Cobourg Poetry Workshop
October 2011

Ted Amsden - Cobourg Poet Laureate



Ted Amsden's
Cobourg Poet Laureate
Acceptance Speech
Poetry Facts about Cobourg

Address to Cobourg Town Council

The anarchistic side of poetry challenges all to listen to what is difficult, meditate upon that which we don't understand and respect that mystery is at the very centre of our experience.

The comfort side of poetry reminds us that what is truly important in this world is love and friendship, the rewards of following our bliss, and the endless surprise that greets one when you walk through the door of creativity.

The role of poetry irrespective of its method of delivery - the words in books, the scribbling on walls, the spoken word of language gymnasts - is to speak to the human condition in all its complexity.

Poets speak in many tongues which at times can seem as varied as the number of speakers. Because mystery is at the heart of existence and therefore is at the heart poetry, sometimes even poets don't understand what they are saying. This shouldn't alarum us. Poetry like science, it is a door you open to experience wonder.

Wonder pushes aside our daily concerns and existential distractions and puts centre stage - the fact that we are in the centre of something quite magical, at times painful sometimes terrifying yet deeply compelling.

The health of a town is not solely measured in the condition of its sidewalks, the number of its pleasure craft or the perkiness of its slogans. Cultural health - while not as fundamental to physical health as the condition of a town's sanitary system - is an indication of mental health.

Healthy minds solve problems and improve themselves, their families and those around them. Healthy minds recognize, without condition, that creativity, play and the slogan "none of us is as smart and strong as all of us" are all correct.

The role of the Poet Laureate within the public sphere, I believe, should surprise, entertain, explain, remember, enchant, indeed, challenge the community.

Poetry is not an eccentric addition, a bullet point in a secondary list of cultural attractions, nor is it a forgotten language. Its presence and strength in the community indicates a town's cultural blood flow.

I am pleased to say Cobourg's red blood count is quite good: (see the "Cobourg Poetry Fact Sheet" below).

I stand in the long shadow of Cobourg's first Poet Laureate Eric Winter. A man with a voice, a demeanour, an intelligence so enviable, so well aged, he has but to read a menu and women swoon. Cobourg's second Poet Laureate, Jill Battson, displaying more brain cells than a super computer, proved that the challenge was on. Her short tenure is a disappointment.

With my appointment I wish to disarm you immediately and alert you that Dr. Seuss is definitely in the house. A sense of play and fun is afoot. But equally, let me bring you close and tell you poetry is the true language of our humanity, the plaintive call of human souls accepting their final separateness. But it is also a communal murmur of satisfaction with the joys of physical being. And overwhelming, it is a call for true contact between us all.

Let nothing, not wealth, education, status, opinion, indeed, even a lack of understanding stand between you and the person beside you. We all share in the bounty of our being when we speak. Language is for sharing, as is poetry. The price of the game is simply the energy of our words and our attention.

Your worship - standing in the shower, you, with some soap suds, and no one listening - you have only to open your mouth gargle some words in ways you have never heard before that make you laugh or cry and you, too, will be taking your first steps toward becoming a poet.

In closing, don't let my personal branding distract you. I stand before you a representative of all that is poetic in Cobourg and wish you wonder-filled days, bright with caring resonance yet deeply respectful of the mystery into which we have been born.

Ted Amsden
October 3, 2011

Cobourg Poetry Facts: by Ted Amsden

- 90 poets a year read in Cobourg.
- over 900 poems are shared with public audiences.
- the Cobourg Poetry Workshop, a gathering of poets and word smiths gather twice
during the month to conduct a workshop and to provide free public readings for the citizens of Cobourg.
- James Pickersgill's colourful little folded packets of poetry under the masthead of - Poetry'zown - during the past 2 years and 9 months has published almost 1,000 poems.
- because of this strength and display of interest other organizations and individuals are stepping forward locally to promote literary events in town.
- Cobourg is reaching a critical mass, the outside world wants to be part of events happening here: well known poets and their publishing houses are requesting the privilege of launching their books here: national Poets Laureate and others of international stature want to read in Cobourg.
- my list does not include what is going on in the schools: teachers such as James Martin at CDCI West actively promote poetry beyond the demands of the curriculum.