These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.
For Jeremy Loveday, poetry is political.
For the past 13 years, this spoken word poet from Victoria, B.C., has mentored hundreds of high school students at the annual Victorious Voices spoken word festival. He also spent the past decade as a Victoria city councillor and capital regional director, championing social and climate justice. He is leaving political life and his first book of poems, with a working title of Becoming Pollinator, will be published in 2023.
Tell us about Victorious Voices.
Victorious Voices is a youth spoken word festival in Victoria. The festival offers a platform for 40 to 50 high school students to speak their truth on stage to an audience of several hundred. I am constantly blown away by their ability to speak with courage, conviction, nuance and complexity about the issues that face them.
In recent years, the most common topics are the climate crisis and gender and sexual identity. Anxiety, depression and other aspects of mental health are woven through much of their work as well. Often, they engage in unabashed questioning of the systems of power and privilege that have created the injustices around them.
What do you mean when you say poetry is political?
Everything is political. In a system that often measures value by productivity and consumption, to create beauty and speak truth is a political act. As a city councillor, we often open meetings by listening to the youth poet laureate present. I know from first-hand experience how poetry can trigger an emotional response in me as a decision-maker, which is hard to ignore even if I wanted to.
At the same time, poetry has the power to save the writer. When I was in high school, I was quite lost for a while. A teacher pointed me towards spoken word and I was hooked because it helped me find my voice. I was much too shy to perform, but writing my thoughts in that medium allowed me to express some of my deepest emotions and vulnerabilities. I studied politics in my undergrad in Montreal and while I was there, I performed poetry for the first time. I was still too nervous to perform until Alessandra Naccarato wrote herself a chorus to one of my pieces to allow her to come on the stage with me. In a nice twist of fate, she is now one of the editors of my first book.
For the past 13 years, this spoken word poet from Victoria, B.C., has mentored hundreds of high school students at the annual Victorious Voices spoken word festival.
It’s true. The pollen has powdered my nose
and I feel a need to tell the world about it.
Today, I managed to stop and sniff
and not snap the hyacinth’s neck.
Some people say art should not be political.
That is a political decision itself. For me, I can’t turn away from the crises we must face together and I also can’t stop enjoying beauty. My thoughts become my poems. They reflect both joy and hardship.
Tell us about the title Becoming Pollinator.
Just before the pandemic, I had a serious concussion during a hockey game. Coupled with the lockdown, this meant an extended period of quiet. I took up gardening and began to ask myself what it would be like to tend the earth in a good way as a settler on these stolen lands. Some of the poems are an invitation to join me in exploring these kinds of concepts. How do we move from being the descendants of destruction to designers of regenerative ways of being?
When I started writing about my garden
I thought it was a practice of growing
my attention. Of unearthing tender devotion
to the beauty that surrounds me,
the destroyer. There is more though
I am also learning to tend without the need
to control. To de-weaponize my care.
How did the way you were raised affect you?
My mom was involved in community building, social services and activism. Participating in decision-making about our common life was normal and we went to marches and protests and community meetings. She taught me not to turn away from suffering but to do something about it, so being an activist made sense to me.
What makes being an overtly political poet hard?
I have found it a struggle to simultaneously live fully as a poet and a politician. To me, good art is a combination of reality and felt vulnerability and this is too often the opposite of what is celebrated in the everyday discourse of elected politics. In a way, this contributed to me deciding to leave elected political life. I had begun to develop a bit of a thicker skin that I don’t want. I know I have more to offer the world with an open heart. I am looking forward to reentering my life as an artist.
What do you see if we get this right?
It is wonderful to imagine a society based on the value of restorative connection and an economy that values belonging and a thriving human spirit. I feel excitement as I answer this question.
When I write of the hope of savings seeds
it is a promise to build the soil for next year’s abundance
to place the flower’s stem
down the barrel of my loaded gun.
This country. My male body. All I have been
taught and want to unlearn.
Do you have any advice for other young people?
You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference. The world needs your ideas and your passion.
What would you like to say to older readers?
If there is a young person seeking to make the world a better place in your circles, support them. It is never too late to give the gift of opportunity.