A small but appreciative crowd gathered at the Reid-Thompson Library on Tuesday, March 19th to listen to one of the founders of the Saskatchewan poetry scene. Glen Sorestad has been writing for 50 years, and he hasn't slowed.
Reading from a retrospective of his early work along with more recently published pieces, Sorestad spoke with his warm and engaging style. Taking readings from early works like 'Windsor Hotel, Buchanan' to poems inspired by repeated visits to the American southwest, Sorestad's accessible writing style easily resonated with his listeners. Originally from Buchanan, Saskatchewan, Sorestad confessed a fondness for the area having travelled back and forth down Highway 5 from his homestead to his current city of Saskatoon. His work is grounded in a life in Saskatchewan, but his imagination soars to themes of family and love, all with a keen eye to the natural world.
Sorestad recalls his first attempts at poetry occurred when he was still in high school. He began writing in earnest when he went to Saskatoon. He recalls, "I started writing seriously in 1968 and '69 in Saskatoon when I ran into a couple of writers. Jim MacNeil was one and the other was Patrick Ryan who had done a lot of writing for CBC."
His interest in writing continued until, through a series of collaborations and publications, the fledgling Thistedown Press was born. Sorestad recounts the early days of the press. "It was an offshoot of a collaboration between two teachers. I was teaching English and Neil Wagner was teaching Art. We thought we would try to put our talents together and put a little chapbook out. So it really just began as a chapbook, and as things happen, it went from there. One chapbook led to another chapbook and eventually a full-length book. Thistledown Press has been a lasting force in Canadian literature for over forty years, having launched the careers of dozens of Canadian writers.
Among his many accolades, in 2000 Sorestad was appointed Saskatchewan's first Poet Laureate. The Saskatchewan Writers' Guild, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and the Saskatchewan Book Awards sought to recognize an outstanding Saskatchewan poet whose contributions have led the way for others. Sorestad recalls, "It was an honour obviously. Initially, we didn't know what the program would do or be." Since that time Saskatchewan has named a Poet Laureate who works to raise the profile of the artist and the spoken word.
Sorestad has travelled the world conveying the experience of seeing the confusion of Canada geese returning to a still frozen landscape. His work has been translated into other languages. Delivering the spirit of the prairies to the world has been a life's work for the original Poet Laureate.