue making beyond this circle
into new areas, new communities,
in the places where we need it the most and
we do need it.
Magpies are often grounded homebodies.
It is a rare thing for a magpie to fly up to a telephone wire,
but it happens, they move around barriers,
spread their wings, and take flight.
I like to think that Edmonton is a city of ideas taking flight;
a place where the magpies have lifted off,
carrying with them the voices of the landscape,
swooping over this quilt we have sewn together for generations.
And if you look up, you can see a magpie perched
on a telephone line, feet humming with the stories
of this city, just waiting
to weave in the next thread
of this story -