Mike Coleman would be thrilled to know that poetry is alive and well with young people like Grace Lavigne of Chemainus and others who entered a contest in her name.
The former mayor of the town of Duncan, who died on June 29 last year, was an avid writer with a particular interest in poetry and Lavigne is the winner of the first competition named after him, the Michael Coleman Poetry and Spoken Word from the Cowichan Foundation. .
The honor of being the first winner of the competition came with a prize of $2,500.
“I was kind of in shock,” Lavigne said of her first reaction to being told. “No way, not me. How could that happen?”
It happened because Amazing Grace 18, a 2022 graduate of Shawnigan Lake School, wrote an incredible piece that came with an extremely well-crafted video, although she confessed to not spending a lot of time on it.
“We were very happy to see so many young poets from our community participating in the competition,” said Foundation President Daniel Varga. “This contest is a wonderful opportunity to honor our beloved Michael Coleman, who has done so much to our community, a founder of the Cowichan Foundation and a passionate poet. We know Mike would have loved all the spoken word and poetry entries. The judges truly had some amazing admissions to assess and we thank all applicants for their participation.
Along with her entry, Lavigne has declared herself a passionate writer, artist, nerd, and costume designer with a natural habitat that includes thrift stores, cafes, and anywhere with cats.
“I love to write,” she says. “That has always been my academic talent. Writing is something that came very naturally to me. Since I was very young, I wrote these obscure poems.
Born in Victoria, Lavigne grew up in Chemainus while attending Shawnigan Lake School during her high school years.
“One phase is over and the next must begin,” Lavigne said. “I like to say that I am no longer a high school student. Understanding that I won’t be going back to high school in September is really, really weird for me.
Her writing skills were honed in many ways through high school classes and community opportunities, such as the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Remembrance Day contest.
“I’ve entered a few contests,” Lavigne said. “It’s slowed down over the years, with my classes getting heavier.”
Lavigne learned about the Cowichan Foundation contest from Cari Bell, her Creative Writing 12 class teacher.
Some early poetry she did was more typical with a strict rhyme scheme, but she decided an ode was the way to go for the contest and so created Ode To An Undetermined Phenomenon.
“It definitely takes a bit of a turn,” Lavigne said. “At first, it’s not very ode. At the end, the speaker comes to a place of acceptance and even praise.
A requirement of the contest was that entrants include a video of themselves reading it. Lavigne laughed, she filmed with her iPhone in her bathroom, but it was a creative masterpiece to fit the poem.
Lavigne was a teaching assistant for Bell’s 10th grade creative writing class, which turned out to be invaluable experience. She also honors Jay Connelly for half a year she spent studying English Literature, a grade 11-12 course.
“He was the one who really made it clear to me that you want to be clear and to the point,” Lavigne noted.
“I made memories and friends for life,” she added of her time at Shawnigan Lake School.
Lavigne comes naturally of many talents from her Chemainus upbringing with parents Alice and famed singer Ken Lavigne as well as grandparents Helen and Jamie Stephen and is close to her two siblings, Lucy and Geordie.
What happens next remains to be seen as Lavigne has the ability to go in so many different directions.
For now, “I’m taking a year off,” she says.
Lavigne has taken a job at the Chemainus Public Market and her boss, Patricia Berry, speaks highly of her.
“She’s an exemplary employee with a strong work ethic, a pleasant person and great customer service,” Berry said. “She’s such a special kid.”
You can watch Lavigne’s video and more on the top three poetry contest entries.
Here is the written version of Lavigne’s winning poem:
Ode to an indeterminate phenomenon
Who are you? You won’t say—
You never talk until you’re talked to, even then,
You interrupt my carefully constructed ultimatums,
Screaming about my feelings like breath growing on trees.
You are a ghost, aren’t you? Some kind of spectrum?
You dress in truths that I would have liked to lie.
Like a shadow, you depend on the light for your life
But you’re not as blurry as a shadow—
No, you are well defined.
I often belittle your mind and body,
Your red and bloody cheeks,
Your spidery blue veins spread like frozen lightning,
The dark spots all over your body look like ghoulish constellations.
You always take it, firm, firm.
You don’t do much but lip sync with the words
The soundtrack of my life. Despite your idiosyncrasies, Ghost,
I am happy to count on you.
Because even in the darkness, I am not alone, because I know that you are waiting for me.
Enclosed in thin glass walls and puddles after rain
And ornate, polished silverware.
You answer to no other master.
You live like me, and when I die, you will live too.
You must be a saint, either that or damn it,
Condemned to pass your eternal beyond chained to my soul.
Anyway, I appreciate your patient understanding
When you show up for work on time, as always,
Or You watch my work intently, as if I’m exceptionally important.
You put up with my antics—
I make stupid faces at you, cross my eyes,
Pose for you, pinch you, examine you, hate you and love you.
O patient ghost! Oh enduring soul!
If I only trusted you earlier,
If only my younger self realized how much I
Due to my reflection.
Arts and cultureCompetitionDiploma 2022