Putting pen to paper has always come naturally for Collingwood’s new Poet Laureate.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we sat down with Claudia Ferraro, 23, Collingwood’s newly appointed Poet Laureate for 2020-2022.
Q: Did you grow up in Collingwood? Where did you go to school?
A: I was born and raised in Collingwood! I went to St. Mary’s for primary school, and attended what is now known as Our Lady of the Bay for high school.
Q: Did you attend post-secondary? Where, and what was your field of study?
A: I am currently in my final year at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where I have been studying for my honours degree in English and Creative Writing.
Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: I don’t know that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I have always wanted to write. I was a super introverted kid, so I would spend a lot of my time with books, and I guess this hasn’t really changed. I’m constantly filtering my experiences through the page because it’s a safe space to make mistakes and, hopefully, come to some truthful conclusions.
Q: What drew you to poetry specifically?
A: I grew up in a super musical household. A lot of my siblings are in the music and songwriting industry.
Poetry, to me, is like the bridge between literature and music, so I guess I first turned to poetry by listening to song lyrics. Joni Mitchell in particular was a real inspiration to me when I was younger, I loved the way her songs played with metaphor and characterization in unusual ways.
Q: You have recently been appointed Collingwood's new Poet Laureate. Did you apply for this position? What made you want to apply?
A: I applied for the Poet Laureate position back in August. I had recently moved home after a three-year stint in Halifax for school, and it felt like I was appreciating the town in which I had grown up in a whole different way than I had before. I saw the ad in the local paper and thought, why not?
I honestly didn’t think I would get it because I’m young and don’t have a whole lot of accreditation in the literary field yet, but I knew that I loved poetry and I loved this town, and those seemed to me like pretty solid reasons to apply.
Q: What does the position entail?
A: This position asks that I be a voice and advocate for poetry in our town. It asks that I write about our community and the events going on in it in a poetic way, and that I engage with the town and its people and bring this art form forward to them.
More than this, however, I see my role as one of holding the door open for others to pass through. I know my voice can only reach so far and say so much, and so I want to encourage others to explore with their own voices what it is they have to add to important conversations in Collingwood.
Q: Why is it important for Collingwood to have a Poet Laureate?
A: I’m proud to be a part of a town that places importance on the literary and performance arts.
It’s a strange time to begin this position, in the middle of a confusing pandemic that is forcing us all to restructure our daily lives, but it is also a super necessary time for poetry.
Poetry does its best work when it’s given time to reflect and when it’s being asked to consider complicated questions. I think this is largely where its importance lies: in its ability to question without demanding answers.
I also love poetry for its refusal to play by the rules. It is such a borderless genre, and in this sense there is room for every individual within it. I'm very aware of the fact that my voice can only say so much and reach so far, so beyond creating poetry and projects for the town, I think the most important part of my job is opening poetry's door to the entire community, so that all voices feel like they have a non-threatening place to confer. Right now, especially, community and conference are so important, so this is ultimately what I hope to build by being out in the community and creating an online hub where people and poetry can unite.
Q: Who are your favourite poets, and why?
A: Some of my favourite poets are Joy Harjo, Terrence Hayes, and Olivia Gatwood, whose spoken work on ButtonPoetry inspired me hugely. I suggest everyone check out this account on YouTube.
Q: Is there anything about Collingwood specifically which you'd like to write poetry on? What local subjects jump out to you?
A: Having grown up in this town, Collingwood is always where I turn to for inspiration.
Whether it's hiking, swimming, or visiting local shops, there is something quiet and yet lively about our town that creates the perfect conditions for poetry.
I am writing a lot of eco-poetry lately, and so I'm spending a lot of time walking outdoors and listening to the land I'm on. There is so much history, not all of it positive, but all of it is necessary to hear.
I love this town more than anything, but I don't think you can love something properly without taking the time to examine it.
This is what I'm most excited about in this new position: the opportunity to grow closer to the place that guided me in my own growing.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every Saturday. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email email@example.com.