A local slam poetry aficionado is Victoria’s new youth poet laureate.
James Summer, who began writing poetry as a coping strategy while attending Vic High and later became president of the school’s slam poetry club, will serve in the role for 2021, program co-sponsors the City of Victoria and Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) announced Jan. 15.
Summer will be mentored by Victoria’s poet laureate John Barton and has actively participated in such showcases as Vic Voices and Hullabaloo, as well as various open mic events. Summer hopes to bring his love of this artistic medium to other youth in the region, and help provide a safe space for those who want to express growth, pain and love through the written and spoken word.
“Poetry has helped me cope with feelings of loneliness and memories of a bittersweet childhood,” he said in a release. “As a transgender individual and as youth poet laureate, I hope that I can bring awareness about the topic of being transgender and to have important conversations about stigma and labels.”
In the honourary role, Summer will serve as the city’s champion for youth and the literary arts, and work to inspire and engage local youth to share their stories on the page and verbally. The Youth Poet Laureate creates and presents new works to city council and Victoria’s youth council, does poetry readings at various city and GVPL events and organizes a community youth poetry event. Many of those events will be held virtually in the age of COVID-19.
Mayor Lisa Helps is excited about Summer’s appointment.
“I know his work and unique talent will inspire and give youth an important voice that will help connect and build a stronger community around poetry,” she said.
The youth poet laureate receives a $1,750 honourarium for the role and $2,000 in project funding, paid for by the city and GVPL. Applications for the position were open to Capital Region poets aged 14 to 24 who had an established body of work and had been recognized for notable contributions to the art.
You can find more about the program at victoria.ca/youthpoetlaureate.