It's an exciting time for Copper Cliff writer Vera Constantineau.
On March 12, it was revealed that Constantineau has been chosen as Greater Sudbury's sixth poet laureate, a position she will fill for the next two years. She follows past poet laureates Roger Nash, Daniel Aubin, Tom Leduc, Kim Fahner and Chloé LaDuchesse in the role.
In about a month, Constantineau is coming out with a book of poetry called “Three Lines at a Time.” She's also the author of a 2018 collection of short stories called “Daisy Chained.”
“It is exciting — almost too much,” Constantineau said in a chat with Sudbury.com about her new role.
“That's the nature of things, isn't it, though? Things come in waves, and you just have to deal with it as it comes because you don't want to pass it by.”
She said she's not only excited to bring poetry to Greater Sudbury, “but to actually be chosen for this position. There were a lot of reputable people before me.”
Constantineau writes short poems in the Japanese forms of haiku and senryu. They're similar in structure, but haiku tend to be about nature, while senryu are about human foibles.
“To say so much in 17 syllables, it's a hard thing to do, and it's a great skill to develop that helps with all other writing,” she said.
As poet laureate, Constantineau said she plans to lead writing and poetry workshops — as she has already been doing for years — and create a podcast about poetry.
And just by the fact that she has a disability — Constantineau gets around using a scooter — she said she'll bring awareness to accessibility concerns.
“I'm not planning to cause a ruckus, but I do want to bring awareness to it that if I am invited somewhere, it will have to be accessible,” she said.
Constantineau said she also wants people to look past Greater Sudbury's identity as a mining community, however important that is. She said we have many wonderful writers and creative people who live here.
Outgoing poet laureate Chloé LaDuchesse said she enjoyed her time in the position, undertaking initiatives including hosting a radio show about poetry on the community radio station CKLU.
“My term as poet laureate was definitely fun and filled with challenge that I was happy to work on,” she said.
It wasn't without controversy, though. She was asked to read a poem at the December 2018 inauguration of Greater Sudbury city council, and penned a new piece for the occasion.
But after LaDuchesse submitted the poem, which touched on the debate surrounding parking and the city's big projects, she was told her presence was no longer required at the inauguration.
Greater Sudbury's poet laureate serves as an active advocate for poetry, literacy and literature by initiating and participating in readings and other events throughout the community.
They receive a $1,000 honorarium which they can spend on their special projects throughout their two-year term.
Past poet laureates in Greater Sudbury have started an e-zine, a youth writers' guild and put poetry in public places, including Health Sciences North, the Greater Sudbury Airport and on city transit buses.
“Every time we have a new poet laureate, these projects inspire the youth and adults and seniors and families to get engaged with poetry, which is great,” said Pierre Dubuc, co-ordinator of outreach, programs and partnerships with the Greater Sudbury Public Library.
Constantineau penned a poem for the occasion of being introduced as Greater Sudbury's new poet laureate. You can read her poem below.
within the rings
of a million trees
our future grows
deep in the mines
another kitchen sink
measure the length
of a pickerel’s backbone
lines set deep on lakes
songs of children
living on the street
speak their truth
raindrops or snowflakes
the sky will decide
what we get
of a northern sunset
lights the need for change
but the future for us all
lies in our dreams