When the late Winnipeg poet Robert Kroetsch asked “How do you grow a poet?” in Seed Catalogue (1986), he was being both silly and serious.

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This article was published 1/4/2016 (2033 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When the late Winnipeg poet Robert Kroetsch asked "How do you grow a poet?" in Seed Catalogue (1986), he was being both silly and serious.

Silly, because the narrator’s father, a farmer, answered the question with:

We'll be publishing a poem every weekday in April.

We'll be publishing a poem every weekday in April.

 

Son, this is a crowbar.

This is a willow fencepost.

This is a sledge.

This is a roll of barbed wire.

This is a bag of staples.

This is a claw hammer.


The idea was that practical people had no use for lines and stanzas, images and metaphors. The idea was that most parents would be horrified to hear their children say they wanted to be writers, or, worse, poets.

Serious, because Kroetsch wanted to know: could farmers’ sons and bank clerks and factory workers be artists too? For generations, Manitobans had been exporting grain and importing art from Ontario and Europe. Could Manitobans write and publish poems about Manitoba? Would anyone be interested?

The narrator’s father had an answer for that too:

 

First off I want you to take that

crowbar and drive 1,156 holes

in that gumbo.

And the next time you want to

write a poem

we’ll start the haying.


Thirty years later, Kroetsch is dead and the era of the small family farm is all but over. And while Manitoba’s writing and publishing community doesn’t have 1,156 poets, if you drive over to McNally Robinson Booksellers any evening in March, April, or May, you’ll probably find a poet launching her book. What’s more, there are long-standing poetry slams and open mics and Winnipeg regularly sends teams to the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

Thirty years later, April is known throughout North America as National Poetry Month (or NPM). Across Canada, there will be readings and launches and celebrations of poetry.

The NPM in the WFP Project is Manitoba’s celebration. We’ll be featuring 20 Manitoba poets, some from the city and some from the country, some who used to live here and some who have stayed here their all live-long lives, silly poets and serious poets.

If you’re counting, that’s one poem for every weekday in April, starting on Monday, April 4. Poems will appear daily here.

The theme for the 2016 edition of National Poetry Month is "The road."

Kroetsch had something to say about that too:

 

This is a prairie road.

This road is the shortest distance

between nowhere and nowhere.

This road is a poem.


It was an honour to read enormous sheaves of Manitoba poems and to pick a handful to share with you.

 

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways, won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry at the Manitoba Book Awards. When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.