Poet goes from newsprint to verse

Poetry as an art form predates literacy. In many ancient cultures, the poem was used as a way to maintain oral history and transport it across long distances.

Poetry as an art form predates literacy.

In many ancient cultures, the poem was used as a way to maintain oral history and transport it across long distances.

Lori Garrison is not exactly a medieval minstrel when she sits in a downtown coffee shop flipping through the latest copy of the Yukon News.

But the Whitehorse poet is using her own talent to share the day’s most newsworthy events.

Each day the 27-year-old wakes up and searches through her online newsfeed of local, national and international news.

After picking a news story she gives herself 90 minutes to create a poem and post it online.

If all goes as planned, by the end of 2014 she’ll have created one for every day of the year.

Garrison says the way people read poetry has changed.

“It’s gotten this rap for being the ‘I’m so sad and I love you’ medium,” she said.

“This touchy-feely, little black beret, hipster bongo medium, when originally it was a medium for talking about what’s happening in the world.”

But given its history as a news source, poetry doesn’t always have to be that way, she said.

Choosing the day’s news story is often a balancing act between finding what is most important and what is most entertaining.

In last week’s Wednesday edition of the News, Garrison found two contenders. It came down to the Peel River watershed versus prehistoric reptiles.

The Yukon government had released its final plan for the Peel watershed under threat of legal action from First Nations – a threat that has since come to fruition.

Deeper in the paper is a story about ancient fossils found in the territory.

“The Peel is pretty important. But the dinosaurs are pretty freaking awesome,” Garrison said.

A former freelancer for the Ottawa Citizen, Garrison came to the Yukon from Ontario in May. She has a degree in English literature and also went to journalism school.

That means she looks at newspapers differently, she said, from the way the page is laid out, to how a story is written.

It also means she knows the importance of people being engaged in the news around them.

“What happens in the world happens to you. I think a lot of people watch a lot of cat videos. There’s too many cat videos,” she said.

She hopes her project is a way for people to become more aware.

“I think a lot of people really miss reading the hard copy. Either that or they don’t read the news anymore, they read whatever Viral Nova is posting, whatever random YouTube clip happens to pop up.”

Most of her news comes from online sources. That allows her to include poetry based on news from both national and international sources.

Getting a hard copy of a newspaper in the North can be pricey. National newspapers are often twice as expensive as they are in Ontario, and sometimes a day old.

Aside from connecting the two things she cares about, Garrison said the project is also a discipline exercise.

“It’s really easy just to say, ‘I’ll make time to write later, I’ll make time to write later, I’ll do that tomorrow.’ But when you have to do it and you have to write at a certain time every day then you train you brain to be creative, even when you don’t want to be,” she said.

In the end, after going through that copy of the News, it’s the story on the watershed that wins the day and the article becomes the poem The Concern of the Butcher (see sidebar).

Garrison’s daily work can be found at: todayinthenewsproject.tumblr.com

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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