Keeping a crowd between contemplation and laughter, Saskatchewan poet laureate Don Kerr had a varied impact on a Prince Albert audience on Wednesday.
Kerr gave an animated poetry reading at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, providing insight into the creative writing process, between poems.
“One thing I discovered when I started to write was that I wrote in my own voice, and I didn’t know I was doing it,” he said before his contribution to the Lectures at the Library series.
“I’ve found people telling me that it’s easy for them to read my poetry once they’ve heard me read it, because they’ve heard the voice of the poet. I understand that, too, because I’ve heard people read and I’ve read their poems better.”
Kerr’s voice changed from poem to poem, reflecting the mood and character within each piece he pulled from a writing career that dates back to the ’60s
Part storytelling and part introspection, Kerr opened his reading with a few poems about his longtime interest in jazz music.
“I became a jazz fan in two minutes,” he said, blaming a Duke Ellington composition he heard on the radio as a kid for launching him into jazz fandom.
Growing up in Saskatoon, “a farmer’s town,” his interest in jazz was a unique one, he said.
“I didn’t meet another jazz fan until I was 40 years old. It was a secret interest.”
Pulling advice from his own role models and inspirations, Kerr, who once studied under Marshall McLuhan, provided insight into the creative process for those who attended Wednesday’s event.
Inspiration comes to everyone differently, he said, with the trick for writers to figure out what environment works best for them.
“I have two books of poems entirely about riding in cars,” he said.
Writing is a tool to gain insight into one’s past, he said, noting that all writers and artists bring a bit of their own history into their creations, something Kerr admits to doing, as well.
“When you start writing, you remember more than without writing,” he said.
Kerr, a 40-year English professor at the University of Saskatchewan, has been Saskatchewan poet laureate since 2010.
Copies of his books are available to take out at the library, including his latest book of poetry, Wind Thrashing Your Heart. He has also written short stories, non-fiction books, and one teen novel, Candy on the Edge.