New Westminster’s poet laureate will be taking to the street to create on-the-spot poems for community members.
Elliott Slinn, who is the City of New Westminster’s poet laureate for 2021 to 2024, is striving to break down barriers related to poetry and art.
“I feel like people think poetry has to be Shakespeare, or have a form like a sonnet – and so I think a lot of people are afraid to write it themselves. I want to show that poetry is something accessible. It doesn't always have to rhyme, or be long, or have a form – I think it just needs to have emotional honesty,” he said. “If we can get vulnerable (with ourselves,) we can put our feelings on paper; and that's poetry to me.”
As part of that goal, Slinn will be setting up in the open space in front of the London Drugs and Starbucks on Sixth Street on Saturday, Aug. 28 (from about 1 to 5 p.m.) and creating on-the-spot poems. Because “it’s hard to type in the rain,” the event will be weather-dependent.
“I'll have a table and two chairs. Someone can sit across from me and they can provide a word, an emotion or feeling they'd like me to write about and I'll use that to anchor the poem and write around,” he said. “Alternatively I can ‘freestyle’ and write something myself from my own imagination/emotion.”
That’s just what Slinn did when he set up downtown on Aug. 22.
“There were quite a few moments of synchronicity,” he noted. “I wrote a poem for one man, and for some reason I wrote about an image of an eagle – there wasn't an eagle in the sky or anything. When I gave it to him, he told me the eagle is his favourite animal and that it has a special significance for him, so it felt like a wink from the universe.”
When Slinn tested out his poetry-on-the-street skills on Robson Street and Yaletown a few weeks back, he said it went really well and people were engaged; he’s hoping to have a similar turnout and experience in New West.
Poems will be available at no charge, but Slinn will be accepting donations, which will help fund future art projects such as creating prints and hiring an illustration artist for a book he’s working on.
“I don't want to create any sort of cost barriers for people, so if they feel so-inclined to donate that's great, but I also realize times are tough and money is tight, so I'm happy to write for people at no cost,” he said. “It's not about the money for me, I just want to share.”