In April, Kris Demeanor finished his two-year term as Calgary’s first poet laureate. His will be a tough act to follow. Over the course of those 24 months he helped make the city’s poetry scene more visible and publicly accessible, both through his work with artists and more mainstream efforts (like his role as a judge in a First Calgary Financial haiku contest). He does it because he wants Calgarians to interact with poetry in their day-to-day lives. And he capped it all off with a book, The Calgary Project: A City Map in Verse and Visual, that drew in an impressive array of writers, artists and even the mayor of Calgary as contributors.
The poet laureate designation isn’t the first accolade Demeanor has picked up in his career as an artist. A film based on his song “I Have Seen the Future” appeared at the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals, he’s collaborated with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, put out six CDs of original music and won awards for his work as a magazine writer. But according to Dymphny Dronyk, a fellow poet and the co-editor of The Calgary Project, it’s his work as a poet and his efforts to open doors to (and for) Calgary’s arts community where he’s made his biggest mark. “That was one of his goals, to make poetry more accessible to people who don’t usually have anything to do with it, and also to really break down the barriers and build the bridges – whichever cliché you want to use – among those silos within the poetry and the arts community.”
That’s something that improves the quality of life for all Calgary residents, and makes the city a more livable – and enviable – place. “People come for the jobs,” Dronyk says, “but they stay for the communities, and so enriching communities in as many ways as possible is really great for Calgary.” And she thinks Demeanor is going to continue to be a leader in that respect. “I don’t think there’s any going back. Just by the nature of who he is, I think he’ll continue to be an ambassador for the things he believes in. He believes in the city, and he believes fundamentally in how important the arts are.”