this place which is somehow beginning / to sound like home

In early April I had the privilege of being invited to participate in judging the City of Port Moody's Youth Poet Laureate competition. The YPL position is one of the Port Moody Library's contributions to the city-wide centennial celebrations, and the poems submitted had to tackle the theme of Port Moody history (i.e., trains or ports or maybe something about that Moody guy... but mostly trains). I was impressed with the variety of approaches the different poets, who ranged in age from 13 to 18, took on the theme.

Youth Poet Laureate competition winner Megan Edmunds and runner-up Colin Fehr

Runner up Colin Fehr contributed two very different poems, one of which was a found poem compiled from content on the City's "History" page, efficiently entitled "Found". Most interesting of all was "Taking Root", the winning poem by Grade 11 student Megan Edmunds. In it she weaves together a modern narrative, a historical narrative, and, of course, trains:

Taking Root - Megan Edmunds

She sits with hands pressed into soft dirt—
It will remember that shape long after she is gone.
It will file every fingerprint,
every outline of a bone or vein,
into the roots which lace away beneath her feet.
And although she doesn’t know it,
with her face tilted up towards the sun
and her eyes closed against the world,
this dirt knows many hands.

Crying softly into her palms,
she sits on a railroad track,
an edge which she knows she can stand from easily
if that familiar chugging approaches from behind or in front,
it does not matter.
Yet there is no sound,
not beyond the persistent drumming of a woodpecker
into the bark of a tree.

With her eyes closed,
hands pressed,
and lips sealed,
it can almost be mistaken for something more.
Because this all happened before, too.
A girl, lost and found,
beneath a ball of light so vivid in the sky.
After rain has cleared and she sneaked out of her small house—
There they are.
Those tracks, which carried her here,
away from an old life in manicured cities, into this one.
Quiet, small, filled with the persistent drumming
of workmen on the railroad.
And she sits,
listening to the hammer against metal.

But with her eyes closed,
hands pressed,
and lips sealed,
it can almost be mistaken for something more.
A birdsong, like one she would hear back home.

Her handprint, it is tucked away as well,
deep in the dirt, mixed with the few tears that fall
as she thinks about all that she left there.
The drumming of a woodpecker reaches her, as if through her feet.
She puts a hand to her heart and does not dare open her eyes,
does not dare move from this place which is somehow beginning
to sound like home.
She dries her tears.
A girl,
very far away,
does the same.

When asked to write about the poem, Megan contributed the following:

When does a house transform from a structure within which one lives, to a place one can call home? For although I would never be able to state a specific moment or day when this change occurred for me, it must have, somewhere. A subtle moment, unobtrusive and beautiful in the most quiet of ways. It was this thought that was the basis of both of my poems, for when I think of Port Moody, the initial word that came to mind was, quite simply, home.

Though not itself a complex word, when I began to think of all the people who call this city home, who have ever called this city home, I began to realize how deeply such a word not only runs, but anchors.

You can read Megan's full Artist Statement here. Along with the poem, it's pretty sharp, especially for someone still in high school. Having spoken with her briefly about her dedication to writing, I'm sure she'll only keep getting better.

As part of her Poet Laureate responsibilities, Megan will be reading her poem at various city functions. She's already done so once, at a Port Moody City Council meeting. Few poets thrive when the backdrop to their reading is a City Council agenda, but Megan seemed unphased:

Thank you to the City of Port Moody and the Port Moody Library for believing in poetry and youth enough to make this event happen. And best of luck in life and writing to Megan, Colin and the rest of the contributing poets - I look forward to reading what they come up with next.

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