Father of Poet Sees Struggle Put to Words

A poem by Whitehorse resident Laurel Parry is to be aired on CBC Radio One during National Poetry Month.

Parry is the winner of a contest held in Whitehorse in March when five local poets faced off before a live audience to deliver a four-minute poem on the theme of “heating up”.

The winning poem, Parry’s Metamorphic, now goes on to the CBC’s National Poetry Face-Off and will air between April 21 and 24 along with 12 other regional winners from across Canada.

“For this contest, you had to write something probably longer than you’re normally used to and something that would be performed, as opposed to printed and enjoyed by someone reading it without you there,” says Parry.

Parry had just one month to write the four-minute poem on the heating up theme.

“I thought immediately of two options,” she recalls. “One was global warming and the other one was menopause. And, I thought, there are other people who would do a much better job of those two.”

Parry also considered the concept of cooking but there was another idea in her mind that proved impossible to resist: the story of what had happened to her father, a geological engineer.

“My father had a stroke in 2002,” says Parry. Her poem cleverly uses the image of metamorphic rock, which is rock that has been transformed by extreme heat and pressure, as a metaphor for what has happened to her geologist father’s mind.

“He’s a very cerebral person,” she says. “The way he had fun was reading dictionaries and grammar and literature, listening to music.”

Parry also structured the poem to reflect the impact of a stroke on her father’s mind. “The poem that I wrote is actually five poems. It’s like a suite. I wanted it to be like my Dad’s memories.”

Parry also drew on her own past to construct the poem. She “recycled” pieces of her other writings and patched them all together.

The result is a touching, heart-warming fusion of personal and shared family memories that Parry realized she wouldn’t be comfortable performing unless she obtained her father’s consent.

“I didn’t want to expose my Dad and make him feel undignified,” she says. “I thought I’ll write it the way I need to write it. I’ll write it the way it has to be written then I’ll see if it works artistically.

“Then I’ll check it with my parents and if it doesn’t work I won’t change it, I just won’t use it. I’ll write something else.”

But when she read it to her parents they not only told her she should definitely use it, they corrected some of the details in the family stories Parry had described and went along to the contest to see her perform.

“I really did feel nervous reading it in front of my family,” laughs Parry.

Parry’s poem will be read sometime between April 21 and 24 at 11:30 a.m. It will be rebroadcast at 10:30 p.m. More information is available at www.cbc.ca/poetryfaceoff.

The CBC National Poetry Face-Off forms part of National Poetry Month, which the Canadian League of Poets runs each year in April.

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]

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