Ontario looks into creating a poet laureate position in honour of Gord Downie

December 11, 2017

After decades of capturing and conjuring Canadian landscape, history, and experiences with his words, the late Gord Downie may be honoured officially with a poet laureate position in Ontario in his name. Multiple cities in the province have similar positions, as well as, of course, the country as a whole, which recognizes Nova Scotian poet George Elliott Clarke as the current Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate.

With less than a couple months of living in a world without Gord Downie, it’s hard to predict just what the impact of his written words will be for Canada going forward, but it’s inarguable that they have been and will remain deeply significant. In the legislature on December 5, the NDP’s Percy Hatfield put forward the Poet Laureate of Ontario Act (In Memory of Gord Downie). The kind of things that a poet would do in the position would be to — obviously, write poetry — but also plan and arrange readings and workshops, and help shape the legislative library’s current collection. Hatfield also said, “It’s fitting that we remember [Downie] by creating the position of Ontario’s poet laureate in his name. Downie viewed Canada through a distinctly poetic lens, and I believe this is a beautiful way to honour him, and to continue his legacy.”

Indeed, one of Downie’s most generous gifts was his ability to take change the way we look at the country through his words. He turned the ‘72 Summit Series between Russia and Canada into the backdrop for a rollicking love story with “Fireworks”; captured the horror of Pierre Laporte’s murder by the FLQ during the 1970 October crisis with “Locked In The Trunk of a Car”; used “Wheat Kings” to explore the wrongful rape and murder conviction of David Milgaard in Saskatoon. And those are just a few examples from a massive body of work. As a little bonus here, Downie also used his acting and reading chops to celebrate another brilliant Canadian poet (Al Purdy) in a video presentation of his poem, “At The Quinte Hotel.”

 

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About the Author

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a writer and photographer. Born and raised on the Prairies in Winnipeg, he’s slowly made his way farther and farther east, spending a few years covering music in Toronto before running clear out of country and ending up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. In between, he’s made numerous detours, interviewing and photographing countless artists across North America and beyond. He heads up Amplify’s Instrumental series, where he talks with musicians about the relationships they’ve formed with their most important tools.

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