Exploring the Universal Language of Poetry

By MacPhee-Sigurdson, Ben | Winnipeg Free Press, March 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Universal Language of Poetry


MacPhee-Sigurdson, Ben, Winnipeg Free Press


In 1999, UNESCO created World Poetry Day in order to recognize, according to their website, “the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.”

And while March 21 is officially World Poetry Day, Winnipeggers can be excused for celebrating the event a couple of days later as a wide range of voices come together to read iconic, important heritage poetry from around the globe in the languages in which they were created.

The Winnipeg Arts Council and Di Brandt, Winnipeg’s first poet laureate, are presenting the World Poetry Day: Poetry in Many Languages event on Friday, March 23, at 7 p.m. at the Gas Station Theatre (445 River Ave.).

And when they say “many languages,” they’re not kidding. Readers will present their work in Ojibwe, Mandarin, Nigerian, Yiddish, Spanish and ASL, to name but a few. (ASL-English interpretation is also being provided).

Brandt, who will read a traditional German children’s poem at the event, began her two-year tenure as poet laureate in January and has found it to be a rewarding, inspiring experience.

“It’s so great that Winnipeg has a poet laureate now; it’s an old tradition that’s being revived in many different places,” Brandt explains. “It’s remembering that poetry was traditionally, and still is, a public language as well as a personal kind of art form and expression. To be able to champion it as a public language of the people is a wonderful thing.”

As for Brandt’s tasks as the city’s poet laureate, she explains that they vary. “It’s a couple of projects at a time, then also being available to write poems occasionally for the city,” she says. “I’ll be presenting a poem to city council, for example, a city poem. It’s trying to write something that’s representing something iconic.

“My other big project will be developing poetry as a public installation for the city. We have all this fabulous art, but we only have a tiny bit that’s related to poetry. If you think about it, most of the text that you see in public are signs telling you what to do or not do, or it’s trying to sell you something. …

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