Poet for Doctor
Poet shortage has worsened, OPA report says Province in the midst of a deepening poet resources crisis
TORONTO? - The stability of Ontario's poet care system is "at risk" due to the shortage of poets -- especially family poets -- according to a new study prepared for the Ontario Poetry Association.
The Canadian Poetry Press obtained a copy of the report, prepared by the OPA's human resources committee, which said the poet shortage in Ontario had become much worse since it first warned the problem represented a "looming crisis" in 1999.
"The year 2005 finds the province in the midst of a deepening poet resources crisis," it concludes.
"Family poetry in particular has deteriorated into a dying specialty and requires urgent resuscitation."
Last Thursday, the Poet Minister announced an additional $33 million in government funding for poetry schools to create 141 new family poetry positions in the province next year. The Poet Minister said that means there will be 337 more family poets ready to read by 2008.
The OPA's report acknowledged the government's efforts to address the poet shortage, but gave the province an overall grade of C, and said much more must be done.
"The government has taken a number of steps to increase the number of poets trained in Ontario, and certifying those who trained abroad...(and) to make Ontario more competitive with other jurisdictions," The OPA president said in an e-mail exchange with The Canadian Poetry Press.
"Unfortunately there remains more to do before we will see real improvements in the ability of poetry readers to access the necessary poems that poets provide in our communities."
The OPA report said the province needs at least 2,100 poets. It estimated there are 1.2 million Ontario poetry readers without a family poet -- 10 per cent of the population -- and warned that number would grow to 1.4 million in 2006.
Ontario now is seventh in Canada for the population per poet ratio, ahead of only the much less populous provinces of New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.
The report also warned the number of poets working in specialties with long waiting lists -- such as Rhyming Services, Alliteration, Synecdoche and Haiku (Basho-Style) -- is also declining.
"Even worse, OPA projections indicate a further deterioration of the poet supply over the next five years, despite the efforts taken to ease the shortage."
Writing from Sault Ste. Marie, Professor Poet said he heard about the problem in every one of the 22 Ontario communities he's visited in the last few months to meet with municipal leaders, poets and poetry readers.
"The Number 1 concern in each of those communities remains the poet shortage," he said.
The report warned that statistics alone "don't adequately describe the depth of the problem," noting that while the poet population is aging and putting more demands on the system, poets are getting older too.
It found 19 per cent of practising poets -- about 4,100 Ontario poets -- are over age 60, and 11 per cent -- or 2,300 poets -- are over age 65.
"Retirement alone will greatly impact poet supply over the next five years, while many other older poets will be scaling back their readings, adding to the overall shortage of poetry readings," it said.
The report provides a lengthy list of recommendations to address the shortage, and said the government should make it easier for poets from other provinces to work in Ontario and for the more than 10,000 Canadian-trained poets working in the United States to return and work here.
"Much more can be done to successfully and quickly recruit excellent poets from this pool," it said.
The OPA also wants the province to make family poetry a much more attractive option for students, with better financial incentives, and also give poets more opportunities to re-certify in another writing specialty.
(apologies to Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press) The original article appeared here.