An image of Wakefield Brewster
Wakefield Brewster | Photo courtesy of Wakefield Brewster

Wakefield Brewster

Calgary's Poet Laureate reflects on how music sparked his creative journey

Cherie McMaster

He’s a poet, a spoken word artist, a producer, a promoter, an educator and an advocate for literacy and wellness. And, in April of 2022, Wakefield Brewster was named Calgary’s sixth Poet Laureate — an interesting turn of events considering he initially had no interest in the written word. It was in music that Brewster first found inspiration, and later, in poetry, that he found his own voice.

“My church organist, Mr. John Tuttle… was my inspiration, this gentleman playing this huge instrument that filled the entire church. And I have never heard people ever really join into song the way I hear congregations… I was moved by it at a very young age.”

After studying piano and percussion in his youth, Brewster’s dream was to be a great pianist in Europe, but his journey took a turn that sent him off along the path to poetry, changing his artistic vision.

“Something on TV hit me at age 16 and I can’t remember what to this day, but it struck me so hard, because it was powerful and poetic, that I rushed through the house looking for paper, looking for a pen, and furiously… scribbled out this first poem. Actually I scribbled out two,” he says. “And let me tell you, they sucked! But when does man ever master anything the first time?”

For someone who had only ever performed others’ works, Brewster felt a sense of empowerment. “(Now) I, for the first time, was the composer, the creator. I, for the first time, wrote the black dots.”

Brewster attributes his sense of precision, timing, melody and rhythm to his musical training. “I never picked poetry — poetry picked me.”

 Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more about Wakefield Brewster’s journey into music, into poetry, on becoming an advocate for literacy, on becoming the city’s current Poet Laureate, and much more.

On November 16, 2015, Calgary Arts Development hosted a working session with approximately 30 creative Calgarians from various walks of life. Many of the small working groups voiced the need to gather and share more stories of people living creative lives.

That need has turned into The Storytelling Project.

The Storytelling Project raises awareness about Calgarians who, by living creative lives, are making Calgary a better city, effecting positive change and enriching others’ lives.

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