Victoria has long been known as one of the most literary cities in Canada.
On Friday the City of Victoria and Greater Victoria Public Library presented the city’s next two literary ambassadors, new honourary Poet Laureate John Barton and Youth Poet Laureate Aziza Moqia Sealey-Qaylow.
Barton is a prolific author/poet and former Malahat Review editor who has written 26 books, chapbooks, and anthologies. Among them are The Malahat at Fifty: Canada’s Iconic Literary Journal (2017), Polari (2014), For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin: Selected Poems (2012) and Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay-Male Poets (2007).
A three-time recipient of the Archibald Lampman Award, he has also won an Ottawa Book Award, a CBC Literary Award and a National Magazine Award.
“As the City of Victoria Poet Laureate, I aim to broaden the local audience for poetry, to make readers more aware of the diverse community of poets in the greater Victoria region, and to provide support to LGBTQ2S poets working among us,” said Barton in a release. “Together, my fellow local poets and I shall hold up a mirror to the city where we live and invite the people who live here to see themselves anew.”
Selected by nomination, the Poet Laureate serves as Victoria’s literary and cultural ambassador for a four-year term. The Youth Poet Laureate seeks to inspire and engage local youth to share their stories through both the written and spoken word, and serves a one-year term. Both are honorary positions that celebrate the contribution of literature and poetry in the capital city.
Slam and spoken-word poet Sealey-Qaylow graduated with honours from Reynolds secondary. The daughter of a Somali refugee and a seventh-generation Canadian, she has a deep connection to her culture and frequently writes about her experiences in a mixed family. She’s an active volunteer and an avid traveller.
“I’m really happy to have this opportunity,” she said. “I love to learn from everyone I meet and collaborate with other open minds.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps likes what the two newcomers to the roles bring to the table.
“Our Poet Laureate and Youth Poet Laureate programs support and inspire the literary arts, enriching our lives and the community. We look forward to all that these two talented poets have to share,” she said.
In his four-year term, Barton is required to produce three new original works each year that reflect or represent ideas and issues of importance to the people of Victoria. He will also present his works at significant City events, bi-monthly City Council meetings and the annual Victoria Book Prize Awards Gala, among other events.
The Poet Laureate receives a $4,500 annual honorarium and $1,000 in project funding. They host a project or activity during Poetry Month in April, collaborate with the Greater Victoria Public Library on programs and workshops and provide a year-long mentorship to the Youth Poet Laureate.
During her one-year term, Sealey-Qaylow will create three new works of poetry, present twice a month to council, help judge the GVPL’s Teen Writing Contest, host an event or project to engage youth and collaborate with the GVPL on a poetry workshop for teens. She’ll receive a $1,750 honorarium and $1,000 of project funding.
Both positions are funded by the City and the GVPL. For more information, visit victoria.ca/poetlaureate.