When a City Council Pretermits Poetry

As National Poetry Month(April) approaches, I am reminded of the words of the late Westmount, Quebec resident, former McGill Dean of Law, and poet, Frank Scott who wrote:

      Come and see the vast natural wealth of this mine
      In the short space of ten years
      It has produced six American millionaires
      And two thousand pauperized Canadian families.

Sadly, it takes fewer than six Canadian politicians to pauperize two thousand Canadian poets. The equitable recognition for poetry has, I am afraid, fallen victim of government gone gonzo.

Taking note of numerous Canadian cities who have officially recognized National Poetry Month, I approached my local municipal government of Westmount to see whether they would follow suit by having their next council meeting opened with the reading of a poem. Westmount is culture. It is a city that prides itself on being the first place in Canada to have built two stacked—one upon the other—NHL-sized, underground hockey rinks. With such a clear commitment to culture, I thought, how could they refuse?

I must mention that Westmount has sponsored a Pastry and Poetry event at their library for the past four years. While they decided to impose a fee this year for the first time in order to recoup their costs, the cost of having a poet read a poem prior to a council meeting would be negligible.

Photo Nicole Forbes

Westmount Councillor Nicole Forbes.

When I received an email reply from City Councillor Nicole Forbes, speaking on behalf of the council, I was knocked off my computer chair.

“…unfortunately we cannot start our Council meeting with the reading of a poem.”


Why precisely? No reason was given.

Regulations? A by-law?

Or was it merely that council loves poetry too much and would not be able thereafter to concentrate on business?

Obviously, this was their reason.


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