Now you know it, city seeks a poet

The position of Nanaimo's first Poet Laureate was approved by council Monday.

A few lines is all we ask, to capture our fair city’s past

If you think you’ve got the stuff, write a verse, it’s not so tough

OK, you’ll have to do better than that if you want to become Nanaimo’s first official Poet Laureate, a position approved by council Monday on a recommendation from the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission.

Coun. Diana Johnstone, chairwoman of the commission, said $1,000 will be budgeted for the position for three years, beginning in 2012.

“Larger cities generally have a poet and we felt, as Nanaimo grows, it would be appropriate here as well,” she said. “The idea is to raise awareness for poetry and literacy for the City of Nanaimo.”

Kingston, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria are some of the major Canadian cities that employ a poet laureate.

According to Johnstone, a city poet would serve as a “people’s poet” and to highlight the positive impact literature and poetry can have on community life.

The individual selected for the honorary position will have to go through an audition process, which will be overseen by a committee that includes two peers, two council members and one member of Vancouver Island University’s creative writing program.

Once chosen, the poet will be expected to participate in the literary life of Nanaimo, present works at city events that are of special significance to Nanaimo and produce at least one original work pertaining to Nanaimo annually.

He or she will also be asked to initiate events related to poetry.

Selection criteria includes publication of at least one book of poetry and other publications that display literary excellence, live or work in Nanaimo, and possess a strong knowledge and understanding of the history and cultural life of the city.

“We recognize al kinds of things from sports to clubs and other organizations,” said Coun. Bill Holdom. “This is one more we should recognize and it’s a modest enough recognition.”

Coun. Merv Unger voted against it, citing better uses of money, but the balance of council voted for it.

“We cut out a few lunches and we pay for it in a heartbeat,” said Coun. Jim Kipp.

The community is invited to submit nominations or expressions of interest for the position.