Birth of the Bard of the Avenue

Local poet becomes Bard of the Ave

by Harvey Voogd

Marlene Salmonson, a woman who has been writing poetry all her life, is our first Bard of the Ave. Her role is to write and perform poetry that reflects the life of the area’s seven neighbourhoods. She began her two-year term on September 1 and will serve in this role until August 31, 2014. Her first public event was judging the recent Words From The Ave poetry slam, which was part of the Kaleido Family Arts Festival. “I was totally impressed with the level of poetry,” said Marlene. “To read your own stuff and have the guts to put it out there is awesome.”Marlene will receive an honorarium of $1,000 a year and produce at least two original works each year. The Bard will also initiate one legacy project during her two-year term. As the Bard, Marlene will be available for any community activity, be it a local festival, Community League event, or other community functions. Marlene’s ideas as the Bard include doing a piece on restaurants on the Ave, getting a feel for all the neighbourhoods she’ll serve and reflecting the change that is underway. The challenge, the diversity of the area, her love of the community and the struggle to change its image led Marlene to apply to be the Bard. “I want to positively reflect what is happening in the community, but also be realistic,” said Marlene. “My house is next to the 111 Avenue Fire Hall, on the Norwood Trail to the Universal Bottle Depot. When people talk about the Avenue, no one knows better than I do. Nobody has to tell me what it is like living here.”

An Early Start
“The first poem I remember writing was at seven-years-old,” remembered Marlene. “It was about the love of my life, Cleopatra my Siamese cat, who always slept on my bed.” As a teen in an advanced high school English class, instead of doing critiques she would write a poem. “My teacher said they were good and that was the first time I realized poetry could be part of my studies,” said Marlene. Later while studying Pastoral Clinical Education, instead of reflections, Marlene would write poems. Her experience in hospitals was extensive because Carley, one of her daughters, has schizophrenia. Her first published poem “The Other Side of Glory” was written out of the experience of one of her
daughter’s hospitalizations. Writing brought Marlene thirty-five plus years ago to Alberta from her hometown of Halifax.She responded to an ad in the now defunct Alberta Report Magazine.“The publisher, Ted Byfield, sent me a plane ticket and that’s how I ended up here and met my first husband,” said Marlene. “He was one of the founders at the beginning of the Report and I did lithography, pho-tography and some proof reading.”
After a move to Thorhild, Marlene became a writer with the weekly Westlock Hub newspaper, which at that time had a circulation of 30,000. Marlene has fond memories of her three years as a writer and columnist. “I wrote a column called As the Namepi Flows, after the only real river that runs through the County of Thorhild,” said Marlene. She did commentary on politics, school boards, things in her family, and the church, but had carte blanche to write on whatever she liked. “I totally loved the job,” said Marlene. “And usually I had something funny in my column. At times flights of fancy would get into my column because of the need to comment on meetings where you think you’re going to die because you’re so bored.” Her husband always wanted to be self-employed, so they bought an old-fashioned metal type letter-press business. “We did specialized printing, like embossing to create unique business cards.  Our three girls were brought up in the business which we had for eighteen years.” Marlene moved to Edmonton seven years ago to support Carley with the birth of twins. During the pregnancy, for the health of the babies, her daughter had to go off the schizophrenia medication. As a result, she remained hospitalized after the birth.“My son-in-law and I were exhausted,” said Marlene. “The babies ate every two hours. We slept on the couch and snoozed when they slept. Their church family brought the noon meal for the first couple of weeks, otherwise we would have starved. Several of these folks were nurses, which was important because the babies were premature.” Marlene is currently finishing her Master of Theological Studies thesis at St. Stephen’s College, which includes poetry, and will spend her time in the community as Bard on the Ave sharing those experiences with residents.
The Other Side Of Glory
                                                            By Marlene Salmonson

I kiss you good-bye,
And leave you there amid the hospital linen,
Your face ashen,
Awaking only to the drugs,
the banging of the door,
the end of another bad dream.
I leave you.
I leave you to fight your sad nightmares,
where you wear your bright armour,and brandish a sword of steel.
Oh, Joan of Arc, so meek and mild,
You often lose to the ungodly foe
,And where you go I cannot follow- so I wait.
In the parking lot I stare in silence at your window,
The snow falls round
It’s so quiet here.
But inside you fight on,
I think I hear your sword whisper through the air-
Another miss.
Down here at night it may seem strange to see my shadow
Standing, staring.
From afar,
Someone might think I’m only wishing- Just wishing on a star.
The Bard of the Ave is an initiative of the Rat Creek Press and Arts on the Ave. Funding has been generously provided by the Norwood Neighbourhood Association. As the Bard, Marlene will be available for any community activity, be it a local festival, Community League event, or other community functions. Contact Marlene at  to invite her to write or perform a poem at your event.
( originally published  October 2012)

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