Edmonton’s new poet laureate grounded in city’s blue-collar vibe

When Anna Marie Sewell moved to Edmonton in 1985, she probably had no idea her strong cultural identity and background – a central theme to her 2009 collection Fifth World Drum – would also make her the perfect canidate for city poet laureate one day.

Sewell is considered status aboriginal, and we have one of the highest urban aboriginal populations in Canada, probably the world. So she sees two sides of that cultural divide.

She also challenges notions that poetry must be rooted in the pessimistic.

“I guess you could say it’s kind of like that saying – and y’know a Poet Laureate should know who to attribute this quote to, but I’m going to plead the excitement of the moment. I don’t know how who made the quote, but we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. You can talk about the gutter, but I’m not interested in it, I’m just interested in the stars.”

Not in the social sense, of course. Edmonton’s just not a ritzy, tony city, she told media at city hall.

“I don’t find it a pretentious place,” says Sewell. “I find it a place where you can see the workings. You can see the industrial stacks on the east end, and you can see how they relate to who we are. We’re an oil city, we’re an industrial city, and we’re a city that has real roots, and that’s where I come from too. And I think it’s important to keep an honest sense of pride in that. It’s important to keep an honest sense of pride in who we are.”

Sewell is the founding member of the Stroll of Poets Society.