Two Mondays later, and after a lot of fun and fear, I have been awarded the position of Poet Laureate of the Comox Valley District. I would like to thank everyone involved and congratulate all the candidates for two evenings of remarkable poetry. I would like you all to stay tuned and start posting with the hashtag #ComoxValleyPoetry on Instagram, and please send me your poetry so I can start a new page just for poets. The following is my newsletter regarding the position:
Winning the Poet Laureate position is a strange feeling. Perhaps winning is not the right word. I think the word I would substitute is Recognition. It’s like somehow being validated and my work being validated, and by that I mean that people, knowledgeable people, my fellow poets, recognize and appreciate the message that I would like to deliver through my poetry. Poetry is first of all an expression of the heart. To be meaningful the poet has to bear his/her soul and be willing to set themselves and their work out there for praise or criticism. So in a sense, I had a lot of mixed feelings, anywhere from pride to the feeling of shame that I might have said too much or in some way offended someone by what I said or did not say.
Part of that is because of my battle with Borderline Personality Disorder. We have a poor self-image and cannot imagine that anyone could like us or appreciate what we do or say. One of my main thrusts as Poet Laureate will be to carry the voice of the poets to people in our community who are suffering from some form of mental disorder. I plan to add my voice, that I understand and care, to the homeless, and the hopeless. I hope to carry out a series of workshops on using poetry to transform our lives from helplessness and self-hate to self-empowerment and self-love. I call these workshops Poetry with Purpose.
Secondly I have been involved in some aspect of education for close to fifty years, the last fifteen as a teacher of Advanced Placement high school English and Psychology to beautiful young men and women who are home-bound due to physical or mental illness. I want to reach the young people in our high schools and colleges and encourage them to write and share poetry as a way of communicating from the heart.
My third area of concern is for people in the LGBT community, and I deliberately left out the letter Q and the word Queer. It is my belief that we should never accept that label even if it is ownership and pride. We are not queer. I have had to struggle all my life with my bisexuality and gender identity. I want to add my voice, not for political rights, but just to the right to be proud of ourselves and recognize and accept that we have a right to be happy and make our own special contributions to our community.
Fourth and not least, I want to add the voice of the poets of Comox Valley to the painful struggle of reconciliation with our First Nations brothers and sisters. I have lived and worked for two years on the reserves of Northern Manitoba. I have watched my oldest son, who is a full blooded Cree, struggle with discrimination and prejudice, including being held up and beaten because he dared to talk back to a white RCMP officer. There needs to be healing in our land and I would like to start by reaching out to my fellow poets in the First Nations communities so that we can work together to advance that healing process.
In closing I would like to reach out to all the poets and poetry lovers of the Comox Valley region. We need to speak out with one voice. We can make a difference. You can contact me at my website lawrencejwcooper.ca or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org