from refrain to decline

Posted by Daniela Elza on Feb 11 2010

Vancouver’s own Poet Laureate, Brad Cran, speaks up as to why he has declined to participate in the Olympic Celebrations. (via Rob Taylor’s blog) This gives me some pride to live in Vancouver at this moment.
Here is a bit of what he says:

While the Cultural Olympiad is surely impressive: of the 193 events listed on the VANOC website only 6 of them are labelled literary events and only two of them actually are literary events that include local writers: The Vancouver International Writers Festival’s Spoken World and Candahar, a recreation of a Belfast pub that will host readings and performances as curated by Michael Turner, and may turn out to be one of the most inspired creations of the Olympiad.
There are Canadian writers involved in a few of the other 193 listed events but when it comes to the celebration stages our writers are not just neglected, they are totally ignored. As Poet Laureate I was offered time on one of the celebration stages where I would be allowed to read poems that corresponded to themes as provided to me by an Olympic bureaucrat. One of the themes was “equality” but since VANOC had blown the chance of making these Olympics the first gender inclusive Olympics in history by including a female ski jumping event I didn’t think they would appreciate a reading of the one Olympic poem I had written on equality: “In Praise of Female Athletes Who Were Told No: For the 14 female ski jumpers petitioning to be included in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.”
In fact a reading of this poem would violate a clause in the contracts that Vancouver artists signed in order to participate in the Cultural Olympiad:
“The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC.”

You can read the whole post here.

Hmm. What if all the negative comments were in the form of refrains? Would that comply with this clause?

I wish all the best to the athletes in the games. Like artists they work hard at their craft. And deserve the best in presenting it.

Perhaps VANOC will do some accounting after the games. Will clue us all in on their game.
And what is Stephen Harper up to? Heard he is in town. Glad to see that the latest book that Yann Martel has sent Harper is a poetry book Eunoia, by Christian Bök. This is book # 74. One can only hope he is busy reading. Martel may be on to something. In The Life of Pi he says:

“The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena, but the small clearing of each heart.”
—Yann Martel (The Life of Pi)

Still, it does require a responsive, participating, engaged, and willing student.

2 Responses to “from refrain to decline”

  1. iDucktape Says:

    “The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC…”

    Holy crap. It’s the end of art and the beginning of PR.

    That contract clause should be published somewhere so everyone can read it. Maybe more people will realize that all this talk about ‘the olympic spirit’ is also PR.

    The olympics would be a great athletics events if it wasn’t for all the sponsors. (so what if it had to be done on a shoe string?)

  2. Daniela Elza Says:

    Hey Robin, good to hear from you.

    Yes, an interesting debate this will be. Steven Colbert looked at the Olympic posters through the decades on the show he did just before he came to Vancouver, and it was interesting how the disappearing of the human form from the Olympic poster coincided with the corporate sponsorship of the games.