Competition launched to find Nanaimo’s first youth poet laureate

NANAIMO – The city will open a competition this July to find its first-ever youth poet laureate.

Nanaimo youths can rhyme their way into becoming the city’s first youth poet laureate.

The City of Nanaimo will launch a competition for Nanaimo’s new youth poet laureate this July.

The city named Gabriola Island’s Naomi Beth Wakan as its first-ever poet laureate in 2013, beginning a three-year term that ends this year. As a new wordsmith steps up to the podium, the city plans to also introduce a “young people’s poet” to raise awareness of poetry and the literary arts and the positive effect literature and poetry can have on community life, a city report shows.

With so much success in the last few years with Wakan, the opportunity to have a youth voice in the community presented itself, according to Chris Barfoot, the city’s culture and heritage coordinator, who later said the poet laureate has set the bar high and shown what’s capable of being achieved in the role.

The aim with a young poet laureate will be to engage youth in civic issues and the community, give them a real sense of pride in being part of Nanaimo and create opportunity for talented poets and people in literary arts who are young and looking for the chance to showcase their work, he said.

“We want to keep that momentum going,” said Barfoot. “We don’t expect anybody to do what Naomi has done in her first year, but we do have expectations that we want a strong voice in the community whether for the youth or regular poet laureate.”

Aakash Pawar, chairman of the Nanaimo Youth Advisory Council,  said a youth poet laureate is bringing voices from the youth side to light; generally not seen in many cities.

“I think it’s important, because again, it’s showcasing something that’s generally not tapped into,” said Pawar, who sees the position as giving recognition and responsibility to youth and a chance to showcase their ability.

A selection committee, which includes representatives from the youth council, will recommend the second poet laureate and inaugural youth poet laureate to Nanaimo city council later this year.

The winning young poet will start a one-year term Jan. 1,  get a $400 honorarium and $100 in project funding as well as mentorship by the poet laureate.

Barfoot said the city will be looking for someone skilled and recognized by their peers and able to not only write poems, but read them in public. The role will include the young poet presenting original work at a variety of events and undertake a community project to engage youths.