Are you important? asks the tiny taxi driver when Lesley Strutt and I say our destination is The Parliament Buildings. Well no, we tell this delightful man of East Indian origin, we are going to a celebration. What celebration, he asks and we explain. After listing all the important people he HAS taken to the Parliament Building, like Jack Layton. Many times, Jack Layton!, his summing up of the situation as we arrive at the gates was as follows: You ARE important because you are POETS and you have been INVITED to Canada’s Greatest House!
We were to be present, as representatives of The League of Canadian Poets, at the formal installation of Georgette LeBlanc as the 8th Poet Laureate of Canada. As it turned out, we were not important enough to be dropped off at the Centre Block, so we strolled up the hill and showed the invitation to the Mounted Police at the East Door. Visitors must be impressed by their efficiency, and that of the guards, but they make the process as comfortable as possible, and as pleasant.
With our new IDs clipped to our clothing, we were escorted upstairs and invited, yes, invited again, to wait until the designated room was opened. We were not left adrift however, but with a former page, presently working as a part-time guide, and so we had an interesting conversation with her about her studying the sciences at Ottawa University, and her interests in writing. I took photographs of the stonework and Lesley and the stonework and the stained glass window celebrating the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.
Once the room was opened, we wandered. You will note how taken I was by the red and gold carpets, their luscious borders, the wood and plaster carving and sculptures that decorated where wall met ceiling. The bar was open (but Lesley and I were driving…) and hors d’oeuvers were served. They were really good! Worthy of the event. David Stymeist arrived; it was a relief to see one more poet in the room among all those suited up as appropriate to those who are associated with Parliament business, and a photographer and probably reporters, though I have not seen paper or virtual evidence of news jounalists or phographers being present.
Lesley knew others in the room and learned quite a bit about the goings on behind the inauguration, which we discussed briefly with our new laureate-to-be, before the actual ceremony. She is easy to be with, friendly, interested in anything that would make her work easier over the next two years. With the Parliamentary Librarian Sonia L’Heureux, who was responsible for her appointment, we mentioned how odd it was that the room was not filled with poets for this important event. Perhaps next time it will be; she was interested in our thoughts about it.
For the formal installation ceremony, The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C, Speaker of the Senate, introduced The Honourable Geoff Regan, P.C., M.P, Speaker of the House of Commons, one of the movers for Georgette Leblanc’s becoming Poet Laureate, who then introduced Ms LeBlanc. She outlined her hopes for poetry in Canada during the next two years, and we were treated to a poem in French written for the occasion.
Georgette LeBlanc, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, grew up in Baie Sainte-Marie, N.S. and now lives in Church Point, N.S. At the end of this blog I will have two links about our newest Laureate.
We met Ms LeBlanc and found that she is charming and has an openness about her that makes her approachable. She was interested in The League, its raison d’être and its vision. I think we will all get along quite well and be the richer for having her as Laureate.
Having been introduced at VerseFest was one step in her two year appointment, and my feeling is that she will do much to connect with young poets and the poetry community at large, and the appreciation of all forms of poetry across Canada.
In the taxi this time, we were merely two nobodies who wanted a taxi at the Château Laurier. We did not broadcast that we had been to the Parliament buildings, (so boring in that area where EVERYONE had come from the Parliament Buildings), nor did we mention why we’d been at the Château. (to use its facilities)
Still, plebes that we are, Lesley and I felt the great honour of having been there to represent the League, and are filled with the the pleasant memories of our first encounters with Georgette Leblanc .After all, it’s part of our League business as representatives, another step in getting the League known to some of the rest of the world. For more about our 8th Poet Laureate, follow these links: