Victoria’s new Youth Poet Laureate looks to propel youth arts

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“I really believe there are so many young people in this town that are revolutionizing spoken word.”

That’s a quote from Victoria’s new Youth Poet Laureate (YPL), Morgan Purvis. Purvis, a business student at Camosun, has worn the title of Youth Poet Laureate since Jan. 13 and is already planning events, and stirring up the pot. Under the mentorship of prominent Victoria-based poet Jeremy Loveday and former YPL Aysia Law, Purvis said that she is already, “feeling a little bit more confident. A little bit more ready to take risks poetically.”

“I said ‘vagina’ in city hall, which was pretty cool,” said Purvis. “It was my first time reading in city hall. I was gonna do this very, sort of, stiff collar piece I wrote about the City of Victoria and sustainable development, and then [Jeremy Loveday] said, ‘Just do your usual stuff. Be a youth, do something cool,’ and so I did a poem about feminism and said vagina, and it was awesome.”

Purvis wasn’t quite sure what to expect when she was given the title, especially considering this is only the program’s second year. “I was a little bit cynical,” said Purvis. “I thought it was just gonna be a bunch of grown-ups patting my head, saying ‘Cute 20-year-old girl, who cares?’ and Aysia said, ‘I thought so too, but they’ll take you really seriously.’” So far, Purvis has fit into the role comfortably and has many projects on the horizon.

Purvis will perform at the Victoria Spoken Word Festival on its opening night, March 8. The Canadian Spoken Word Festival will also come to Victoria this year in October. “There will be Poets from all across the country,” said Purvis, “and the plan, as it stands at the moment, is to have a day of youth programming at that national festival. So as we have the eyes of the country, we’re going to talk about the importance of youth programming and youth poetry in the country and feature some of the best youth poets across the country with the national media looking on them.” The youth poetry scene in Victoria is a main component of what makes this position so important. As Purvis said, “Poetry in this town for youth has exploded.”

To sum up her position in her own words, Purvis said that being YPL is about “being a voice of youth poetry and an advocate for youth and youth arts.” In an artistic town such as Victoria, it’s an important job.

The position of YPL is funded by Reliance Properties. “It’s fantastic to have the private funding,” said Purvis, “and pretty sad and tragic that the city won’t come up with the money to pay for it.” Another one of Purvis’ initiatives is to convince the city to support the program in the years to follow.

Last year, on March 18, Purvis got the chance of a lifetime to help produce a live reading with a spoken word idol of hers, Buddy Wakefield. Wakefield is a Seattle-based, two-time Individual World Slam Poetry Champion (2005, 2006), who, after a Facebook message from Purvis, was convinced to come to Victoria and perform. As the YPL, Purvis is excited to announce she will once again produce Wakefield’s show when he comes to the Alex Goolden Hall this May 16.

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