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Wendy Morton : Time For Poetry :
Mani Rao interviews Wendy Morton (Transcript)

Today's segment is a special investigative report that I put together in Victoria, Canada. That is where I met Wendy Morton, a poet who believes a poet is a detective. In real life, Wendy Morton is an insurance investigator. On the poet side of life, she's believed to put on her trench-coat and fedora, and read poetry in all sorts of places. Can you believe it, she's read poetry thirty thousand feet above sea level, to airline passengers? Probably the only poet in the world to have ever done that, I'd say. And she's the mastermind behind the major literary event in Canada where dozens of poets joined in to commit random acts of poetry. Basically what they did was they stopped people in the streets and read poetry to them. Wendy Morton has written three books of poetry, and I met her at Café Mocambo in Victoria, where she runs a weekly reading series, and she's run it for six years. And I got away with some cheeky questions.

So could you tell us a bit about the concept of the poet as private investigator?

Yes, I think a poet is a private investigator. Into the heart of things, into the important things in life that make a difference to us, in terms of what makes us human. So my day job and my night job are really the same. As a private investigator and a poet I'm trying to find out where the truth is. And so for me, when I get paid more for (laughs) my private investigator's job is the one that funds me. My poetry, although I make some money from it, does not — I don't get enough money to live on. So one has to support the other. But really I don't see them as any different, because I'm investigating for an insurance company for instance for instance, for my files, but for my poetry I'm investigating what the important things are for my life: sorrow, joy, love, death, delight.

And does one get in the way of the other? Do you find that being a poet gives you some obstacles in your job? Do you get recognized, because you're so famous out here? Do you get recognized, and does your undercover role get busted or something ?

No I don't actually do very much undercover, though I sometimes do, and I do use another name. I use another name which I'm not going to tell you because then I'd bust myself.

So you have a pseudonym not for your writing side but for your professional side.

Yes, although I don't use it very often, but sometimes I have to, because I've been an insurance investigator for twenty-two years, so I'm pretty well known in BC.

I've read all about how you read poetry on the airline. Can you tell us, how did it actually work? Did you wear a uniform? Did you do it on the intercom? Was it before or after meals? What actually happened ?

Well, I made an arrangement with WestJet Airlines, they've been my sponsor since 2002, and what happens is, on long flights, after the service, after they give you pretzels and juice, and they pick them up, which is usually an hour into the flight, then I get up on the intercom, and I'm usually introduced by one of the crew — I give them a sheet so they know who I am - most of them often do know who I am — and then I say I'm here to write poetry for the passengers, and before I do that I read them a poem, and then I spend the rest of the flight writing poems for the passengers.

Wow, so you kind-of catch them when they don't really have an option, they're halfway into their meal and you're reading them poetry and they can't actually escape because they're just stuck in their seats. That sounds -- scary? (laughs)?

Well, it isn't scary because they have to say they want a poem.

They have a choice.

Yes, they have a choice, and these flights don't have real meals on them. They have snacks and things, so it isn't, people aren't sitting there eating. These are flights that are about four hours maybe.

And after that you get to mingle with them and get to know certain people for whom you write poetry. Do you think you could read us a poem or two?

Yes, I'd be glad to.

[She reads 'Recipe'].

That was an interview with Wendy Morton. This is Mani Rao in Time For Poetry, please join me again next week Wednesday at 8:30 am, and thank you for making time for poetry.

Wendy Morton's works copyright © to the author.

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