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Artist Feature: Tom Cull

Tom Cull grew up in Huron County (Treaty 29 Territory) and now resides in London, where he teaches creative writing and serves as London’s current Poet Laureate. Tom’s work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, in his chapbook, What the Badger Said (Baseline Press), and in his first book of poems, Bad Animals (Insomniac Press).

Since 2012, Tom has directed Thames River Rally, a grassroots environmental group co-founded with his partner, Miriam Love, and their son, Emmett.

Writing Nature with Tom Cull

Writing Nature with Tom Cull

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WAYWON Cull river home.jpg

"One of the great privileges of being Poet Laureate has been working on projects that bridge the arts and the environment"

In addition to collaborating with so many fantastic artists, one of the great privileges of being Poet Laureate has been working on projects that bridge the arts and the environment. Since moving to London almost eleven years ago, the Deshkan Ziibiing/Thames River has been the source of much of my energy as a poet, environmentalist, and community organizer. Cleaning up and protecting river habitat has been a focus of Thames River Rally, of my poems and my collection Bad Animals, and of my work as Poet Laureate — particularly Poet Laureate Presents... Art and Environment, a collaboration with artist Summer Bressette (Niiobinesiik).

In the final months of my tenure as Poet Laureate, I’m working on a number of river projects. On August 16th, artist Melanie Schambach and I will lead a group of London youth in a river cleanup and arts workshop. Pieces of garbage and poems will be used to create a large mobile for exhibition during Culture Days in September. I’m also working on The River Talks: A Gathering at Deshkan Ziibbiing/Thames River (being held at Museum London from October 18th to 20th), which will be three days of indoor and outdoor talks, walks, activations, and art focused on river ecology, hydrology, culture, history, conservation, gender, and social justice. This collaboration between the London Arts Council, the City of London, Upper Thames Conservation Authority, Museum London, London Public Library, and London Community Foundation will feature Indigenous leaders and water protectors, water managers, conservationists, environmentalists, activists, artists, and academics. The many 'streams' of The River Talks will flow together as people from across our watershed and beyond share their work to re-imagine, renew, restore, and respect our water-ways.

I’m thrilled to end my tenure with events that focus on nature, community, and the river. Rivers convey. They convey water, sediment, people, plants, and animals. They convey history, culture, and meaning. Rivers convey the dynamism of life, the importance of clean water and a healthy environment, and evidence of our failure to understand what they're trying to tell us. I’m looking forward to the range of perspectives, practices, experiences, and philosophies that the participants of The River Talks will share with attendees and each other. I’m particularly interested in learning how Indigenous history, knowledge, justice, and water protection can inform, structure, and invigorate river conservation and environmentalism more generally. It’s my hope that everyone who cares for and works on/with the river will come together to share, revitalize, and renew their love of Deshkan Ziibiing/Thames River.

Looking ahead to post-laureateship projects, I have begun a collaboration with writer/photographer Kerry Manders. Kerry and I grew up in Huron County, and we’ve both become interested in our ties with this place that — despite having no homes to return to in the area — we still call home. We're working on a book that combines poetry, creative non-fiction, and photography to investigate vexed relationships with 'going home.'

"We're working on a book that combines poetry, creative non-fiction, and photography to investigate vexed relationships with 'going home.'"

As London's current Poet Laureate, Tom Cull has curated and delivered creative writing workshops, multidisciplinary special events, and the Poet Laureate Presents event series along the way collaborating with local community organizations, with artists from the London Arts Council's London Arts Live and London Artist in Residence rosters, and with many other artists (both established and emerging) from London and the surrounding region. The Poet Laureate program is funded through the City of London's Community Arts Investment Program (CAIP) and administered by the London Arts Council.

For more on The River Talks: A Gathering at Deshkaan Ziibbiing/Thames River (October 18th to 20th), visit our Poet Laureate program.

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