Victoria’s new Youth Poet Laureate, Neko Smart, hopes to use her position to help give young people in the community a voice and encourage them and others to embrace the power of the written word.
A Victoria High School graduate and founder/coach of the school’s slam poetry team, Smart has developed a passion for performance through the local theatre community and has experienced firsthand how self-expression can be an important part of one’s life journey.
“Poetry is a means of creative expression that enables me to process the world through the lens of my anxiety disorder,” she says. “As youth poet laureate, my goal is to emphasize the importance of cultivating open dialogues about mental health, in order to reduce stigma and increase safety, particularly in youth.”
The Youth Poet Laureate, a one-year honourary position funded jointly by the City of Victoria and Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL), serves as the city’s champion for youth and the literary arts, seeking to inspire and engage local youth to share their stories through both the written and spoken word.
Through this year Smart will be mentored by Victoria’s Poet Laureate, John Barton. She will create and present three new works to Victoria’s city council and youth council, conduct poetry readings at City of Victoria and GVPL events, and organize a community youth poetry event, among other activities.
“Neko’s love of words will encourage young people in our community to tell their stories through poetry,” said Maureen Sawa, CEO of the GVPL. “We look forward to partnering with her and giving youth opportunities to embrace the power of the written word.”
In addition to working with Barton, Smart receives a $1,750 honorarium and $2,000 for project funding.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says she looks forward to “the work she will do bringing people together and building community through spoken word.”
Victoria was the first municipality in Canada to have a Youth Poet Laureate. For more information, visit victoria.ca/poetlaureate.