City of Victoria seeks new Youth Poet Laureate

Local News

Zoë Duhaime began to perform poetry in grade ten. Now, she’s Victoria’s Youth Poet Laureate for 2015. Her term as Poet Laureate is coming to a close, and the next in the role could be you.

Applications for the January to December 2016 term are open to ages 14–24 and are due Oct. 26. The Youth Poet Laureate’s responsibilities include performing at Victoria City Council and Youth Council meetings, and creating a community poetry event aimed at involving other youth. Applicants should include work samples, a resume, and a letter of intent; the top candidates will be contacted for interviews.

The position also includes a mentorship from Victoria Poet Laureate Yvonne Blomer, a $1750 honorarium, and $1000 in project funding.

Duhaime, 21, is the third Youth Poet Laureate of Victoria, the first Canadian city to create the position in 2013. Aysia Law and Morgan Purvis served in 2013 and 2014 respectively, while City Councillor and poet Jeremy Loveday acted as mentor.

Loveday proposed the creation of the position after seeing the calibre of young poets in the municipal area, and said the monthly visits to City Hall are intended to express the youth experience to council. Poets set the tone in a creative way and “speak on issues that are important socially and politically, and tend to shake things up in the council chambers,” said Loveday.

Duhaime calls the council a generous and attentive audience who appreciate the arts. She’s learned that many people “are tentatively on the outskirts of poetry and really want to participate, but need or want some more help and conversation” before they share. At events, she welcomes those interested to approach her; the Youth Poet Laureate is intended to reach out to at-risk youth in particular.

During her term, Duhaime has performed for NDP MP Murray Rankin’s Orange Crush Comedy Night, the Victoria Art Gallery, UVic’s Let’s Get Consensual campaign, and Victoria’s spoken word collective Tongues of Fire, and served as a judge in several poetry and writing contests.

Loveday called the surge of outreach from such organizations surprising. “That really raised the community profile outside of the official political realm,” he said.

Both Loveday and Duhaime will be on the five-member selection committee for 2016. The Youth Poet Laureate position became permanent in 2015 and receives support from the City of Victoria and the Greater Victoria Public Library.

Loveday noted that as the program has developed, diversity of entries has grown. Both spoken word and page poets are welcome.

“I can’t wait to watch people bring their best stuff,” said Duhaime. “It is really unique in that it does make you think about . . . the clearest way to voice what you can bring to the table.” Duhaime “will totally be open for coffee and talking about poetry” with her successor.

As for advice, Duhaime had this to say: “Oh man, [stay] organized. There are so many emails.”

Applications can be emailed to culture@victoria.ca or dropped off at 720 Douglas St. until Oct. 26 at 4 p.m.