Past poets laureate: Hugh MacDonald

Hugh MacDonald was appointed Poet Laureate in December 2009, serving until January 2013.

Hugh MacDonald with granddaughter Zahra and Casper the cat. (Sandra MacDonald photo)

Poetry

At Merton’s Hermitage

Five poets sit
in a sort of symmetry
our awkward placement of hands
reading like young actors
unused to the stage
suspended somewhere between
giddiness and serenity.
How like boys we are
our casual shoes
our worn blue jeans
John B. somewhat
out-of-sync in green
our dew-stained cuffs
soaked while sponging
through full blown
wild Kentucky grass
after Gethsemane’s
massive breakfast of porridge
and eggs, jams and jellies
clumps of peanut butter
racks of perfect toast
steaming cups of tea
then, the air alive
with butterflies and gnats
Brother Paul
and Marty in the lead
John inquiring after
leaf and blade of grass
we stroll a swath
like Merton cut
through domesticated wild places
from the working monastery
to his Hermitage on the hill.
We look about inside
meditate on this concrete cell
that briefly housed
the soul that was his life
our gift the sharing
of his human frailties
his familiar temptations
his hypnotic soaring range of words
then we humbly sit at this shrine
while below us the long view
spans acres of wood and grass
the downward sloping field before
bends toward the world’s gate
our thoughts for the moment
temperate and peaceful
reflect the shimmer of summer
the shade tree beyond the porch
while behind us the empty bed
where Merton slept and didn’t
where within him wrestled
the love of internal peace
the turmoil of animal joy
the mad man-parts
that we all share
the saints we sometimes are
the beasts we can become
the blackened hearth
that conjures fiery pits
and writhing monsters
that we still smell today
separated by time and space
thankful for each garnered day
for light upon awakening
in dread of one last morning
that ends abruptly in darkness.

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Press release on appointment

December 4, 2009
For immediate release

Poet, editor and novelist Hugh MacDonald of Brudenell is the new poet laureate for Prince Edward Island.

With nine books to his credit as author and editor, MacDonald is perhaps best known to Islanders through his Random Acts of Poetry which, for the past five years, have brought poetry to the streets and workplaces of P.E.I.

MacDonald retired after more than 30 years of service in the educational system of the province and, since 1999, has been a full-time writer. He has served on the executives of both the Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts and the P.E.I. Writers Guild. Recognition for his work and leadership includes awards and prizes in the P.E.I. Literary Awards including the L.M. Montgomery Children’s Literature Award for Chung Lee Loves Lobsters, a first prize for poetry from the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia.

In 2004, he was presented with the Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Literary Arts on Prince Edward Island.

Carolyn Bertram, minister of communities, cultural affairs and labour, says MacDonald is an excellent choice for the position. “He has a dedication and energy and an enthusiasm for poetry which will certainly contribute to the mission of the poet laureate to bring poetry into the lives of Islanders,” she said.

MacDonald is looking forward to his term as poet laureate. He indicated that he felt honoured by the recognition and that he looked forward to exploring new ways of increasing knowledge of the importance of poetry. “I am delighted, in this poetry-blessed province, to be chosen as the next poet laureate. I will do my best to add a new voice to those of my extraordinary predecessors, Frank Ledwell, John Smith and David Helwig, and to do honour to my beloved Prince Edward Island,” said MacDonald.

The post of poet laureate does not have fixed duties and previous holders of the post have used a variety of approaches to making poetry a more central part of the lives of Islanders.

Bertram also paid tribute to David Helwig who has completed his term.

“I want to thank David Helwig for his service throughout the past two years as the Prince Edward Island poet laureate. The creation of the poetrypei.com website under Mr. Helwig’s direction has provided access to both creators and readers to P.E.I. poetry both past and present. I know he will continue to contribute to the literary heritage of our province.”

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