The Puddle Jumpers
by Lauren Seal
Grandma knew the best time
to break out the galoshes was
the sepia season between winter and spring
when the world was wet with mud.
We’d deck ourselves in neon splash pants,
rubber boots so rigid they blistered
big toes, raced to the boulevard
with puddles calf deep.
We were cautious,
reluctant to release a ripple.
Not Grandma. She plunged in,
soaking us in winter run-off and laughter,
making us messy with joy.
Soon, we were all
stomping splashing sliding,
kicking up streams of oily water
that refracted rainbows in the afternoon sun.
We came home mud-caked, drenched,
small aquariums in every boot.
But kids outgrow their galoshes
And grandmas do not live forever.
Our feet fit better in
leather flats and oxfords,
steel-toed boots, penny loafers,
weekend slip-ons and evening stilettos —
all unsuitable for puddle jumping.
We abandoned the boulevard,
didn’t want soggy feet.
Last week, shopping for lightbulbs,
I found a pair of daisy print rubber boots.
They pinched my feet, chafed my heels,
made me sweat between my toes.
I bought them immediately,
bought them in case you also
have pairs hidden in closets,
tucked behind grocery bags
and old winter coats.
We’ve been cautious long enough.
I’m ready to plunge back
into mucky bliss.
The committee didn't have to look far to choose its next poet laureate.
Lauren Seal practically had "poet laureate" written all over her anyway, so it makes sense that the 31-year-old poet and librarian has officially become the city's third person to take on the honorary literary position.
It's an important role, she said, both personally and professionally.
"I just felt it would be such an honour if I was even considered for the role of poet laureate," she said, referring to her position as it commonly would be named: The People's Poet.
"I thought it would be such a lovely way for me ... to honour this community that I grew up loving as a child and still have lots of family in."
Seal considers herself an honorary St. Albertan because she spent half of her childhood coming from Edmonton to visit family here. Now, she works at the Jensen Lakes branch of the St. Albert Public Library by day. At night, she shows her true colours as an intrepid poet and performer with an ode-worthy amount of experience, all starting when she was a middling teen.
She recalled her first and most formative writing ventures at a YouthWrite camp where local literary arts champion Gail Sidonie Sobat fostered her onto the poetic path.
“Gail … was my teacher. She sank her claws into me and got me to go to camp. I was very shy and nervous, but she just latched on to me and kept me around. She encouraged my writing, especially my poetry,” she said.
“Basically, Gail really nurtured my love of writing. I started writing as an outlet and just something to do to help me deal with anxiety and just a bunch of stuff that was going on in my life.”
When Seal was 14 or 15, Sobat encouraged her to join the Spoken Word Youth Choir. The young writer did, and went on to perform with the group for several years. Then a few years ago, Sobat rebooted the choir with another group of younger poets and performers and asked Seal if she would help mentor them, which she did. She has continued on in this role ever since, while also performing in the adult version of the group.
For her, mentorship works both ways. Last year, she was accepted to be a mentee in the Alberta Writers Guild mentorship program. She worked with current Metro Edmonton writer in residence Rayanne Haines, who helped her to develop a verse novel manuscript. Seal hopes to publish that book along with a book of other poetry.
Her work has already appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, and once on a beer can.
Seal takes over the poet laureate post from Julia Sorensen, the accomplished performer who just finished her two-year term while completing her masters in arts, festival, and cultural management at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. The city's first poet laureate was Zach Polis, who has performed internationally and was named Alberta's artist in residence last fall.
Her two-year term started on April 19 when she appeared in front of city council in celebration of National Poetry Month and read an original work called The Puddle Jumpers.
"It's my love letter to my grandma and my cousins and just the community of St. Albert."
The poet laureate's role is as honorary cultural and literary ambassador: someone who acts as a champion for poetry, language, and the arts, and who represents the city during readings at civic functions and public poetry events. For this, the laureate receives $1,000 annually. The role was created out of a continuing partnership between the St. Albert Public Library and the City of St. Albert. For more information, visit the Library's Poet Laureate page.