Calgary welcomed its newest poet laureate Monday and were read a poem connected to the current coronavirus pandemic.
At Monday’s combined meeting of council, Natalie Meisner was introduced as the city’s newest poet laureate. She took over from Sheri-D Wilson. Wilson’s two-year stint ends April 30.
Past poet laureates include Kris Demeanor, Micheline Maylor and derek beaulieu. The role of the city’s poet laureate is as an arts and literary ambassador for Calgary. It comes with a $10,000 annual honorarium.
READ OR LISTEN TO MEISNER’S POEM ‘FIRST NURSE’ BELOW
Meisner, originally from Nova Scotia, has been living in Calgary since 2000. She teaches literature and creative writing at Mount Royal University and serves as the director of changemaking.
“She’s also a wife, she’s a mom of two great boys, she’s a social justice advocate, she believes in the power of the written word to change lives,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi during Meisner’s introduction to council Monday.
Meisner’s term goes will go to 2022.
Meisner looking forward to rolling up her sleeves
Dialing into council by phone, Meisner said being the poet laureate at this time means figuring out how to pivot and use creativity and the spoken word to connect Calgarians.
“It’s an incredible challenge, an incredible honor, and I have goosebumps just thinking about it and I promise you I will roll up my sleeves and give it my all,” she said.
In their announcement, Calgary Arts Development president and CEO, Patti Pon, said the poet laureate program is a great way to reflect the city through words and language.
“We know (Meisner) will be a passionate advocate for the power of the written word,” she said.
Coronavirus poem delivered in council chambers
First Nurse – by Natalie Meisner (from audio transcription. Note: audio has some keyboard clicks)
You will never forget her. Your first nurse, nor your first librarian.
One cupping the pieces of your falling body, gently sticking them back together again. The other your mind.
Have you said thanks to whoever it was that hot glued you together with a mouthful of kindness, food, or decency. Who gave you your blood work, kindly, your results, or a swift kick in the ass.
Whatever it was you needed most.
The one who saw all the oddity a body or mind can offer and loved you anyway.
Your first nurse, remember her touch, of life and death blended, in a frothy prescient cocktail.
For she knew you were not long for this Earth. Nor was she herself, nor any of us.
Your first nurse knew all this as she laid her hands upon you, and so did your first librarian, as she pushed the book across the desk.
Love them. Love them I say. They who weighed in and out of death every blessed day on our behalf, going eyeball to eyeball with mortality, taking death’s measure the way most of us squeeze a loaf of bread at the store.
Back in the mists of time when we still squeezed things in stores.
So, if she comes to you, or he – men, of course can nurse, too – and more should, with a bit of death clinging to their shoulder, fingertip or mind breath singed with fire. Be kind.
When the juices fly just love them. As the tang of alcohol tries to erase where they’ve been, as it stings your eyes. And if a shred of fresh flesh or knowledge clings to the elbow of a sweater worn thin, like patients, rolled sleeves, greased elbows, suds, scrub, rinse and repeat.
Understand that spooning out sugar, all day to help us get all this down, it just isn’t easy.
And not everyone has banked enough bread, milk, human kindness, to breathe their last words into the chest of a beloved.
And she knows this, too, our first nurse, our first librarian, and loved us anyway.