Nanaimo poet laureate Tina Biello has wrangled together 39 poets from all over Vancouver Island for a new collection of work reflecting upon Canada’s sesquicentennial.
The book, 150×39: A Poetry Anthology, was done in collaboration with the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library with the sum of poets meant to represent each branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library system.
“For any writer it’s amazing to see your poem or your work in print, I know it was for me when I first was published, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for poets, too,” Biello said of the project.
“We had a lot of submissions … we had to really sit down and choose. It was hard. It was really hard. It speaks to how people are really engaged in poetry, which I was so excited about.”
Librarian Jonathon Bigelow said he and Biello received more than 120 poems after the plan for the anthology was first announced in the summer. The pieces were judged on content, form, punctuation and formatting. Biello said “people really responded” to the concept.
“People had a lot to say about Canada 150 and their feelings and thoughts about it,” she said.
“It was everything from immigration stories, people first coming to Canada, to what this area means to them. All sorts of different ways of expressing that, which was very cool.”
The anthology, which was created using the library’s bookbinding machine, was unveiled at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library on Dec. 2. The launch drew a crowd of about 60 people who listened as some of the poets featured in the anthology read their work aloud. Biello said she didn’t know what to expect but was pleased by the turnout.
The writers ranged in age from children to seniors and Biello said the Island’s geography was well represented. The open submission process resulted in writers of various levels of experience submitting their work, which is just what Biello wanted.
“It was a callout for anyone who has a love and interest in poetry. You don’t have to be published or a prolific writer as long as you’re writing poetry,” she said.
Biello’s three-year term as poet laureate of Nanaimo began in January and this year she has participated in readings and events and last month she was one of six poet laureates from across Canada invited to attend the Governor General’s Literary Awards in Ottawa.
This month she started a poetry reading series at the Harbourfront Library, which will see local poets share their work every two months. The first reading was on Dec. 16 and the next one is scheduled for Feb. 17 and will feature Linda Thompson and Ursula Vaira.
“I really love it,” Biello said of her role as poet laureate.
“It’s been really a lot of fun.”
The library is currently in the process of adding copies of the anthology to its shelves.