In Vancouver the avenues are numbered and the streets named. That’s a feature of Vancouver. Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, George McWhirter, has taken on the task of creating an anthology on those features that give the face of Vancouver its identity. East Hastings could fill an anthology, but most of the city goes unversed.
A Verse Map of Vancouver fills the gap in Vancouver’s verse geography by mapping the city, its neighbourhoods, its corner and intersections, its parks and landmarks. A Verse Map is a word ordinance survey by poets of the locality, from those whose names have a legendary place (Pat Lowther, George Woodcock) through a roster of verse surveyors — too great a list to include them all here — who have established themselves over the last three to four decades (John Pass, Evelyn Lau, John Donlan, Daphne Marlatt, Roy Miki, George Stanley, Linda Rogers, Tom Wayman, Meredith Quartermain, Kate Braid, Brian Brett, Bud Osborn) on through to the current generation who are etching their marks on the city (Catherine Owen, Rita Wong, Chris Hutchinson, Mark Cochrane, Russell Thornton, Kuldip Gill, Fiona Lam). Upwards of 100 poets have been gathered here accompanied by the rich city photography of Vancouver artist and designer Derek von Essen.
George McWhirter, poet, prose writer and translator, arrived at his home in Vancouver from Belfast, via Barcelona and Port Alberni on Vancouver Island in 1968. His first book, Catalan Poems (Oberon Press) shared the first Commonwealth Poetry Prize with Chinua Achebe in 1972; at the University of British Columbia he won its first Killam Prize for mentoring in 2005; in 2007, he was appointed Vancouver’s first Poet Laureate. His novel, Cage, was awarded the Ethel Wilson Prize for fiction in the same year he received the FR Scott Prize for Translation with The Selected Poems of José Emilio Pacheco (New Directions, 1987). His recent books of verse are The Incorrection (Oolichan Books, 2007), The Anachronicles (Ronsdale Press, 2008). Blackbird Theatre produced his version of Euripides’ Hecuba at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 2007, and his translation of Homero Aridjis’ Poemas solares/Solar poems will appear from City Lights, San Francisco, in the spring of 2009.