Meet Victoria Poet Laureate Carla Funk.
CARLA FUNK SECURES HER WAIST-LENGTH HAIR in a coil at the nape of her neck and snaps on a pair of yellow rubber gloves. She steps into the bramble patch and starts plopping blackberries into the ice cream bucket dangling from her belt loop. She may wield a lofty title, but Victoria’s first poet laureate is about as down-to-earth as the crisp she plans to bake with this morning’s pickings. “I love the smell of blackberry bushes in the morning,” says the 32-year-old UVic Writing instructor and alumna (MA ’99). “They smell like black flowers.”
Poet laureates traditionally wrote poems for the English monarchy, celebrating official occasions and national events. Their contemporary counterparts aim to raise awareness of literary arts and make poetry more accessible. During Funk’s two-and-half-year stint as the city’s “literary and cultural ambassador,” she’ll recite her poetry at official city events and write three new poems each year. Being expected to be creative on-demand might intimidate some wordsmiths, but Funk, who’s married and has a twelve-year-old daughter, says she’s relaxed about her writing and trusts her creative process. “An image sticks in my head and I have to write it down. Then I let it sit for a while.”
The images are rich, but not always pretty.
“Beauty on its own is a bit of a lie,” says the blue-eyed blonde. She uses a hoe to reach up and draw down another vine. “We live in a flawed world—it’s honest to speak of flaws as well as beauty.”
She jokes how she’s drawn to roadkill and talks about her recent fascination with a dead roadside Canada goose, which has become the central image of a poem she’s working on.
“It seemed so unusual and humiliated and mythic and still lovely in some strange way. Its black feet were curled up like little question marks. ‘What happened?’ ”
Poet and UVic Writing Department Chair Lorna Crozier believes Funk will make a perfect poet laureate. She describes Funk’s poetry as being able to see “both the ridiculous and sublime about ourselves and the city we live in. She will open the doors to poetry and you’ll feel welcome to step in.”
Funk is convinced that poetry offers so much variety there must be at least one voice every person can identify with. She intends to demonstrate this range—and hopefully draw in some who remain leery of the art—through showcasing local poets at readings and on the public library’s poet-of-the-month Web site.
“Good poetry has to move you, and I don’t mean to tears. When you connect with a poem, something in you shifts. Each person is shifted in a different way. It’s just finding what you connect with. I love redeeming the pain and sifting through it for the beautiful.” She gently shakes her berry bucket. “I want to believe that even in pain and tragedy and scars, there is something to be mined, some beauty to be found, some light to come through the cracks.”
Bookmarks | Poetry and the City