Mary Pinkoski

Top 40 Under 40 2015

Photography Curtis Trent

Age: 38

Job Title: Former Poet Laureate, City of Edmonton

Why She’s Top 40: She is capturing the essence of Edmonton through her poems and sharing her art form in places you’d least expect to find it.

If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “I wouldn’t change anything, but I would like to enhance the understanding of ourselves and the stories that we tell about Edmonton.”

If Edmonton was a person, it would be coming of age, gaining confidence as it grows. That’s the spirit captured in the verse of Mary Pinkoski. In “My City is a Body,” which she presented at the 2015 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, she read: “My city is a body, stretched out and sprawling, a teenager with a pitted face, uncertain with becoming, strangely tossing around this idea of what being great means.”

Pinkoski’s work also forced her to stretch out. She was named the City of Edmonton’s poet laureate in 2013, and her mission was to take poetry into places you wouldn’t usually find it.

Over her two-year term, which ended July 1, she engaged audiences more than 200 times, either through performances or workshops. Sure, she performed at City Hall and at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts – the kind of places you’d expect to find the poet laureate. But she also performed at conferences and conventions. She brought poetry to annual general meetings. She brought art into the lives of people who were about to discuss financial reports and economics. During one public forum about bike lanes, she listened to what the delegates had to say and then created poetry on the spot about the issues brought up at the tables.

Pinkoski is also an educator. Since 2003, she has worked on and off at Fort Edmonton Park, co-ordinating with teachers who bring their students into the historic site for week-long educational workshops.

She has been busy since leaving the poet-laurate spot. She’s working on her master’s degree in adult education at the University of Alberta, and spent the summer in Washington, D.C., at the world-famous Smithsonian Institution. She was an intern on the Museum of Main Street, a program developed to bring Smithsonian exhibits to smaller communities throughout the United States. In 2016, it will tour an exhibit on water. Pinkoski helped develop a curriculum around poetry written about – well, water. 

“It’s been a very, very cool experience,” she says. “Working at the Smithsonian has been very interesting; it’s amazing work. And, it’s also very humid down here.”

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