Say what you want 

Pam Barnsley and Mary MacDonald help poets meet their muse


What: Pack of Pickled Poets Poetry walk

Where: Alta Lake Station House

When: Sept. 13, 4:30 p.m.

The poet Robert Frost said that a poem begins as a lump in your throat. I've always experienced that first inkling more as a stone in my boot. But then I'm a walker. Soon enough I can't think of anything else, and have to sit down, unlace the boot and dislodge the stone. Writing a poem is a kind of alchemy that turns that first flicker of a sense of something into thought, and then thought finds its home in words, and then you do your best to chisel the words down to their essence until nothing is left in that doesn't belong. Until you know it's done. The stone, refined, becomes something precious.

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? But the truth is most people say that writing poetry is a daunting task. A high art of meter, style, form, and rhythm, best left to the Yeatses and the Eliots, the Dickenses and the Frosts. But what if writing poetry was fun? Who of us hasn't written verse at one time or another? I see you nodding. Cringing, perhaps, as you remember tucking your piece in a bottom drawer or high on a shelf, dreading that someone might find it. Well maybe it's time to let those little creatures out to breath.

Poetry in Whistler? The ultimate indoor sport in the town of everything outdoors. Kind of crazy. But poetry has been buzzing around Whistler lately.

In 2006 Whistler created a new park on the south end of Alta Lake. Then in 2007 Kevin McFarland, the resort parks planner, had the idea to add public art to the park. Local artist Joan Baron won the competition with her two sculptures: listening and two. Joan wanted poetry to accompany her work, to slow the walker down, and encourage the journey outside and in.

Poet's Pause was born. An open competition for public poetry. And Whistler responded. Who knew that inside all our mountain bikers, skiers and boarders, young and old, were so many poets? But there you were.

This fall, on Sept. 13, the Whistler Writer's Festival will be embracing poetry. An opportunity for every one of you to make a private act public; to allow the living environment of Alta Lake Park, with its lake, woods, historical station house, old mill artefacts, and sculptures to stir, rustle, awaken and inform your imagination.

The festival is inviting all of Whistler's budding poets to come outdoors and do a little soul talk. For free.

Pam Barnsley and I are going to take you on a fun two-hour ride to see, hear, touch, smell, and write, whatever tickles your fancy, or to find the particular stone in your boot. Then you can read if you want to. Or listen when everyone who attends gets an opportunity to read. Over by those oversized chairs that Joan designed.

Bring paper and a sharp pencil. Better still, bring something to eat and stay into the evening for the closing event of the festival at the Alta Lake Station House - with readings by the festival's feature writers, Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds, and some talented local writers too.

Even that unlikeliest of bards, scoundrel filmmaker Quentin Tarantino said, "You can't write poetry on the computer." Come on Whistler, get the lump out of your throat, or the stone out of your boot, let your little creatures out of the cupboard. Find what you are burning and yearning to say. Lots of things can be learned outdoors. Maybe your poem can be found there. It's free.


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