P.E.I.’s poet laureate found inspiration in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Julie Pellissier-Lush shared a poem, story or song online daily, starting in March, for 100 days in a row.
Pellissier-Lush was inspired by a virtual pow-wow across the Maritimes, and the number of views that it received just as the pandemic began.
“I realized at that point in time, there’s such a need for people to have some entertainment, something to take their mind off of the crazy stuff that’s happening in the world, in our community, in our province,” Pellissier-Lush said.
“I thought it would be a great experience for the kids also, to give them a distraction from no school and then transitioning to online homework.
“I wanted them to have something to look forward to every day.”
Poetry on location
The first month of posts were recorded at her home, but as the weather improved she headed outdoors and across the Island.
In May, there was a series of posts featuring nine new street signs, each with a Mi’kmaq name.
“I thought I want to go to every one of them, learn how to pronounce them, say it, do a poetry reading at it and show everybody where they are,” Pellissier-Lush said.
Pellissier-Lush said she has been excited to see the response to her posts, which she said have received 3,000-7,000 views and lots of encouraging comments.
Sharing the Mi’kmaq culture has also been an important part of her pandemic posts.
“Although we do have differences culturally across the Island we are all the same,” Pellissier-Lush said.
“We all have a story of creation, we all have a story of how we get through a hard time and I wanted to share our songs so they would become familiar.”
For Pellissier-Lush, the online posts were a natural extension of her role as poet laureate, promoting storytelling and learning, including about the Mi’kmaq people.
“I think it’s so important for people to know our past from us and our history from us,” Pellissier-Lush said.
“In terms of reconciliation, I feel that’s something that I should be doing, is promoting the culture.”
Sharing love of poetry
The P.E.I. Public Library Service oversees the poet laureate program and also shared the series of pandemic videos.
“I think Julie’s been doing a wonderful job bringing both different places on the Island, bringing Islanders together,” said Beth Clinton, regional librarian with the library service.
“But also incorporating the Mi’kmaq culture into the poetry and bringing that love of poetry to people through a new medium.”
The pandemic series ended in late June, after post 100, but Pellissier-Lush hopes viewers will keep coming back.
“Maybe a year from now, two years from now, if somebody is interested, they will still be there,” Pellissier-Lush said.
“It’ll be a legacy for what I’ve been trying to do as a poet laureate.”